“We are made of star stuff,” the great astronomer Carl Sagan famously wrote, capturing in one marvelous, succinct phrase the universe as the ultimate recycling project. Everything that exists, he explained, had its origins in the matter that gave birth to existence in the Big Bang: “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars.”
Saxophonist, bandleader and composer Brian McCarthy found that idea a source of boundless inspiration as he conceived the music for AFTER|LIFE, the second album by his acclaimed Nonet. Due out May 26, 2023 via Truth Revolution Recording Collective, AFTER|LIFE is the follow-up to McCarthy’s critically lauded The Better Angels of Our Nature, which explored the Civil War era and its music through stunning original compositions and brilliant reimaginings of vintage folk songs.
With AFTER|LIFE, the scope and ambition of McCarthy’s vision has expanded on a cosmic scale. The cyclical nature of the universe, the possibility that it will eventually collapse and then explode into a reborn reality – and the distinct possibility that this has already happened, perhaps many times – was enthralling enough to fuel an hour’s worth of adventurous, stargazing music that traces the life cycle of our solar system.
“The life that we're living is basically a form of whatever came before us,” McCarthy says. “In that sense, we exist in the after life. I’m fascinated by the fact that all the molecules that make up our bodies, our atmosphere, the planet that we live on and all the planetary bodies around us were once a part of the same giant structure. We are all inevitably connected, even at a molecular level, no matter how different we might think we are.”
“Astronomers and physicists need to have an artistic view to bridge the gap between the observable universe and what lies beyond,” McCarthy says. “They need to have a firm grasp on both reality and artistic fantasy to make that come to life. It's unconventional thinking mixed with conventional physics that brings those ideas into reality.”
Bill Mobley - trumpet/flugelhorn / Cameron MacManus - trombone / Brian McCarthy - Alto/Soprano Sax / Daniel Ian Smith - Tenor/Soprano Sax / Stantawn Kendrick - Tenor Sax / Andrew Gutaskas - Baritone Sax / Justin Kauflin - Piano / Matt Aronoff - Bass / Jared Schonig - Drums