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Bill Brown Ford presents Jazz at the House 2024.
Signal Quartet is a collective musical ensemble based in Southeast Michigan consisting of Ben Wolkins on Trumpet and Flugelhorn, Ian Blunden on Guitar, Eric Nachtrab on Bass and Sean Perlmutter on Drums. The band began to take shape in summer 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when, out of a dire need for music and human connection, Perlmutter and Nachtrab would get together with various configurations of musicians to play music with no agenda, just for the joy of it on the back deck of Nachtrab’s Ann Arbor home. A few low-key trio gigs with guitarist Blunden (a former Wayne State University Classmate of Perlmutter) moved the ensemble closer to formation, and the lineup was solidified when Wolkins (a longtime friend of Nachtrab’s from their time in the Toledo Jazz Scene) began to make appearances at the back deck sessions.
The group began to build a repertoire initially built around relatively obscure pieces by composers such as Thelonious Monk, Chris Speed, Carla Bley, and Bill McHenry but eventually evolved to focus entirely on original music composed by members of the ensemble. The material written for the band covers a wide swath of musical terrain, but each piece has a strong identity and serves as a springboard for the musicians’ empathetic improvisations. Signal Quartet’s approach to music is one of “letting it all in”; following the thread of the music where it leads, regardless of stylistic constraints; embracing the jazz tradition while refusing to shave off or smooth over any of its eccentricities or irregularities.
The band’s self-titled debut – consisting mostly of pieces by Nachtrab – was released in August of 2022, and the release was celebrated with a performance at the Detroit Jazz Festival the following Month.
Their sophomore effort, Second Exploration: The Music of Ben Wolkins, (released in April 2023) was promoted by a midwest tour, featured as a “new and notable release” on Bandcamp’s homepage, and continues to receive radio play around the US.
The band plans to tour again in 2024 and record a third album featuring compositions by all four members.