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Improbable Solutions

Origin Records 82886

"What's astonishing about this heady nine-song collection is how familiar the pianist sounds among electronics and how smoothly he blends traditional jazz instrumentation with disparate studio techniques....It takes equal parts courage and ingenuity to alter one's sound as much as he has on Improbable Solutions. Consider the problem solved."

--Eric Olsen, Earshot Jazz  FULL REVIEW

(****) "The album demonstrates patience and careful rumination more than instant gratification...Improbable Solutions is about taking one's time, and it's in that spirit that the record is best enjoyed."

--Downbeat  FULL REVIEW


(****) "Stonking grooves and gritty jazz-rock textures rampage around this very welcome release from Seattle pianist Bill Anschell on this new studio album of his own very more-ish compositions. Shaped around piano, bass (Chris Symer) and drums (Jose Martinez) plus guitar and percussion to bulk the sound out, it often has a very grown-up tough electronics coated veneer to it, even veering into jazz-prog territory a little."

--Marlbank  FULL REVIEW


(****1/2) "It became apparent that these expressions of his alleged (electronic) alter ego were, in fact, a tangible part of his musical self, exposing avenues of connection which allowed him to direct his artistic worlds to collide in such a way as to express beauty and spirituality in virtually the same way as his acoustic efforts...While the pandemic produced a plethora of recorded works growing out of isolation and the unknown, Anschell has risen from the same emotional ashes to produce a work which needed to be heard. It represents a moment of clarity in the ever-evolving career of a Northwest jazz treasure."

-- Paul Rausch,  FULL REVIEW


(****) "Most fans of Seattle-based pianist Bill Anschell will not see this one coming....He uses the electronics deftly, adding washes that sound like cool breezes wafting down the river valley, eerie warblings issuing an invitation to the Twilight Zone, and spare symphonic backdrops that elevate the piano trio segments to perfection... Improbable Solutions is a terrific set, perhaps Anschell's best outing to date."

--Dan McClenaghan,  FULL REVIEW

(**** performance, ****1/2 audio) "...In his home studio, in a laborious process that took months, Anschell sculpted nine tracks into a complete, organic whole. This stunning album will mess with the minds of purists who still distrust digital music technology."

--Thomas Conrad, Stereophile  FULL REVIEW


"Anschell has been on the jazz scene for 40 years, but his previous albums as a leader have all been acoustic affairs — this one finds him striking out in fruitful new electronic directions, and is highly recommended to all jazz collections."

--Rick Anderson, CD Hotlist  FULL REVIEW

"One of the most wonderfully unique original jazz albums you will ever listen to... Bill and all his players get a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, with an 'EQ' (energy quotient) score of 4.99"

--Dick Metcalf, Improvijazzation Nation

"The extra effects are a supplement, and not a dominant force, like extra textures to add dimensions to the ears. A well-lit fusion fuse.."

--George Harris, Jazz Weekly  FULL REVIEW

Read Abe Beeson's feature on Improbable Solutions on his blog, The New Cool.

Listen to Bill describing the composing and recording processes, and more, on the Neon Jazz podcast, hosted by Joe Dimino.

Nominated for "Best Northwest Jazz Recording of 2023" by Earshot Jazz.

Bill Anschell – piano, electronics

Chris Symer – acoustic bass, electric bass (5, 9)

Jose Martinez – drums

Brian Monroney – guitar (1, 3, 4, 6, 9)

Jeff Busch – percussion (2, 4, 8)

KJ Sawka - drums (9)

Bass, drums recorded by Reed Ruddy at Avast Studios, Seatle, WA on March 1 - 2, 2023; Assistant Engineer Jay Follette
Guitar/percussion/electronics recorded by Bill Anschell at Bill Anschell Studios, Seattle, WA on June 12, 2023, July 7, 2023, and 2020 - 2023
Mixed by Bill Anschell at Bill Anschell Studios, Seattle, WA

Produced by Bill Anschell
Mastered by Ross Nyberg at Nyberg Mastering, Issaquah, WA

Cover Photo: ESA, Copernicus Sentinel data 2019, CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED

Bill Anschell photo by Jim Levitt

Cover design and layout by John Bishop


1   Ambulator 5.34
2   Nimbus 4:53
3   Gentle Persuasion 7:12
4   Naked Truth 4:21
5   Is This Thing Even On? 3:41
6   Hidden Nobility 7:17
7   The Following Week 6:10
8   Abandoned 5:57
9   Outburst (feat. KJ Sawka) 5:52


All compositions by Bill Anschell, published by Blow Hard Music (BMI)

This CD marks a big change of direction for me. I recorded my last CD in three and a half hours; this one took more than three and a half years. My last CD was all jazz standards; this one is all originals. My last CD had just piano, bass and drums; this one adds guitar, percussion, and layered electronics.Although the only instrument I’ve recorded on in the past is piano, I’ve been intrigued by electronic sounds since high school, when synth-driven progressive rock was my musical obsession. The sounds I use in the project never mimic acoustic instruments, so it’s been a fun challenge to work them into the more traditional jazz context of a piano trio.The process was long and personal—I had no model for the workflow. I started by composing 21 potential electro-acoustic pieces, an early Covid project. Next, I fully realized them electronically, programming the bass, drums, and all the other sounds; from there, I was able to pick the pieces I wanted to move ahead with. Eventually, in a two-day live studio session, Chris Symer and Jose Martinez replaced the bass and drum parts—much for the better—and I replaced some of the keyboard parts with acoustic piano. Then, the prolonged final stage: I mixed the project myself so I could adjust the electronic parts to the new acoustic tracks—replacing some electronic sounds, refining others. None of the electronic sounds came straight out of the box; I enjoyed getting into their innards and surgically tweaking them to fit the songs. It was all seemingly endless, until I finally forced myself to declare an ending. I’m lucky to have worked with great guest artists: Brian Monroney on guitar, Jeff Busch on percussion, and—on the final track—KJ Sawka on drums. Creating this CD has been an extended journey, very much DIY; I hope you enjoy the results.   


Neon Jazz Interview
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