Pedernal (Relative Pitch)

Susan Alcorn

Released November 2020

New York Times Best Jazz Albums of 2020



“Pedernal” opens with Alcorn’s graceful pedal steel line suggesting a dark, minor blues that’s joined in an undulating caress by Formanek’s lithe bass. Descending chords introduce the second section as the band steps into the gathering maelstrom, eventually resolving into a beatifically lyrical theme that seems to summon the abiding power of the iconic vista.

Track Listing:

1. Pedernal (Susan Alcorn) 05:47

2. Circular Ruins (Susan Alcorn) 09:48

3. R. U. R. (Susan Alcorn) 06:03

4. Night in Gdansk (Susan Alcorn) 13:03

5. Northeast Rising Sun (Susan Alcorn) 07:13


Susan Alcorn: pedal steel guitar
Mark Feldman: violin
Michael Formanek: double bass
Mary Halvorson: guitar
Ryan Sawyer: drums

Recorded November 12, 2019, at The Bunker Studio, Brooklyn, NY


A well-regarded member of the improvising avant-garde, the pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn makes iconoclastic, ambientish music on an instrument that’s usually not heard on the stylistic fringe. It’s fitting that when she finally put together a combo of her own, it didn’t look like anyone else’s. “Pedernal” features Ms. Alcorn accompanied by Mark Feldman’s violin, Mary Halvorson’s guitar, Michael Formanek’s bass and Ryan Sawyer’s drums; across five original compositions, melody is liable to be traded between the stringed instruments, or to disappear completely into texture.

Giovanni Russonello (New York Times)