Christopher Bono Hits One Out of the Park
Christopher Bono is unquestionably the best composer to come out of the Seattle Mariners’ minor league system (the noted drummer Randy Johnson, also commonly associated with the Mariners, was actually a product of the Montreal Expos organization). In all seriousness, the former baseball farmhand’s most recent indie classical album, Invocations, is streaming at his Bandcamp page. An uncredited orchestral ensemble does a spirited run through Bono’s compositions, which are cinematic in the purest sense of the word: in their own right, they’re films for the ears, and they’d also make strong themes for action-oriented or emotionally charged films yet to be cast.
The Missing, a string quartet piece, is the most intense and direct of the works. Bono develops a pensive, rather stark, somewhat elegaic theme out of a simple three-note motif interrupted by swaying, bending phrases and frenetic, insectile clusters, alternating between a steady, anthemic sway punctuated by hazy ambience. The composer likens it to “a mournful theme and allusions to the music of Haydn, Beethoven, George Crumb and Gloria Coates.”
There are three “invocations” here. The first, Exhaust, sends bracing variations on a dynamic minor-key theme around a mixed string/wind ensemble, quickly building to an 1812 Overture-esque drama. From there, it’s quite a ride, apprehensive cello and viola handling much of the action through moody ambience up to a chase scene, then the cello anchors the plaintive, aching final crescendo.
The second “invocation” is included on the album as an instrumental and also a confusing, unevenly mixed mashup with movie dialogue (it’s not clear if that’s from an actual documentary about space travel or not). The instrumental version is a richly shapeshifting mix of oldschool 50s movie cinematics (think upbeat/parade/fanfare Douglas Sirk film with Alfred Newman score), swirling flutes accentuating the highs, wary violin out front throughout the more emotionally charged interludes, reaching a rapt, bell-like theme that winds down hypnotically. A search for the soul in outer space, maybe?
The third of the invocations has a gentle lullaby quality that rises and falls with a warmly triumphant sensibility, flutes and strings taking it in a more sweeping, epic direction, a vibraphone signaling its majestic final crescendo before closing with a contented ambience. Bono’s next next album, which explores influences as diverse as the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Tarot system and multicultural archetypal symbolism, is due out this year. And Bono’s new improvisational ensemble Nous make their New York debut on Feb 2 at 8 PM with Bono on keys along with Greg Fox and Thor Harris on drums and percussion, Shahzad Ismaily on guitar and bass and Grey McMurray on guitar, with numerous special guests including cellist Clarice Jensen, violinist/violist Caleb Burhans, violinist Laura Lutzke, flutist Alex Sopp, Mum cellist/vocalist Imago, and Laraaji & Arji on zither and electronics at Baby’s All Right, 146 Broadway (north of Bedford) in South Williamsburg, J/M trains to Marcy Ave. Cover is $15.