Lucid Culture


Defying Category With Svjetlana Bukvich’s Rich, Dramatic Compositions

As a composer, Svjetlana Bukvich has made a career out of jumping off cliffs and landing on her feet. Few other artists are able to bridge such a seemingly ridiculous number of styles without seeming the least bit out of place. Most, but not all, of her vibrant, dramatic, often darkly bristling compositions are electroacoustic, imbued with an irrepressible joie de vivre as wel as both a striking clarity and embrace of the absurd. It seems that she just writes what she wants to and lets everybody else figure out how to categorize it..or just leave it alone and enjoy its vitality. Her new album Extension – streaming at Spotify – is by turns surreal, futuristic, troubling and triumphant.

She plays zither harp through a maze of effects, joined by Susan Aquila on electric violin and David Rozenblatt on percussion, on the album’s opening track, The Beginning, flitting space junk and dancing, pingponging phrases over stygian washes. Bukvich builds the hypnotically circling prelude Utopia around a simple, insistent, wordless vocal riff spiced with her own bright electric piano, flickers from Jacqueline Kerrod’s electric harp over terse syncopation from bassist Patrick Derivaz and drummer Wylie Wirth. Is this art-rock? Indie classical? Does it matter?

Singers Kamala Sankaram and Samille Ganges harmonize uneasily over Bukvich’s dancing synth lines in the album’s title track: imagine an Ethiopian contingent passing through Jabba the Hut’s space lounge. Once You Are Not a Stranger is featured in three different versions throughout the album. Derivaz dips low to open the first one, string quartet Ethel building a pensive series of echo riffs overhead.

Janis Brenner sings a much more minimalist take of the second over the composer’s spacious piano chords. The lush final version, which concludes the album, switches out the string quartet for the Shattered Glass String Orchestra,

Graves, with Bukvich joined by Kerrod, Wirth, Nikola Radan on alto flute and Richard Viard on acoustic guitar comes across as a moody, distantly Middle Eastern-tinged art-rock dirge. Sankaram brings both gentle poignancy and operatic flair to Tattoo, backed by Bukvich’s brooding piano and orchestration.

The bandleader switches to synth, teaming up with cellist Raphael Saphra and bassist Joseph Brock for Stairs, a similarly uneasy miniature. Then Jane Manning trades off with Sankaram over Bojan Gorišek’s piano and Bukvich’s wry electronics in the Balkan-inflected Nema Te (You Aren’t Here, You Aren’t There). Fans of acts as diverse as Radiohead, Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, exploding pianist Kathleen Supove and postminimalist composers like David Lang will love this stuff.


May 14, 2020 Posted by | avant garde music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Remembering the Brilliant, Underrated Ellis Marsalis

Since the United States is such a relatively young country, there haven’t been a lot of musical legacies here, at least by comparison to places like Mali or parts of India and Pakistan where musical families go back for centuries. There’s a strong case that the Marsalis family of New Orleans are the greatest American musical legacy. Sadly, we lost their patriarch, pianist Ellis Marsalis, last month.

His sons – trumpeter Wynton, saxophonist Branford, vibraphonist Jason and trombonist Delfeayo – may be better known, but Ellis Marsalis was a brilliantly distinctive and scarily purposeful player, an example to be emulated. He was 79 when he and Delfeayo made their only full-length record together, The Last Southern Gentlemen, in 2014. It’s deep music, mostly ballads, still up at Soundcloud.

The senior Marsalis plays with a delightfully offbeat, tersely incisive, eminently spacious touch. On the bouncy take of Autumn Leaves, that counterintuitive sense of rhythm is just plain irresistible: if you play an instrument, give this a listen and then put that at the top of your to-do lists, Ellis Marsalis giving you useful advice without opening his mouth.

Let the nocturnal father/son camaraderie of She’s Funny That Way waft through you, as bassist John Clayton and drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith do here. There are places where the family frontline diverge, especially on the more upbeat numbers. Delfeayo’s uncanny touch matches his dad, especially on a slow, summery take of I’m Confessin. Phantasmagoria might not be the first thing you might think of getting from their bolero version of The Man With 2 Left Feet….but guess again. Everything on the recod seems to be about thinking outside the box, a legacy that the whole family has embraced. Since this album, Delfeayo has gone on to be arguably the family’s most articulate antifascist crusader. May other generations sustain that.

May 14, 2020 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | Leave a comment