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A New Retrospective Album of Energetic, Irrepressibly Entertaining Dorothy Hindman Works

This blog has always gravitated toward music that reflects the world around us. Even so, over the past nine years, there has never been such a relentless barrage of persistently troubled and often tortured sounds as the year of the lockdown has given us. Today is a welcome break from that. Dorothy Hindman is all about fun, whether in your face or in the distance. She writes meticulously intertwining, generally optimistic, energetic music: she’s a one-woman cloudbreak. She tends to favor wind instruments, percussion, and dancing upper-register melodies, although what she writes in the lows is just as catchy. Her music has a carnivalesque side, but it’s playful rather than macabre. It’s hard to pin down her influences: there’s nobody who sounds remotely like her. Her new album Blow By Blow, featuring a multitude of inspired small groups and a couple of larger ones, is streaming at Spotify.

The Frost Flute Ensemble romp with a meticulous staccato through the first piece, Mechanisms, a clever series of variations on an incisive, pointillistic theme: is this about how much fun we can have with machines, or a cautionary tale about how they tend to take over our lives if we’re not careful?

Baritone saxophonist Frank Capoferri and pianist Lauralie Pow even more irresistible fun trading off catchy bass riffs in Big Fun, Pow both outside and under the piano lid, evoking Paula Henderson and Gina Rodriguez’s legendary New York dance-punk band Moisturizer.

The Splinter Reeds quintet premiere Hindman’s diptych Contents Under Pressure, its cheery, clustering riffs set to tricky staccato syncopation. Flutist Donald Ashworth plays Trembling, an etude with carefree motives and birdsong allusions punctuated by fleeting moments of daunting extended technique.

Drift, performed by the Atlas Saxophone Quartet has the same leaping, balletesque, staccato quality as the album’s opening number, with some richly suspenseful, Bernard Herrmann-esque harmonies and contrasting with tongue-in-cheek goofiness. Lori Ardovino plays Soliloquy for Clarinet, nimbly negotiating its enigmatic allusions to Messiaen, spacious cascades and shivery duotones.

Soprano saxophonist Carey Valente Kisselburg and pianist John Elmquist prance through Lost in Translation, whose title could be a sardonic reference to its variations on lively Indian-tinged themes. The Frost Saxophone Quartet follow with Cascade, a deviously expectant study in contrasts and suspense with a little Gershwinesque pageantry thrown in.

Untitled 1, performed by the Switch Ensemble, comes as a shock, vast Anna Thorvaldsdottir-like waves punctuated by spare piano, winds, washes of percussion and troubled, hovering motives. It’s uncharacteristically dark, yet it may be the strongest piece here.

The Georgia State University Percussion Ensemble tackle the marimba piece Multiverses, addressing the idea of infinite possibilities through intricate, dynamically shifting echo effects: it’s an upbeat, reverse image of Satie’s Vexations. Tapping the Furnace, a rather suspenseful solo drum-and-vocal piece performed by that group’s director Stuart Gerber, recalls the dangerous and often deadly blast furnaces of the 20th century steel industry in Birmingham, Alabama.

Marimba player Scott Deal’s solo take of Beyond the Cloud of Unknowing is similar but more spacious and enigmatic. The Frost Symphonic Winds conclude the album with Fission, Zarathustra throwing a benefit for Mr. Kite, bursting with lively circling horns over hazy atmospherics.

December 8, 2020 - Posted by | avant garde music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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