Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Michael Formanek Plays a Richly Disquieting Brooklyn Album Release Show

Last night at Roulette, bassist Michael Formanek led his Drome Trio with reedman Chet Doxas and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza through two rewardingly acerbic sets to celebrate the release of their new album Were We Where We Were. That title opens up a floodgate of questions: do we romanticize the deeply flawed world we had before the March, 2020 fascist takeover? Are we out of the woods yet? Do Formanek’s stunningly vivid, persistently troubled compositions reflect a present danger? It’s hard to believe that this frequently haunting performance could be as simple as a band merely flexing their chops throughout a set of edgy and unselfconsciously profound new compositions.

Doxas opened the show solo with a simple but spine-tingling series of vaguely Armenian microtonal riffs, Sperrazza quickly rising from a loose-limbed pulse to an increasing storm, Formanek unperturbed at the center, leading the group subtly toward a steady sway as Doxas circled his way through a long, uneasy, Messiaenic passage. Formanek’s allusive solo bubbled and signaled a long, melancholy drift down to a suspenseful handoff to Sperrazza, who then channeled the spirits with a momentary shamanic break. The trio brought everything full circle at several times the energy.

That was just the first 25 minutes or so.

Doxas echoed Formanek’s phantasmagorically-tinged opening solo as Sperrazza’s drizzle gained force in the second number. Wary Jackie McLean-like sax phrases and wispy hints of vaudeville from Sperrazza followed. A coy, wispy sax-drum conversation set off a wistful, spacious solo from Doxas, who’d switched to clarinet. They ended cold.

Pianist Angelica Sanchez then joined them, choosing her spots to bound and ripple with a blithe Monklike swing in the first set’s closing number. Still, a disquiet persisted in her bell-like harmonies. Doxas took over with his muscular tenor lines, Formanek again an anchor with his insistent polyrhythms,

Sanchez opened the second set with an austere, somber solo, elevating to a clenched-teethed, close-harmonied intensity. It seemed she couldn’t wait to lighten the mood somewhat with a series of thorny rivulets. Doxas parsed the lower registers with a sinuous, Charlie Rouse-tinged solo, Formanek taking the song out on a fondly assertive note.

Next, the quartet danced through a catchy, Monkish swing fueled by Sperrazza’s subtle clave and Doxas’ smoky, insistent modal riffage. When he dropped out and Sanchez pulled the curtain back with a catchy if immutably melancholy solo, the effect was viscerally breathtaking.

The number after that made a good segue, with a more brooding chromaticism, through pulses and lulls. A wary mood persisted throughout, even the incisive Monkish riffage and syncopated bounce of the quartet’s concluding tune, with a tremoloing Doxas tenor solo and Sanchez’s eerily lingering incisions. Formanek plays in plenty of groups, but this might be the best of them all. Let’s hope this project continues.

The next jazz concert at Roulette is tomorrow night, Jan 26 at 8 PM, an epic performance where guitarist Joel Harrison leads five different ensembles including his Jazz Orchestra conducted by another fantastic composer, Erica Seguine, plus the New York Virtuoso Singers conducted by Harold Rosenbaum, plus the Alta String Quartet. You can get in for $25 in advance.

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January 25, 2023 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Organist Gail Archer Delivers a Breathtaking Concert For Peace at St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Thursday night at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Gail Archer played what might have been the first organ concert there in almost three years. That’s a crime: the church has some of the richest natural reverb of any building in town, and the Kilgen organ there is a treasure which deserves to be unleashed in all its glory. Archer excels on that instrument, and made an auspicious return with a profoundly relevant program dedicated to peace between Russia and Ukraine, in solidarity with the citizens of both nations.

Lately, Archer has made a career out of exploring specific organ traditions from cultures which aren’t typically associated with the instrument. While even the typical, small European city can be full of old organs, they are conspicuously absent from the remaining churches in Russia and Ukraine. Archer drew her program from material from her two albums featuring repertoire from both countries.

She opened with an electric, aptly majestic take of Glazunov’s Prelude and Fugue in D minor, Op. 98, making maximum use of the church’s upper-midrange brass and reed stops. Cached within her cyclotron swirl was a steady forward drive which as she recorded it came across more sternly than the triumph she channeled here.

Next on the bill were a couple of preludes by Rachmaninoff nemesis César Cui. His Prelude in G minor had echoes of Mendlessohn balanced by a rather opaque chromatic edge. Archer’s take of his Prelude in Ab major proved to be another opportunity for her to revel in the vast range in the available registers, this time a little further down the scale.

She flawlessly executed the rapidfire phrasing and torrential crescendos of 20th century composer Sergei Slonimsky’s Toccata. The last of the Russian pieces was another 20th century work, Alexander Shaversaschvili’s Prelude and Fugue: again, Archer’s registrations were a feast of dynamic contrasts, through a judicious processional, more muted phantasmagoria and a determined if persistently uneasy drive forward into a fullscale conflagration.

Turning to Ukraine, Archer focused on 20th century and contemporary composers before closing with the High Romantic. The Piece in Five Movements, by Tadeusz Machl showcased the organ’s many colors, from close harmonies in uneasy counterpoint, to more spare and distantly mysterious, to a more insistent, melodically spiky radiance and a stormy interlude fueled by challenging pedal figures.

Archer couldn’t resist unleashing every breath of portentous intensity in Mykola Kolessa’s defiantly disquieted Passacaglia, through some subtle rhythmic shifts. Likewise, the Chaconne, by 21st century composer Svitlana Ostrova came across as a radiant if dissociative mashup of familiar classical tropes and modernist acerbity, with some spine-tingling cascades.

Archer closed the program with Iwan Kryschanowskij’s epically symphonic Fantasie, ranging from a simmering blue-flame fugue, to a long climb with more than an echo of the macabre. A dip to more restrained, swirling resonance was no less intense; Archer worked briskly from there up to a deliciously descending false ending and a surprisingly understated coda.

The next concert at St. Pat’s, on March 9 at 7 PM, is a reprise of the annual series of Irish folk music performances which were interrupted by the lockdown. This one is dedicated to the memory of Mick Moloney, who died suddenly last year and had been a fixture of those shows.

January 24, 2023 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, organ music, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Messiah For the Age

There was a point early during the second half of this past evening’s sold-out performance of Handel’s Messiah by the Choir of Trinity Wall Street and the Trinity Baroque Orchestra where the music suddenly reached a visceral, bristling ferocity in what seemed to be seconds flat. On one hand, everyone who’s ever paid attention during what was for decades an iconic New York holiday ritual knows that all the action – including that famous chorus – takes place during part two. There’s also no denying the dynamic contrasts in any inspired rendition of this famous mass.

Up to that point, it had been a faithfully understated spectacle. Conductor Andrew Megill put a smallish-sized (under thirty-piece) choir and orchestra through their paces with a brisk efficiency well suited to the church’s confines: Trinity is a historic throwback to long before the advent of the megachurch.

But this also seemed to be a especially liturgically-focused performance, something that may surprise concertgoers from outside New York, where this very specifically Christian celebration has been woven into the fabric of diversely secular lives. When tenor Brian Giebler addressed the issue of evildoers and intoned from Psalms how “He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh them to scorn; the Lord shall have them in derision,” the bite in his voice delivered a visceral chill.

Maybe Giebler is just a strong and expressive interpreter…or maybe he was also reaching for something extra, like the spirit of the age. It was a striking setup to that famous chorus, the choir percolating their way through it with a steady aplomb.

Getting there, and also from there, also had its moments, even if you had to watch carefully for them sometimes. Other singers brought vivid personality to their roles, notably bass Joe Chappel’s rock-solid, calm determination, baritone Thomas McCargar’s reflective dynamism, soprano Madeline Healey’s steadfast presence and Meg Dudley’s unselfconscious plaintiveness. As a whole, the choir were calmly poised and precise, as were the instrumentalists, although it was refreshing to hear percussionist Daniel Mallon whip up a winter storm with his timpani in the rare moment where he could cut loose with the kind of abandon that larger ensembles sometimes get carried away with

Having seen several far heftier groups perform this music over the years, this was a welcome return to a more historically-based experience. May there be many more – and without the threat of evildoers looming in the state house, or the Mayor’s office, or at the door with a QR code reader.

December 10, 2022 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Monty Alexander Feels the Spirits at Trinity Church

Pianist Monty Alexander told the crowd at his show at Trinity Church today that “Last year I hit that golden number called 78.” He was referring, of course, to the 78 RPM record, the vehicle that spread the golden age of jazz around the world.

No one would have known his age if the man who has come to personify Jamaican jazz hadn’t mentioned it. In a dynamic, rising and falling hour and a half onstage with bassist Luke Sellick and drummer Jason Brown, he fired off crystalline cascades, vigorous rhythms and an reaffirmed his status as first-ballot, inimitably quotable hall-of-famer. “If I stop playing the piano, I confuse the spirit.”

One early highlight was an Ellington tune with a lyrical bowed Sellick solo, then a misterioso drum break which Alexander leapt out of to reassert the lively mood with his pointillistic ragtimey descents, The dubwise segue into Bob Marley’s Forever Loving Jah was the first of the reggae-jazz remakes that came to define Alexander’s career for awhile in the 90s and zeros. This one gave him a chance to hit harder on the low end. Brown’s shamanic rimshots and Sellick’s grit on the low end completed the picture.

Alexander follow a series of hymnal variations to a an immersive resonance, then worked his way up into No Woman No Cry. The ornate High Romantic eight-chord fakeout midway through this spare, unadorned reinvention was the high point of the show. A series of phantasmagorical flourishes were also hardly expected in the jump blues version of A Night in Tunisia that followed, as were were Brown’s flashy rudiments.

Moments of unease also persisted but then receded as Alexander built a spare swing on the next number, Renewal. He mentioned how the cultural diversity of his native country mirrors this one in Out of Many, One People, his insistent, optimistically climbing riffs reaching a light-fingered reggae groove

Hope, as Alexander and Brown saw it this time out, began with a regal drama and, then the pianist mined stern, ambered 19th century gospel phrasing. The trio followed with a spacious take of Besame Mucho, picked up with a swing, and then merged minor-key bite in the blues boogie Slappin’, which Alexander dedicated to the piano teacher he’d fled when she slapped his finger with a ruler.

The trio brought the ambience down with River, another Alexander original, rising from mystical glimmer to a lithely understated reggae groove driven by Sellick’s dancing arpeggios. They closed with what seemed to be a determined, percussive mashup of Ray Charles’ What I Say and When the Saints Go Marching In.

December 4, 2022 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inspiration and Rapture From Harpist Edmar Castaneda in a Sonically Challenging Downtown Space

At his concert today at St. Paul’s Chapel downtown, harpist Edmar Castaneda told the small crowd huddled together in the wintry chill under the balcony organ that he was sick of playing “For computers.” The audience seconded that observation and roared their approval when he’d fire off sparkling cascades, playing brisk melody lines against supple basslines, bending the body of his instrument for a wah-wah effect, or slamming the strings at the end of a song like the inside of a piano to cap off a big coda. But lockdown-era cabin fever aside, at this show Castaneda felt the room’s nature reverb and focused more on rapture and resonance than the pyrotechnics he’s best known for.

His wife, singer Andrea Tierra, marveled at how the Financial District had revitalized itself in the years since she’d walked around the neighborhood during the somber, acrid aftermath of 9/11. “”We always have to fight…New York always has to keep coming back, I think this is a very important message in this part of the city,” she emphasized.

Airing out her understatedly powerful, expressive alto voice, she channeled a distant angst as her husband rose from a suspenseful pulsing, verdant intro to a slow, spiky, bolero-tinged ballad, possibly titled Me Voy Llorando. It was a prime example of the individualistic blend of latin jazz and nueva cancion he’s made a name for himself with – and has played with his wife, whom he instantly fell in love with at a jam session in Queens eighteen years ago.

Tierra introduced a more spare, dancing tune, Cancion Con Todos, as a message of unity for all the people of the Americas, giving voice to citizens struggling for peace, The group – which also included incisive soprano saxophonist Shlomi Cohen and a terse, purposeful drummer – took the song bouncing, doublespeed, with an insistent solo out.

Castaneda played solo on Hecho (“Acts,” a Biblical reference), bringing the atmosphere up from guarded hope to starrier, more rhythmic terrain and a graceful, reflective ending. From there, he brought the rhythm section back to close the set with a wildly flurrying, merengue-flavored tune, Fresh Water, bristling with modal intensity over staggered, strutting syncopation.

November 29, 2022 Posted by | concert, jazz, latin music, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Colorful, Frequently Rapturous Brooklyn Celebration of Yuko Fujiyama’s Music

Last night at Roulette an innovative, inspired cast of Japanese and Americana musicians played a fascinating salute to Yuko Fujiyama, concluding a two-night stand in celebration of the composer and pianist’s individualistic work. The dynamic shifts from animated, incisive, typically somewhat minimalist melodies, to hushed rapture and occasional controlled pandemonium, mirrored a distinctly Japanese sensibility more than the tonalities did.

Solo behind the drumkit, Tetsu Nagasawa opened the evening with an elegant hailstorm on the cymbals. Slowly moving to a coyly noirish rattle, he reached toward gale force, lashing the shoreline before descending to a muted rain on the roof that eventually drifted away. Following a steady, rather hypnotic upward trajectory, he then brought the ambience down to a hushed, shamanic ambience spiced with majestic cymbal washes.

Pianist Sylvie Courvoisier then joined him, adding a few judicious plucks over a distant rustle before introducing a staggered, minimalist pedalpoint. Eerie clusters alternated with simple, emphatic rhythmic gestures. Nagasawa signaled a detour into a flickering jungle; a good cop/bad cop high-lo dynamic ensued over a circular rumble. Courvoisier pounced and threw elbows, then she coalesced into a climb that mirrored the opening drum solo as it decayed to silence.

After the intermission, a cross-pollinated ensemble of Do Yeon Kim on gayageum (the magical, warptoned Korean zither), Satoshi Takeishi on drums, Ned Rothenberg on reeds and Shoko Nagai on piano took over with an improvisation that began with a little furtive prowling around and grew more agitated, Kim’s circling riffs leading the way up to an insistent, pansori-like vocal attack.

A bit of a blizzard gave way to rapturous deep-space washes fueled by Rothenberg’s desolate clarinet, Nagai adding icily spacious glimmer. Gently skipping piano anchored crystalline clarinet curlicues, Rothenberg and Nagai converging in dark circles as the other two musicians looked on but eventually edged their way in. Trails of sparks flickered off; Nagai, who’d moved to a small synth, hit a backwards loop pedal; the spaceship reappeared and everyone got in but chaos ensued anyway.

Rothenberg’s eventual decision to pick up his shakuhachi brought a return to woodsy mysticism, from which Nagai, back on piano, led the ensemble on a long scramble. A cantering forward drive and an unexpected turn into neoromantic rivulets grew grittier as Nagai brought the music to a forceful coda.

For the night’s concluding number, Fujiyama took over on piano, bolstered by additional flute and trumpet, with Nagai moving to accordion. Yuma Uesaka conducted. A brief, lustrous introduction set up Fujiyama’s judicious, otherworldly, Messiaenic ripples: mournful late 50s Miles Davis came to mind.

Pensive trumpet amid gingerly romping piano and an uneasy haze were followed by Kim’s graceful bends. which introduced an interlude that quickly grew squirrelly and eventually frantic.

Rothenberg’s emergence as voice of reason was temporary. Uesaka stopped the works, then restarted them as more of a proper upward vector, with flutters from the flutes and two drummers. The allusive charge down to a final drift through the clouds made a fittingly magical conclusion.

The next concert at Roulette is November 27 at 8 PM with John Zorn’s New Masada Quintet; you can get in for $35 in advance.

November 22, 2022 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Welcome Return For Pianist Max Lifchitz’s Latin-Tinged Chamber Music Series

Monday night at the National Opera Center, pianist Max Lifchitz admitted that he was “a little scared” by the prospect of plunging back into live performance after being sidelined by plandemic restrictions for the past two years. It was a triumphant return to his niche, the terrain where the Second Viennese School meets south-of-the-border sounds. Until the 2020 lockdown, Lifchitz and his various North/South orchestral configurations had been a familiar presence in concert spaces around New York and beyond.

Picking up where he’d been rudely interrupted, he opened with Robert Fleisher’s 6 Little Piano Pieces, a brief Schoenberg-inspired partita: jazz-inflected modalities within a minimalist stroll with little flourishes that leapt to the surface. Robert Martin’s 2 Ancient Pieces, emphatic student works from a half-century ago, were as effective a segue as a reflection of that era’s 12-tone obsessions (with a few winks to sweeten them).

Lifchtitz romped through Ruth Crawford Seeger’s 2 Piano Pieces in Mixed Accents, a final pair of miniatures built around minimalist, cascading eighth-note phrases. With as much power on her low end as the curlicues at the top, soprano Maria Brea took centerstage for an expresssive interpretation of Osvaldo Golijov‘s Lua Descolorida (“Colorless Moon”), a steady, almost marching nocturne with more than a a hint of a ranchera ballad.

Next, mezzo-soprano Melisa Bonetti took over for Jimmy Kachulis’ Healing Waters of the Amazon. From the opening mantra, “Come on and heal me,” over Lifchitz’s brightly methodical, increasingly bracing chromatic drive, she made it an aptly bittersweet invocation against what the world has had to battle since March of 2020.

Brea returned to sing Odaline de la Martinez’s 4 Afro-Cuban Poems, including a bouncy one about a Cuban guy in love with an American woman whose language he can’t speak, and a shout-out to a girl who does all the hard work around the house. Lifchitz’s own Me Acero y Me Retiro (“I Approach and I Withdraw”) featured both singers in an expansive, dynamically shifting, distantly imploring dialogue and then a harmonically bristling duet after a spaciously climbing, enigmatic piano intro. Lifchitz mirrored that with an arresting, syncopated solo fugue for a coda. It was the highlight of the night.

He closed the program with a trio of brief piano pieces. Venezuelan composer Francisco Zapata-Bello‘s leaping Scherzo Latino perfectly capsulized Lifchitz’s primary focus over the years. William Ortiz‘s Max en Soho Jamming con the Orishas was another of the concert’s high points, a mashup of ragtime and chromatic Scarlatti with a danse macabre at the center. Lifchitz went back to energetic twelve-tone territory for the final piece on the bill, Aurelio de la Vega’s Hamenagem.

November 17, 2022 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The New York Composers Circle Keep the Creative Torch Burning Through Troubled Times

Last night at the cozy little Church of the Transfiguration on East 29th Street, the New York Composers Circle staged an intriguing performance of five world premieres and a New York premiere that featured a persistent unease as well as moments of puckish humor and considerable outside-the-box imagination.

Pianist Craig Ketter opened the concert with Hubert Howe‘s Moments of Uncertainty, which followed a staggered, increasingly spacious, warily Messiaenic call-and-response through a series of subtle dynamic shifts, some of them increasingly stark and minimalist. In less prosaic terms, a cautious stroll through a briar patch: daunting, but doable with care, as Ketter made sure.

He followed with four preludes and fugues from the second collection that Dary John Mizelle had written to keep himself entertained during the lockdown. Stern blues and oldtime gospel riffs in oddly strolling tempos would disintegrate into atonal ambiguity or push up against a steady, grimly looped walking bassline. A tongue-in-cheek sensibility sometimes percolated to the surface amid the thorns, especially in the baroque gestures of the fugues.

Bill Zito played Richard Brooks‘ Sonata for Guitar, a harmonically biting pavane descending to lithe fingerpicking and back as the first movement warmed with some Elizabethan tinges. The remainder of the work was an acerbic blend of baroque stairstepping with wry jazz phrasing, hints of flamenco and some welcome, recurringly humorous bits.

After the intermission, Ketter returned to the piano for Roger Blanc‘s Fantasy Variations, which the composer described as an attempt to get “maximum bang for buck” out of a seven-note scale. Uneasy close harmonies persisted in the opening stroll, which became more of a hauntingly hypnotic, rising and falling march. Ketter reveled casually in the fanged chromaties of the warily swinging fugue that followed. Blanc invested his buck well here.

Guitarist Oren Fader played Igor Vorobyov’s 2019 piece Elegy in the Old Style, a New York premiere springboarded by the Composers Circle’s ongoing cultural exchange with some of their Moscow colleagues. A call-and-response between spiky harmonics and spare, broodingly resonant chords harked back to Scriabin, an unexpected influence for guitar music. As Fader alternated between steady cascades and a brooding, spacious minimalism, it became a pensive ballad, interrupted.

The final piece on the bill was Consolations, a solo piano partita by Dana Dimitri Richardson. Ketter methodically parsed an increasingly agitated, chromatically-charged ballad for angst and rippling poignancy, then found a missing link between Rachmaninoff and Mompou. The progression from chiming, insistent belltones to High Romantic echoes amid a clenched-teeth, syncopatedly punching drive was the high point of the night.

The third part came across as a somber mid 20th century homage to the Chopin E minor prelude, the fourth a ringing, resounding mashup of a Balkan funeral ballad, Russian romanticism and late-period Ligeti, maybe. It made for a darkly glittering driving coda.

The New York Composers Circle’s next concert is Nov 20 at 2 PM with a program of works-in-progress TBA at the National Opera Center’s 7th floor studio at 333 7th Ave. in midtown. Space is limited and a rsvp is a good idea

November 16, 2022 Posted by | avant garde music, classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Theo Walentiny Takes the Crowd on a Magical Mystery Tour of a Historic Downtown Space

Houses of worship tend to be less than optimal for music that’s fast or percussive. Earlier today, pianist Theo Walentiny and his trio sized up the natural reverb of the late 18th century architecture of St. Paul’s Chapel downtown and turned it into a fourth bandmate in a resonant, immersive performance that was often nothing short of eerie.

Throughout their hour onstage, Walentiny chose his spots for occasional rivulets, cascades or variations on circular clusters over a stygian, resonant lefthand. Until the final number, moments where he picked up the volume were few, and packed a punch when they occurred. Drummer Connor Parks rarely rose above a cymballine mist until the second half of the show while bassist Tyrone Allen matched Walentiny’s moody modalities, sometimes shadowing the piano, sometimes essentially taking over from the drums during the show’s most briskly swinging moments.

They reinvented Billy Strayhorn’s Chelsea Bridge as a murky kaleidoscope punctuated by a stern, loopy march motif and rainy-day upper register that Walentiny took into icily starry Messiaenic territory. The original after that pulsed with a muted suspense over a racewalking shuffle groove, Walentiny building tension with subtle variations on insistent, judiciously spaced clusters, loosening every so slightly into a more casual if wary stroll with a chilly reflecting-pool piano solo at the center.

From there Walentiny built the next number up from more of those circling clusters (that appears to have really become a thing in jazz conservatories these days), gingerly moving outward from a center to distant echoes of regally pugilistic McCoy Tyner and a quasi Giant Steps interlude with stabbing close harmonies. Parks in particular was masterful on this one, building a tabla-like atmosphere that lingered and left the crowd speechless for several seconds at the end.

From there the group parsed a forlorn, Birmingham-era Coltrane style tone poem of sorts: Walentiny hinted that he might go in a more lively direction but opted against it as Allen’s minute microtones edged upward. They closed with another original, Splattered Current, Parks finally cutting loose with his toms to underpin Walentiny’s stern pedalpoint in contrast to bright but meticulously space righthand accents and a few sizzling flurries. Either way, it was a magical tug-of-war with the sonics bounding and booming off the walls.

The final jazz concert at St. Paul’s Chapel this month is at 1 PM on Nov 22 with harpist Edmar Castaneda and his trio. Admission is free; be aware that you will be asked to empty your pockets as if you were at the airport if you want to get in. So far they don’t make you take your shoes off.

November 15, 2022 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Dynamic, Rewarding Choral Concert at Trinity Church

Two and a half years ago, it was uncertain if choral music in New York that wasn’t clandestine would ever exist again. So it was rewarding to walk into Trinity Church yesterday to see the Downtown Voices and the Novus NY string quartet gathered together onstage, and to see hardly a single surgical mask amid an impressively sizeable crowd who’d assembled in the pews.

Yet it was ironic to the extreme to view the blue-and-gold color scheme – ubiquitously associated with lockdown propaganda in Europe, less so here – projected behind the choir and ensemble, on a day when news of a cryptocurrency ponzi scheme laundering American taxpayer money through Ukraine to the Democratic Party was exploding around the world.

The music was a welcome diversion. Reduced to most basic and prosaic terms, the theme was minimalism in counterpoint. The effect was at times hypnotic, at times entrancing and frequently exhilarating. The highlight of the evening was Ola Gjeilo‘s partita Dark and Luminous Night. Once the quartet had introduced a fleetingly uneasy theme, the choir joined in a series of kinetic peaks and icy lulls, conductor Stephen Sands leading them from just short of a stampede to echoes of dark European folk and heroic Romanticism.

A more quietly captivating if equally dynamic piece was an arrangement of Jessie Montgomery‘s Source Code for choir and string quartet. An anxious chromatic violin theme and variations stood out over a quiet drone, quite a contrast with the orchestral version that A Far Cry played in Central Park last summer. Infused with bluesy cello glissandos over stark sustained chords, the two groups descended to a hazier, more wary ambience and eventual whispery rapture.

The singers and quartet nimbly negotiated the subtle but rhythmically tricky and demandingly spacious, characteristically cell-like development of the concert’s centerpiece, David Lang‘s National Anthems. A soprano soloist who resonated over the methodically staggered pulse of her choirmates added an air of poignancy. Lyrically, this seemed less a celebration of sovereignty than a distantly troubled and disjointed prayer for liberation, a profoundly relevant work for our time.

The concert’s most traditional and briefest moment was a calmly nocturnal Undine Smith Moore arrangement of the spiritual We Shall Walk Through the Valley.

The next concert at Trinity Church is December 4 at 3 PM with Jamaican jazz piano legend Monty Alexander and his trio. Admission is free; it couldn’t hurt to get there about ten minutes early if you want a good seat.

November 14, 2022 Posted by | avant garde music, classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment