Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

A Magical Midnight Stroll With Harpist Magdalena Hoffmann

Absent any central concept, harpist Magdalena Hoffmann’s new album Nightscapes – streaming at Spotify – is a gorgeous playlist of both original works for harp and imaginative transcriptions of solo piano pieces. How shadowy is it? As you would expect, it’s more on the slow and starry side, although Hoffmann hardly shies away from material whose technical demands push the limits of what’s usually expected of a classical concert harpist – or from nocturnes, for that matter. On some of the piano pieces, she essentially plays a dual role akin to rhythm guitarist and lead guitarist all at once, with bright melody over strummed rhythm.

The album opens with Respighi’s Notturno in G flat major, arranged for harp with a spare, warmly incisive melody above mutedly strummy chords. Hoffmann follows a very steady trajectory, finally cutting loose with some jaunty flourishes at the end. Her take of Chopin’s A Minor Waltz – the first of three of those pieces – is amazingly close to the piano version, complete with spiky grace notes. She gives a steady, sober grace to the E Minor Waltz, but watch out – that flurry before the third “verse” has an unexpectedly wild, flamenco tinge, hardly what you’d expect to hear on a concert harp. And her spare, poignant, clear-eyed interpretation of the A Minor Waltz, Op. 48 is a revelation, especially in contrast to some of the florid piano versions that have circulated over the years.

In Hoffmann’s hands, John Field’s Nocturnes in B flat and G major as well as Ildebrando Pizzetti’s Sogno for Harp come across as cheerily attractive lullabies. 20th century French harpist-composer Henriette Renié’s Danse des Lutins is one of the album’s rare gems: courtly rhythms, an architecture that looks back the baroque, but also a devious acerbity. Hoffmann then returns to more rapturous territory with Clara Schumann’s Notturno, Op. 6, rising to an unexpectedly emphatic intensity.

Britten’s Suite for Harp, a partita of miniatures, gives Hoffmann a launching pad for demanding leaps and bounds across the length of the harp, through some thorny basslines and moments of phantasmagoria. The most colorful and bewitching piece on the program is Marcel Tournier’s La Danse du Moujik, with its kaleidoscopic dynamics and ominously allusive chromatics.

The most outside-the-box arrangement here is the Nocturne for the Left Hand Alone, a methodically lyrical Romantic ballad by jazz pianist Fred Hersch. Hoffmann gets a workout after that, with Jean-Michel Damase’s dramatically ornamented Fantaisie on Motifs from Les Contes d’Hoffmann. All in the family maybe?

She closes the record with an incisive, methodical reworking of Chopin’s Nocturne in F sharp minor. Op. 48 No. 2, bringing the lights down, but not all the way.

March 11, 2022 Posted by | classical music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Magically Diverse Solo Harp Improvisations From Jacqueline Kerrod

Jacqueline Kerrod was Robert Paterson’s not-so-secret weapon on his lusciously noir album Star Crossing, and also his contrastingly sparkling Book of Goddesses. But she’s probably better known for her time as the New York City Opera’s principal harpist…and for playing with a rapper who, if his improbable Presidential run had vaulted him into the Oval Office, would be a more lucid presence than what we have at the present moment.

Yet Kerrod’s arguably most foundational collaboration was with Anthony Braxton. Inspired by touring as a duo with the Tri-Centric icon, she made the best of 2020 lockdown time and recorded an often mesmerizing album of solo improvisations, 17 Days in December. streaming at Bandcamp. It’s unlike any other harp record you will ever hear. Jazz harpists are an individualistic bunch to begin with: Zeena Parkins, with her blend of acerbity and atmosphere; Alice Coltrane and her melodic rapture; Dorothy Ashby, who shifted the paradigm by employing everything but harp voicings, and to an extent, Brandee Younger following in her wake. Kerrod is a welcome member of that rare, celestial body.

The chilling, menacing opening tableau, titled Trill to Begin, no doubt reflects the dire circumstances under which Kerrod made it, almost exactly a year ago. It’s a series of eerie modal phrases against a tremolo-picked pedal note, punctuated by low funereal bell accents and otherworldly close harmonies. What a way to kick off the project!

The squiggly web she builds on her electric harp on the second track is 180 degrees from that. She returns to ominous portents, but more spaciously, in a short piece she calls Gentle Jangle. Jazz guitar-like voicings give way to disquietly circling phrases and icy deep-sky sparkle in An Impression, then Kerrod breaks out her electric harp again for the woozily skronky Sugar Up.

Likewise, Glare is a sunbaked, resonant piece that could be mistaken for an ebow guitar soundscape. After that, she assembles an echoey lattice that brings to mind Robert Fripp’s early 80s work. Kerrod employs a glass bowl to enhance the shimmering, steel pan-like microtones in Glassy Fingers. then takes it toward vortical Pink Floyd gloom.

Next, she coalesces toward a warped music-box theme, following with Fluttering Alberti, where she works a hypnotic/spiky dichotomy. Can-Can is not a latin number but a return to steady, sinister mode. In the album’s longest improvisation, Kerrod sprinkles spare incisions over a gritty low drone which she plays with a bow.

The album’s concluding tracks range from playful electronics, to a ghostly National Steel guitar-like miniature, a gently insistent, Debussy-esque interlude and a cheerily ornamented electric harp finale.

December 3, 2021 Posted by | experimental music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Elisabeth Remy Johnson’s Solo Harp Album Highlights Gorgeous Works by Female Composers

Elisabeth Remy Johnson‘s new album Quest – streaming at Spotify – is a rapturously eclectic mix of solo works for harp by women composers from the past 150 years. Beyond the monumental amount of sleuthing that Johnson put into this, these compositions are absolutely gorgeous, deserve to better known and transcend the lure of the harp demimonde. Most but not all of them are on the quiet side; Johnson’s attention to detail and dynamics is as meticulous as it is heartfelt. And her new arrangements of piano works are revelatory.

She opens with the album’s title track, an utterly Lynchian short work by Niloufar Nourbakhsh, eerie dissonances interpolated within a simple two-chord vamp. Cécile Chaminade’s even briefer Aubade, a subtly wistful pavane, makes a good segue, even if the idiom is completely different.

Amy Beach’s A Hermit Thrush at Morn is a characteristically fascinating blend of the Romantic….and what Messiaen might have written had he been up early one New Hampshire morning to transcribe birdsong. French Late Romantic composer Mel Bonis is represented by five arrangement of short piano pieces: a gently bubbling stream; a steady, baroque-tinged lullaby; Mélisande, a nocturne; Desdémona, a broodingly ornamented waltz; and a distant, dreamy clock-chime theme.

Johnson stays in stately 3/4 time for one of Fanny Mendelssohn’s better-known short piano works, Melodie. Romanze, a Clara Schumann piano piece, gets a tersely resonant reinvention on Johnson’s harp that brings out new levels of pensive angst. There’s more of that, played more spaciously, in Lili Boulanger’s Debussy-esque D’un Vieux Jardin.

Johnson maintains that ambience in her imaginative, pointillistically harmonized version of the old folk song Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies, shifting to the stark, starry bluegrass tinges of John Riley, from Kati Agócs‘ suite Every Lover is a Warrior

Sally Beamish‘s Pavan has immensely more sprightliness and color than the title would imply. There’s mysterious, scintillating detail in Skye, a dynamically shifting Scottish-inspired work by Freya Waley-Cohen. Johnson winds up the album with the longest and most dramatic piece here, Johanna Selleck‘s Spindrift, a bracingly chromatic, windswept ocean scene that draws heavily on extended technique.

Johnson’s extensively researched liner notes are acerbic and priceless: “From today’s perspective, some of the stories of the composers born in the 19th century range from mystifying to enraging. I believe their families did not operate from an overt intent to oppress, but instead were contemplating societal norms, and trying to chart the path of least resistance for their daughters, sisters, and wives. Luckily for us, each of these women defied the limits and defined their own paths. It also bears mentioning that, for the most part, each had substantial financial resources at their disposal.”

June 1, 2021 Posted by | classical music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Parker Ramsay Reinvents Bach’s Goldberg Variations on the Harp

Among the brave and the few who have tackled solo Bach on the harp lately, Bridget Kibbey is joined by Parker Ramsay, who traded in playing the concert organ under Stephen Cleobury and now runs a blog, Harping On: Thoughts from a Recovering Organist. As if playing Bach on the organ isn’t difficult enough, Ramsay has transcribed the complete Goldberg Variations for the instrument he learned from his mom. The result is a revelation and is streaming at Spotify,

Ramsay has unimpeachable cred as a baroque musician. In November of 2016, he played a thoughtful, sensitively voiced program of works by Buxtehude, Sweelinck and Scheidt on the German-colored rear organ at New York’s St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue.  What’s most artistically resonant here is that Ramsay isn’t doing this as an ostentatious side project. On one hand, his use of space builds rapturous ambience, bringing out resonant lows seldom heard front and center on this instrument. There’s plenty of natural reverb at the Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, where this album was recorded, so there are places where ornamentation in the lowest registers actually gets lost sometimes – although that doesn’t affect the highs.

The best comparison to this new arrangement is the Goldberg Variations for organ, ironically enough. What works as long as you hold down the pedal with all stops out turns out to work just as well for this delicately incisive axe – although there are moments where it’s not always immediately recognizable as such. When Ramsay has his pedal down in places, it could be a harpsichord.

However, there’s plenty new that comes into view here, particularly the viigor of the counterpoint as Ramsay alternates between hands. You could say that this interpretation reduces the music to its most basic and lucid terms. Ramsay’s dynamics are lyrical, his tempos on the slow side. And he leaves room for flourishes most commonly associated with the harp.

There’s the occasional creepy music-box effect, eye-opening emphasis on basslines when they bubble toward the surface, and poignant pointillisms everywhere. If you’re one of the millions who have beens swept away by the Goldberg Variations over the years, this album will significantly deepen your appreciation of their beauty as well as the challenges they pose for those who play them.

September 18, 2020 Posted by | classical music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Catchy New Album and an Uptown Show by Cutting-Edge Jazz Harpist Brandee Younger

Brandee Younger has already made a lot of waves as a rarity in the jazz world, a concert harpist. Even with amplification, it’s hard to hear that instrument’s pointillistic (most would probably say celestial) tones over drums, piano or blazing brass. That undoubtedly explains why, beyond Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane, jazz harpists have been such an anomaly. And might also explain why Younger’s catchy, accessible new album, Soul Awakening – streaming at Bandcamp – mirrors Coltrane’s atmospheric, tectonically shifting approach, if more kinetically. Younger’s playing the album release show with an excellent quintet featuring Chelsea Baratz on sax at the Miller Theatre on Nov 16 at 8 PM; you can get in for $20.

Younger opens the album with Soulris, a moody modal number, rippling and shifting from insistent chords to a series of waves as Ravi Coltrane’s tenor sax delivers edgy chromatic variations over the surprisingly bustling rhythm section of bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Chris Beck. The Alice Coltrane influence is obvious but welcome. Because Younger is up in the mix, all this works out fine…in the studio at least.

Track two, Linda Lee also has a biting, vampy quality, the bandleader playing meticulous, piano-like cascades as Baratz’s sax weaves over a shapeshifting funk shuffle. Ravi Coltrane again carries the melody as the balmy jazz waltz Love’s Prayer gets underway, Younger providing lushness and ripples, up to a spacious, judicious solo. Beck (EJ Strickland plays on most of the other tracks) has his hands full staying chill even as the pace picks up joyously, moving further toward the center as Younger recedes.

Respected Destroyer, a big, vampy anthem, has bracing Asian tinges, Younger circling behind bright, direct horns: edgy blues riffs on the harp get handed off to a similarly bracing, blues-infused minor-key Sean Jones trumpet solo. Games, a darkly slinky Ashby bossa nova, could be the album’s best track: it would take both a piano and a guitar to do everything Younger’s doing here, right down to that wry Doors quote. And it’s awfully cool to hear the strings of a harp bent for blue notes.

Younger’s remake of Marvin Gaye’s Save the Children is energetic and plaintive, with vocals by Niia. The album’s title track slowly coalesces in a Coltrane vein, horns chattering and fluttering as the bass holds the center, Younger winds up the album with its most majestic, epic number, Alice Coltrane’s Blue Nile, done as a staggered blues. Antoine Roney’s Jaggedly delicious, microtonal sax and Younger’s adventurous riffs, from Asian-tinged washes to droll glissandos and balletesque, leaping chords make this a texturally unusual showstopper.

November 12, 2019 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exciting New Harp Music from Duo Scorpio

Much as the harp has been celebrated for its angelic sound, it’s also been a staple of horror movies. The rather ominously named Duo Scorpio transcend any preconceptions about harp music, whether heavenly or horrible (they are capable of both and everything in between) on their debut album. Virtuosos Kathryn Andrews and Kristi Shade share a birthday, November 5 (hence the ensemble name), a vivid chemistry and a strong attunement to emotional content throughout an exciting, diverse mix of new and recent compositions that push the limits of what can be done with the instrument. With its ambitious scope, energy and extended technique (percussive effects, rubbed and muted strings and more), it often evokes the similarly pioneering work of Bridget Kibbey.

Bernard Andrès is represented by two tracks here. Le Jardin des Paons, which opens the album, is a lush triptych with Asian allusions, alternately dancing and severe, bringing to mind both Bernard Herrmann and Erik Satie with its moody insistence before ending on a warmer, more verdant note, glissandos paired off against brightly attractive, incisive motifs. The album closes with Parvis, an otherworldly, tango-flavored piece with a long, understatedly Lynchian crescendo over velvety swells.

A triptych commission from Robert Paterson, Scorpion Tales is the centerpiece here. Terse noirisms, creepy syncopation and divergent, Andriessen-esque bell-like tones span the entirety of the harps’ sonic capabilities in the opening segment. In the middle section, an eerie twinkling gives way to a courtly, anthemic waltz lowlit by coyly baroque harmonies. It concludes with The Tale of Orion, a rhythmically playful, Brazilian-tinged narrative bookended by starlit austerity.

Caroline Lizotte’s Raga builds increasingly catchy, hypnotically circling variations out of minimalist atmospherics, while Sebastian Currier‘s Crossfade, the most nebulous piece here, pushes toward and then retreats from clenched-teeth suspense with artfully shifting polyrhythms. The most challenging and jazz-oriented work here, Stephen Taylor’s Unfurl employs what seems to be alternate tunings and gritty low overtones, shifting from menacingly exploratory ripples to a bit of a dance and then back. You might not expect a recording for harp to be as much of a fun ride as this one is.

March 10, 2013 Posted by | avant garde music, classical music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Keziah Thomas Sparkles With Her Harp

Today at Trinity Church Keziah Thomas proved to be a passionate advocate for her instrument’s repertoire, not to mention a keenly insightful raconteur with a clever sense of irony. Her axe is the concert harp. Playing solo, she offered a nod to St. David’s Day with a program devoted to composers from England and Wales from over the centuries. Thomas’ ease with the demands of the strings and pedals downplayed the crisp athleticism and wide dynamic expanse she brings to the instrument.

She launched comfortably into the program with warm, stately counterpoint of the allegro from British baroque composer John Parry’s  Sonata No. 1 in D Major. Contemporary Welsh composer Sally Beamish’s Awuya blended percussion on the harp’s soundboard with fervent glissandos, tricky African tempos, and a spiky, kora-like arrangement that came full circle with a lullaby theme at the end. The centerpiece of the program was Britten’s five-part Suite for Harp, Op. 83. Its moody, surreal, suspenseful thickets of glissandos shifting to tensely spacious, pensively minimalistic passages, crescendoing, warily Middle Eastern allusions and finally an elegantly ebullient Welsh hymn, it was a mystery movie for the ears. Close behind was 20th century Welsh composer Grace Williams’ Hiraeth (Welsh for “longing”), a vividly plaintive anthem without words.

Thomas went back in time again for Elias Parish Alvars’ Introduction et Variations sur des airs de La Norma (the Bellini opera) dating from the Victorian era. Known as the “Liszt of the harp,” Alvars’ arrangement was as showoff-y as Thomas said it would be. It’s mostly rapidfire, rippling piano voicings meant to mimic arias and big orchestral swells, with a conclusion that’s as physically challenging as it is predictable. Thomas nailed it.

She followed with a rather sweeping, lushly anthemic John Thomas (no relation – he was Queen Victoria’s court harpist) arrangement of the old Welsh folk song Watching the Wheat and concluded the program with a work she’d commissioned herself,  Andy Scott’s Crossing Waves, inspired by Roz Savage’s 2005 solo transatlantic voyage in a rowboat. A triptych, the piece shifts from apprehensive, often jarringly rhythmic, chromatically fueled pre-voyage anxiety, to a raptly glistening, hypnotically steady passage depicting calm waters and then a buoyant, bouncy, utterly triumphant outro as the adventurer revels in the the ride home after finally reaching dry land. Thomas recalled with considerable amusement how Savage came to the premiere of the work and said emphatically afterward how there hadn’t been a minute of calm during the entire voyage. Therefore, explained Thomas with a wry grin, “This isn’t the approved version.”

March 1, 2012 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two Contrasting Albums of High Notes

The American Modern Ensemble’s recording of Robert Paterson’s Star Crossing was one of last year’s most enjoyable albums, a noir film for the ears. Right now the eclectic composer/percussionist is about to unleash a suite about former New York Mets star and suspected steroid juicer Mike Piazza. Sandwiched between those two works is the Book of Goddesses, which is essentially his Pictures at an Exhibition, a bright, rippling, generally upbeat theme and variations which takes its inspiration from illustrator Kris Waldherr’s Book of Goddesses. Rather than being a depiction of female archetypes, Paterson’s intent here is to employ a vast palette of motifs from all over the globe to breathe sonic life into a series of pictures from the book. Eclectic concert harpist Jacqueline Kerrod is the central performer here, whether in the trio Maya, with Sato Moughalian on flutes and John Hadfield on percussion; the duo Clockwise, with violinist Marc Uys; or the American Modern Ensemble, with Moughalian plus violist Danielle Farina. The compositions are more rambunctious, less delicate than this instrumentation might imply, a series of interwoven variations on themes reflecting the origin of the goddesses themselves – or not. For example, the Chinese fertility goddess Xi Wang Mu, if this is to be believed, has some Bollywood in her – and santeria goddess Oya is smartly introduced by a bolero. Maybe by design, maybe not, the composer whose work this collection most closely resembles is Bollywood legend S.D. Burman.

The opening overture is titled Sarasvati – the Hindu goddess of knowledge, whose portrait is included in the album’s lavish cd booklet along with the rest of Waldherr’s pantheon. Rippling Chinese-inflected ambience gives way to a Bollywood theme which then goes north again, followed by Aphrodite, which is essentially an acoustic take on Greek psychedelic rock (think Annabouboula or Magges) – not exactly what you’d expect from a chamber music trio, with a rhythmic pulse and catchy melodicism that has become Paterson’s trademark. A swirling Irish reel named after the Celtic goddess Brigit is followed by cleverly polyrhythmic interpolations of previous themes, dreamy ethereality, bouncy Mexican folkloric inflections, that Nigerian bolero, and a balletesque, vividly contrasting number titled Yemaya, where the percussion comes to the forefront against Moughalian’s graceful flute.

There are also two companion pieces here. Freya’s Tears is a triptych building from pensive spaciousness, to mysterioso ripples, to echoes of a baroque minuet and then delicate Middle Eastern allusions. The concluding work, Embracing the Wind, a portrait of a runner who seems more of a fugitive than an athlete, harks back to the ominous unease of Star Crossing. On one hand, there’s a “look, ma, I’m writing Indian music now” feel to some of this, but it’s less showoff-y than simply diverse: clearly, Paterson listens widely and has a passion for the global styles he’s so enthusiastically embraced. Play this loud and it becomes party music: play it softly and it makes for good late-night ambience

Where the Book of Goddesses is lively and animated, Due East’s Drawn Only Once: The Music of John Supko is often blissfully dreamy and nocturnal. Flutist Erin Lesser and percussionist Greg Beyer join forces to create a frequently mesmerizing, intricate upper-register sonic web. There are two works here. Littoral, a lush, balmy, minutely nuanced seaside scene (including two spoken-word narrations comfortably back enough in the mix that they intrigue rather than drowning out the music) reaches symphonic length and sweep. Crescendoing almost imperceptibly, the flute flutters and then builds playful clusters over long, sustained, hypnotic tones and elegant vibraphone, becomes a dance and then a gamelan anthem that slowly and warmly winds down, a comfortable shoreline at dusk.

The second work, This Window Makes Me Feel, also rises with a slow, hypnotic elegance, growing closer and closer and finally achieving an optimistic resolution, with pianist David Broome and soprano Hai-Ting Chinn adding subtle textures to the mix. It’s a terrific late-night album and comes with an accompanying DVD, not viewed at press time.

February 24, 2012 Posted by | avant garde music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Edmar Castaneda Beats the Heat

Wednesday night at Madison Square Park, Colombian jazz  harpist Edmar Castaneda didn’t let the crushing heat and humidity phase him, playing a breathtaking show with Andrea Tierra on vocals, Dave Silliman on drums and Shlomi Cohen on soprano sax. Castaneda is the kind of musician who absolutely blows you away with his intensity and his chops, a hyperkinetic figure playing rapidfire piano voicings, intricate folk melodies, furious volleys of staccato notes and anchoring all of this with nimble, funky basslines that he played on a series of low strings that seemed to be amped separately from the rest of his harp. Wow! Castaneda more than once referred to Silliman as “the man with four hands,” but it might as well have been himself.

The trio of Castaneda, Silliman and Cohen opened with an expansive, slowly crescendoing version of Roomful of Colors (that’s the English translation of a track from his latest album), Silliman artfully weaving between Castaneda’s polyrhythms as Cohen brought the heat up even further with eerie Balkan and klezmer-inflected trills and modal passages. The title cut, Between the Strings was less allusion than head-on intensity, anchored by a vivid, insistent descending progression, Castaneda hammering out plaintive chordal motifs as Silliman and Cohen nimbly rode the composition’s rises and falls. Castaneda held the crowd rapt with a solo rendition of  the epic, anguished but ultimately triumpant Jesus of Nazareth, a showcase for every technique in his book. Then they brought up Tierra (Castaneda’s wife) for a jazzed-up version of a poignant Colombian folk song: with a powerful, mysterious lower register, she introduced a nocturnal ambience that grew dramatic and then plaintive. They closed with a long, animated tribute to Tierra and Castaneda’s native Colombia, a potently effective advertisement for the beauty and appeal of the country, Tierra’s deep-river contralto a powerful contrast with Cohen’s soaring, knife-edge flights. Clearly, their connection to the country is tight, complex and not without considerable longing to return there. Castaneda typically plays the Jazz Standard when he’s in town; watch this space for future NYC dates.

And while we’re at it, a big shout-out to trombonist Art Baron, who played a killer mix of standards and grooves with Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar at St. Marks Park yesterday: hearing Pizzarelli methodically fire off one delicious chordal cluster after another while Baron, tenor player Steve Elson and others took flight overhead was a real treat, especially during their inspired closing number, Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man. Pizzarelli is at Rockefeller Park on 7/13 at 7 PM with a bunch of other jazzcats playing a Jonathan Schwartz tribute.

July 8, 2011 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Janus Gets You Coming and Going

Like the mythical character, indie classical trio Janus looks in two directions, forward and backward. Backward, with a genuinely lovely, often baroque-tinged sense of melody; forward, with a compellingly hypnotic edge occasionally embellished by light electronic touches. This is an album of circular music, motifs that repeat again and again as they slowly and subtly shift shape, textures sometimes floating mysteriously through the mix, occasionally leaping in for a sudden change of atmosphere. Many of the melodies are loops, some obviously played live, others possibly running over and over again through an electronic effect. Either way, it’s not easy to follow flutist Amanda Baker, violist/banjoist Beth Meyers and harpist Nuiko Wadden as they negotiate the twists and turns of several relatively brief compositions by an all-New York cast of emerging composers. A series of minimalist miniatures by Jason Treuting of So Percussion – some pensive, some Asian-tinged – begin, end and punctuate the album, concluding on a tersely gamelanesque note.

Keymaster, by Caleb Burhans (of Janus’ stunningly intense labelmates Newspeak) is a wistful cinematic theme that shifts to stark midway through, then lets Baker add balmy contrast against the viola’s brooding staccato. Drawings for Mayoko by Angelica Negron adds disembodied vocalese, quietly crunching percussion and a drone that separates a warmly shapeshifting, circular lullaby methodically making its way around the instruments. Cameron Britt’s Gossamer Albatross weaves a clever call-and-response element into its absolutely hypnotic theme, a series of brief movements that begin fluttery and grow to include a jazz flavor courtesy of some sultry low flute work by Baker. There’s also the similarly trancelike Beward Of, by Anna Clyne, with its gently warped series of backward masked accents and scurrying flurry of a crescendo, and Ryan Brown’s Under the Rug, which builds matter-of-factly from sparse harp and banjo to a series of crystalline crescendos with the viola. Gently psychedelic, warmly atmospheric and captivating, it’s a great ipod album. It’s out now on New Amsterdam Records.

November 28, 2010 Posted by | avant garde music, classical music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment