by: Hobart Taylor
Nicole Mitchell and Mandorla Awakening II - Emerging Worlds - (FPE)
Nicole Mitchell/Black Earth Ensemble Ensemble Laborintus - Moments of Fatherhood - (Rouge Art)
These two new releases by UCI's own stellar resident composer/performer Mitchell display incredible range.
Drawing from, but not imitating such divers sources as African traditional music, Asian, American, and European small ensemble classical music, free jazz a la the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and rock, these genres are the vehicles for the elaborate metaphors conveyed in these pieces.
Their tenors are meditations on perceiving eternal verities across time and space around the grandest tribe of all, sentient and awakened beings, in "Emerging Worlds" consistent with her research and embodiment of Afro-centric science fiction, and in wonderful contrast, the miracle of everyday reality in the tangible world reflected in "Moments of Fatherhood".
Mitchell's collaborators in both works speak with extraordinarily personal voices as their solos melt back into ensemble play. Whether in deeply melodic passages or during explosions of freest expression a profound coherence of spirit emerges.
An obvious method of comparing these two works which differ in approach and subject would be to mention the split between electronic music ("Emerging Worlds") and acoustic ("Moments of Fatherhood"), but that is ultimately a surface difference. Both works are piquant, constantly poking at you, fully of startling alterations in rhythm and dynamics that that tickle you awake. Both are idea driven fulminations against sleeping through our lives. Both are heartfelt affirmations of the glory of life as it is was and potentially could be.
Mamutrio - Primal Existence - (Origin)
A funny thing about the trio form, whether it is a power trio in rock (The Police), Beethoven's piano trios, or the work of Bill Evans' trios, the perfect balance between figure and ground that comes to mind as you listen to ensemble and solo play intermittently to me just feels intimate and to the point.
This Belgian triad is spirited, precise in rhythmic attack led by drummer Jesse Dockx, supported by the full yet delicate bass playing of Piet Verbist, and melodically driven by the deceptively casual alto sax work of Lieven Cambre are serious yet playful, subtle yet profound.
Dan Pratt - Hymn For The Happy Man - (Same Island)
With strong support from bassist/mentor Christian McBride whose nuanced work is all over this outing, composer/saxophonist Pratt pens some winning tunes, which can be elliptical in nature "Gross Blues", modal explorations "New Day", or just classic melodies "River" and the title tune "Hymn for the New Man". Someone to watch.
Lolo Irving - No Limit - (Sonic Portraits)
Alto saxophonist Irving has a full and distinctive sound like Gato Barbieri. Reworking disco backing tracks and ambient sound she takes on classical romanticism soulfully. Best cut, "Blue Prelude".
Dan Costa - Suite Tres Rios - (Self Released)
From Brazil this pianist/composer reworks classic Brazilian pop with strong jazz chops. The CD is a suite and can be listened to straight through for an enchanting effect, but "Alba", "Chorinho" "Baiao" and "Maracatu" stand out for me as tunes that stand on their own.
Jason Vieaux/Julien Labro - Infusion - (Azica)
Guitar (Vieaux) and accordion (Labro) in this hybrid featuring Latin American classical music, jazz compositions and a pop tune. These men are musical virtuosi who demonstrate mastery at every turn.