The manner in which the two instruments are perceived to merge and separate is deeply compelling. These pieces seem to have been composed to play off of this, which is both unusual and excellent.
Favorite track: Daniel T. Lewis: sift.
Duo repertoire is a fascinating exploration of the tension between monologue and dialogue, homogeneity and duality, and contrast versus hybridity. On their bold debut full length recording, the bass clarinet and marimba duo Transient Canvas (Amy Advocat, bass clarinet & Matt Sharrock, marimba) present repertoire that explores the wide range of roles and textures these two instruments can assume with each other. Notably, the repertoire on this recording largely steers clear of the combination’s most predictable texture — the marimba providing steady pulse oriented accompaniment to a soloistic bass clarinet. Instead, these works explore merged timbres, powerfully declamatory unison statements, and narrative structures to draw the listener into the colorful world of five substantial new works, all performed with a maturity beyond the years of these wonderful young performers. Daniel T. Lewis’ sift, the title track, opens with a haunting timbre. Each instrument intones in its low register, as beautifully revealed high overtones of the bass clarinet create a halo effect floating above. The work evolves patiently, as more pitches from the overtone series of the low fundamentals are explicitly articulated, and the bass clarinet begins to glide between the well tempered pitches of the marimba with gooey microtones. The bass clarinet takes a lead role in Tina Tallon’s dirty water, framing blistering outbursts, plaintive wailing, and bravura rips with percussive punctuations. Midway through the piece the dense activity gives way to haunting trills in both instruments before the insistent staccato punctuations signal a return to the denser, virtuosic material from the opening in a compressed coda. The raw energy of the attention grabbing opening of Curtis Hughes’ Vestibule III leads quickly into more introspective material. The composer describes the work as a “series of short, related duos that seem to exist in a state of perpetual transition between contrasting textural and stylistic worlds.” The dichotomy between driving, rhythmic textures and thoughtful, reflective moments predominates throughout. In John Murphree’s Purge, the duo finds plenty of opportunities to show off their individual chops and impeccable ensemble coordination, as both instruments dance around in kinetic passagework. Adam Roberts’ Nostalgia Variations is a perfect marriage of form and content, as it is an exploration of an affect of longing for the past in a form that had its heyday in prior centuries. Roberts’ creativity in finding fresh contexts for his poignant, emotive theme makes this twenty minute work remarkable. As with all great variations sets, the shape of the work as a whole is the sum of its component variations, and in this case Roberts is able to capture the wide range of expressive territory in the present that is associated with contemplating the loss of one’s past. He writes in the program note that the work is “about finding a way to engage with such emotions in, as a Buddhist would say, the middle path.” Not surpring then that Nostalgia Variations ends unresolved, with a disembodied statement of the opening theme that seems less to look back to the past as to look forward to the future, albeit with a question mark.
released August 25, 2017
Produced by: Curtis Hughes (track 3), Daniel T. Lewis (track 1), John Murphree (track 4), Adam Roberts (track 5), Nancy Zeltsman (track 2), Amy Advocat, and Matt Sharrock
Engineer: Joel Gordon
Recording Location and dates: Distler Hallat Tufts University in Medford, MA, August 7, 2014 (tracks 3 & 4); Futura Studios in Roslindale, MA, January 5 & 6, 2016 (tracks 1, 2, & 5)
Mastering: Joel Gordon
Program notes: Curtis Hughes, Daniel T. Lewis, John Murphree, Adam Roberts, Nancy Zeltsman
Design: Marc Wolf (marcjwolf.com)
Cover Photography: Jeffrey Means
Some rights reserved. Please refer to individual track pages for license info.
New Focus Recordings is an artist led collective label featuring releases in contemporary music of many stripes, as well as
new approaches to older repertoire. The label was founded by guitarist Daniel Lippel (who is the current director), composer engineer Ryan Streber, and composer Peter Gilbert in 2003-4, and features releases from many of new music's most active performers and composers....more
Taking 'aural stocktake' recently, it struck me how pervasive Kris Davis' playing was on my recent listening...I'd almost taken her for granted...sorry Kris, I won't do that again!
This is a wonderful album/project and lets her playing shine...lots of essential duets here...so pleased to hear her say (and confirm my suspicion) that Paul Bley was an inspiration...he's a cornerstone of my listening and it seems that Kris is becoming one too! John Cratchley