03 Music for Self Isolation Album CoverFrank Horvat – Music for Self-Isolation
Various Artists
Centrediscs CMCCD-28521 (cmccanada.org/shop/cd-cmccd-28521)

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Toronto composer and pianist Frank Horvat observed fellow musicians struggling to cope with loss, precarity triggered by cancelled gigs and the strain of isolation. Wondering how to effectively respond, his answer: write new compositions to counter self-isolation. Thus, during the spring of 2020 he composed 31 short classical-style pieces, shared immediately with the international community on social media. They were an instant hit. Numerous performance videos were posted on the Internet and Horvat made plans to record them on the album Music for Self-Isolation at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall. The session wrapped the day before Ontario’s stay-at-home order came into force on January 14, 2021. The album also includes the ensemble composition Together in Spirit, using overdubbing technology to effectively bring together the 22 talented musicians who played solos and duos on the other tracks of Music for Self-Isolation.

Part two of the album comprises eight nuanced The Idea of North-style audio documentaries titled Pandemic Stories. These layered monologues, each by a different musician, are deeply personal stories about impacted careers and lives during the pandemic, accompanied by Horvat’s instrumental music. The aim: to present “the hopes, dreams and fears,” of each musician, and their views on the arts and culture sector, “in order to heal and move forward together.”

Taking the two sections together – the 32 music miniatures and eight audio reports – the 40-track Music for Self-Isolation offers accessible, soothing music, plus international voices of resilience during this time of plague. The album reminds us that music is among the most mysterious and highest order of human skills.

04 Andrzej Pietrewicz 4 EP Cover#4
Andrzej Pietrewicz
Independent (soundcloud.com/andrzej-pietrewicz/sets/4a-1/s-h6vzdD1KKYM)

Andrzej Pietrewicz is an independent musician, small instrumental ensemble composer and producer based in Port Credit, near Toronto. His unique inspirational compositional and performing sound makes this six original-song, self-produced-during-COVID-lockdown creation, unforgettable! Pietrewicz clearly has a comprehensive technical understanding of diverse musical genres such as Baroque, jazz, blues, folk, classical and contemporary. He draws on this knowledge to develop his own vibrant sound performed here by talented instrumentalists on piano, strings, percussion, guitar, winds, programming and, in the closing track, vocalists. 

Multi-instrumental track 1 is a great introduction to his music, combining quasi-orchestral tonal sounds with modern touches such as interval jumps and tweeting bird-like piano sounds. The faster, happier track 2 with its rhythmic piano interval patterns, instrumental held notes, simultaneous tonal/modern effects and high-pitched woodwind sounds creates a musical pre/post-COVID sunny warm spring day for me! 

Track 3, with a nod to Baroque keyboard music, yet so modern day in tonality, moves from the contrapuntal mood-changing opening lines to subtle dissonant intervals, steady rhythms and detailed phrasing, performed with sensitivity, passion and hope by the composer. Nice addition of singers Nacre, Timbre, Laura and Caroline Joy Clarke to track 6 as their high pitches alternating with tight string, flute and piano parts create a captivating positive soundscape. 

This is uplifting, joyous, beautiful music to be enjoyed over and over again.

Listen to '#4' Now in the Listening Room

05a Claire Chase 1Density 2036 (2013-2015)/(2016-2017)
Claire Chase
Corbett vs Dempsey CvsD CD076 (corbettvsdempsey.com)

Claire Chase is a force. Our modern understanding of contemporary music performance is pushed forward with artists of this calibre. The eminent flutist’s latest release comes as a monumental four-disc statement toward why Chase is one of the world’s most celebrated performers. As one would expect, the execution on this release is extraordinary. That said, expected excellence must not be confused with anything inherently predictable: each piece is delivered with a stunning level of musicianship that demands attention and respect. Titled Density 2036, this release represents the first five years (2013-2017) a of a 24-year project through which Chase will commission new pieces for solo flute each year until the 100th anniversary of Edgard Varèse’s seminal flute composition Density 21.5, written in 1936.

05b Claire Chase 2The first disc begins with Marcos Balter’s Pessoa for six bass flutes – a piece that embodies a rather meditative atmosphere with shakuhachi-like gestures. There are two pieces by Brazilian-American composer Felipe Lara, the second of which, titled Parábolas na Caverna, is wonderfully mysterious in its richness, drawing the listener into a highly successful soundworld and unusual invocations for the flute. Chase takes command of the extended techniques to such a world-class level that I had to listen several times to believe what was being heard. 

It is not simply technical fireworks on display that makes Chase’s playing so compelling: it’s technical wizardry combined with a level of care, dedication and nuance that makes a recording like this so important. George Lewis’ Emergent for flute and electronics is a true gem of the repertoire. This highly original music is stunning for its thrilling otherworldliness. An Empty Garlic for bass flute and electronics written by Chinese-born composer Dun Yun is exquisite. It is a lush garden of undiscovered essences producing an irresistible listening experience. The first CD caps off with Chase’s own interpretation of Varèse’s Density 21.5 that may objectively be considered a seminal recording of this early-20th-century masterpiece. 

We also receive a dynamic and adventurous piece from Dai Fujikura and an engagingly hip work from Francesca Verunelli. Pauline Oliveros’ Intensity 20.15: Grace Chase – a work inspired by a text written by Chase’s grandmother – is 20 minutes of pure ingenuity suspended in a realm beyond imagination. 

Suzanne Farrin’s The Stimulus of Loss is an expressive and delicate work with an appearance by the ondes Martenot; the playful energy in Tyshawn Sorey’s Bertha’s Lair is a magical landscape with percussive edges; Pauchi Sasaki’s Gama XV: Piece for Two Speaker Dresses makes brilliant use of technology in a highly evocative soundscape where the ears become enveloped within an airy expanse. The fourth CD contains an eight-movement work by Balter, titled Pan, which is a substantial journey inspired by memory. This work embodies a rather theatrical aesthetic and is written with an intense and luminous brilliance and with clever novelty of material.  

This first installment of Chase’s Density 2036 project is impressive, and a profound affirmation of why Chase is one of the most important champions of contemporary music. Her tremendous musicality and breathtaking command of the flute is dramatic and remarkable. As the CD liner notes remind us, density is a matter of scale; this release deserves 10 out of 10 with any metric I can think of.

06 Norgard Ruders celloPer Nørgård & Poul Ruders: Works for Solo Cello
Wilhelmina Smith
Ondine ODE 1381-2 (naxosdirect.com/search/ode+1381-2)

Courageous and captivating, cellist Wilhelmina Smith has released a new album spotlighting Danish composers Per Nørgård and Poul Ruders. This disc makes a welcome sequel to Smith’s previous solo release featuring Finnish cello music by Esa-Pekka Salonen and Kaija Saariaho. 

Attractively programmed in two parts, this album opens with three sonatas by Nørgård, followed by Bravourstudien, (L’homme armé Variations) by Ruders. Within the sonatas, the listener gains a chronological sense of expressive storytelling. Beloved amongst string instruments, the cello is predisposed to a masterful narrative ability, epitomizing the perfect solo instrument in a number of ways. It possesses a wide tonal and dynamic range that resonates warmly and reverberantly in multiple environments. When wielded by an expert player such as Smith, the cello can direct the most intimate modes of expression and in turn manifest a certain spaciousness, with majestic soundscapes of impressive import. It is this latter profile that proves most exceptional in Nørgård’s three sonatas; they are immediately striking with an outward sonic expanse. In this bowed string land, capacious vistas prevail. By the third work, subtitled “What - Is the Word!” we remain in awe of darkly pulsing melodies as they haunt our ears, questing after an elusive (collective) Nordic heart.

Smith then shifts seamlessly to the whimsical – even impish – soundworld of Ruders. The slightly younger composer of the twain, Ruders is a modern musical maverick; the very same might be said of Smith.

07 Martine VialatteEchos et résonances
Martine Vialatte (piano)
CiAR CC003 (ciar.e-monsite.com)

Debussy’s piano preludes have become staples of the repertoire and with so many fine recordings, it is difficult to say something different – a feat that virtuoso Martine Vialatte achieves with subtle mastery. The phrasing and careful use of the pedals creates a sonorous palette not heard in many recordings of Debussy’s set of Préludes (Premier livre)

Also found on this release, aptly titled Echos et résonances, are two pieces by French composer Tristin Murail – a short piece titled Cloches d’adieu et un sourire and the spectral masterpiece, Territoires de l’oubli. In the former, a piece dedicated to Messiaen, chords swing before the listener like memories becoming ever more elusive. In the latter, Vialatte’s delicate touch provides a stunning resonance necessary for this hypnotic and intriguing work. In spite of the composer’s reluctance to be labelled an impressionist, the two pieces by Murail do make for perfect companions to Debussy’s preludes with clearly similar evocations of the natural world. Vialatte delivers world-class interpretations of some of the most resonant works written for her instrument, making for a rich and rewarding listen.

08 Alvin LucierAlvin Lucier – Music for Piano XL
Nicolas Horvath
Grand Piano GP857 (naxosdirect.com/search/gp857)

American composer Alvin Lucier has found an impressive exponent in pianist Nicolas Horvath. An artist regarded for a dizzying variety of musical tastes, Horvath is especially celebrated as a leading interpreter of Franz Liszt and yet he has recorded the music of Philip Glass, Cornelius Cardew and Jaan Rääts, to critical acclaim.

In his latest release, Horvath dives headlong into a vast, single-movement work for piano and wave oscillators. He is no stranger to such endeavours, having staged past live performances running up to 12 hours in length. Here, Horvath (via Lucier) offers a sprawling brand of listening experience, supported by “slow sweep pure wave oscillators.” Only single acoustic piano notes are struck throughout, echoing for minutes at a time over a backdrop of acoustic beating. (Two pure waves move up and down with a range of four octaves. The beats are directed by the piano tone’s proximity to pitches from the oscillator.)

While the resulting soundworld is undeniably retro, such creations can reward the assiduous listener. This aesthetic urges a holistic mode of attentiveness. One has to empty the ears of preconceived notions of structure, melody – and even of texture. These tones and beats sear through a vacuum of space on their own sort of photon, commingling and naturalistic: unhindered sonic spectres that speak truly. In what realm could such sounds move us most? Imagine that we’re listening amongst the cosmos, unbounded and flung loose into the stars.

09 LavenaIn Your Hands
Lavena
Bright Shiny Things BSTC-0145 (brightshiny.ninja)

Another stellar offering from the label Bright Shiny Things, American cellist Lavena’s debut album already feels like a veteran project. Lavena champions powerfully through one perfect piece after another – a diverse and colourful collection, each as interesting and compelling as the next.

Beginning with Gemma Peacocke’s Amygdala (“an exploration of the way in which anxiety comes in waves…” – oh, how timely!) this work for solo cello and electronics perfectly delivers its description. The duos by Jessie Montgomery, for cello and violin, and Ted Hearne, a powerful and dynamic setting for cello and percussion, are outstanding compositions beautifully delivered. In between is in manus tuas, a rich and melodic composition in Caroline Shaw’s classic multi-layered chordal style for singing cellist, based on a 16th-century Thomas Tallis motet.

The piece Tusuula, by the brilliant and multi-talented American composer Bryce Dessner, anchors the album’s solo content. Written in 2015 during the week Dessner spent as composer-in-residence at Finland’s Meidän Festivaali, Tusuula is destined to become an outstanding addition to the solo cello repertoire. Lavena leaves no doubt of her commitment to every note. 

Tender and yearning, My Heart Comes Undone, a valentine gift to the artist from her composer husband Judah Adashi, inspired by Björk’s Unravel, gently closes the album. In this iteration it’s played by solo cellist with loop pedal. This is an adventurous yet cohesive mix of compositions that manages to remain totally accessible to the contemporary newbie.

10 Leo ChadburnLeo Chadburn – Slower/Talker
Apartment House; Quatuor Bozzini; Gemma Saunders
Library of Nothing Records CD06 (leochadburn.com)

The wild card of the British contemporary classical music scene, composer Leo Chadburn (aka Simon Bookish) widens the scope of his musical experimentation with this remarkable new release. Featuring performances by Quatuor Bozzini (Canada) and Apartment House (UK), and the voices of actress Gemma Saunders and Chadburn himself, the album combines minimalism with spoken word in a way that is symmetrical in form, yet inquisitive and uninhibited in its expression.

The six compositions included on Slower/Talker span a decade of the composer’s work. All explore the relationship between found text and its instrumental counterpart, made up of mostly strings and keyboard instruments. The text’s subjects are comprised of lists of a kind – names of moth species (The Indistinguishables), topographical features encircling London (Freezywater), a lexicon of words used in the fragrance industry (Vapour Descriptors) or a stream of consciousness and properties of chemical elements (The Halogens). The words are spoken theatrically or in a musical way, always with restraint. Some are sung, understatedly, such as words of Mao Zedong in X Chairman Maos. The instruments are interweaving in and out, mostly supporting, sometimes questioning, making up meanings of their own. The textures created are beautiful in their sparseness. The result is a floating dialogue that is hypnotizing and luring, stripped of drama, smooth, as if outside of this world. 

Slower/Talker engages the listener in a subtle way. It is a sonically explorative journey, one worth taking.

11 AkropolisGhost Light
Akropolis Reed Quintet
New Focus Recordings FCR292 (newfocusrecordings.com/catalogue)

I was thinking about the Crash Test Dummies’ The Ghosts that Haunt Me, when the eerie, first moaning microtonal chord from the Akropolis Reed Quintet’s Ghost Light sounded in my headset. Spooky! This fantastic group of woodwind players from Detroit explores life and death at the far end of the musical spectrum; toe-tapping, mysterious, in tune and in synch. The cover art of the disc brought to mind the Dummies’ release from long ago. Look carefully, there’s purpose to the whimsy.

All the music was commissioned. Unusual? No, but the instrumentation is: two clarinets (soprano and bass), plus an oboe, a bassoon, and… saxophone! Here is range, here is agility and grace, here are complementary colours, never the cloying homophony of a saxophone quartet or worse, clarinet choir. Listen to the blends intentionally exploited by Michael Gilbertson in the brief and chipper Kinds of Light

That opening moan is from Rites for the Afterlife, a four-movement work inspired by ancient Egyptian rituals guiding the soul from this world to the next. Composer Stacy Garrop’s unearthly timbres of microtonal clusters, executed with clean precision, draw the listener into the mystery. Unpitched whispery effects evoke reed beds by a river. Styx or Nile? 

Iranian Niloufar Nourbakhsh based Firing Squad on the greatest opening sentence in literature, from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. This melancholy, melodic one-movement work explores mortality and memory. 

Jeff Scott, French horn of the Imani Winds, wrote the disc’s most substantial work: Homage to Paradise Valley. This is activist music, composed to poems by Marsha Music, commissioned to commemorate the destruction of Detroit neighbourhoods and landmarks taken from the African American community during the mid-20th century, in the name of urban renewal.

Listen to 'Ghost Light' Now in the Listening Room

12 George Lewis RecombinantGeorge Lewis: The Recombinant Trilogy
Claire Chase; Seth Parker Woods; Dana Jessen
New Focus Recordings (newfocusrecordings.com/catalogue)

Few musicians have explored the relations between instrumental music and computer programming with the creative zeal of George Lewis, from Rainbow Family, the recently released IRCAM works from 1984 (Carrier Records), to his various interactive works with his Voyager program. His Recombinant Trilogy shifts from works employing improvisation to compositions that apply “interactive digital delays, spatialization and timbre transformation to transform the acoustic sounds of the instrument into multiple digitally created sonic personalities.”

Each of the three pieces combines a soloist with computerized electronics, in the process creating a kind of malleable ensemble that achieves often startling effects within seemingly acoustic timbres, including parallel microtonal lines. Materials are reworked out of sequence, liberating time and continuity in the process. The opening Emergent (2014), performed by Claire Chase, flute, and Levy Lorenzo, electronics, is the sunniest of the three, exploiting and expanding the flute’s mimetic powers to summon up flocks of birds that sing, soar and swoop. Not Alone (2014-15), with cellist Seth Parker Woods operating electronics as well, pushes the cello well beyond its typical sonic contour, pressing far into violin, contrabass and vocal arenas. For sheer evocative power, Seismologic (2017), performed by Dana Jessen on bassoon and Eli Stine on electronics, stands out, magnifying both the bassoon’s range and Jessen’s extended techniques to create an underground labyrinth of menacing roars, Doppler-effect turns and sudden haunted choirs. 

As with his earlier interactions with improvisers, Lewis’ computer compositions effectively extend music’s expressive range in fascinating ways.

Listen to 'George Lewis: The Recombinant Trilogy' Now in the Listening Room

13 Douglas BoyceDouglas Boyce – The Hunt by Night
counter)induction; Ieva Jokubaviciute; Schuyler Slack; Trio Cavatina
New Focus Recordings FCR 278 (newfocusrecordings.com/catalogue)

Douglas Boyce’s erudite liner notes may make you reach for a dictionary. If I read him right, chamber music is no longer mere comfortable entertainment for the well-heeled; it provides contemporary humankind with an escape from time’s clutches, through ritual provided by “music’s hierophants” (the priesthood of composer/performers). Not sure about that, but let’s turn to the music itself.

Boyce writes lively, sometimes jarring and jagged lines, demanding for clergy and congregation alike. The title track was already released by counter)induction (Boyce is a founding member), reviewed last issue. It’s terrific to have a broad collection of his music to compare to that exhilarating jaunt. 

Quintet l’homme armé references the cantus firmus Guillaume Dufay used in his eponymous Mass; extra marks if you can sing that melody, but even so, you’ll still need some imagination to find a connection between it and this mysterious descendant; I believe I hear the echoes, but I won’t bet the house. Piano Quartet No.2 involves intricate play with rhythmic blocks. There’s a chancy leeway to how the piece comes together, so this version is just one of the ways it might go. The longest track, and prize-winner for me, Sails Knife-bright in a Seasonal Wind is dedicated to Boyce’s young son. This whimsical trialogue between violin, guitar and percussion progresses from halting introductions, through a wacky little jig, and thence into the mystery world of a child’s deep slumber. Time keeps passing, but the listener feels it suspended for the duration.

Fantastic playing by the many participants. Clean crisp recording values too. Read and decipher the liner notes, if you can. Call it value added: I learned some arcane words, like apodeictic. As for the runes in the margins, no clue.

Listen to 'Douglas Boyce: The Hunt by Night' Now in the Listening Room

14 Anthhony GirardAnthony Girard – Éloge de la candeur
Jean-Pierre Arnaud; Geneviève Girard; Patrice Kirchhoff
CiAR CC 004 (ciar.e-monsite.com)

Released as a part of the “Albert-Roussel International Festival” collection, Éloge de la candeur by Anthony Girard is an offering of his works for oboe. The title piece for oboe and piano is a floating dreamscape of colours and emotions. With the use of ascending lines and the high register of the oboe, this piece uses a range of colours that seem to be influenced by the modern French school. Very close in affect to the Sonate pour hautbois et piano by Dutilleux, Éloge de la candeur paints an inspiring scene of serenity and purity in a dreamlike atmosphere.

Apothéose de la mélancolie uses the darker timbre of the English horn, as well as its often neglected higher range, to paint the haunting, melancholic mood.  Girard has the English horn and piano in a dialogue of tonal colours and expression. Epilogue en trio for flute, oboe and piano is a stark contrast to the previous works. There is an energetic playfulness throughout, exploring different textures of articulation, voicing and range of all three instruments. Onze pièces brèves for oboe and piano are 11 quick movements showing the technical possibilities of the instrument. Most lasting no more than 30 seconds, these short pieces are energetic and dissonant compared to Girard’s other writing for the oboe.

Overall, this collection of works by Girard is an inspiring addition to the oboist’s repertoire. This album was beautifully interpreted by Jean-Pierre Arnaud, former English horn soloist of the Paris Opera Orchestra, as well as pianist Geneviève Girard and flutist of the National Orchestra of France, Patrice Kirchhoff.

15 Sid RichardsonSid Richardson – Borne by a Wind
Various Artists
New Focus Recordings FCR285 (newfocusrecordings.com/catalogue)

Sid Richardson has an eloquent answer to the question: “How do you make art?” He comes together with poet Nathaniel Mackey and others to create this music. The black dots leap off the page entwined with Mackey’s lyrical recitations and the sound of horns, percussion and bass performed by the Deviant Septet. The searing heat of an artful sirocco, titled Red Wind, begins a memorable disc of Richardson’s music.

The repertoire of Borne by a Wind features three other works by Richardson. There is no sleep so deep is a gentle, reassuring work that gets a suitably sensitive performance from pianist Conrad Tao, whose fingers seem to caress the notes of the melody. LUNE follows with the mystical high and lonesome wail of Lilit Hartunian’s violin. It is a brilliantly conceived tone poem that soars skyward, evocative of a crepuscular musical event under a cloudless celestial canopy.

Richardson’s music is highly imaginative and reflects his singularly eclectic taste. The curved lenses and mirrors of a myriad of contemporary styles and movements in the arts have been telescoped into these works. The glue is, of course, Richardson’s spectral voice, somewhat reminiscent of Gérard Grisey and Kaija Saariaho. These uncanny parallels are, perhaps, most discernable in Astrolabe where the Da Capo Chamber Players’ performance is interwoven with Walt Whitman’s and Geoffrey Chaucer’s poetry, the whispered climax of which brings this remarkable disc to a dramatic end.

Listen to 'Sid Richardson: Borne by a Wind' Now in the Listening Room

16 Lukas LigetiThat Which Has Remained …That which Will Emerge
Lukas Ligeti
Col Legno WWE 1CD-20452 (col-legno.com)

Described as a meditation on aural memory, this CD presents the electroacoustic sound installation percussionist Lukas Ligeti created for Warsaw’s POLIN Museum. Designed to comment on Polish Jewish life, the project weaves locally recorded interviews and songs in Polish, English and Yiddish triggered and mixed by Ligeti’s Marimba Lumina (MIDI) with improvisations suggested by those recordings by clarinetist Paweł Szamburski, violinist/violist Patryk Zakrocki, cellist Mikołaj Pałosz, soprano Barbara Kinga Majewska plus Wojtek Kurek’s drums and synthesizer.

Juxtaposing folk songs with instruments means that the often melancholy, sometimes freylekhs melodies, suggest responses that range from stropping string thrusts and barbed reed flutters to sequences which expand on klezmer and pre-War cabaret tunes. Majewska’s bel canto lyricism is most effective in unadorned recitations or personalizing familiar tunes. Modernism isn’t pushed aside for nostalgia though, as sections find her ululating vocals framed by clanking percussion vibrations. The keenest musical commentary is by inference on the connected City of the Damned and Elusive Counterpoint. With thick drum beats and pressurized string stops alongside the snatch of a Yiddish song, Warsaw’s pre-Holocaust Jewish ghetto and its destruction are suggested by City of the Damned. Harsh spiccato sweeps from the strings are notable in Elusive Counterpoint. The sorrowful exposition gradually fades to ghostly echoes as the Yiddish tune becomes fainter subtly questioning what contemporary life holds for Jews in Poland. 

Lacking the interactive element possible in the museum’s spatial atmosphere, the disc is still a superlative listening experience.

01 No BoundsNo Bounds
Caity Gyorgy
Independent (caitygyorgy.bandcamp.com/album/no-bounds)

While having a beautiful voice is plenty to recommend any singer, also knowing how to use it in the myriad ways that Caity Gyorgy does puts her high up the list of young singers to watch. 

Although the debate about what is and isn’t jazz is an old and often tedious one, it becomes especially tricky to nail it down when it comes to vocalists. Is covering standards enough to call yourself a jazz singer? Well, that’s all moot when it comes to Gyorgy because she is unmistakably a jazzer. Just head over to her Instagram account, @liftaday, if you want to see what I’m talking about. There she posts videos of herself doing lifts – i.e. singing note-for-note – solos of jazz giant instrumentalists like Clifford Brown, Oscar Peterson and even Charlie Parker. She’s posted 180 videos since 2018! It would be an impressive accomplishment for a mature singer but for someone only 22 years old, it’s mind-blowing. 

As well, her improv skills – the attribute that seals the deal for jazz credentials – are undeniable and on full display throughout her debut release, whether soloing over choruses or trading fours with her band members: Jocelyn Gould, guitar, Thomas Hainbuch, bass, and Jacob Wutzke, drums.

But Gyorgy isn’t all technique and prowess; she also has a ton of musicality and heart. These shine through on the songs she’s written herself like Postage Due which has a cute 60s vibe and Undefined, the only ballad on the album.

Despite the serious skills Gyorgy possesses she never gets too heavy and the overall feel of No Bounds is upbeat, warm and utterly charming.

Listen to 'No Bounds' Now in the Listening Room

02 SarahJerrom DreamLogicDream Logic
Sarah Jerrom
Three Pines Records TPR-002 (sarahjerrom.com)

With the release of her latest recording, Sarah Jerrom has reminded us that she is one of the most  interesting, talented and creative vocalist/composers on the scene today. All of the 13 compositions on the CD were written by Jerrom, except for two (Illusions and Plastic Stuff) by ensemble member and gifted guitarist, Harley Card. Jerrom is also featured on piano and, in addition to Card, is joined by the uber-skilled Rob McBride on bass, Jeff Luciani on drums/percussion and Joe Lipinski (who also co-produced and engineered this project brilliantly) on acoustic guitar/vocals. 

The opening salvo, Snowblind, has a silky, languid opening, featuring Jerrom’s pitch-perfect, clear tone – reminiscent of the great Jackie Cain or Norma Winstone. Cleverly arranged group vocals join in, followed by Card holding forth on an exquisite solo, rife with emotional and musical colours. An intriguing inclusion is Accolade Parade. Percussive and noir-ish, it deftly explores the desire for recognition – earned or not – and Jerrom shows herself to be a fine pianist on this harmonically dazzling tune. She also displays her vocal and compositional versatility on this well-written track. All is punctuated by the fine work of McBride and Luciani, who drives the ensemble down the pike with pumpitude to spare.

A highlight of the recording is the poetic, sultry, diatonic Fata Morgana. Again Jerrom dons another vocal guise with the deft use of her warm, lower register and her fine time feel. Card – this time on electric guitar – adopts a free, Bill Frisell-ish motif, set against the throbbing percussion of Luciani and the dynamic, soul-stirring bass of McBride. Another standout is Fergus – an unselfconscious, swinging, bittersweet love song – elegant in its simplicity and mysterious in its meaning.

Listen to 'Dream Logic' Now in the Listening Room

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