08 Ted Hearne PlaceTed Hearne; Saul Williams – Place
Vocalists; Place Orchestra
New Amsterdam Records NWAM137 (newamrecords.com)

Although the drama of Place is somewhat diminished without a visual staging (i.e. a possible DVD of a presumptive film version), its power is not diminished because of the inventive way in which its principal artists – Ted Hearne (music, libretto) and Saul Williams (libretto) – have used their respective artistic specialities. This means not only words, music and vocalizations, but also their compelling, internecine method of adapting traditional and contemporary artistic styles – from hip-hop to chamber music – and infusing this event with every possible sonic element: music, noise and pregnant silences. 

Music and poetry collide in Place as Hearne and Williams describe the emotional effects that the gentrification of a city has when people and their cultural habitat are trampled upon in the name of money and modernization. Williams’ poetry pulls no punches, especially regarding racism. Using this poetry, Hearne creates jagged miniatures to simulate a musical disruption of the senses that mirrors the socio-political upheaval of their city.

Some spiky, and often serrated, songs are like miniatures depicting human upheaval. This is characterized by extraordinary, jagged rhythmic flexibility. These episodes alternate between moments of tenderness and heartache, anger and despair. An ink-dark atmosphere pervades even when relative calmness is explored in The Tales You Tell Your Children. Occasionally brightness might break through, as in Hallelujah in White, but not for long. The glistening delicacy of the musical equanimity is broken in the finale, in the desperate plea against gentrification of Colonizing Space.

Editor’s Note: A performance video of Place is in the final stages of production and will likely be available on a major public platform by the time this article is published.

01 LEstro dOrfeoL’Arte di diminuire
L’Estro d’Orfeo; Leonor de Lera
Challenge Classics CC72843 (lestrodorfeo.com)

The outstanding L’Estro d’Orfeo quintet was founded by violinist and artistic director Leonor de Lera in 2015 to perform a “historically-informed approach in line with the aesthetics of the time,” on period instruments. Her mission was to champion the advanced instrumental virtuosity which developed in Europe during the late Renaissance to early Baroque eras. 

L’Arte di diminuire is dedicated to musical diminution, the interpretative art of extemporary melodic variation and embellishment, an essential improvisatory aspect of musical performance practice of that time. Simply put, in this practice musicians melodically and rhythmically subdivided a received series of long notes into shorter values. In that period and region, a written composition was routinely regarded as raw material requiring musicians to embellish the score during its performance via diminutions. Such performances gave considerable scope for virtuosic display and interpretive exploration. This album explores that practice applied to 15 period motets, popular melodies and dance forms. The ensemble has chosen scores by early Baroque composers and interpreted them by applying advanced diminution procedures, in the process highlighting the individual contributions of L’Estro d’Orfeo’s 21st-century musicians.

Outstanding tracks include the madrigal Io canterei d’amor… reinterpreted via diminution by the ensemble’s viola da gamba and viola bastarda virtuoso Rodney Prada. De Lera’s four contributions are exemplars of this ensemble’s musically exciting approach to this interpretative inter-century practice. The most impressive part of the listening experience might be the freewheeling-sounding – yet always tasteful – instrumental virtuosity on display here. Prada’s mindboggling viola bastarda performances, leaping from treble to tenor to bass ranges and back with abandon, are alone worth the price of admission.

02 Flute Passion BachFlute Passion: Bach
Nadia Labrie; Luc Beauséjour; Camille Paquette-Roy
Analekta AN 2 8921 (analekta.com/en)

Only one of the compositions on this recording is actually a solo, the Partita in A Minor, which flutist Nadia Labrie plays with energy and assurance. I particularly appreciated her approach to the only slow movement, the Sarabande, as a reflective and perhaps melancholy soliloquy, which she plays with feeling but never with sentimentality.

Two of the other three sonatas on the CD are called flute sonatas but are in fact ensemble pieces. The Allegro fourth movement of the Sonata in E Minor is as much a virtuosic solo piece for the keyboard, on this modern instrument recording a piano, which Luc Beauséjour plays as the complete equal to the flute, a collaborator, not a supporting actor. This is also particularly evident in the final Presto of the Sonata in B Minor. Similarly the cello part in the Andante first movement of the same sonata can be heard as the other half of a duo with the flute, and is played that way by cellist Camille Paquette-Roy.

The G Major Sonata on the disc is a trio sonata, originally for two flutes and continuo. On this recording, however, Beauséjour plays the other “flute” part, leaving the bass line to the cello. While in a certain sense emancipating the cello, it somehow doesn’t work as well as a duo as, for example, the Allegro movement already mentioned.

Nevertheless, bravissimi to our three collaborators for a fine addition to the recorded ensemble music of Bach.

03 Beethoven TriosBeethoven – Piano Trios Vol.1
Sitkovetsky Trio
BIS BIS-2239 SACD (naxosdirect.com)

This year marks the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth date and as such it has been bringing in an assortment of new releases of the great master’s works. The Sitkovetsky Trio attracts attention with their elegant interpretations of carefully selected Beethoven piano trios and the creation of a particular sound that is very much their own. I was charmed by the lovely blend of the instrumental colours and the finely detailed and thoughtful work that went into directing and following the tides of these notable compositions.

The wisely chosen progression of the trios includes the early Op.1 No.3 in C Minor, middle period Op.70 No.2 in E-flat Major and the late Allegretto in B-flat Major Wo039. C minor could certainly have been Beethoven’s favourite key because it allowed for the storminess of emotions like no other. It is hard to believe that this work belongs to such an early opus as it brings in radical and innovative approaches to the chamber music of that time. The E-flat Major Trio and Allegretto show, in contrast, that Beethoven was just as much attuned to pastoral and peaceful settings and that he was unapologetically paving the way for the further development of the Romantic elements.

Much appreciated is the Sitkovetsky Trio’s ability to stay within the bounds of traditional chamber music-making while adding the intensity and vitality of their own understanding. A noble companion to contemplative times.

05 Gianandrea NosedaDvořák – Symphony No.9; Copland – Billy the Kid
National Symphony Orchestra; Gianandrea Noseda
National Symphony Orchestra NSO 001 (gianandreanoseda.com)

This most enjoyable disc is the debut recording of a new label, NSO Live from the Kennedy Center, with the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington DC. The group is famous for having been directed by Rostropovich at one time, but now Gianandrea Noseda is its music director. Noseda heralds “new beginnings” and judging by this issue, he certainly delivers. The recording simply throbs with life and shows Noseda’s love for America by selecting two works he says “on which American sound has continued to be built over the decades.” The two works come from vastly different backgrounds, yet the American spirit is unmistakable, and this makes this issue so exciting.

The first piece is by the venerable American composer Aaron Copland who was born in Brooklyn to a family of Russian immigrants, yet no other composer has been able to better evoke the frontier spirit of the Wild West. Billy the Kid, a ballet from 1938, is about an outlaw and gunfighter who murdered eight men by the age of 21, when he himself was killed. Copland’s score provides a vivid depiction of prairie life incorporating several cowboy tunes, Mexican dances and even a gunfight with explosions, certainly never heard before from a symphony orchestra. Noseda has a lot of fun with it and it is catching.

And now an absolutely stunning performance of Dvořák ‘s New World Symphony where the musical material is “inspired by American folk songs, African-American spirituals and North American Native songs” all intermixed with tremendous compositional skill. Dvořák introduces new themes in each movement, but these then reoccur in different guises culminating in the magnificent last movement for an astounding conclusion. Demonstration quality sound, highly recommended.

06 Hindemith KammerHindemith – Kammermusik I - II - III
Kronberg Academy Soloists; Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra; Christoph Eschenbach
Ondine ODE 1341-2 (naxosdirect.com)

Over the course of his lifetime (1895-1963) Paul Hindemith, increasingly ossified by his academic obsessions, underwent a peculiar reverse metamorphosis. Born a butterfly, he eventually became a caterpillar. He was a world-famous composer, a consummate musician and an influential Ivy League savant, yet the 50th anniversary of his death in 2013 passed with little fanfare from the classical music establishment. In his early career he was considered an avant-garde miscreant, ultimately branded and banished as an “atonal noisemaker” by the Nazi regime. Noisy? Perhaps, but powerfully so. Atonal? Not in the least, though bracingly dissonant at times. 

Hindemith’s astounding orchestral mastery (he was able to play any instrument he wrote for) is amply demonstrated in the adventurous Kammermusik series composed in the 1920s, from which we have on offer here the first three suites, with future volumes presumably in the works to complete the set of seven. The first suite is composed for 12 instruments in four movements, a provocatively satirical remodelling of the Brandenburg Concertos which receives a rollicking performance under Eschenbach’s direction. The second instalment, scored for piano and ensemble, is equally enjoyable and glitteringly dispatched by soloist Christopher Park. The third, cast in the form of a concerto featuring cellist Bruno Philippe, is less convincing due to sub-optimal tempos (perhaps the soloist’s prerogative) and an over-miked solo part which obscures the inner voices. Claudio Abbado’s lively 1999 EMI recording, some two and a half minutes faster, makes a far better case for this work. An enjoyable nightcap, the beloved Kleine Kammermusik for wind quintet, rounds out the proceedings.

01 Jacques HetuJacques Hétu – Concertos
Jean-Philippe Sylvestre; Orchestre symphonique de Laval; Alain Trudel
ATMA ACD2 2793 (atmaclassique.com/en)

A treasure trove of musical Canadiana awaits the steadfast listener who seeks a (Western) classical contemporary canon from true north shores. Despite the few generations of composers who could claim such affiliations, an impressive array of works exist from the last 50 years, especially those written in Quebec. Among French Canada’s most distinguished 20th-century composers, the late Jacques Hétu is revered for his prowess as orchestral colourist. Formidably, he penned no less than 15 concertos for a variety of instruments. Hétu once remarked: “My taste for the concerto is directly linked to the genre of drama; the soloist is a singer, and the concerto his or her stage.”

A recent all-Hétu recording spotlights the indomitable dream team of pianist Jean-Philippe Sylvestre and trombonist/conductor, Alain Trudel. Trudel brings his irrepressible artistry to the collaboration, setting the stage for a creative synergy. He wields a keen, razor-sharp sense of pacing, as he ferries the Orchestre symphonique de Laval from one striking Hétu work to another, brimful with devotion and panache. (The tone poem, Sur les rives du Saint-Maurice, Op.78, is also included, again proving Hétu’s mastery of orchestration, arguably his finest gift.) 

The stalwart Sylvestre rollicks in a commanding realization of the second piano concerto. The keyboard writing that inspired Hétu seems a near-blood relation to music by Prokofiev. For the final work, Trudel conjoins baton and trombone, dazzling our ears with a golden, luscious reading of Hétu’s concerto for that instrument.

Listen to 'Jacques Hétu: Concertos' Now in the Listening Room

03 Mike McCormickProxemic Studies Volume 1
Mike McCormick
Smeik SMKCD204 (smeik.no/en; mikemccormickmusic.com)

It is not an obvious concept to combine technical guitar exercises you wrote for yourself with extracts of letters and emails from your former “romantic partners” as a basis for an album of contemporary music. Yet this is what Oslo-based guitarist, laptop performer and composer Mike McCormick, originally from Yellowknife, has done with his Proxemic Studies. The album is both intensely personal (some of the quotations detail sexual intimacy, heartbreak and betrayal) and surprisingly clinical. Befitting our social distancing times, McCormick tells us “Proxemics [is] the branch of knowledge that deals with the amount of space that people feel it necessary to set between themselves and others.” McCormick performs his compositions with Laura Swankey (voice), Emily Denison (trumpet) and Knut Kvifte Nesheim (percussion). Swankey’s vocals are expressive yet measured and Nesheim provides a delicate palette of background accompaniments. One of the most beautiful pieces is Alvorada, on which Denison plays some floating and tasteful trumpet lines reminiscent of Kenny Wheeler, and the vocal intermittently glides between the musical lines. At the other extreme is Madness with fuzzed-out guitar and a series of accusatory and harsh statements vibrating with anger.

The album is intriguing, but one may wonder how McCormick’s former partners feel about their intimate notes being part of a public performance. The text ranges from poetic to banal (“Just got out of the shower, you were kind of there too”) and this contrast may be one of the points being made about human interaction. Proxemic Studies is an uneasy intertwining of personal history with innovative musical expression.

Listen to 'Proxemic Studies Volume 1' Now in the Listening Room

04 Mark John McenroeMark John McEncroe – Musical Images for Chamber Orchestra (Reflections & Recollections Vol.2)
Janáček Philharmonic; Anthony Armore
Navona Records nv6269 (navonarecords.com)

The Australian self-professed “easy listening” composer Mark John McEncroe has made a name for himself in the orchestral world with his audience-friendly and pleasantly digestible output. In this latest release, several piano works by McEncroe have been orchestrated by Mark J Saliba – also an Australian composer – to comprise the selection of Musical Images heard on the recording. 

This music is not trying to be anything other than what it is: gentle and welcoming. While some contemporary composers writing in older Romantic styles still feel pressured to insert some sort of newness into their music, resulting in a confusing clash of aesthetic commitment, McEncroe delivers a straightforward and unburdened nostalgia to the listener. Nevertheless, we still receive contrast throughout the 11 movements. 

At times playful, foreboding, heartwarming, and reassuring, the music does in fact lead the listener on a journey – albeit a highly protected one. There is a filmic quality to McEncroe’s style, an attribute that is furthered by titles such as Natalie’s Theme, Floating Lilies and A Rainy Summer’s Day. This quality perhaps leaves the listener wanting to experience these missing images alongside the music; in contrast to profoundly written program music where the extra-musical elements are so deeply provided in the music, one does not require them in any other form. With that in mind, this disc is perfect for a rainy day with a book, or a relaxing afternoon by the fire.

07 VoxVox
Hearne Ensemble
Innova Recordings 040 (innova.mu/albums)

What is a “test of time” measured against the universe’s, or even our planet’s? On the human scale, George Crumb’s Vox Balaenae for three masked players performing on amplified instruments – flute, cello and piano – has stood up well over the half century since its composition. The Hearne Ensemble opens with this work, whose theme reminds humans of how tiny their lifespan is measured against that of the Earth. Even without the blue ambient lighting Crumb indicated for live performance, the music draws us into the depths: meditation and wonder, awe and exhilaration. Like Messaien’s Quartet for the End of Time, Vox Balaenae (voice of the whale) is a work of praise, threaded through with references to time and timelessness; the object of Crumb’s louanges, unlike Messaien, is the world itself, and his angelic voice is that of the whale. The performances are flawless, and the recording quality excellent; Vox Balaenae is a timeless masterpiece.

Next, Bencharong by Narong Prangcharoen depicts the five colours of classic Thai ceramics. The movements are brief, and while the composer makes no overt claim that he experiences synaesthesia, the musical colours are as distinct as the visual ones. 

Silver Dagger, by Stacy Garrop, references an American folk song she researched and found to have three distinct variants and outcomes, almost a post-modern Romeo and Juliet. Like Berio in his folk song settings, Garrop is content to find mystery and beauty in the simplicity and power of the original. It’s beautiful Americana.

Melodies for Robert by Carter Pann is a celebration in memoriam of “an American war hero,” to quote the liner notes. There are two movements: Sing and Listen. I don’t find myself able to listen to them following the rest of the disc. I haven’t much room left for dessert, especially not one so sweet.

08 Kate AmrineThis is My Letter to the World
Kate Amrine and various artists
Innova Recordings 042 (innova.mu)

It is almost too apt to be reviewing trumpeter/composer Kate Amrine’s new release in the COVID-19 era. Whatever new power music has developed within our collective, it has always drawn us into shared experience. This message from a millennial asks all of us to please reflect on the harm we bring on ourselves. How can the tracks of this disc bend our path away from mutually assured destruction, one is forced to wonder. One supposes: through hope.

Amrine’s own piece, What Are We Doing To Ourselves, addresses climate change and degradation through a combination of electronic underlay made of the recorded sound of a forest fire, simple melodic fragments that join the voices of alto flute, trumpet, viola and cello, and an almost childlike recitation of the text of a suicide note. This latter document was left for media by an activist lawyer who set himself on fire in an act of protest. Heavy stuff. Her very short title track eloquently quotes Emily Dickinson with a bucket-muted trumpet nearly overshadowing the text.

The next track, Thoughts and Prayers, by Kevin Joest, addresses gun violence. A single trumpet line accompanies all-too-familiar news chatter reacting to various mass-murders. My Body My Choice by Niloufar Nourbakhsh, uses the words of the title in a chant rising towards the final bars of a processional featuring trumpet and electronics. 

Sandwiched in among the earnest messages is a clever and entertaining track (omitted in the liner notes): Close Fight sets up a funky dance number using a post-fight interview with a boxer whose cocky answers are chopped into rhythmic bits, and played to by the band. This is such an excellent antidote, it’s why we need to support these young creators like Amrine. I wanted it to go on. We all need it, to go on.

10 Sunny KnableSong of the Redwood-Tree
Scott Pool; Natsuki Fukasawa; Stefanie Izzo; Gina Cuffari; Xelana Duo; Sunny Knable
MSR Classics MS 1749 (sunnyknablecomposer.com)

American composer, pianist and educator Sunny Knable’s four works here illuminate the many sound possibilities that the bassoon produces as a lead instrument and in ensemble. The three-movement title track Song of the Redwood-Tree for soprano, bassoon and piano is based on Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. A California Song opens with bassoonist Scott Pool’s beautiful held notes, pianist Natsuki Fukasawa’s contrapuntal lines and soprano Stefanie Izzo’s high pitches. Death-Chant is understandably more atonal with dramatic high vocal pitches, and Golden Pageant features more tonal cadences, and piano/vocal unisons. 

Tango Boogie combines a bit of tango and swing in a surprising gratifying sonic mix played by the alto saxophone/bassoon Xelana Duo. Double Reed on Charles Wyatt’s poem To the World’s Bassoonists showcases Knable’s understanding of the breath control required to play reed instruments, as he performs on the accordion with soprano/bassoonist Gina Cuffari. Its second movement Tragic Bassoon is especially noteworthy with the solo bassoon melody above the left- and right-hand accordion-held chords and vocal backdrop creating a memorable sound. Lots of familiar true-to-life sounds in The Busking Bassoonist as Pool and Fukasawa perform such Knable-created city-sound effects as trilling birds, rhythmic marching and a distant subway piano pedal echo. 

Knable clearly understands the bassoon’s vast possibilities beyond its traditional instrumental setting. His compositional expertise grounds his explorative instrumental creations and answers his own question “Why does this work have to exist?” Because it is great!

11 Sandbox PercussionAnd That One Too
Sandbox Percussion
Coviello Contemporary COV91918 (sandboxpercussion.com)

Brooklyn NY Sandbox Percussion ensemble members Jonny Allen, Victor Caccese, Ian David Rosenbaum and Terry Sweeney have created long-term close collaborations with the composers who write for them, resulting in smart, diverse, challenging contemporary musical works. Their debut release features four of these.

Andy Akiho’s Haiku 2 observes the 5-7-5 haiku form with minimalistic repetitive hits coupled with tuned percussion sounds. Each movement of David Crowell’s Music for Percussion Quartet was inspired by different environments. Mov. I - Fluctuation and Mov. III - Oscillation feature polyrhythms on drums and vibes, creating a busy city sound. Mov. II - Sky, with its slow meditative ringing vibes and hypnotic repetitive tonal sequences perhaps sound like the sky at dusk. Low resonances abound in Mov. IV – Landscape. Composer/vocalist Amy Beth Kirsten performs her composition she is a myth with great tonal colour on multiple tracks, with Sandbox playing opening percussion like paper, sandpaper and scratches, and subsequent toe-tapping rhythms. Thomas Kotcheff’s not only that one but that one & that too is divided into three parts, each focusing on a different percussion type. Part I features wooden instruments with the opening attention-grabbing “what is this” woodblock taps leading to a wooden percussion sound panorama of pitch and rhythm. Part II is all about drumming rhythms and rolls, while in Part III, pitched metal instruments and finger cymbals create calming effects.  

Sandbox Percussion plays brilliantly with musical accuracy and nuance.

Listen to 'And That One Too' Now in the Listening Room

01 FORTUNESFortunes
Ways + Simon Toldam
Lorna 12 (brodiewest.com)

Ways is the Toronto duo of alto saxophonist Brodie West and drummer Evan Cartwright, formed in 2012. This is the group’s first recording, and it comes from a Copenhagen session with Danish pianist Simon Toldam. West’s music has a distinct rhythmic focus. His quintet includes two drummers, the octet Eucalyptus adds an additional percussionist and a pianist, and both groups include Cartwright. If a piano might blur instrumental typologies, Toldam’s approach is definitely percussive. The strings are variously prepared to alter decays and ambiguate pitches. West even pushes the saxophone into the percussion family, often working within a restricted pitch range while creating complex staccato patterns.

This rhythmic focus links to a corresponding interest in timbre that immediately distinguishes the trio. The opening Fame contrasts passages of saxophone and prepared piano with passages of drums, with saxophone and piano sounding like next of kin, the former’s pointillist pops synched to the latter’s muffled, echoing, repeated phrase. On Love, the three create a complex pattern while sometimes reducing themselves to single notes: West’s wispy sounds are mere amplified breaths; Toldam’s notes, punctuation marks; Cartwright’s kit, a single drum. 

The activity gradually expands: Money II is a virtual explosion of anxious, rapid-fire saxophone ricocheting through harpsichord-like piano figures and suddenly dense drums, yet still as closely knit as to suggest a single organizing mind on works credited to all three musicians. The ultimate results are as invigorating as they are unusual.

02a GGRIL LaubrockGGRIL Plays Ingrid Laubrock
GGRIL; Ingrid Laubrock
Tour de Bras TDB900039 / Circumdisc microcidi015 (tourdebras.com ; www.circum-disc.com)

Le Rnst
Xavier Charles; Pierre-Yves Martell; Éric Normand; Matija Schellander
Ambiances Magnétiques AM254 CD (actuellecd.com)

Since 2003, Éric Normand has been building a unique musical empire, a thriving hub of free improvisation in the city of Rimouski on the Gaspé Peninsula. There he’s assembled an orchestra, created a record label and festival, and brought major figures to appear as guest soloists and conductors. He’s also managed to arrange performances for that orchestra, GGRIL, or Grande Groupe Régional d’Improvisation Libérée as far afield as Europe, building increasingly strong links.

The measure of Normand’s Rimouski achievement is apparent immediately on GGRIL Plays Laubrock, with the orchestra hosting German-born, New York-resident Ingrid Laubrock, a brilliant saxophonist and improviser whose work extends to conducting Ligeti’s Poème Symphonique for 100 metronomes and her own large ensemble pieces released as Contemporary Chaos Practices (Intakt). Here she leads a 16-member GGRIL in three pieces, covering a series of divergent methodologies.  

It’s a heterodox ensemble mixing electric guitars and bass with winds, strings, a harp and assorted percussion; a lightly plucked cello can share space with droning feedback, but it’s a group in which sharp contrasts take on a unity of their own. The opening Silent Light is a graphic score with inserted conductions, moving between spacious textures and sudden forceful interludes, its delicately plucked strings merging with dense explosions and structural trumpet blasts. Laubrock’s tenor saxophone comes forcefully to the fore in its later moments. Strak Dark is composed, developing passages of muted electronics and pensive bowed strings, while the concluding Palindrome is a collective improvisation with set dynamic markings. The intense performance testifies both to the orchestra’s creative range and Laubrock’s inventiveness with minimalist structural inputs.

02b Le RnstAnother side of Normand is evident in Le Rnst, a single 34-minute improvisation that combines two Quebecois musicians with two Europeans, Austrian Matija Schellander is playing an acoustic double bass, Normand is playing his homemade electric bass as well as objects and fellow Quebecer Pierre-Yves Martel is playing viola de gamba as well as harmonicas. French clarinetist Xavier Charles completes the group.

Recorded in l’église Saint-Merry in Paris, the church’s resonance performs a major role in the performance, adding scale and a special depth, and highlighting a gradual and detailed interaction in which the instruments’ harmonics take on a life of their own. Charles is a great sonic explorer, summoning unknown avian species within the confines of his clarinet, even creating the illusion of an alto or even a bass version of the instrument. The various bass string players are similarly resourceful, sometimes functioning as electronic drones or hand drums, depending on an individual instrument’s characteristics, while an extended passage of spacious long tones manages even to blur their identities with Charles’ clarinet. It’s free improvisation of a rare, sustained and tranquil beauty.

03 Jacek KochanOccupational Hazard
Jacek Kochan & musiConspiracy
Roots 2 Boot Roots2Boot 1912 (jacekkochan.com)

Polish-Canadian drummer, composer, bandleader, arranger and producer Jacek Kochan has gathered several well-renowned musicians together for his newest release – talents such as vocalist and pianist Elizabeth Shepherd, bassists Rich Brown and Adrian Vedady, alto saxophonist Luis Deniz among a long list of other fantastic musicians. This unique album is highly recommended for any jazz fans looking for an interesting take on mixing jazz, improvisation and rock together into an eccentric musical jambalaya. All compositions are written and arranged by Kochan himself, with Marta Kochan penning the lyrics. For anyone looking for a true musical adventure, the album “weaves rhythms and harmonies from around the world into an eclectic and infectious mix sure to please the ears of any adventurous listener.”

The album starts off with the track Fear No More, a slightly haunting piano riff amplified by Shepherd’s vocals. The song progresses into a foot-tapping number with Kochan’s constant drum groove and sizzling solos by Brown on electric bass, Deniz and Petr Cancura on saxophones and Jerry De Villiers Jr. on electric guitar. The title track of the record features a very captivating vocal duet by Shepherd and Sari Dajani and a positively groovy riff thanks to Mo Boo on electric bass. Soliloquy is perfectly fitting for spring with its intense energy and infectious drum and bass rhythms. This record is a perfect mix of contemporary with just enough structure to each piece mixed in to keep the listener enraptured.

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