New Brunswick-based woodwind quintet Ventus Machina shows off their classical roots mixed with fun and flavour in their first full-length release. They self-describe their performances as themed programs, evident here in the varied music performed by members Karin Aurell (flute, piccolo), Christie Goodwin (oboe, English horn), James Kalyn (clarinet), Ulises Aragon (French horn) and Patrick Bolduc (bassoon).
Two quintet commissions by Canadian composers are featured. Mike Titlebaum’s Short Set is his three-movement take on a jazz band’s closing tunes. The jazz-flavoured Amblin’ has jazz effects juxtaposed with classical touches and counterpoint against an “amblin’ groove.” A-Fashin’ features more traditional lush harmonies and held tunes while the final movement In the Weeds has upbeat swing grooves, with tricky speedy runs, accented group rhythmic notes and melodic conversations. Martin Kutnowski successfully incorporates his Argentinian musical roots in Tonadas Y Mateadas. After a fast jumpy opening, three main sections follow – a slow oboe theme, a horn-led waltz theme and a fast clarinet dance which resurfaces throughout the work.
Paquito D’Rivera’s Aires Tropicales is an enjoyable mood-shifting listen, while Richard Price arranges Leonard Bernstein’s famous sing-along show tunes for wind quintet subtleties in Suite from West Side Story. Ventus Machina adapts William Scribner’s arrangement of Astor Piazzolla’s Milonga Sin Palabras for English horn lead, resulting in an amazing group emulation of the bandoneon sound.
A tight ensemble with impeccable tone, pitch and breath, Ventus Machina really can play anything well.