Jerusalem-born, Montreal-based composer and vocalist Ayelet Rose Gottlieb’s latest release is a landmark, female-centric project with breathtaking scope. Gottlieb approached over 20 women and girls from around the world, and asked them to contribute their poetry, with a loose theme of the moon as a female symbol. Co-producers Gottlieb and DB Boyko have also included an improvisational choir and the talents of acclaimed free-jazz vocalist/educator Jay Clayton. With poetic and musical contributions from nine different countries, this compelling project is an acoustic exploration focusing on the moon and our relationship to it. Gottlieb has said, “The moon speaks to the universal and to the intimate female presence.”
Boyko also serves as conductor here, and the double LP was expertly recorded by Padraig Buttner-Schnirer. The impressive musicians include Eylem Basaldi on Turkish violin, Aram Bajakian on guitar, Stéphane Diamantakiou on acoustic bass and Ivan Bamford on drums. The improvisational Choeur Luna is comprised of a number of guest voices in combination with the Joker Choir, Elements Choir and Choeur Maha. Of the 13 works, first up is Lotte and the Moon, with poetry by New Zealand’s Anna Smaill, in which Gottlieb and Clayton negotiate their entwined voices around quirky, soulful, exotic motifs and mesmerizing percussion work. A true highlight is Venus and the Moon, with poetry by Australia’s Bes Davies. A lilting melody, Gottlieb’s delightful vocal, a stirring bass solo by Diamantakiou and some sweet spoken words make this track highly memorable.
Patience, with poetry by Turkey’s Sems-i Tebrizi, evokes visceral images of jinn moving through skeleton-like trees, while spirits and desires form out of mist and moonglow. Moon Over Gaza/Almost Summer/I Come From There, with poetry by Israelis and Palestinians, is a groovy, bop-ish, irresistible, three-movement piece, in which Clayton shines. The song cycle is punctuated by tasty guitar licks from Bajakian that eventually metastasize into a primal scream for mutual human respect and oneness.