Showing posts from August, 2020

'Spirit Science': Pythagorean jazz from Tom Guarna

Do the math: Juilliard graduate and deep thinker Tom Guarna You won't find much jazz rooted in Pythagoras, it's safe to say. But guitarist Tom Guarna has come up with a probing tribute to the ancient Greek mathematician in "Spirit Science" ( Destiny Records ). It's an elaborate salute from jazz quintet to Pythagoras' "sacred geometry." Probably in mid-career (he was born in 1967), Guarna has had ample time to develop his own style as both player and composer. In "Spirit Science," he has compatible colleagues in saxophonist Ben Wendel, keyboardist Aaron Parks, bassist Joe Martin, and drummer Justin Faulkner. I like the centered, lyrical quality of Parks (former  Cole Porter Fellow of the American Pianists Association ) throughout, sometimes acting as a calming influence on Wendel. Assertive and slightly raspy, the saxophonist also has a lyrical bent, his plaintive sound resembling an anxious Jan Garbarek.  Guarna's most outstandi

Frank Felice's 'Reflections and Whimsies': Well-grounded spiritually, with plenty of room for caprice

I began to get some feeling for Frank Felice as a 21st-century composer whose Christian faith is deeply embedded in the bulk of the pieces on the CD "Reflections and Whimsies" ( Enharmonic ), as well as Frank Felice, protean and devout. in his revealing, amiable program notes. It also came to me in one place in particular, with the aptness of Felice's musical response to the prayer that concludes the short book of Habbakuk in the Old Testament. A portion of the prayer is included in the booklet for the listener's reflection upon "Were You Angry With the Rivers,'  because Felice's interpretation of the  text is nonvocal — for solo double bass, played  by David Murray with  his usual flair and energy. The declamatory vigor that opens the piece, and then fuses a steady blend of assault and appeal before calming near the end, has a famous forebear, also for double bass: the orchestra section's recitative in the last movement of Beethoven's

Pacifica Quartet offers first-time recordings of three works by currently active women composers

 Among the prominent string quartets well-represented on recordings, the Pacifica Quartet is also known through concerts (before the pandemic shut down most concert activity) to music-lovers in central Indiana. Pacifica Quartet records three new pieces by women. Further evidence of its international reach, as it has adjusted to personnel changes after making its reputation, is "Contemporary Voices" ( Cedille Records ). New recordings of works by Shulamit Ran (a world premiere), Jennifer Higdon, and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich make up the program. It's played convincingly by violinists Simin Ganatra and Austin Hartman; violist Mark Holloway, and cellist Brandon Vamos. The fifth performer, who like the quartet is associated with the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, is Otis Murphy, brought in for Zwilich's Quintet for Alto Saxophone and String Quartet. Zwilich's compositions have been championed here by John Nelson when he was music director of the Indianapoli

Maria Schneider fleshes out her concerns about AI and the natural world in 'Data Lords'

There are extensive notes by the "Data Lords" c omposer about the music on this two-disc set. The listener ignores them with difficulty, but maybe that's a core part of Maria Schneider' s intention. The much-admired bandleader wants to juxtapose our entanglement in "The Digital World" (Disc 1) with the realm the human race has inherited over countless eons, "Our Natural World" (Disc 2). You can find it on The choice of the first modifier in each phrase is significant: The natural world is "ours" because of our overdetermined inheritance of its forces, fates, and pleasures; but if we look at what we've created artificially in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, technology's threat of separation from us is signaled by that "the." The music on the two discs is self-justifying but unfailingly programmatic as well. "A World Lost" opens the first "Data Lords" CD; Ben Mond