FROM THE SPIRIT
Bunny Beck Jazz Ensemble
Birdland. The Village Vanguard. The Jazz Standard. Just a few of the New York clubs that have saturated the city’s streets with the smooth sounds of jazz. Within this tradition, New York-native pianist and composer Bunny Beck presents seven cool and swinging original compositions as well as an arrangement of Hank Williams’ “Your Cheatin’ Heart” on her second release on Big Round Records, FROM THE SPIRIT. Featuring saxophonist Matt Blostein, guitarist Ed MacEachen, bassist Tom Hubbard, and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza, with Bunny Beck on piano, the Bunny Beck Jazz Ensemble highlights crisp and expressive improvisations while occasionally breaking into Latin rhythms. This album captures the relaxed and refined atmosphere emanating from those New York clubs.
SUNLIGHT & STORMS
SUNLIGHT AND STORMS, composer and pianist Lionel Sainsbury’s debut solo release on Navona Records, illustrates emotions from the peaceful to the tempestuous, and many more besides. A retrospective of the composer’s piano music, spanning almost 20 years of his career, the album ranges from tangos to toccatas, character pieces to ostinatos. Two large-scale collections, Five Tangos and Ten Moments Musicaux, portray several dimensions of Sainsbury’s compositional style, encompassing lively dance numbers, haunting and dark passages, jazzy, Gershwinesque themes, and gently swaying rhythms. Alongside these are a virtuoso Sea Storm, and a hypnotic Incantation. Two Cuban Dances evoke the rhythmic airs of the Caribbean; the second has been performed worldwide in the composer’s own arrangement by violinist Tasmin Little. An introspective Meditation provides symmetry and resolution to the album. Throughout, Sainsbury’s dexterity and control on the piano admirably conveys the sensual textures.
With uncompromised interpretation, duo526, the powerful union of violinist Kerry DuWors and pianist Futaba Niekawa, presents BALLADE, their debut on Navona Records, performing violin sonatas by Leoš Janácek, George Enescu, and Edvard Grieg – repertoire rarely performed together. Yet each of the three sonatas introduces themes from European folk tunes and exalted Romanticism. Janácek’s Violin Sonata illustrates a dynamic conversation, each instrument frequently interrupting, restating, and reacting to what the other pronounces. In Sonata No. 3 in C Minor by Grieg, piano and violin often move together in a dance-like fashion, leading one another to the next phrase. Enescu’s Violin Sonata No. 2 weighs chromatic harmonies against controlled and sustained melodies, exploring the tones of loneliness and melancholy. These pieces highlight the faculties of DuWors and Niekawa – the sustained vibrato, the harmonic sensitivity, the rhythmic spontaneity, precision, and much more.
BRASS RAIL BLUES
Patricia Morehead, Philip Morehead
On her second release on Navona Records, BRASS RAIL BLUES, Canadian composer and oboist Patricia Morehead showcases her ability to incorporate varying instrumentation into her compositions, from mezzo-soprano and chamber ensemble; to flute and piano; to mandolin, cello, and clarinet. Because of this variety, the composer creates a world of imagery, setting poems by such writers as Margaret Atwood, Anne Sexton, and Cathy Ann Elias in several of her pieces. Morehead adopts some of the technique and style associated with the Second Viennese School composers, such as Schoenberg and Berg; yet, in most cases, Morehead implements more tonal structure throughout her works. The release also includes three songs by Patricia’s husband Philip Morehead on classic French poems by Théodore de Banville and Paul Verlaine.
SYMPHONY NO. 2 FOUNDATIONS
Hamilton Fairfield Symphony Orchestra
Paul John Stanbery, conductor
Throughout an individual’s life, certain experiences, places, and people remain fundamental to his or her identity. As in a memoir, composer and conductor Paul John Stanbery depicts some of the experiences that have substantially influenced his character in SYMPHONY NO. 2, FOUNDATIONS, his digital-only release on Navona Records.
The first movement, described by Stanbery as a “Coplandesque-capade,” presents a theme from the tune “Shortnin’ Bread,” a piece the composer’s mother would sing to him. “In the Cathedral,” the second movement, is inspired by Rosary Cathedral in Stanbery’s hometown of Toledo OH, illustrating a walk through the elaborately painted and immense nave. Movement III, “Elegy and Cortege,” is a lament and dedication to one of Stanbery’s close friends, representing a funeral procession and honoring the deceased with a dirge-like rendition of “Taps.” The final movement, “Epilogue,” introduces an original lullaby and brings symmetry to the whole piece, recalling themes from earlier movements now with resolution, fulfillment, and triumph.
AT THE PRECIPICE
AT THE PRECIPICE, the third release on Navona Records featuring the music of the late composer Yves Ramette (1921-2012), showcases four world premiere recordings of the composer’s works. Recorded with the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra in the summer of 2013 after his passing, these four orchestral pieces follow on the heels of Ramette’s albums CASCADING INTO REVERIE for piano and orchestra and WITH PASSION for solo piano, and offer interesting insight into not only the composer himself but also the times in which he worked.
AT THE PRECIPICE highlights Ramette’s rhythmically propulsive style, in which melodic fragments are presented, morphed, and expanded. As noted in his manuscripts, Ramette refers to Symphony 6 as a representation of “[my] firm belief in music… addressing the man and the technique that is a reflection of an era,” perhaps a reference to the dismissal of his work by the French musical elite in the 1950s.
Along with Symphony 6, the album includes Symphony 1, Symphony 2, and Symphony 4, all of which contain related motifs and concepts. Ramette was a prolific composer constantly searching for new sounds and ideas, but the underlying unity of his thinking shines through in this compelling collection.