October 14, 2016

  • Intersections of Modern Music

     Intersections: Cross-Cultural Collaborations in Sound
    Jeffrey Jacob, piano;
    National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba/Enrique Perez Mesa;
    Alden Ortuno Cabezas, bass clarinet; Yasek Manzano Silva, trumpet; Marisel Gonzalez Valdes; trombone; Brian Church, baritone; Charles Abramovic, piano;
    Abiel Chea Guerra, drums; Jorge Sergio Ramirez Prieto, alto saxophone;
    Carlos Alejandro Gonzalez Guerra, tenor/soprano saxophone;
    Ruben Gonzales Lopez, double bass; Liset Toppe Benitez, double bass;
    Leonardo Perez Baster, Luis Alberto Marino Fernandez, violins;
    Yamed Aguillon Santa Cruz, viola; Leseter Monier Serrano, cello.
    Ensemble Vocal Luna/Sandra Santos Gonzalez
    Ansonica Records 0002
    Total Time:  62:57
    Recording:   ****/****
    Performance: ****/****

    Ansonica Records’ second release continues their exploration of burgeoning American-Cuban relations through music in Intersections.  The music here is a blend of chamber, orchestral, and vocal music whose themes touch upon this troubled history and hopeful future.  Music by five disparate composers is featured here.

    The album opens with a work for piano and orchestra by Jeffrey Jacob, Awakening (2005), who is also the featured soloist.  The ten-minute work begins with a moving, mournful thematic idea that begins in cello and arcs into violins and back before a more romantically-tinged piano idea picks up on this in an almost reflective way.  Bell tones and chimes also play an important in this work as additional signposts.  Subtle shifts in mode create a moving musical reflection and set the tone in a very accessible piece.  The lyrical writing particularly stands out with the almost magical piano ideas floating through the texture.

    Written for a mixed ensemble of bass clarinet, trumpet, trombone, baritone, and piano, Heidi Jacob’s Untouched by Morning and Untouched By Noon is an eight-movement suite of sorts exploring a variety of moods.  There is a text used here that begins the first movement and a host of unusual sounds that moves between more contemporary style and jazz-like punctuations and almost improvisatory ideas in a third-stream jazz sense.  The style lies in stark contrast to the opening work tending to be reminiscent of the 1960s avant-garde.  The unusual nature also comes with this interesting blend of brass, male voice (Sprechstimme, spoken phrases, and sung lyrical ideas) and a variety of piano techniques and lines that explore extreme ends of the piano and lend the music a more modern feel, or a rather magical impressionist quality (“Liquido”).

    Jazz inflections also appear in Steven Block’s Puttin’ It Together for an ensemble of 2 saxes, double basses, and drums.   The jagged and atonal lines make for another third-stream feel, especially once the bass lines enter. It is a fairly complex and experimental work.  This sense of Cuban Jazz is slightly alluded to in Sergio Cervetti’s 3-movement clarinet quintet And the Huddled Masses, though the plucked opening may have some listeners feeling a more Asian-influence, especially with some of the bent pitch ideas at first.  The music gradually gains in lyricism and interesting extended harmonic colors as it slowly progresses.  The central movement picks up the pace with a jazz-like pizzicato cello line.  The final movement has additional moments of beauty that make for a touching final movement, though the nervous energy underneath suggests a more turbulent undercurrent at times.

    The album closes with two choral works by Christina Rusnak: Dearly Beloved and Dearly Departed.  With a series of close harmonic ideas reminiscent of much modern choral music, Rusnak’s music here creates a rather gorgeous series of rich vocal writing blending spoken word ideas as well.  Texts are hard to discern though so one must concentrate instead on the intriguing vocal style and sounds.

    The music here offers an interesting blend of compositional approaches and ensemble styles.  It makes for a rather unusual listen and this is not helped much by a dearth of information that could help listeners betters connect to some of the pieces and conceptions behind them.  Performances though are fine.  The shift from the opening work to the more experimental ideas may be slightly jarring for some listeners though the sequencing surely helps with the final choral works bringing us back to more accessible music.