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JEFF MORRIS/With Strings: A shape shifting sound sculptor, Morris turns some Bach staples on their heads and then proceeds to take it to the next level of the game with some sound sculpting on some improvs. Beaver and Krause probably never envisioned so much fun with electronics in their day as something that would be on the horizon, but here it is. Certainly not for casual listening, this is a must for the music fan that also dabbles as a rocket scientist. Purely wild and bleeding edge and he‘s doing it all here live.
(Ravello 8005)

RENAISSANCE MEN/Laments: A Boston choral group launches their recording debut with a religious themed set with material written by some serious classical hot shots. A deep sounding set for those whose ears are accustomed to voices that carry the load, this starts where chanting records ended. Quite solemn in execution, this is heavy duty stuff for the true purist.
(Navona 6210)

RICHARD THOMPSON/Mask in the Mirror: For all the talk of the black tax and DWB, this chamber opera about a black man from humble beginnings that became a man of letters trying to exist in a white man's world in the late 1800s and his romance with a biracial, well educated woman who reinvented herself as a Creole, you see that Emmett Till was just the latest in a long line of hardships that divided people trying to make their way in the world. The black man behind this understands the place of opera in the modern world and has earned his place in contemporary classical music even if he never does anything again. Mind opening as well as ear opening and a fine theatrical presentation.
(Navona 6209)

DAVID CARPENTER/From the Valley of Baca: The chamber music of former tyro Carpenter gets fine renderings here from several different groups of players. With material rooted in Hebrew texts, Carpenter admits that we aren't all as original as we'd like to think--but that doesn't have to be a limiting factor. Solidly solid chamber music, this is the kind of stuff that defines highbrow Sunday afternoon listening no matter what the source. On the energetic side of elegant, it's easy to get swept up in the session. Well done.
(Navona 6208)

GARTH BAXTER/Resistance: With various combinations and pairings taking on the compositions of Baxter, this set has the feeling of various chamber concerts at local universities where players that are totally into it for the music first put their worlds aside and play with all their hearts on the line. With all the elements lining up perfectly, this is what listening was once all about and we're glad to see players taking steps to keep it from disappearing. The kind of set that newbies and moldy figs can meet and agree over, it's a wonderful listening experience.
(Navona 6206)

CARL VOLLRATH-SUMMA TRIO/Souls in Transitions: With a piano trio that may be the heiresses apparent to the Eroicas, Vollrath has some worthy muses to interpret his contemporary classical trio writings. A cutting edge trio that commissions new works, they and Vollrath are a match made in listening heaven because there doesn't seem to be a pretentious bone in either of the bodies bodies. Often active and romantic at the same time, this is a real audio journey almost cinematic in it's scope. Well done throughout.
(Navona 6212)

SVETLANA BELSKY/Ferruccio Busoni-The Late Works: A Russian pianist that fell under the spell of the Italian composer while doing her studies now plays her passion from her perch as an instructor at University of Chicago. Obviously a gal who doesn't let grass grow under her feet, her playing shows she's not afraid to sweep away the curtain and play like it really matters. A stunning solo recital that should go a long way toward getting her mentioned more widely in the same breath as other contemporary piano masters, she makes a great case for music being more than just a bunch of notes. Great work on some great works.
(Ravello 8007)

PHIL SALATHE/Imaginary Birds: Before you hear a note, you know Salathe is our kind of people. He got in trouble in chemistry class for composing, makes video game sounds as well as classical music and was a winner on "Jeopardy". A wonderful cv! Once you do hear the notes, he assembles a surprising bunch of humorous miniatures for oboe and French horn that provide a lot more giggles than serious music should. A delightful set you can enjoy and use to turn your kids on to the finer things and the possibilities of egghead pursuits without pretension, Salathe is our kind of man for all seasons.
(Ravello 8006)

SUSTAIN-Works for Solo Piano & Percussion Instruments: A snazzy, little omnibus set in which the stars are the piano, marimba and vibes that have various players doing their bidding along the way. Coming together in a nice, smooth whole, you get a taste of a bunch of players that know how to leave their mark all united by having a great touch. Solid stuff that's a nice high water mark for listening dates.
(Navona 6207)

PAUL GREEN/A Bissel Rhythm: No, it's not an experimental set paying tribute to a vacuum cleaner. With a feeling that Mickey Katz could jump out at any time and start singing "Essen" or that this could turn up in a movie soundtrack under a Jewish wedding or party scene, clarinetist Green continues his Jewish/jazz fusion with moves that frequently move beyond the pale, but not too far. Sprightly and spirited, this is a fine modern take on another oppressed people cutting loose and having a good time. Take that ya Czar, you!
(Big Round 8955)

SHUDONG BRAAMSE/Suenos de Espana: With a voice that would make Bugs Bunny say ‘dat's a nice, fat opera singer', this Chinese soprano is putting Spain on notice that now that China is the linchpin for American businesses and products, they are making a move on Spain's music. Armed with her piano and guitar accomplices, Braamse serves up a fine version of the real thing on this set of Spanish art songs. Loaded with grace as well as passion, the international classical fan has a winner on their hands with this discovery. Well done.
(Navona 6211)

Volume 43/Number 104
February 13, 2019
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2019 Midwest Record

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