Aug. 25, 2013

 JAZZ MUSIC  |  RESONANCE – Introductions  Year: 2013  | Style: Jazz 

Label: Mandala Records.

Musicians: Stephen McQuarry – piano; Georgianna Kreiger – soprano, alto & baritone saxophones; Laura Austin Wiley – piccolo, C – flute & alto flute, vocal; Michele Walther – violin; Michele Mastin – viola; Nancy Bien – cello; Ted Burik – double bass; Greg German – drums.
CD Review: The first thing noticeable about RESONANCE’S new CD: INTRODUCTIONS, is its radiant emotional character. A feature branded by talent, training, and experience. It is the embodiment of a fantastic, arresting musical mural, with endless surprises, created by an adaptable group of superlative musicians whose voicings extend the repertoire of jazz by unraveling a conspicuous spectrum of colors that resound with boldness, excitement, and originality. RESONANCE collectively pushes the ‘jazz envelope’ with an intrepidness that forces open uncharted space for thrilling musical exploration. They underscore artistic discernment and prodigious talent by playing the music of an eclectic group of celebrated songwriters and composers, including Lennon/McCartney, Ellington, Miles, Jimmy Heath, and Stanley Clarke/Chick Corea; adding modernity, freshness and balance with two original compositions by pianist Stephen McQuarry.

Lennon/McCartney’s 1966 unconventional (for the times) hit (Eleanor Rigby), a tune perfectly suited for woodwinds and strings, opens the date. But the new ‘Eleanor’  reintroduced by RESONANCE  is no longer weary, or eccentric, if anything, she has aged well, and is quite a bit smoother around her edges and contours. She shows the kind sophistication, and sensuous maturity that Stephen’s McQuarry’s piano can’t help but notice, leaving it to baritone saxophonist Georgianna Kreiger to reprise the aching lament of “all the lonely people” that forever represents the signature emotion in the song’s melody.

‘Going out,’ as far as they can, is by no means anathema to RESONANCE; nerve that must derive from setting examples for others (each teaches music privately); as violinist Michele Walther does with Miles Davis’ unquestionably influential 1959 jazz classic (So What). Putting aside Davis’ haunting simplicity, use of space, and depth, Walther takes the path less worn, straight up, and out with an electrifying vertical thrust, triggering avalanches of sound;  more like Coltrane’s romping, breathtaking tenor; and just before listener hyperventilation becomes all too real, McQuarry’s piano effortlessly plucks the counteragent of resolution from thin air, while Kreiger’s muscular baritone saxophone insinuates mordant, exclamatory significance to the musical wit in, “so what!” (So What) exhibits that rare, stunning, display of ‘off-the-floor’ improvisational spunk that jazz lovers will never get enough of.

Soon enough it shows that if pianist Stephen McQuarry has a hand in anything – it swings! His statements on (Eleanor Rigby, Gemini, So What) are not without deliberate movement. But he gets cold sober, ‘back field in motion,’ excitement with no penalties assessed, into his original compositions (The Journey of Each Other), clearing out deep space for the variegated, mellifluous woodwinds and strings; and (See You Next Wednesday) for Walther’s violin, and flutist Laura Austin Wiley to weave two very tasty uptempo solos.

There is a delightful folk-blues surprise tucked away in Laura Austin Wiley’s seductive vocal  interpretation of the 1941 Alec Wilder/William Engvick/Marty Palitz popular song (Moon and Sand), which Wiley pitches with a hint of Maria Muldaur’s quiet verve, and artful winsomeness for love at midnight  that is deep; passionate, but unsustainable; like magic. There is one other awe-inspiring surprise to savor: the vigorous, depth and breadth realized in the concentrated musical ‘body attack’ mounted by Georgianna Kreiger’s boss baritone saxophone (In A Sentimental Mood; Prelude/So What).
INTRODUCTIONS is the work of accomplished multi-instrumentalists able to spring musical astonishments at will; offering a prismatic panorama of musical colors; dispensing it seems, with the concept of the musical palette, but intent on bagging an entire rainbow, while preserving melody, harmony, and impeccable form with broad versatility devoid of weightiness, aridness, or overplaying. Having a wide array of composers to appreciate, gains the purview of a plethora of music genres; the uplifting jazz in multi-instrumentalist (some say triple threat) Jimmy Heath’s best known composition (Gemini); the elegant Latin jazz smile in keyboardist/arranger/bandleader Clare Fischer’s (Gaviota), that double bassist Ted Burik broadens with his rich, bottom-dwelling swing; through the canons of Ellington, Gil Evans/Miles Davis; honoring English classical composer Gustav Holst’s ‘The Planets’ with a visit to (Jupiter), the ‘Bringer of Jolity’; and finally a departure in character from the entire date, with stark contrasts drawn in Stanley Clarke/Chick Corea’s tribute to the immortal John Coltrane (Song To John I & II), all together painting a composite of the sense of proportion, and diversity at the heart of INTRODUCTIONS.
Track Listing: Eleanor Rigby; Gemini; In A Sentimental Mood; Opus 1; Gaviota; Prelude/So What; Jupiter; The Journey Of Each Other; Moon And Sand; See You Next Wednesday; Song To John Part I; Song To John Part 2.

Produced, arranged and orchestrated by: Stephen McQuarry.
Recorded at: Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, CA.

Engineered by: Adam Munoz.
Mixed by: Adam Munoz and Stephen McQuarry.
Mastered by: Ken Lee Mastering.


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