Downtown Music Gallery Review

This premiere recording of master percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie’s new international ensemble offers a program of fourteen improvised pieces that push the boundaries of spontaneous music-making. The group brings together musical traditions from four varied cultures (Scotland, Serbia, the United States and Denmark) but with a common goal: to create spontaneous music of great beauty and power which utilizes the basic formal elements of musical composition- melody, harmony, rhythm, and form. It is pretty rare for the Naxos label to present a release of completely improvised music but this is what we have here. When I saw this disc listed in our new release catalogue I was rather surprised, but not too much. Dame Evelyn Glennie, world renown percussionist, does have a CD and DVD with master improviser Fred Frith, amongst a few dozen releases of contemporary classic music. Former New Yorker, currently Memphis-based pianist has a couple of dozen discs out with co-leader Joe Fonda, as well as solo, duo, trio & quartet offerings. I’ve reviewed several CD’s from Danish guitarist Jon Hemmersam in recent years with Rakalam Bob Moses, Dave Liebman and Dom Minasi. Serbian violist Szilard Mezei is immensely prolific, including several previous discs with MJ Stevens and Mr. Hemmersam. This disc was recorded at Real World Studios in the UK, the sound is superb, all acoustic and perfectly balanced. It is often hard to tell who is doing what since the playing is so close-knit, once phrase or line melts into the next. The piano part on “The Calling” sounds like it was written, a most sublime, organic set of fragments enhanced by exquisite acoustic guitar and delicate percussion. The results are often extraordinary, creating a new world as they go, filled with wonder, suspense and surprising twists and turns. This is improvisations at its best although it doesn’t often sound like improvisation but something original, organic and incredible. – Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG