8 years ago

Volume 17 Issue 2 - October 2011

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Lovers of Cuban music

Lovers of Cuban music willrejoice in Jane Bunnett & HilarioDuran – Cuban Rhapsody (AlmaACD67112, a vast survey of the islandnation’s music from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th.Virtuosos Bunnett (flute and sopranosax) and Duran (piano) playwith passionate vitality and gracious charmas they canvas traditions established by suchvalued composers as ErnestoLecuona and Frank EmilioFlynn. The heart of this album,crammed with dancing beatsand lilting melody, is a fivetunemedley of contradanzas byManuel Saumell. The duo playswith intimate chemistry and stilladds jazz improv fuel to a sterlingsession that integrates European musicwith classic Cuban folkloric styles.Something in the AirTrumpeter Bill Dixon’s Lingering InfluenceKEN WAXMANPraised and reviled in equal measureduring his 40-year career, Vermontbasedtrumpeter Bill Dixon was finallyrecognized as one of improvised music’smost original stylists and theorists before hisdeath at 84 in June 2010. Fittingly his finalconcert took place a mere three weeks previouslyat Quebec’sFestival Internationalde Musique Actuellede Victoriaville,where a hand-pickedoctet played thiscomposition underhis direction. Luckilythe performancehas been released asEnvoi (Victo RecordsVicto cd only do thetwo sections illuminateDixon’s particularmixture of formalismand freedom, butwith a horn section of four playing cornet,bugle and flugelhorn, Envoi also demonstratesDixon’s influence on a younger generationof brass players. Famously pricklyand opinionated, Dixon organized The JazzComposers Guild, one of the first musicians’self-help organizations in the mid-1960s. Along-time professor at Bennington Collegein Vermont, Dixon recorded sparingly overthe years, which makes this session doublyvaluable. Impressionistic and dramatic,Envoi is organized with classical precisionin varied sequences. Most involve muted,shaded bent notes from the brass players incounterpoint to the spiccato string swipesof cellist Glynis Loman and bassist KenFiliano, or, in the first section, tart slursfrom Michel Côté’s bass clarinet. Additionalunifying motifs come from Warren Smith’sresounding kettle drumming, and, in thesecond section, his ringing vibes, whichsoften the interface as it moves forward. Inthat same section the unison strings maintaina menacing undertow, breached only occasionallyby heraldic brassiness or dissonantgrace notes, plus at one point echoingstillness from Graham Hayes’ bugle. Trueto Dixon’s style, most of the brass tones aresegmented sound shards which waft pureair through the horns. Following nearly 40minutes of quivery tremolo theme variations,a spectacular example of the trumpeter’smeasured art arrives near the end. Afterone cornetist soundsheraldic tones at ahigher pitch amongthe others’ capillarywhispers, allharmonize for a protractedsection of legatoimpressionism,only scattering atthe end as one puffsquietly while anotherexposes plungertones. Finally,call-and-responsevamping from allmarks the climax.New York’sTaylor Ho Bynum andChicago’s Rob Mazurek, both of featured on“Envoi” have been marked by Dixon’s compositionaland improvisational skill, as hasMontreal’s Ellwood Epps. For reviews of theirCDs see the continuation of this column thewholenote.comOctober 1 – November 7, 2011

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