Featuring two recordings from two of America’s most-commissioned composers and one recording from the fascinating Lukas Foss, the Concord Chamber Music Society’s release of Chris Brubeck and Michael Gandolfi’s Danza del Soul and Line Drawings, respectively, is a captivating and lovely release. All of the pieces were recorded at Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Brubeck is, of course, the son of legendary jazz musician Dave Brubeck. Father and son have collaborated over recent years, producing some smart and stimulating work. Here, Chris is centre stage with a composition that features excellent players in the form of a sextet that comprises Wendy Putnam (violin), Thomas Martin (clarinet), Vytas Baksys (piano), Owen Young (cello), Lawrence Wolfe (bass), and Daniel Bauch (percussion).
Danza del Soul was composed in the summer of 2006. As the title might intimate, there are Spanish nuances that surprisingly lend to the chamber-meets-jazz curves that Brubeck instils his composition with. His work also features a theatrical air, opening with an introduction that is, for all intents and purposes, a bit of a scuffle.
The music becomes increasingly spirited as it revels in the tongue-in-cheek “dance of the sun,” springing about as it does with personality and drive. The final frame takes on a life of its own with Bauch’s percussive mastery and Putnam’s sassy violin.
Gandolfi, a lifelong Boston resident, deals with a smaller group for Line Drawings: a trio featuring Putnam, Martin and Baksys.
The sound is immediately lavish and the acoustics of Mechanics Hall very nearly add a fourth player. Gandolfi, who began his musical adventures with rock and jazz improvisation, drew inspiration from Pablo Picasso and the larger spirit of his works. That is apparent as the instruments tap around the Hall, kissing the building with life and assurance.
Line Drawings is actually “divided” into “drawings” that range from the four-part canon of “Canon, Cut and Paste” to the sprightly modified rondo form of “Chickens.”
Finally, Foss draws the record to a close with his Central Park Reel. This composition features Putnam’s violin and Baksys’ piano.
Foss, a Berlin native, has been a pianist with Isabella Vengerova, a conductor with Fritz Reinder and a composer with Rosario Scalero and Randall Thompson. He was even invited, along with Leonard Bernstein, to be a part of the first class at the Berkshire Music Center.
Central Park Reel appears here in just its second recording. It enmeshes a sort of native New York feeling with the animated brio of bluegrass music. Putnam plays a hoedown-infused form, while Baksys demonstrates range and colour with graceful, poppy lines.
Those looking for an enjoyable evening in with some delightfully adventurous music would be well-served to check out the Concord Chamber Music Society’s presentation of Brubeck, Gandolfi and Foss. It showcases three composers at moving, inspired, vibrant heights, interpreting beautiful music with the voices of accomplished musicians in the acoustical landmark that is Mechanics Hall.