AMN Reviews: Dana Jessen – Carve [Innova 910]

726708691028-front-coverLike the double bass in the 1950s, the bassoon is an instrument often overlooked as a solo voice with the potential to push the boundaries in new music. In order to change that, bassoonist Dana Jessen has been endeavoring to develop an adventurous repertoire of new work for solo bassoon. On Carve, her debut release, she does that with a set of four pieces she commissioned from contemporary composers for solo bassoon and electronics.

The four compositions, written in 2014 and 2015 and recorded in September, 2015 and May, 2016 at Jessen’s home institution of Oberlin Conservatory, are the products of a collaborative process. Jessen met with the composers and played some improvisations for them; these served as the kernels around which the compositions were constructed, each of which was shaped as much by her musical language and sensibility as by the composers’ own ideas. Working this way entailed a strategy of mutual interpretation that upends and in a way reverses the conventional relationship between the composer as originator and the performer as interpreter.

On all four pieces, creatively employed electronics serve to transform, supplement or challenge the sound of the acoustic instrument. Paula Matthusen’s of an implacable subtraction is a melodic piece whose minor modality is tinted with melancholy; the electronics pick up and reinforce key points in the bassoon line, stretching and repeating them to make them a harmonic bed of lingering tones. In Points against Fields by Sam Pluta, Jessen’s extended technique and energetic playing lend the bassoon an otherworldly sound that complements the surrounding surf of electronic splashes, chirps and static. Peter V. Swendsen’s Fireflies in Winter casts fragments of bassoon melodies in the role of commentators on field recordings of the natural and urban environments. During one passage in which the bassoon is surrounded by the sounds of crickets and other nocturnal wildlife, one can almost hear the vast expanses of night sky reaching above. Cadenza and Degradations seems a contemporary improvised bassoon sonata, with an elastically-scaled virtual wind ensemble made up of composer/oboist Kyle Bruckmann’s multiply recorded oboe and bass oboe forming the backdrop for Jessen’s elegant solo lines. In between the compositions are brief solo interludes each of whose sounds derive from a gesture or technique relating to the pieces on either side. These interludes lend the CD the cohesive feeling of a suite of distinct but mutually supporting performances.

A second factor that gives the release a notably holistic sense is Jessen’s own voice. Hers is an expressive presence with a warm tone and a refined vibrato, both of which preserve a humanistic heart in the midst of technological embellishment. It’s a finely calibrated balance, achieved as well by the composers’ sensitively crafted environments in which Jessen’s voice can resonate. And in the end, it’s Jessen’s appealing musical personality that animates this outstanding collection of work.

Daniel Barbiero

This Week in New York



This year the Bang on a Can All-Stars will give U.S. premieres of works by three PCF-commissioned composers: Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s Fields, Felipe Waller’s Hybrid Ambiguities, and Nico Muhly’s Comfortable Cruising Altitude. The All-Stars will also perform “St. Remy,” an excerpt from Michael Gordon’s chamber opera Van Gogh; plus Philip Glass’s Closing and “Bed,” an excerpt from his opera Einstein on the Beach; David Lang’s sunray; and Julia Wolfe’s Believing
Monday, January 9 at 7:30 PM
Tickets $25
Kaufman Music Center, 129 West 67th Street, New York, NY


Inspired by actual medical texts from the 17th and 18th century, anatomy theater follows the progression of a convicted murderess from her confession to execution, to denouncement, and finally to dissection, including an anatomy lesson for curious onlookers. It is a moral dissection that seeks to discover how the insides of evildoers are different from those of righteous citizens. Music by David Lang and libretto by Mark Dion and Lang.
Tuesday, January 10 to Saturday, January 14 at 8:00 PM
Tickets $30
BRIC House, 647 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY


In 13 micro-movements, Sarah Small synthesizes genres from Balkan folk to contemporary chamber, industrial, renaissance, rock, rap, and punk, while interweaving live and recorded electronics, Chinese sheng, strings, winds, and densely packed vocals. The music is complemented by gestural choreography and projections, including the world premiere of Black Sea Hotel’s first music video. Created, written, and composed by Sarah Small.
Wednesday, January 11 to Saturday, January 14 at 9:00 PM
Tickets $30
HERE, 145 6th Avenue, New York, NY


Funeral Doom Spiritual, a new monodrama composed by M. Lamar and Hunter Hunt-Hendrix draws on themes of apocalypse, end times, and rapture found in Negro Spirituals, what Lamar calls “Doom Spirituals.” It explores radical historical expressions and futuristic longings for destruction of the white supremacist world order. Taking place a century into the future, the piece features the male soprano Lamar on piano, accompanied by two basses, two contrabasses, and electronics, enveloped in immersive light and video. Music by M. Lamar and Hunter Hunt-Hendrix and libretto by Lamar and Tucker Culbertson.
Friday, January 13 and Saturday, January 14 at 7:00 PM & 10:00 PM
Tickets $30
National Sawdust, 80 North 6th Street, Brooklyn, NY


This PROTOTYPE/FIAF concert will focus on the voices of African-American and immigrant men and women in America today, with commissioned music by Sahba Aminikia, Jeff Beal, Mary Kouyoumdjian, Shara Nova, Toshi Reagon, and DJ Spooky and texts by Hilton Als, Michelle Alexander, Samad Behrangi, and Pauli Murray. Helga Davis hosts.
Saturday, January 14 & Sunday, January 15 at 5:00 PM
Tickets $30
French Institute Alliance Française, Florence Gould Hall, 55 East 59th Street, New York, NY
..:: Website


Join Chamber Music America for an evening of music and celebration! Connect with colleagues from around the country, enjoy a performance by new music sextet yMusic, and applaud as CMA presents its inaugural Visionary Award to Eighth Blackbird. Nadia Sirota, violist and host of Q2’s Meet the Composer, and cellist Jeffrey Zeigler will host. Open bar and hors d’oeuvres included with admission. Event is part of CMA’s National Conference; Conference registration not required to attend.
Saturday, January 14 at 6:00 PM
Tickets $50
The Westin New York at Times Square. 270 West 43rd Street, New York, NY


Arnold Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire is the main work of this evening. The performers are Charlotte Mundy, voice; Martha Cargo, flute; Eileen Mack, clarinet; Leah Asher, violin/viola; Mariel Roberts, cello; Yvonne Troxler, piano. This major chamber work of the 20th century is framed with works by Willy Burkhard, Michel Jarrell, György Kurtag, and Roland Moser.
Saturday, January 14 at 7:30 PM
Tickets $20, $15 seniors/students/children
Symphony Space, Leonard Nimoy Thalia, 2537 Broadway, New York, NY


Pianist James Johnston performs music for piano by James T. Little, James Johnston, Jacob ter Veldhuis, Missy Mazzoli, Philip Glass, Nico Muhly, Marc Mellits, Johann Johannson, Max Richter, Eve Beglarian, and Radiohead.
Saturday, January 14 at 8:00 PM
Scholes Street Studio, 375 Lorimer Street, Brooklyn, NY


Cipher Duo performs works by Rebekah Driscoll, Sarah Goldfeather, Veronika Krausas, Kaija Saariaho, and Kate Soper.
Sunday, January 15 at 7:00 PM
Scholes Street Studio, 375 Lorimer Street, Brooklyn, NY

Midira Records New Releases

Source: Midira Records.


Janek Sprachta is a Berlin-based multi-instrumentalist, known for his drum works in the band Siva, in which he and Nils Frahm were playing together. Three years ago Sprachta released his first solo album, mastered by his bandmate and friend Nils Frahm.

After some years of experience in making music Sprachta recorded his second solo album called “Grow”. A little masterpiece that merges sounds from ambient, modern classical, post-rock and electronic music into a 40minutes sound journey. Sprachta plays drums, guitar, piano and some other instruments creating his very own one-man-orchestra of experimental sounds (except for some cello sounds, played by Rahel Pötsch). Starting from fragile and quiet piano movements and ending up in a massive loud post-rockish sound wall.

“Grow” is one of the most not-drone-at-all albums of the Midira roster, but its mood fits perfectly into the sound cosmos of the label. The album sounds the best with a good portion of bass and middle volume on your hi-fi system, so it will take you on a smooth and warm soundtrip full of surprises.


After releasing the highly acclaimed album “Moarntiids” by Piiptsjilling, the Kleefstra Brothers return to Midira with “Dize”, this time by Kleefstra | Bakker | Kleefstra.

Anne Chris Bakker, Romke Kleefstra and Jan Kleefstra joined forces a while ago and started releasing limited collaboration albums. Their sound is a fragile construct build of guitar drones by Romke Kleefstra and Anne Chris Bakker crowned by the unmistakable voice of Jan Kleefstra. It´s the most simple sound structure in their oeuvre, but also the most effective.

Dize is a dark piece of music, taking you to a journey through the cold seaside of the north. Sounds like waves and winds create an atmosphere that gives you the creeps and on the other side you get a feeling of being safe, surrounded by the warm voice of Jan Kleefstra. The guitar sounds start with a certain motive and then they transform into a big crawling beast of wall with a forcing bass sound and swelling heights.

Winter Jazzfest Reviewed

Source: The New York Times.

By now, into its 13th annual edition, the NYC Winter Jazzfest has earned the sensation of urgency that flows among both artists and audiences. This year’s festival began Thursday and will run through Tuesday, when the Liberation Music Orchestra, led by a guest pianist, Geri Allen, draws from its stately songbook of resistance at Le Poisson Rouge. But as always, the festival’s centerpiece was the marathon, featuring more than 100 acts across a dozen or so spaces below 14th Street in Manhattan, on Friday and Saturday nights.

That roving model, designed to encourage discovery, can turn any festivalgoer into a critic: selecting and sorting, setting priorities, making agonized choices. Sometimes it even engenders heated debate, as in the case of Chris Dave & the Drumhedz, whose late show at the Bowery Ballroom on Friday was a soup of fleeting rhythmic genius and unfocused meandering.

All About Jazz Reviews

English: Drummer performing with saxophonist W...

Source: All About Jazz.

Matthew Shipp Trio
Piano Song (Thirsty Ear Recordings)

Dave Soldier
The Eighth Hour Of Amduat (Self Produced)

Franklin Kiermyer
Closer To The Sun (Mobility Music)

Paul G. Smyth / Chris Corsano
Weekertoft Hits Its Stride…

Dwiki Dharmawan
Pasar Klewer (Moonjune Records)

Sei Miguel
(Five) Stories Untold (Clean Feed Records)

Anna Webber’s Simple Trio With Matt Mitchell & John Hollenbeck
Binary (Skirl Records)

The Delegation
Evergreen (Canceled World) (ESP Disk)

Ivo Perelman
Ivo Perelman: The Art of the Improv Trio (Leo Records)

Ivo Perelman
2016: An Ivo Perelman Marathon

Jari Haapalainen Trio
Fusion Machine (Moserobie)