Charlotte, NC-based composer/pianist Claire Ritter has earned numerous awards from various organizations while also teaching at the “New England Conservatory of Music” and garnering kudos for her works, which have been recorded by some of jazz’ best and brightest.
On Castles in the Air, Ms. Ritter spins a symmetrical web consisting of slightly disparate motifs that align into a cohesive series of frameworks, namely with the four-part, “Opus 17: New Southern Symphonic Suite for Modern Dance.” On this piece, Ms. Ritter utilizes small groupings of strings, percussion, vocals, and woodwinds for a series of passages that might elicit notions of tranquility or peaceful environs. Ritter and bass clarinetist, Stan Strickland render a poignant take on Monk’s “Let’s Cool One,” whereas Steve Swallow multitracks electric bass parts during his composition titled, “True.” However, the pianist’s supple phraseology on “Blue Monk” serves as the bond between violinist, Johannes Ammon’s engagingly melodic lines, percussionist Taoaaki Masuko’s bouncy rhythms and bassist, Andrew Blickenderfer’s moderate swing pulse.
Ms. Ritter’s “solo portraits” on the companion CD, River of Joy features sixteen altogether brief solo performances of standards and original compositions. This outing includes a few guest spots, by Ms. Ritter’s former teacher, pianist/composer Ran Blake, and bassist Steve Swallow. Essentially, the artist conveys a sense of understated elegance amid bluesy trills, emotionally complex segments, and sonically picturesque vistas, while also displaying a soft touch. Overall, Ms. Ritter judiciously enhances her already blossoming reputation with these fine new releases. Recommended.