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Karolina Strassmayer and Drori Mondlak: Small Moments (2013)

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Karolina Strassmayer and Drori Mondlak: Small Moments How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Altoist Karolina Strassmayer and drummer Drori Mondlak's second release as co-leaders Small Moments is a collection of lean and gripping original compositions that the superlative quartet embellishes with their sophisticated and inventive spontaneity.

One of the unifying themes of this engaging album is a melodic and contemplative narrative sense. The intimately nocturnesque "Seven Minutes in Heaven" conjures up the urban romanticism of city nightlife. Strassmayer's ardently undulating saxophone shimmers with muted colors in the intriguingly dark ambience. The rhythm section's careful brushes, gentle thrums and reserved yet earnest bass reverberations enhance the atmosphere.

Guitarist Cary DeNigris
Cary DeNigris
Cary DeNigris

guitar
' slowly simmering and agile strings carry on a dialogue with Strassmayer's longing and melancholic notes. The latter's unaccompanied, serpentine meanderings craft a bittersweet love song.

The San Francisco based DeNigris' conversational tone and eloquent lines build clever musical constructs on "Heidi's Dream"'s deceptively simple motifs. The lilting lullaby features Strassmayer's soothing alto replete with imaginative twists as she launches into a mellifluous tune that grows more complex with each bar yet it retains its basic, carefree feel and unadorned candor. Hamburg bassist Ingmar Heller's lyrical solo concludes the tune on a playful touch.

Heller's reserved yet immensely expressive bass-work opens the haunting "Ibex Incantation." Strassmayer's wailing saxophone unfurls a fantastic and introspective modern poem that bristles with passion. Her extemporized and intricately woven harmonic tapestry contrasts nicely with DeNigris' spacey, acerbic guitar and Mondlak's angular and edgy drums.

Mondlak's understated and adroit leadership provides the tight and ingenious structure that keeps a seamless conceptual unity yet allowing for band member individuality. His own chromatic polyrhythms add a primal energy to the wistfully nostalgic "Call Of The Forefathers." The tune opens and closes with Strassmayer's evocative and emotionally charged alto sax sonata.

This stimulating record closes with the funky marche "Last One Standing." The thrilling variations in tempo underlie an exhilarating group refrain that leads to DeNigris' electrifying rocking guitar. Strassmayer's thick, vibrato filled, sound mirrors DeNigris' energetic licks with a soulful swagger.

Prior to them joining forces both Strassmayer and Mondlak were well known as creative and intelligent improvisers and instrumentalists in their own right. Together they have refined their art to achieve a bold elegance that is both delightful and provocative, eschewing both abstruseness and platitude.

Track Listing: God Of Wind; Call Of The Forefathers; Seven Minutes In Heaven; Small Moments; Three For All; Ibex Incantation; Heidi's Dream; October Sun; Last One Standing.

Personnel: Karolina Strassmayer: alto saxophone; Drori Mondlak: drums; Cary DeNigris: guitar; Ingmar Heller: bass.

Record Label: Lilypad Music


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