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French saxophonist Alexandra Grimal composed this symphony of minimalist chamber music while watching a starry night at the MacDowell Colony, the United States' oldest arts enclave. For this ambitious composition, she enlists guitarist Todd Neufeld, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Tyshawn Sorey, the trio that recorded Sorey's majestic Koan (482 Music, 2009) three years ago.
Similar to Koan, Grimal's Andromeda resists categorization. It is an intimate exploration of the relation between time, sound and space that tends to be ethereal and minimalist in spirit. Grimal is an equal partner to the other musicians, though on the longest pieces, Sorey is the dominant player. The tone is spare, almost weightless; restrained and ascetic, silence is often used as a key element. The progression of each part of this symphony moves patiently and methodically amongst each of its sonic articulations.
After two short, Morton Feldman-esque abstract and minimalist pieces, "Cassiopée"one of the composition's three longest partsprogresses gently, as if each of the spare sonic expressions carries significant weight. Suddenly, it blossoms from its former severity into short, playfully improvised interplay that than withdraws again into a minimalist conclusion. "Algieba" moves slowly between contemplative, short components, shapes and dynamics until it manifest itself as a powerful cohesive piece.
Sorey and Morgan construct the gentle flow of "Ulysse," one of the less minimal pieces that, instead, references chamber jazz. Over its rhythmic flow, Grimal and Neufeld touch and go with their brief improvisations. The title piece concludes this cerebral, sonic journey; haunting, it combines the light and playful narrative and quiet, minimalist aesthetic of the symphony's first parts.
A truly unique and captivating sonic journey.
Track Listing: Little Step; Orion; Cassiopée; Algieba; Ulysse; Andromeda.
Personnel: Alexandra Grimal: tenor and soprano saxophones; Todd Neufeld: acoustic and electric guitars; Thomas Morgan: double bass; Tyshawn Sorey: drums.