Pleiades by Simeon Nathanael Davis
From the album
About the Album
The Pleiades themselves are famously two things: a star cluster with seven prominent bodies, and an old Greek myth. This piece was originally composed as a commission for a group of Davis thought to be seven musicians, hence the title would be a pun (the seven stars - get it?). Shortly into writing the piece, he discovered there was an eighth musician and had to draw on another source of inspiration for the writing process and soon found himself digging into the mythological side. In the myth, the Pleiades are seven sisters, daughters of the Titan Atlas, who are kidnapped by an Egyptian ruler after they each rejected his marriage proposals. They are taken in captivity across the Mediterranean when, by chance, Heracles’s ship crosses paths with theirs. He raids it, frees the Pleiades, and returns them to Atlas, who in turn rewards Heracles by assisting him in one of his twelve labors. Musically, this piece draws on elements of Rumba and Partido Alto to evoke the oceanic motion and turbulence, while using elements of European folk melody and post-bop harmony to evoke the emotions and aesthetics of the seven sisters. As different themes overlap and familiar statements shift, the band sets the sonic stage for the music to follow the Pleiades, their strife in captivity, the conflict to free them, and ultimately their journey home. “Pleiades” features an atypical instrumentation of violin, wordless vocals, trombone, soprano saxophone, electric guitar, piano, electric bass, and drum set. Taking technical notes from Wayne Shorter’s voicing styles and paying tribute to two of Davis’s favorite composers for violin, Polish jazz violinist Adam Baldych and 20th century composer Bela Bartok, “Pleiades” capitalizes on both the unique technical aspects of these instruments and the distinct timbral colors they can create. With contrasting solos by violinist Jess Meador, drummer Josh Parker, and the bandleader himself on soprano saxophone, “Pleiades” covers a broad emotional and thematic spectrum with twists, turns, and transformations that bring the myth to life as never before.
The Diver; Seven Come Wednesday; Requiem for Charles; Eden; A Quiet Night in Pandemonium; Pleiades; The Panther; Ingoma Yoxolo (Peace Song)
Simeon Nathanael Davis: composer, flute; Jonathan Shier: flugelhorn; Alex Hand: guitar, acoustic;
June 20, 2022
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