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The Clare Fischer Orchestra: Music for Strings, Percussion and the Rest

Jack Bowers By

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Is this beautiful music, wonderfully played? Definitely. Is it jazz (or anything close to it)? Afraid not. Music for Strings, Percussion and the Rest is chamber music with a classical temperament, colorful and captivating, written (presumably over a period of some years) and conducted by one of the giants in that field, the late Dr. Clare Fischer. As the title denotes, strings and percussion are predominant; as for "the rest," Fischer employs a small orchestra composed primarily of reeds (no brass that can be discerned). Jazz stalwart Gary Foster's expressive alto saxophone is showcased on the opening "Pensamientos for Solo Alto Saxophone and Chamber Orchestra," his alto clarinet on "Suddenly."

The themes throughout are gorgeous, deftly woven by Fischer into a spellbinding musical tapestry that pleases the ears and quickens the heart. The blending of strings and percussion is never inappropriate, always tasteful and coherent. Fischer's son, Brent, plays keyboards, percussion and mallet instruments, foremost among them the vibraphone on "Miniature" and his own compositions, "Weekend in Stockholm" and "Retrograde Orbits for Vibraphone." The splendid pianist Bryan Pezzone is added on"Pensamientos" and the gossamer "Interlude for Piano" and "Reflection for Piano" (the last two unaccompanied).

"Suddenly," written by Fischer after the unexpected loss of a close friend, is, Brent writes, his personal favorite among his father's many compositions. It's a lovely song on which Brent again plays vibraphone to a Latin beat with genteel support from strings and reeds. "Suddenly" precedes the enchanting finale, "A Moment of Silence," which, according to Brent Fischer, is one of the last pieces his father composed and conducted. The album's other songs, each one a model of thematic artistry, are "Realizacion for String Orchestra," composed as a string quartet in the 1950s; "Coming Home" (written by Clare Fischer after a hospital stay due to a concussion) and the only non-Fischer composition, Henry Mancini's opulent "Two for the Road."

As noted, this is not jazz by any stretch of the imagination. On the other hand, it is lovely chamber music, written and arranged for the most part by a master of the genre and flawlessly performed by an assemblage of world-class musicians. As such, it is highly recommended.

Track Listing: Pensamiento for Alto Saxophone and Chamber Orchestra; Miniature; Realizacion for String Orchestra; Interlude for Piano; Two for the Road; Weekend in Stockholm; Coming Home; Reflection for Piano; Retrograde Orbits for Vibraphone; Suddenly; A Moment of Silence.

Personnel: Dr. Clare Fischer: composer, conductor, arranger (5), keyboards, shakers (1); Brent Fischer: composer (6, 9), conductor (6), arranger (10), auxiliary keyboards, mallet instruments, percussion; Gary Foster: conductor (1, 3), alto sax (1), alto clarinet (10); Bryan Pezzone: piano (1, 4, 7); Assa Drori: concert master; Roland Kato, Kazi Pitelka, Cecilia Tsan, David Shostac, Don Shelton, Rose Corrigan, David Duke, Jon Lewis: featured orchestra musicians.

Title: Music for Strings, Percussion and the Rest | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Clavo Records

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