Vocal Music in the Elm City and CD Pick


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The Fall 09 season at Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street in New Haven, continues this week with the Amy Cervini Quartet playing 2 shows Friday night (12/11) at 8:30 and 10 p.m.  Ms. Cervini and band (brother Ernesto on drums, bassist Mark Lau and pianist Michael Cabe) are in the midst of a short tour that takes them from New York (12/08) to Boston (12/10) and finishing at Firehouse 12. There's a new cd, “Lovefool“ (Orange Grove Artists), her second wth the Quartet, that was issued early in November filled with fine “cover" tunes (from Willie Nelson to Green Day to Nellie McKay to Jack Johnson to The Cardigans) to a smartly turned Fred Hersch composition “Lazin' Around.") The disk opens with a sweet version of the late Blossom Dearie's “Bye Bye Country Boy“, replete with the smoky tenor saxophone of Joel Frahm

What's so good about this music is the way in which the group reimagines the songs for vocalist, piano, bass and drums. Ms. Cervini is an articulate vocalist who doesn't play tricks with the lyrics, gives the pieces the right amount of sincerity - even the country tune (Nelson's “Sad Songs and Waltzes“), with its humorous moments, is treated with respect.  The band is right in sync with the vocalist, they don't overpower her, and Cabe is a good accompanist and excellent soloist. 

For tickets, go to www.firehouse12.com or call 203-785-0468. To find out more about Amy Cervini (and hear excerpts from her CDs, go to amycervini.com.

Kuroi Kawa ~ Black River - Minamo (Tzadik) - Minamo is the duo of Satoko Fujii (piano, accordion, voice) and Carla Kihlstedt (violin, trumpet violin, voice).  This, the duo's 2nd release, is a 2-CD set, the first recorded in the studio and featuring 18 pieces spread over 50 minutes, the second recorded live in concert with 6 tracks. 

If you know anything about Ms. Fujii, you understand when she creates music, the listener steps into a very different world.  She writes for all different sized ensembles, creating
big band music that is progressive and roiling, quartet music that is both clangorous and contemplative, leads a trio that is hard-edged and pleasing and creates duo pieces that are poetic yet often fraught with tension.

Ms. Kihlstedt is also a fine composer and works with groups such as 2 Foot Yard, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, and Tin Hat while also scoring works for dance and theater companies. 

The music the duo creates in the studio requires one to pay attention. Several of the pieces commence at low volume and hardly move higher than a whisper.  Then, there are moments of great ferocity, of anger that ultimately cleanses the soul. Both musicians have great technical prowess but their collaboration is more about interactions and creative responses than showing off. many of the 18 tracks from the studio session are short yet none are incomplete. Each posits a sonic story and there are no wasted thoughts or sounds. And, each piece was created in the studio on the spot.

Disk 2 comes from a “live" concert at the 2008 Vancouver International Jazz Festival. All but one of the 6 pieces is longer than any of the studio tracks. Despite the expansive, it's as if the works are continuously unfolding.  The mysterious title track starts in a furious, atonal, rush but soon turns contemplative, highly musical and then explodes into shards of sounds over hammering piano chords.  Prepared piano sounds open “Murasaki No Natsu - Purple Summer“, creating a trance-like rhythm over which the pianist adds vocal sounds then the violinist enters and she engages Fujii in a trading of both instrumental and vocal lines, at furst furious then dropping off to the trance rhythms and out.  The pointillistic opening of “Akai Kaze - Red Wind“ gives away to rolling piano lines and Kihlstedt's moaning violin before finding a peaceful middle with soft give-and-take and then on to a fiery 4-minute drive to the finish.

Get the idea - this music rarely sits still and never falls into cliche.  Satoko Fujii and Carla Kihlstedt take myriad chances and, depending on your mood, the results can keep the listener involved.  And this is “mood" music.  One has to be in the mood to listen, has to understand these pieces go to unexpected and often compelling places.  Take a chance and you might be seduced. For more information, go to www2s.biglobe.ne.jp/~Libra/ or carlakihlstedt.com.

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This story appears courtesy of See! Hear! by Richard Kamins.
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