One of the defining characteristics of mankind is the awareness of death as a part of the human condition. We all know that we are going to die. This awareness has been an inspiration to many artists and it could be said that art itself is a way of coming to terms with death. This is especially true with a requiem, which is defined as a musical composition in honor of the dead. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Requiem is perhaps the most famous work in this particular genre, which is mostly associated with classical music. However, jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard proved that it was possible to combine the vocabularies of jazz and classical music on his poignant requiem A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina) (Blue Note, 2007).
Danish trumpeter Jakob Buchanan also has a background in modern jazz and his large-scale work Requiem combines big band music, choral music, modern jazz and classical tones into a sweeping musical statement that enters the realm of spirituality. On the opening, "Requiem Aeternam," Buchanan's trumpet breaks through the silence like a glowing light in the dark before an organ intones with multiple brass voices in the background. Then a choir of Latin voices rise from out of nowhere and the composition grows into an understated bass-driven groove where Indra Rios-Moore sings: "nothing is permanent / the sun and the moon rise and set. / From hour to hour everything changes, / To take for permanent, that which is only transitory, is like the delusion of a mad man."
It is worth noting how Rios-Moore's voice is complemented by the choir. The voices support her and act as counterpoint and the Latin and English lyrics are like the meeting of two different worlds. The dead language of Latin, so otherworldly and strange, and the living language of English, proclaiming "nothing is permanent."
The key to the music is the use of contrasts and musical voices. Buchanan has written the music specifically with the musicians in mind and Requiem sports an impressive cast of players, including bassist Jonas Westergaard, singer Indra Rios-Moore, percussionist Marilyn Mazur and guitarist Jakob Bro. These guests all contribute with their signature sounds that become a part of the whole. For instance, Marilyn Mazur is able to conjure a whole landscape of thunder and silence on "Kyrie Eleison." The use of Aarhus Jazz Orchestra is also congenial and carefully orchestrated and the members of Aarhus Cathedral Choir sing with voices full of ethereal beauty.
In every way, including the length, which clocks in at around 78 minutes, Requiem is a major work and, hopefully, it will put more spotlight on Buchanan. He shows himself as an ambitious and thoughtful composer who draws on the music of the past and brings the form of the requiem into the future.
Requiem Aeternam; Kyrie Eleison; Domine Jesu; Sanctus; Pie Jesu; Agnus Dei; Lux Aeterna; Libera Me; In Paradisum.
Jakob Buchanan: trumpet, flugelhorn; Indra Rios-Moore: vocal; Jakob Bro: guitar, loops; Jonas Westergaard: bass; Marilyn Mazur: percussion; Ingeborg Thisted Højlund: vocal; Nicolai Christensen: vocal; Susanne Cecilie Nielsen: vocal; Niels Peder Gejel: vocal; Carsten Seyer-Hansen; Aarhus Jazz Orchestra and Aarhus Cathedral Choir.
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