A syncretic symphony, Kelvin Sholar
's Rites of Fire
is the product of 15 years of meditation on the history and esoteric mechanisms of musical expression. The richly satisfying album is unbounded by anything other than Sholar's relentless commitment to self-discovery. Sholar's own resurrection from clinical death to artistic and spiritual rebirth is embedded in the core of the multi-movement composition, which neither defies nor accepts conventional barriers. The piece flows from a space of integration, merging a complex network of historical tributaries drawn from Igor Stravinsky to jazz's improvisational heritage to electronic, textural landscapes. No segment is without antecedent, yet no moment sounds derivative or artificial; the confluence is as natural as a river current, the scale continental.
At face value one is tempted to label Rites of Fire
an exploration of Stravinsky's Rites of Spring
and The Firebird Suite
using other genres and instruments to rework aspects of the originals to create a pastiche. However, this would be too simplistic. Rites of Fire
The album's sonic richness suggests a larger ensemble than the five musicians who executed the recording. Throughout, Sholar mines his study of piano forms to shapeshift from blues to the light touch of European classical to the off-kilter bounce and improvisational surprise of Thelonious Monk
, to synthesizer textures, and back again. Long time compatriot Jaimeo Brown
, himself a student of African American cultural history and identity, is equally adept at adapting to the composition's challenging cross-cultural demandsswinging one moment, emitting fluid, shifting beats the next. Another key element is Carl Craig
's use of synthesizers to add electronic layers below the acoustic performance, at times reinforcing, at others establishing competing dimensions. Throughout, Johnathan Robinson anchors the composition with his steady bass and delivers excellent solos, also serving double duty on the clarinet. Last but not at all least, Greg Osby
lends his unmistakable, intricate alto saxophone to the endeavor.
One might imagine that Sholar's highly intellectual process would result in the explosive, challengingly abstract improvisation often associated with jazz's avant-garde. In this case, while containing moments of upheaval, the result is a journey of reconciliation that ultimately settles into a tender harmony of balance. The album does not demand that its audience has advanced-level musical knowledge. Quite the opposite. Rites of Fire
offers a mesmeric invitation to participate in musical transformation. It shelters and guides rather than leaving the listener to their own devices.
Decidedly accessible for a statement so avant-garde and steeped in depths of musical knowledge and history, Rites of Fire
captures a culminating moment in an insightful artist's life-long pursuit of musical truth.
The Sage; 2. The Augurs of Spring, Dances of the Young Girls A; Infernal Dance of King Kashchei; Rite Of
Spring: Introduction A; Spring Rounds; Rite Of Spring: Introduction B; Firebird: Finale; Firebird: Introduction
A; Mystic Circles of the Young Girls A; Mystic Circles of the Young Girls B; The Firebird's Variation; The
Augurs of Spring, Dances of the Young Girls B; The Sacrifice: Introduction; Berceuse; Ritual Of Abduction;
Adoration of the Earth: Introduction A; Adoration of the Earth: Introduction B; Sacrificial Dance A; Sacrificial
Dance B; 20. Introduction: The Sacrifice; The Princesses’ Khorovod; Ritual Action of the Ancestors; Spring
Rounds (Infine Remix)