In 2022, we are seeing a lot of musical projects born in some way from the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 and 2021. This song cycle by pianist Jeremy Siskind is concerned with some of the varied emotional responses people had to the upheavals of that period.
Siskind wrote the material on this album for his trio with vocalist Nancy Harms and saxophonist Lucas Pino known as The Housewarming Project. The compositions are gathered onto a two-disc set with the first disc, "True Believers" featuring songs about those who were in some way transformed by the isolation of lockdown, and the second, "Cynics and Skeptics," about those who struggled to cope with the changing reality of their lives. Inspired by writers ranging from Kurt Vonnegut to Edna St. Vincent Millay, the songs bounce between chamber jazz and art song, with Siskind's piano serving as an active foundation for Pino's and Harms' lively interactions. The trio gives a quiet delicacy to pieces like "Serotiny" where Harms' singing and Pino's clarinet float over Siskind's gentle piano, and "Growing Pains" where rapturous tenor sax adds power to a dreamy mesh of voice and piano. The sax and piano interplay is really strong and uplifting on "In Every Moment" and "Long Beach, in Fog" as Harms focuses her vocals into quiet but potent whispers.
Overall the songs touch on a lot of different musical styles. "Drinking Song" has a comical honky tonk feel with Siskind playing an irregular Thelonious Monk-ish line beside sleazy tenor and jaunty singing and "So I Went To New York City" is an up-tempo boppish groove featuring wailing tenor and Harms twisting the lyrics around in the Annie Ross manner. "New Year, New You" throbs to a hard-rocking swing rhythm while the clarinet line and dramatic singing of "Demeter" seem to come out of Hebrew musical traditions. On "April, the Liar" Harms' voice glides with the biting edge of Annette Peacock as her partners play a swaying jazz line with Pino's tenor really digging in. '
Jeremy Siskind's songs are, in turn, moving, sardonic, dramatic and hopeful and this trio does an excellent job of bringing all their disparate emotions to life. Nancy Harms sings beautifully in all moods and tempos, and Pino's and Siskind's playing is sprightly and focused throughout. This project makes a lovely, stylish statement about finding peace and purpose in bad times that still resonates even though the COVID threat has receded for the time being,
Disc 1: True Believers: I'd Given Up; Unbroken String; In Every Moment; I'd Break Quarantine vol. 1;
Lethe-Reincarnation; Drinking Song; Serotiny; I'd Break Quarantine, vol. 2; Kneel; So I Went to New York
City; New; We Will Not Go Back To Normal. Disc 2: Cynics and Skeptics: Growing Pains; I'd Break
Quarantine vol. 3; Long Beach, in Fog; New Year, New You; I'd Break Quarantine, vol. 4; April, the Liar;
Demeter; I'd Break Quarantine, vol. 5, Forgiveness; Another Birthday.
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