Susie Ibarra and Mephista: Folkloriko & Entomological Reflections

Sean Patrick Fitzell By

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As a composer, improviser, bandleader or member, drummer-percussionist Susie Ibarra displays a holistic approach to music, playing her parts to support the larger musical vision. Two recent and divergent recordings showcase her broad musical palate.

Susie Ibarra

Folkloriko , Ibarra's latest as a leader, opens with "Anitos," an exotic percussion duet with Roberto Rodriguez. Set over a relentless "tribal" groove, it highlights Ibarra's melodic playing on wooden kulintang, a traditional Asian instrument that sounds like a dampened, dulled marimba. Her nine-part suite "Lakbay" fills the remainder of the CD.

Inspired by, and dedicated to, the daily life of immigrant Filipino workers, the episodic composition features plenty of improvisation. It begins with solo percussion, Ibarra using gongs for a sparse melody and a tempo that swells and contracts. Pianist Craig Taborn and violinist Jennifer Choi enter the second movement, which is moody and atmospheric, using minimal piano and haunting violin. Taborn adds looped crowd noise to "Merienda," which also features improvisatory sparks between Choi and guest trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith. His use of muted and unmuted sounds on three appearances adds additional color, contrasting the strings and percussion. "Awit Sa Trabaho" boasts a driving tom-tom rhythm, which Choi soars over with fleet, lyrical violin runs at daredevil speed. On "Ang Sayaw," she exhibits a delicate, even romantic, touch against Ibarra and Taborn's swinging feel. He plays solo on "Paniniwala," using dynamics and space befitting the music that precedes, exhibiting his touch and taste on the keys. The aptly titled "Lullaby" concludes the suite with gentle piano, sparse percussion, and tender strings that suggest winding down to rest after a day's toil.

Entomological Reflections

As part of Mephista, a collective trio with pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and laptop/electronic artist Ikue Mori, Ibarra flexes her improvisatory muscle. Entomological Reflections, their second release, demonstrates the affinity the three have developed. The spacious and mostly improvised pieces explore a variety of sonic textures and moods, which allows Mori's voice to cut through. All three show patience in their playing, allowing sounds to sustain and dynamic touches to mold the pieces. Ibarra employs a range of fluttering brushes, bells, and gongs, while Courvoisier strums and plucks inside the piano, to match Mori's mysterious sounds. "Cardiogram" starts with the repetitive plunking of piano keys, which Mori mimics until the piece reaches a dramatic crescendo of piano and cymbals. The unhurried impressionistic approach of Entomological Reflections, as the name implies, is meant to be contemplative, to absorb fully the heightened interaction between improvisers.

These recent CDs highlight several aspects of Ibarra's musical personality. Although their approaches differ, they affirm why she is regarded as a top drummer and artist - her ability to play, and know what not to play, to serve the music.


Tracks: 1. Anitos (9:50); 2. Lakbay: Gawain Ng Pamilya I (2:33); 3. Lakbay: Umaga (4:28); 4. Lakbay: Merienda (4:17); 5. Lakbay: Awit Sa Trabaho (6:37); 6. Lakbay: Ang Sayaw (4:13); 7. Lakbay: Palengke (4:23); 8. Lakbay: Paniniwala (2:55); 9. Lakbay: Gawain Ng Pamilya II (5:02); 10. Lakbay: Lullaby (2:54).

Personnel: Jennifer Choi: Violin; Susie Ibarra: Percussion, Drums, Jun-Jun, Tibetan Finger Cymbals; Roberto Rodriguez: Percussion, Bells; Wadada Leo Smith: Trumpet; Craig Taborn: Piano.

Entomological Reflections

Tracks: 1 La Femme 100 Têtes (2:46); 2 House (3:18); 3 Drôle de Mots (5:31); 4 Cardiogram (5:46); 5 Void (3:44); 6 Fractions (3:46); 7 Entomological Souvenirs (2:53); 8 La Château de Cène (4:49); 9 Fringe (1:49); 10 Procession (4:10); 11 Beloukia (2:44); 12 Air (5:21); 13 Apartment (0:46); 14 Sans Mots (4:43); 15 Shifting Roll (4:11).
Personnel: Sylvie Courvoisier: Piano; Susie Ibarra: Drums; Ikue Mori: Electronics.


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