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Album Review

Christian Tamburr: The Awakening (Sounds For Sculpture)

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Christian Tamburr: The Awakening (Sounds For Sculpture)
For vibraphonist Christian Tamburr, a walk through the Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey offered a world of sonic possibilities reflected in the bounties of natures and the wonders of Seward Johnson's craftsmanship. Creating physical splendor and a touch of the unexpected in statuary, Johnson, world-renowned for his bronze sculptures, aimed for his work to "disappear into the landscape and then take the viewer by surprise." These sculptures resonated with Tamburr, who, after receiving permission from Johnson, the grounds, and all parties involved, decided to create a soundtrack of sorts—"a new experiential dimension through music to accompany each sculpture..."—that connected directly to the physical presence of Johnson's creations while still leaving room for the viewer/listener to create their own interpretations on meaning and mass.

Composing ten works—each referencing a specific Johnson sculpture in name and tone—Tamburr cuts a broad swath with his pen. The motile machinations of the upbeat title track—one of three pieces featuring vocalist Clint Holmes—point to the upward surge of its model, which appears to emerge from the great below. "Between Appointments," pairing Tamburr's vibes with part-time presence Dominick Farinacci's muted trumpet, delivers buoyant charms in line with the image of a fountain spouting behind a man sleeping on bench. "Hiding in the Light (Stainless Girl)" deals in placid thoughts surrounding Johnson's silvery creation, with Keith Ganz's guitar beneath Holmes' warm vocals. And closer "Embracing Peace," featuring Billy Thornton's expressive bass, touches on the tenderness at play in the famous image of a sailor kissing a nurse.

Some offerings, like the chipper, waltzing "Day Dream," play as pure energy. A capering, Vince Guaraldi-esque winner that bounds along in gleeful fashion, it leaves plenty of space for soloists while projecting light. But there's also a sly and alluring streak here, as injected into the mix through the intoxicating "Exotica Tropicalls," and a reflective angle, exhibited during "A Thought to Consider." Tamburr ties it all to Johnson's work with the help of some sympathetic souls—the aforementioned players, pianist Scott Giddens, drummer John Davis, and percussionist Michael Dobson—and there's never any doubt that the music, while meant to work with the sculptures, can also stand on its own. Johnson, who passed away just shy of his 90th birthday and just prior to the album's early 2020 U.S. release, created wonders of sight and vision during his long life. Now Tamburr has created an aural complement that speaks to the strengths of his own art and its inspirations.

Track Listing

The Awakening; Between Appointments; A Thought to Consider; Crack the Whip; Exotica Tropicalls; Hiding in the Light (Stainless Girl); Double Check: 9/11 Survivor; Day Dream; Jazz Dreams; Embracing Peace.

Personnel

Christian Tamburr: vibraphone; Scott Giddens: piano; Billy Thornton: bass; John Davis: drums; Michael Dobson: percussion.

Additional Instrumentation

Dominick Farinacci: trumpet (1, 2, 4, 5, 9); Clint Holmes: vocals (1, 3, 6); Keith Ganz: guitar (5, 6).

Album information

Title: The Awakening (Sounds For Sculpture) | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Self Produced


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