The New Day Bends Light, the debut recording by the twelve-year-old Erica Seguine/Shon Baker Orchestra, is interesting on a number of levels, not the least of which is emotional. The leaders and their twenty-one piece ensemble are clearly committed to the music and do their best to breathe life into each of the album's seven numbers, three of which were written by Seguine, three by Baker and the other ("Ose Shalom") by Nurit Hirsh. Aside from that, there is the unique perspective that each of the composers brings to the music, some of which was written during periods of darkness and suffering whose solemnity and torment can be felt in such shadowy themes as "Tangoing with Delusion" or "In Dreams (meetings that could never occur)."
So does "interesting" translate to "pleasing"? That is another matter entirely, one that each listener must decide for himself or herself. Clearly, this is not (with one notable exception) music for those who like to dance or even tap their feet. The anomaly is the opening number, Seguine's picturesque "Reel," a lively Irish dance that would be right at home in that most Celtic of stage productions, Riverdance. From there, the mood and tempo turn decidedly bleaker, starting with Baker's ruminative "States," written at a time when "much was happening," the author discloses, and not all of it good. It is interesting to learn from the notes that Baker "does not recall composing most of it."
Seguine's "Tangoing with Delusion," more rhythmically robust but not much lighter in tone, leads to Baker's ominous "In Dreams," which meanders slumberously onward for more than eleven minutes with no clear destination on the radar. Tenor saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff tries to add color to the proceedings but the result is more chaotic than perceptive. "Ove Shalom," introduced by bassist Evan Gregor, has a feathery vocal by Tammy Scheffer (as do "States," ... "and the Tire Swing Keeps Spinning... " and the closing title song). The aura is again solemn but not nearly so much as elsewhere.
Seguine wrote "The Tire Swing" as a metaphor for "a major depressive episode," dating back to elementary school. The ensemble is more fully involved here, lending its power to the midsection before the piece reverts to the image of a tire "gaining momentum, endlessly spinning into a journey from innocence, down an increasingly darker abyss." Heavy sentiments indeed. The ensemble returns to oversee the distressing voyage, bolstered by forceful drumming from Paolo Cantarella. Baker's "New Day" opens on a similarly somber note before gaining some momentum that one can only hope signifies brighter days ahead. Once again, however, the piece ends on a barren and nebulous note.
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