IMPROVISATORY MINDS is in a ‘cut to the chase’ description on the CD’s cover, “a collective of composers… (that) present classical concert music informed by a jazz perspective.”
In nine tracks, composers Ed Neuemeister, Michel Patteson, Bevan Manson, and Dennis Dreith showcase their individual styles in a variety of idioms that straddle concert music and jazz.
Ed Neuemeister’s String Quartet No. 2 is a scherzo that juxtaposes a singing melody in the violin to pizzicato and tremolo figurations from the strings. Neuemeister’s idiom is tonal without obeisance to a fixed key, and his inspiration as wide ranging as Beethoven (of whom we hear a passing hint) and Latin American rhythms. In Olympic Quartet, Neuemeister uses ostinato but never unnecessarily repetitive ensemble figurations alternating with solos for the woodwinds.
Michael Patterson’s Andante Cantabile establishes a tranquil mood in its opening bars: an impassioned duo for piano and violin. There is a hint of underlying turmoil when the dialogue between the two is interrupted by moments of dissonance. Then a slow return to the quiet of the opening brings the hauntingly beautiful piece to its end. Unabashedly romantic at heart, Patterson’s Piano Quintet, Movement 2 is jazzily nocturnal when the piano predominates to the accompaniment of a string quartet. Well into the movement, strings and piano engage in a rhapsodic dialogue where melodic riffs alternate with each other, as if announcing the apex of an evening of love making.
Bevan Manson‘s Switchbacko assigns to five members of a wind quintet five and a half minutes of playfulness that traverse moments of undefined tonality with multi-tonal pointillism. Later, his tongue-in-cheek Turkey in the Star, Man turns the familiar folk ditty on its musical head. Later still, in Gotcha! the composer gives the solo clarinet a fun workout. Manson’s writing is brilliant, inventive, witty but never self-consciously clever.
Dennis Dreith’s Trio for Alto Flute, English Horn and Bass Clarinet and later, his Theme and Variations find many of the possible sonorities that can be gotten out of an unusual combinations of woodwinds. In what sounds at times like a conversation and at others like a polite argument, the first composition resolves in a musically amicable end, but not before a good dose of slides, beeps and mocking glissandos have passed back and forth among the prickly participants. Theme and Variations begins and ends quietly, developing its theme with inventive changes of harmony and tempo.
Improvisatory Minds is a collective of four concert composers Bevan Manson, Ed Neuemeister, Michael Patterson and Dennis Dreith, who are active jazz musicians. They present performances of original chamber concert works informed by a jazz perspective, thereby promoting a unique and often neglected facet of the contemporary concert music world. The concerts also feature prominent guest composers such as Clare Fischer, Paquito D’Rivera, and Alan Broadbent. They also promote this music through clinics, educational and community outreach. This approach makes Improvisatory Minds, indeed, “four of a kind”.
Rafael de Acha