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The Breathing of Statues by Gordon Grdina's East Van Strings

Gordon Grdina is a Vancouver based Oud/Guitarist whose sound is a combination of his interests in mainstream jazz, free-form improvisation and Arabic classical music. East Van Strings is a guitar/oud, violin, viola and cello quartet that is inspired by Bartok, Berg, avant garde jazz and Arabic Taqasim. The other members of the ensemble are Jesse Zubot, Peggy Lee, and Eyvind Kang. The Breathing Of Statues was recorded in 2006 and 2007 in Vancouver and was released in 2009 by the Songlines record label. The nine compositions included in the recording are all written by Gordon Grdina. The recording begins peacefully, a beautiful melody of strings in harmony with soothing tones. The guitar of Grdina rides on top of the string section and plays in a mid-eastern sounding groove. Many of the songs feature a middle eastern sound, the songs become ever more involved as the record advances.

From the second track, "Holy Departure" forward the quartet opens up with a departure from the soothing sounds of the opening track to a more intense sound. The improvisation of the musicians takes on a colourful range of expression. The tune "Origin" opens with strings scraping, instruments being pried apart or so it sounds, the guitar and or oud prying harmonics of the fret board and generally letting the tones free flow.

On "Nayeli Joon" a return to the soothing sounds of a string quartet. A soothing lullaby, with Grdina picking single note rhythms and the bowed instruments creating all manner of sounds from wood winds to water falls.

The title track "The Breathing of Statues" is a lengthy piece at just over fourteen minutes. It begins with solo guitar in an Arabic fashion, a Masmoudi rhythm that flows with vivid imagery. The strings enter with a sad refrain - a call and response takes place with guitar leading, cello on the bottom end and violin and viola in response. The song builds in intensity with all members of the quartet letting loose with passionate playing.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Gordon Grdina's East Van Strings
  • CD Title: The Breathing of Statues
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2009
  • Record Label: Songlines Recordings
  • Tracks: Selma, Holy Departure, Silence of Paintings, Origin, Santiago, Webern, Nayeli Joon, The Breathing of Statues, Wide Open
  • Musicians: Gordon Grdina (oud, guitar), Jesse Zubot (violin), Peggy Lee (cello), Eyvind Kang (viola)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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