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Graffiti by Present Music

As new(er) generations of jazz performers feel free to absorb non-jazz sounds, young "classical" composers have been reaching beyond the tradition of notated music. True, for decades composers have been impacted by jazz (Copeland, Stravinsky, Milhaud, Leonard Bernstein, etc.) and by the folk music of their environs and beyond (Bartok, Lou Harrison), but now they embrace [gasp] popular music: rock, R&B, turntablism, and sampling. Three such contemporary composing hepcats are represented here, performed by the Wisconsin-based contempo-classical ensemble Present Music. And believe it or leave it, this disc will be likely of (great) interest to fans of jazz, rock, and fusions thereof!

Armando Luna’s "Graffiti" consists of 11 "movements"/vignettes named for a inspiration/role model, including Benny Goodman, Chick Corea, G. Gershwin, and Alberto Ginastera. It’s a bracing kaleidoscope of 20th century modes and styles, with the accent on bracing there’s nothing academic or didactic about this as a whole. In point of fact, it recalls the more elaborate extended instrumental works of Frank Zappa (including his wry, pointed, sometimes zany humor). Elena Kats-Chernin’s "Village Idiot" is a tour through aspects of Americana Spike Jones, Charles Ives, Phillip Glass, Grant Green (listen close to the guitar part), Brian Wilson, Bernard Herrmann, plus hints of baroque forms. This name-dropping is not meant to imply this work is derivative Kats-Chernin’s breezy, good-humored composition evokes the essences of the aforementioned. Randall Woolf’s song-like, rhythmic and nostalgic "Motor City Requiem" is a tribute to pre-riots 1960s Detroit and features samples of that decade’s soul/R&B.

Although the following is redolent of cliché, it fits: Graffiti is an ideal disc for jazz/rock/classical/etc. fans thinking 21st century notated music is inhospitable, dry, a lot of noise, and/or academic. Try it it’ll be good for you.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Present Music
  • CD Title: Graffiti
  • Genre: Other
  • Year Released: 2010
  • Record Label: Innova
  • Rating: Five Stars
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