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Alexis Cuadrado: Poètica

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From l-r: Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Alexis Cuadrado and Melcion Mateu
From l-r: Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Alexis Cuadrado and Melcion Mateu
While not strictly speaking a follow-up to his last album A Lorca Landscape , the lyricism of poetry is central to this album that has spun out of the poetry of two poets of differing sensibilities and soundscapes, Melcion Mateu, a Spaniard, and Rowan Ricardo Phillips, an American both of whom are drawn together by dramatic and haunting metrical form. Both settings for the purposes of this recording are by some way the most satisfying items on this disc, from the delicate piano tracery that comes from Andy Milne’s caressing of dark and light keys, to the poets recitation of their lines in an imaginative recreation of a musical soirée presided over by Alexis Cuadrado and enjoyed in a modern salon.

Alexis Cuadrado PoeticaThe music is full of colour and with a short historical distance between Spanish and English verse we can appreciate more readily now the individuality of not only Mateu and Phillips but also the genius of Alexis Cuadrado’s harmonics and rhythmic beauty with which he creates a perfect landscape for the word setting. The poets’ musings on JFK, Obama and a mythical Sweeney are attractive and even moving, though perhaps overlong in one or two places. But the balance of poetry and music is absolutely alluring throughout. Tempo is crucial in such musical conferences and here there is perfection in body and spirit, in the sinew and brooding of Cuadrado’s bass, as well as the dark and foreboding of Milne’s piano in ‘Grief and the Imaginary Grave,’ for instance.

It is also impossible not to notice the superb interplay between Miles Okazaki’s guitar and Milne’s piano in ‘Nit de Halloween’ and the manner in which Tyshawn Sorey translates poetic lyricism and recitation into a thing of absolute rhythmic beauty. As such this performance is a thing of beauty. What’s striking is how evenly matched in quality the different voice parts are when they recite poetry in tune with the more complex writing of the accompanying music – in the magnificent, soaring lines of each poem. The fresh, open textures of these poems are delightfully aerated, not the least because the poets give the rhythm of the vowel sounds full value, and place concluding consonants with unfussy accuracy. This is another triumph for Alexis Cuadrado, whose ideas and musical brilliance are endlessly dazzling.

Track List: Song of Fulton and Gold *; Terra Incognita *; Embrace the Night and Get Thee Gone *; Balada de Matt Sweeney I *; Balada de Matt Sweeney II *; Balada de Matt Sweeney III **; Grief and the Imaginary Grave *; What a Rose Is/Pamela/Cornelia St. Café; Grief and the Imaginary Grave, Vol. 2: Red Trillium *; Nit de Halloween, 2008 **; Mappa Mundi *; Long Island City/Modus vivendi *; Abingdon Square Park/Apocalypse with Sasquatch *.

Personnel: Alexis Cuadrado: double bass, vice, cajón, handclaps; Melcion Mateu **: poetry, voice; Rowan Ricardo Phillips *: poetry, voice; Miles Okazaki: guitar; Andy Milne: piano and keyboards; Tyshawn Sorey: drums.

Label: Sunnyside
Release date: June 2016
Running time: 57:59
Buy album on: amazon

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