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Arthur Gottschalk: Art for Two

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Arthur Gottschalk: Art for Two

Arthur Gottschalk – I: Benny, Zoot and Teddy; II: Sonata (1 – Allegro, 2: Waltz Nocturne and 3: Bravura); III: Oh, More or Less; IV: Sonata (1: Overture – Salt Peanuts Memorial Barbeque; 2: Motet – Ancient Incantations and 3: Finale – Green Dolphy Street Bridge); V: Shalom. Mario Ciaccio: (as, ts); Sauro Berti: (cl, bcl); Naomi Fujiya: (pf); Eccher School of Music Vocal Ensemble – Chiara Biondani, Elisa Deromedi, Sara Webber: (sop); Maddalena Barbi, Marcella Endrizzi, Erika Maistrelli, Veronica Maistrelli, Cristina Martini, Iris Pancheri: (alt); Giovanni Bruni, Mauro Brusaferri, Massimo Chini: (ten); Michele Aliprandi, Mario Flor, Lorenzo Muzzi, Matteo Rinaudo: (b)

Arthur Gottschalk is one of American music’s great originals, and a rare example of a contemporary composer who has succeeded in writing music that is at once thoroughly modern but also shamelessly enjoyable. Mr Gottschalk’s combination of artfulness and accessibility informs every aspect of his music. It is technically complex and fiendishly challenging for performers but also vivid and direct in its appeal. It is painstakingly crafted but in performance – as it does on this music on Art for Two – sounds captivatingly effortless and spontaneous. His pieces are typically short (only two of these exceed five minutes), and yet Mr Gottschalk packs so much musical incident into even the briefest of timespans that one can hardly call him a miniaturist. And although some of these works have a childlike quality and a certain under-sized, toy-box charm, they conceal, like many children’s stories, complex and very adult depths.

Although entirely of their time several of these works cast loving backward glances towards past masters. On “Benny Zoot and Teddy” a piece for clarinet, tenor saxophone and piano, for instance, Mr Gottschalk raises the curtain on a playful, yet discerning look at swingers Benny Goodman, Zoot Sims and Teddy Wilson. The second “Sonata” doffs the proverbial hat to both Dizzy Gillespie and Eric Dolphy. In both works Mr Gottschalk seems to suggest an active relationship with recently-past music and musicians from afar, offering a whiff of something significant and recognisable that helps aficionados and even first-time listeners find their bearings as they navigate Jazz form swing to the avant-garde with a sense of the familiar as well as by bringing both styles alive in a kind of breathtakingly neo-romantic manner.

The first “Sonata” reimagines both the formalism of the conservatoire and the whimsy of the dance hall and night club in a work that combines it all without ever suggesting anything but top-draw and elegant musicianship. The formal “Sonata” is “disrupted” by altering the movements enough to present a complete break with the past without ever suggesting that the music of the past is broken or out-of-date. At the same time there is nothing pretentious about this upheaval. Everything about each of the movements is perfectly natural and fits the newly “disrupted” form as if it was made to be there. “Shalom” is a more serious – if you will – work and essentially scored for voices overlaid with tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, or vice versa. Whichever way you choose to look at it – or, more appropriately, listen to it – this is an exquisite, solemn and impressive work, remarkable for both its audacity and conception.

The combination of Mario Ciaccio, Sauro Berti and Naomi Fujiya together with the voices of the Eccher School of Music Vocal Ensemble (in “Shalom”) perform splendidly under the direction (one suspects) of Mr Gottschalk himself. Each instrumentalist offers a vivid and assured performance and brings a sense of theatre to their performances. The Eccher School of Music Ensemble pulls off “Shalom” with wonderful vocal agility, and this is especially commendable in the case of the leaping basses. An album to die for…

Released – 2018
Label – Navona Records (NV6185)
Runtime – 51:30

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