It is pleasantly surprising when Joseph Daley ascends from the brassy bass realm of the tuba, putting down his massive instrument, to conduct a chamber orchestra. What should not come as a surprise, however, is that Mr. Daley, a musical intellect of the highest order, should put his mind to another complex project—a follow-up to his 2010 Jaro release The Seven Deadly Sins. This time Mr. Daley delves deep into his soul, coming up to relocate the abstract spirituality of The Seven Heavenly Virtues to his new and wonderful landscape of music. Again, Mr. Daley draws upon his vast and varied knowledge of musical colours—experiences he gained from playing with Gil Evans and Carla Bley, among others—but has decided to rely mainly on a part of the palette (strings accented at times by the melodic orchestral percussion of Warren Smith together with Satoshi Takeishi and Jerry Gonzalez, who also doubles on trumpet, as well as Lafayette Harris and Onaje Allan Gumbs on keyboards. The effects are stupendous, to say the least.
The depth of thought of each virtue is matched by the density of tone and texture, and the richness of colour and shade created by sets of harmonising strings from soaring violins and fibrillating violas to gasping cellos and rumbling basses. Percussion and keyboards, when introduced into each part of the suite add accents and angular timbre to the music, often joined in by basses playing pizzicato in counterpoint with each other. And then there is the character that is given to each virtue; echoed in the richness of timbre and colour by the confluence of instrumentation. “Diligence” is a sublime example. Introduced by the melodically tuned timpani drums played by the inimitable Warren Smith, the percussionist then draws in the strings and keyboards, flushed with the magnificent sound of violins and violas; cellos askance, lean into the melody. Double stops and rhythmic rumbling of the basses—con arco and pizzicato respectively—create a sort of gravitas that sings duty and exactitude, while violins ascending in wailing mode, dappled by interesting accents on the keyboards create a brilliant three—and sometimes four—dimensional piece, superbly paced as if interminably by Mr. Daley. Each virtue is treated with thoughtfulness and an equal measure of ingenuity as on Mr. Daley can. For instance, “Patience” features a lilting melody heralded by strings, “Humility” sways with the exquisite pianism of Lafayette Harris, soon descending into a passage filled with dissonance as if, it seems, to contrast what must be avoided at all costs, i.e., pride, but the pianist restores himself to a poised state and is joined by the basses in a restful sequence that while bringing the sequence to a conclusion draws in the percussionists first and then the whole orchestra in a beautiful conclusion.
However Mr. Daley’s enormous input in composition and musical direction is not the only reason for this marvelous opus. The strings are brilliantly prepared to execute this complex suite. For the various members, no praise is high enough and although no members of the orchestra are credited with soli specifically, the inspiration of the orchestra’s stellar members is probably sufficient to propel the rest of the cast to greater heights. For it is sure that the presence of musicians such as cellist Akua Dixon, who leads the ensemble on “Charity,” as well as pianist Lafayette Harris, the great Warren Smith on percussion and Jerry Gonzalez, the lone brass player on the album (but not on the venturesome suite) who also explodes on percussion; all of whom must fire up the rest of the ensemble. That and Mr. Daley’s wonderful work on the ideas that impel the composition—this is true equally of The Seven Heavenly Virtues as well as the three short sketches: “Wispercussion (Portraits of Warren Smith) Movement 4”, the bluesy “Billy Bang Sketch” and the rollicking “Bill Dixon Sketch”—his arrangements and conducting make for a work that holds its own with the most outstanding music—in a jazz or classical idiom—this year and for many more to come. Mr. Daley should be proud of his and his musicians’ performance here. If stars must be awarded, then here are five stars for composition and performance.
Track List: Patience; Diligence; Chastity; Humility; Charity; Kindness; Temperance; Wispercussion (Portraits Of Warren Smith) Movement 4; Billy Bang Sketch; Bill Dixon Sketch.
Personnel: Joseph Daley: composer, music director; Curtis Stewart: violin, concert-master; Mazz Swift: violin; Jason Hwang: violin; Skye Steele: violin; Charles Burnham: violin; Elektra Kurtis: violin; Jesse Montgomery: violin; Sarah Bernstein: violin; Nick Revel: viola; Janina Norpoth: viola; Trevor New: viola; Nora Krohn: viola; Akua Dixon: cello; Marika Hughes: cello; Amanda Gookin: cello; Rubin Kodheli: cello; Ken Filiano: bass; Ben Brown: bass; Lafayette Harris: keyboard, piano; Warren Smith: percussion; Jerry Gonzalez: trumpet, percussion; Onaje Allan Gumbs: keyboards; Satoshi Takeishi: percussion; Richard Huntley: percussion.
Label: JoDa Music | Release date: October 2013 | Joseph Daley on the web: jodamusic.com