Friday, January 14, 2011

Aiding and Abetting New Music

All hail Chamber Music America and its various granting programs. Over the past decade, CMA, through its "New Works" program, has commissioned full-length projects by jazz composers such as John Hollenbeck, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Joel Harrison, Jane Ira Bloom, Don Byron as well as Connecticut-based composers Mario Pavone, David Chevan and Noah Baerman (which resulted in his "Know Thyself" - reviewed here.) 

Another recipient is bassist/composer Alexis Cuadrado (pictured above) whose bold new work "Noneto Ibérico" will be released on February 15 on BJU Records.  The Barcelona native, a Brooklyn NY resident for over a decade, began researching Flamenco music, transcribing pieces for a small group but the CMA grant allowed him to expand the scope of his work to include 9 musicians.  And, the results are exhilarating.  The ensemble includes saxophonists Perico Sambeat and Loren Stillman, trumpeter Avishai Cohen, trombonist Alan Ferber, guitarist Brad Shepik, pianist Dan Tepfer, percussionist Marc Miralta and drummer Mark Ferber and several guests. It's wonderful how balanced and delicate this music sounds - not that it's without moments of intensity.  "Tocar y Parar" (translated as "Play and Stop" - you'll understand when you hear the piece) features a joyous melody phrased by Cohen's triumphant trumpet over a martial beat and sweet counterpoint from the reeds.   "Te Sigo" rolls gently atop electric piano and guitar lines with the percussion percolating below, the horns sighing then carefully exposing the melody line.  There is a sense of nervous energy on "Draconium" in the continually rising melody line, the circular piano figures, and the forceful percussion.  The solo section opens with Cohen's rippling phrases that are pushed and jostled by the active rhythm section (percussion, piano, bass and guitar.)

The rich melody lines, the handsome harmonies, the subtle rhythmic changes, the excellent solo work and ensemble parts and the joyous attitude of the music all make "Noneto Ibérico" worth your investigation.  To find out more about Cuadrado, his project and the possibility of hearing this vibrant music "live", go to - there, you can stream the CD in its entirety.

As for Chamber Music America, you'll be amazed by (and thankful for) all that the organization, now in its 33rd year. does to advance the cause of music in the United States.  Go to to learn more. 

Here's a video of the Cuadrado Nonet in the recording studio:

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