Recording of new Album for Steinway Label at Traumton Studios, Berlin
Release Summer 2016
great music by Paquito D’Rivera,
Miguel del Aguila, JP Jofre with fantastic guest artists JP Jofre and Liana Gourdjia
Recordings for New York Steinway Spirio, the world’s finest player piano system
Clarinettist Mariam Adam and pianist Evelyn Ulex are concert soloists and also director-performers of their own chamber group, TransAtlantic Ensemble, championing contemporary composers and so called ‘crossover’ works. They have just released Havana Moon exploring Latin chamber music from three living composers, Paquito D’Rivera, Miguel del Águila, Juan Pablo Jofre and compositions by the late, great Heitor Villa-Lobos, who died in 1959. Joining them on Havana Moon is Juan Pablo Jofre on bandoneón and violinist Liana Gourdija on selected tracks.
The Havana theme is the prism of musical range, but the selections have shared musical threads in compelling, sometimes near stealth fusions of jazz and classical rhythms. Adam is also a founding member of the dynamic woodwind chamber orchestra Imani Winds which also performs both classical and jazz music.
The jaunty “Chiquita Blues” and salon mystique of “Bandoneón” are the vibrant opening tracks by Paquito D’Rivera, two of four selections from The Cape Cod Filesthat bookend this recording. Next, Heitor Villa-Lobos’ New York Skyline Melody proves a haunting and agitated piano solo, painting a nourishing vista of ascending melodies that never looses sight of the ground. Later, Villa-Lobos’ lengthier piece Valsa da dor has quiet cinematic drama (and Satie-esque musings) that is masterfully essayed by Ulex.
Within Miguel del Águila’s’ Tango Trio violinist Liana Gourdjia drives the action with long string lines or those with sharp high note tango arrests. The precision of the trio features Gourdjia’s rich tones and Ulex’s cross-streams, and you can almost see the dancers burning the floor with those saber leg moves and arresting abrazo. Del Águila’s Nocturne for solo piano is an exemplar of the composer’s compositional fluency in both jazz and classical forms. On del Águila’s more abstract Silencethere is an arty instrumental piano and clarinet that is so stylistically different, but it’s just as entrancing.
D’Rivera’s Habanera contains a “Tango adagio” with exquisite Ravelean flavors that is performed with gorgeous clarity by Adam and Ulex. His Contradanza begins in a baroque classical piano motif and careens into jazz, then the dialogue expands to Cuban classicism. It’s a shame that this piece is just an interlude, especially with these players, because there is so much going on. Also, all too brief is the folkloric Vals Venezolano with Adam’s breathless clarinet lines sparring intricately with the piano.
Juan Pablo Jofre weighs in as a performer on his own compositions by playing the bandoneón. Sweet Dreams is a lullaby for clarinet where Jofre’s bandoneón makes the quietest soulful presence while the Primavera is a blooming musicale of Spring with Ulex, Adam and Jofre painting the musically vivid scene.
Two more selections from D’Rivera’s The Cape Cod Filesround out the recording. First, Adam on an abstract clarinet solo piece “Lecuonerias” features diving trills and woodwind arabesques that gives it a wonderful improvisational feel. Second, the “Finale” is the bluesy Benny @ 100 with Adam paying homage to Benny Goodman’s indelible tone and Ulex swinging into boogie-woogie stride piano time.
Here, and throughout this recording, Evelyn Ulex’s and Mariam Adam’s chemistry is ever present in this beautifully engineered recording by Markus Mittermeyer.
Lewis J. Whittington
STEINWAY & SONS
TRANSATLANTIC ENSEMBLE / Havana Moon
If you can’t put your finger on what’s going on here the reason is because this sounds like some of your grandpa’s old Masterworks records that trended toward the exotic side. Fusing classical and Latin jazz in a most classical way, this piano/clarinet duo with some of their pals added for color find that sweet spot where jazz and classical collide in a most sprightly fashion without losing any seriousness along the way. Tackling contemporary as well as older stuff, this sounds like a recital with none of the high minded pretense. A lovely session that needed to be made, you have to be wrongheaded not to enjoy the fruits of these labors. Well done throughout.
Transatlantic Ensemble’s Friday night performance at (le) Poisson Rouge might have created a new dictionary entry for “classical music.” It doesn’t need to be played for white-haired men dragged to the theater by their wives; it can be captivating, artistic, and if done right, reflect the inner emotions of our life.
By David Artavia – April 14, 2013
Thrills and Dynamism from the Transatlantic Ensemble at Steinway Hall
From this perspective, crowds at concerts have been even more sparse than usual since the election. Monday night at the new Steinway Hall just around the corner from the Town Hall, a surprisingly robust turnout for an early weeknight got to witness a thrilling, dynamic performance by the Transatlantic Ensemble: clarinetist Mariam Adam and pianist Evelyn Ulex, joined by a couple of similarly electrifying special guests, Lara St. John on violin and JP Jofre on bandoneon.
The group’s raison d’etre is to expand the range of serious concert music beyond the usual parade of dead white guys. Lots of ensembles are doing this, but few more excitingly than this semi-rotating cast. Adam got to treat the crowd with her joyous, technically challenging leaps and bounds as the group bookended the program with a couple of Paquito D’Rivera pieces, Benny@100 – a tribute to famed jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman – and a pulsing Venezuelan-flavored waltz.
In between, Ulex explored a similar dynamism and nuance. She’s one of the pianists Steinway selected to record for their digital player piano, the Spirio, which not only plays the notes but with a very close approximation of an individual player’s touch and phrasing. With the Spirio, you have your choice of your favorite music along with a variety of interpretations. If there’s no room in your apartment or your budget for such a big piece of equipment, the Steinway label has just put out the Transatlantic Ensemble’s new album Havana Moon – streaming at Spotify – whose release the group was celebrating.
The premise of the album, Adam revealed, was to celebrate the work of some of the group’s favorite composers from their global circle. The night’s biggest thrill ride was a tango by Miguel del Aguila, whom Adam described as “impetuous,” and she wasn’t kidding. Ulex attacked the tune with both graceful precision and unleashed passion as Adam provided cleverly dancing counterpoint, and St. John added her own high-voltage flurries and spirals. The group hit a similar peak later on when joined by Jofre for a rousing performance of his composition Primavera, which came across as more of a wild midsummer festival on the Argentinian pampa.
Del Aguila’s Silence, as Adam averred, was hardly silent: a requiem, it gave her the evening’s lone opportunity to cut loose in an anguished torrent of notes, and she made the most of it. The duo also elegantly parsed the subtleties of D’Rivera’s neoromantically-tinged Habanera, a wistful Roaring 20s Parisian waltz by Villa-Lobos and a surprisingly astringent, modernist lullaby by Jofre.
PUBLISHED: November 19,2016