Havana Moon from Steinway & Sons, for example, mixes a couple of short, evocative, authentically Latinate piano works by Heitor Villa-Lobos (Skyline of New Yorkand Valsa da Dor) with Latin-influenced pieces by three contemporary composers. The three are Paquito D’Rivera (born 1948), who contributes The Cape Cod Files(four movements), Habanera, Contradanza and Vals Venezolano; Miguel del Águila (born 1957), whose Tango Trio, Nocturne and Silence are heard here; and bandoneón player J.P. Jofre (born 1983), whose works on this CD are Sweet Dreams and Primavera. Several of the pieces are world première recordings, and all are quite well handled by performers who are clearly comfortable playing “fusion” music …
The Havana Moon title and the presence of Cuban reedman Paquito D’Rivera at the beginning of the program might give the impression that this is a collection of Cuban crossover music; in fact, the program is pan-Latin; composer Miguel del Águila is Uruguayan, Heitor Villa-Lobos is Brazilian, and JP Jofre is an Argentinian bandoneón player and composer. The music is for a small chamber ensemble headed by German pianist Evelyn Ulex; hence the connection to the piano-oriented Steinway label (and the Transatlantic moniker, for clarinetist Mariam Adam is American)…
“Clarinettist Miriam Adam, a fonding and former member of Imani Winds, steps out with pianist Evelyn Ulex in their guise as the TransAtlantic Ensemble for a splendid voyage of discovery through the western hemisphere.”
Monterey native Mariam Adam made a welcome return to the area on Friday evening, March 7, 2014 to play at All Saints’ Church, Carmel in a fund-raiser for Youth Music Monterey, of which she is an alumna. Now based in New York, Mariam has made an international reputation with the wind quintet Imani Winds in the past 15 years, and she also has formidable ability in the clarinet and piano repertoire, as she demonstrated in this recital together with equally accomplished Berlin-born pianist, Evelyn Ulex…
By David Beech – March, 10, 2014
“It’s a great honor to be part of this unique album that features some of my favorite composers. Now’s days is very hard to find albums with diverse styles of contemporary-tonal music, but in this case, the Transatlantic Ensemble did a wonderful work in the selection of the works and the performance is excellent.“
“I just finished listening to my Silence from your new Havana Moon CD; and both my friend and I were in tears by the beginning of the coda. Your interpretation is so beautifully moving, lyrical, refined, deep and most of all the feelings and expression of the music sound so sincere. … as if you two are alone seating somewhere in the dark, improvising absentmindedly whatever comes to mind… my favorite type of performances. Bravo Evelyn Ulex and Mariam Adam, you’ve got a hit!Nocturne sounds beautiful, very lyrical and introspective. Tango Trio sounds fun and dramatic as you captured so well all the passion, melodrama and sultriness of this piece. Thank you for this amazing recording of my works and all other excellent tracks on the Havana Moon album.”
Miguel del Aguila
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.
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