Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Almeda Trio. Piano Trios by Ferguson, Piazzolla & Schoenfield

Almeda Trio.  Piano Trios by Ferguson, Piazzolla & Schoenfield.
Albany, 2012.   Almed Trio:  http://almedatrio.com/

This one is a little late, having gotten lost in the shuffle.  It has already gotten press from Donald Rosenberg and John Soeder, but it’s a good and fitting end to 2012, the year this blog began.  The Almeda Trio is the Ensemble-in-residence at the Music Settlement in Cleveland, a fine and historically important organization.  Founded in 2008, the group plays both standard repertoire and recently composed works, including a few commissioned pieces.  For this album, they have chosen three new works that incorporate the intertwined styles of jazz and tango in their conception.

Paul Ferguson’s Solstice Suite is the one commissioned work here, and it’s a fine one.  Ferguson is a trombonist/arranger for the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra and Director of Jazz Studies at Case Western Reserve University (and takes care of Hiram College’s music ensembles, by the way).  Here he works in a trio format, using both tango (first movement) and jazz (second and third movements) that is mindful of both Piazzolla and contemporary chamber jazz (I hear some Copland in there too).  It’s an adventurous piece, well-suited to the group, and I especially enjoyed Cassidy’s driving rhythms.

The Piazzolla piece is a gorgeous Argentinian take on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, that of course involves tango, as well as references to Vivaldi’s work.  Originally written as separate pieces, and scored for other instruments, it works very well in this arrangement for piano trio.  Tweed’s violin is highly expressive, and the group emphasizes the propulsive nature of the music and its origins in dance.

Cafe Music is by Michigander Paul Schoenfield, has a reputation for combining different styles of music, and here he bounces off of ragtime, early jazz (in a Jerome Kern sort of way), and klezmer music in this 1986 composition.  It’s intended to be a fun piece, and the group has a great time with it.  They show their virtuosity and eclecticism throughout.

This is a fine album of thematically-linked contemporary music that contains both the familiar and the new, with excellent performances from the trio.  Highly recommended.

Performers:  Robert Cassidy (piano), Cara Tweed (violin), Ida Mercer (cello).
Tracks:  Solstice Suite (Paul Ferguson), Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (Astor Piazzolla), Cafe Music (Paul Schoenfield).

Jeff Wanser

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