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Night Strings / Taylor, Goluses

Dobbins / De Falla / Adler / Taylor / Goluses
Release Date: 04/12/2011 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1257  
Composer:  Wayne ShorterThelonious MonkDizzy GillespieManuel de Falla,   ... 
Performer:  George TaylorNicholas Goluses
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

NIGHT STRINGS George Taylor (va); Nicholas Goluses (gtr) ALBANY TROY 1257 (58:56)

DOBBINS (arr.) Night Suite. FALLA Suite Populaire Espagnole. ADLER Into the Radiant Boundaries of Light. GNATTALI Sonata. KIMBER Read more class="ARIAL12bi">Hispanic Fantasy

This is a nicely varied program of music for viola and guitar, not a combination often encountered, but a felicitous one. All of the music displays distinct national characteristics. Manuel de Falla’s suite and Michael Kimber’s Hispanic Fantasy are traditionally Spanish, while Samuel Adler’s Into the Radiant Boundaries of Light has a pronounced Jewish flavor. Radamés Gnattalli’s Brazilian heritage permeates his sonata but as with the Adler, the manipulation of the material is largely classical. American jazz inspired Dobbins’s Night Suite , three arrangements of famous tunes by Wayne Shorter ( Night Dreamer ), Thelonious Monk (’Round Midnight ), and Dizzy Gillespie ( Night in Tunisia ). Both musicians play with fluid phrasing and idiomatic swing. However, using precisely scored arrangements such as these—I’m guessing they don’t leave much room for improvisation, but I may be wrong—can yield performances that are too “square” or slightly stilted and that sacrifice some of that inspired spontaneity that’s the hallmark of the best jazz. In the main, Nicholas Goluses and George Taylor avoid these pitfalls. And pure improvisation is no guarantee of an engrossing experience; there’s a lot of jazz that relies on formula, pattern, and aimless noodling. A well-worked-out score does have the advantage of potentially incorporating more complex ideas, but the players have to “go beyond” to bring the notes to life. (Actually, isn’t that the challenge with any music?) Think of the Menuhin/Grappelli jazz sessions: Grappelli is everywhere the smooth, polished improviser, brimming over with wit and imagination, while Menuhin, restrained by his classical upbringing and playing from a strictly notated score, is stiff by comparison. Still, I enjoy their collaborations and can only applaud Menuhin’s curiosity and willingness to explore new genres.

Falla’s lyrical gift, combined with the nobility, passion, and deep feeling of his folk sources, graces the six vignettes of the Suite Populaire Espagnole with evocative beauty. Paul Kochanski transcribed the original songs for violin and piano, but this arrangement for viola and guitar has its charms; like the violin, the viola can be an expressive substitute for the voice, and I particularly enjoy the way the guitar mimics a delicate string section. The dark-hued, minor melody of “El Paño Moruno” alternates with joyous major outbursts; in “Asturiana,” pensive, pizzicato-laced timelessness and mournful melody closely resemble the music for one of the many memorable scenes from the 1940 The Thief of Baghdad , scored by Miklós Rózsa, in which Prince Ahmed, blind and betrayed, is surrounded by “sirens of silkiness,” who tell him of the Princess’s fate. The lively dance rhythm and sweet-toned song of “Jota” exemplifies Spanish music’s appealing mixture of depth and vivacity. In short, the suite is irresistible.

The three movements of Adler’s Into the Radiant Boundaries of Light seem to share thematic material, although not through exact quotation. In other words, I hear a family resemblance that ties everything together. The music reminds me of Bartók, not in its sound but in its approach, updating a folk-like theme by placing it in a markedly 20th-century context. The music is not overly dissonant, but sometimes astringent or aggressive. Together the trilogy gives the impression of being a short sonata, even if the formal process is different. “Slowly and Freely Moving” (second of the three parts) is an affecting lament, while the third movement is a lively, if somewhat hectic, dance.

The first movement of Gnattali’s sonata is not Brazilian in an obvious way, although I am occasionally reminded of compositions by the Assad brothers that tap a similar melodic and harmonic vein; this “other” Brazilian style is presumably no less authentic. By contrast, the B section is much more the Brazil we think we know, with bossa rhythms and jazzy chords. Gnattali has a sensitive ear for texture, revealed, for example, in the way both the guitar and viola sometimes simultaneously arpeggiate chords, creating a novel sound. Other details that catch my ear are those passages where the guitar is played in such a way as to resemble a mandolin. In general, the movement revolves around a lovely viola melody supported by flowing guitar patterns. The third movement might be thought of as a Brazilian hoedown; it’s a lively, infectious dance that could easily be imagined as a vivacious song with saucy lyrics. The texture is predominantly light and airy and only toward the end does the guitar increase the volume with some aggressive strumming. (Gnattali wrote a sonata for guitar and cello, also dated 1969; I’m wondering if this is the same piece transcribed for viola.)

Kimber’s Hispanic Fantasy is an essay in Spanish style that makes no concessions to modernity. The declamatory viola, here a substitute for a flamenco singer, sets the mood, followed by a series of authentic-sounding tunes. The strumming, the harmonic progressions, the rhythms, the improvisatory fills: it’s all spot-on. Overall impression? This is an enjoyable recital of diverse, not often-encountered repertoire, performed by accomplished musicians whose intuitive gifts enable them to reveal the essential qualities of each selection. If the combination appeals, give it a try.

FANFARE: Robert Schulslaper
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Works on This Recording

Night Dreamer by Wayne Shorter
Performer:  George Taylor (Viola), Nicholas Goluses (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Round Midnight by Thelonious Monk
Performer:  George Taylor (Viola), Nicholas Goluses (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
A Night in Tunisia by Dizzy Gillespie
Performer:  George Taylor (Viola), Nicholas Goluses (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946; USA 
Canciones populares españolas (7) by Manuel de Falla
Performer:  George Taylor (Viola), Nicholas Goluses (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914-1915; Spain 
Into the Radiant Boundaries of Light by Samuel Adler
Performer:  George Taylor (Viola), Nicholas Goluses (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: United States 
Sonata for Guitar and Viola by Radamés Gnattali
Performer:  George Taylor (Viola), Nicholas Goluses (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Brazil 
Hispanic Fantasie by Michael Kimber
Performer:  George Taylor (Viola), Nicholas Goluses (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 

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