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B. R. Pearson: Polydia Musica

B.r Pearson, Piano
Release Date: 10/11/2011 
Label:  Concinnity Records   Catalog #: 1010  
Composer:  B. R. Pearson
Performer:  B. R. Pearson
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

B. R. Pearson is a typically eclectic American in that he’s willing and able to draw on a diversity of influences to forge his personal style and sound. Although he doesn’t differentiate between musical genres and considers himself a classical composer, he’s been successful as a jazz and blues musician, has penned film scores, and has been in constant demand as an orchestrator, arranger, and vocal coach. Polydia Musica and Paintings in the Hall present different facets of his creativity, the first concentrating on chamber music and the second solo piano works.

Polydia’s 11 tracks are split between jazz-oriented compositions for multiple instruments and three for cello and piano that formally and melodically are more
Read more “classical.” Loops play an important part in the first group, but Pearson gives them flexibility by having them played “live” in contrast to the pre-recorded approach taken by many rap and popular musicians. The instrumental timbres are thereby given more presence—I think the ear is capable of detecting the difference between a live and a “canned” rendition, even in a recording—and the spontaneity and flow of a live performance bring a welcome respite from more mechanical repetition. All these factors can be felt in Lover’s Loop’s immediate impact. Hypnotic in its slowly evolving journey and notable for the creative use of a cello body as one of several percussion instruments, it’s all the more effective for Pearson’s understated piano, which, even in its improvisations, keeps close to his thematic base. A percolating harp passage—I didn’t immediately spot it as being for harp but at first thought it might be a synthesizer or processed piano; creative manipulation of timbre is part of Pearson’s production arsenal—links Lover’s Loop to Blue Loop, which begins with a slightly abrasive bowed bass. Aggressive jazz-flavored piano throughout, with here and there a hint of the blues of the title, and a sinuous trumpet (muted?) offer a strong contrast to Lover’s Loop’s atmospheric ambiance.

Bop Loop is the disc’s tour-de-force, with bass and piano keeping up a blistering pace that never flags for a moment. Loop Jamboree has a Middle Eastern feel: plenty of momentum, interesting percussion, some startling timbres—a brief sound that reminded me of shattering glass—and fat brass (tuba?) near the end alternating between two pitches that gradually expand their intervallic range before the abrupt close. Angelic Loop receives a more ethereal treatment but still dances. The piano timbre and patterns sometimes recall a gamelan, and there’s a bit of a harmonic surprise when the piece veers into a minor mode. Summer Jazz Loop strikes me as Latin, with its groove reinforced by bass and percussion. Hybrids No. 1 and 2, named for their refusal to be typecast as loop, jazz, or classical, close out the series, with No. 1 a bit like impressionistic water music and No. 2 gentle and innocent, the impression reinforced by the pauses between phrases. The three cello and piano works that fill out the CD were conceived as a sonata but for reasons he doesn’t explain, Pearson prefers to list them separately here. In keeping with its title, Con Solennita is solemn and sorrowful, with the cello fully exploiting its capacity for sonorous melancholy. The music is expressive and long-lined, with the discreet piano part allowing the cello maximum exposure. Later, positions are reversed, with the piano coming to the fore. Con Sdengno (which my online dictionary defines as “indignation, resentment”) is more “modern,” faster, rougher in outline. At times there’s more jazz in its themes and a fragment that, if my ears don’t deceive, turns up in Lover’s Loop. After a dramatic descending piano passage the texture turns to pizzicato cello flurries that introduce Posato. Translated as “steady, level-headed, sober, or balanced,” to me Posato’s scurrying lines incline more toward flight. I hear references to earlier material from Con Solennita and Con Sdengno, which would be consistent with Posato’s origin as the last movement of a cello sonata.

-- Robert Schulslaper, FANFARE [5/2010]
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Works on This Recording

1. Lovers Loop by B. R. Pearson
Performer:  B. R. Pearson (Piano)
2. Blue Loop by B. R. Pearson
Performer:  B. R. Pearson (Piano)
3. Bop Loop by B. R. Pearson
Performer:  B. R. Pearson (Piano)
4. Loop Jamboree by B. R. Pearson
Performer:  B. R. Pearson (Piano)
5. Angelic Loop by B. R. Pearson
Performer:  B. R. Pearson (Piano)
6. Summer Jazz by B. R. Pearson
Performer:  B. R. Pearson (Piano)
7. Hybrid no 1 by B. R. Pearson
Performer:  B. R. Pearson (Piano)
8. Hybrid no 2 by B. R. Pearson
Performer:  B. R. Pearson (Piano)
9. Con solennita by B. R. Pearson
Performer:  B. R. Pearson (Piano)
10. Con sdegno by B. R. Pearson
Performer:  B. R. Pearson (Piano)
11. Posato by B. R. Pearson
Performer:  B. R. Pearson (Piano)

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