DownBeat: Meeting Of The Spirits

April 20, 2011

Like maverick violinist Nigel Kennedy, cello virtuoso Haimovitz is as au fait with Jimi Hendrix as J.S. Bach. This highly eclectic program features his groundbreaking cello octet with guests John McLaughlin, Matt Wilson and pianist Jan Jarczyk. Beginning bucolically with cellos slapped, bowed and plucked in counterpoint, a pause barely prepares us for the shimmering swagger of the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s “Open Country Joy” with McLaughlin echoing tight swarms of cellos with trademark triple time licks. A lovely, layered intro introduces a benign Birth Of The Cool-inspired “Half Nelson.” Sanford funnels “W.R.U” via John Zorn’s hardcore Ornette album Spy Vs. Spy, with rockchops courtesy of Wilson. Haimovitz and Dominic Painchaud tackle John Lewis’ 12-bar passacaglia “Blues in A Minor” as a duet. Painchaud faithfully exhumes Mingus’ intro to “Haitian Fight Song” by tuning the cello’s C-string to a low G, and Haimovitz attempts to mimic Booker Ervin’s tenor solo on the original. Jaki Byard’s piano solo is recast using pizzicato cellos, with dynamic subtlety. “Blood Count” reimagines Billy Strayhorn’s hopital bed composition, Haimovitz simulating the melisma of Johnny Hodges’ alto sax. The one original, “Triptych,” is a spine-tingling intense Meeting of the Spiritsperformance in which this brilliant platoon of cellists scramble at red alert.

by Michael Jackson

Download article at: DownBeat

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