Albany Times Union: The crossover appeal of ‘Shuffle-Play-Listen

December 02, 2011
 HAIMOVITZORILEY

More new classical crossover comes from pianist Christopher O’Riley and cellist Matt Haimovitz with the collection “Shuffle-Play-Listen.” They’re new in working together as a duo, but each artist has extensive experience borrowing from the pop realms. The release, on Haimovitz’s own label, Oxingale, is a double CD, and each disc is its own thematic experience.

The first disc uses short selections from Bernard Herrmann’s “Vertigo” soundtrack as a frame for larger pieces by Janacek, Martinu, Stravinsky and Piazzolla. It’s a clever idea, placing the folk-inspired material amidst the dreamy film music. But the concept becomes a distraction. The four main works are pretty great on their own, as is the playing.

Shuffle.Play.Listen

Far more successful is the second disc, an array of 12 pop songs in new arrangements by O’Riley. I’ve enjoyed his previous solo piano discs of this kind of stuff immensely, and this feels like the latest installment.

I have to say though, that I like what O’Riley’s done on its own terms, because much of the material he works with — Elliott Smith? Nick Drake? — is completely alien to me. I just like how he plays and the hazy, sophisticated arrangements he comes up with. This new disc also offers some names I’ve never heard of, like Arcade Fire, Blonde Redhead and Perfect Circle.

Radiohead is another matter. I listen avidly to discs by the mega-popular British rock band. And yet when I hear O’Riley’s keyboard treatments of their music, it’s also fresh experience because I can’t identify any of the songs when he plays them. That situation changes completely with the addition of Haimovitz’s cello. Now there’s a warm, dark melody line and the material blossoms in a new way. In this regard, Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song” is a particular treat. Just as successful pop bands put out a new release every year or two, here’s hoping the Hiamovitz-O’Riley duo continues.

by Joseph Dalton

View at Times Union

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