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Ron WASSERMAN (b.1961)
Tango Sonata for violin and piano (2004-05) [15:38]
Ghaleb and the Donkey (2004) [4:41]
Trilaterus for violin, piano and double bass (2006) [19:09]
Sonata for double bass and piano (2003) [28:13]
Kurt Nikkanen (violin)
Maria Asteriadou (piano)
Ron Wasserman (double bass)
rec. Westchester County, New York, April and June 2006

Ron Wasserman is the bass principal of the New York City Ballet Orchestra, a position he’s held now for getting on for two decades. He’s been active as a soloist as well, performing the music of Edgar Meyer and has arranged Piazzolla tangos for performance in the ballet Todo Buenos Aires. Going back he’s been involved with a wide range of musics – pop, jazz, session, theatre – so he’s well versed in lighter music as well as dance.
His album is called Trilaterus, which sounds rather like an herbivorous dinosaur, but is actually named after Wasserman’s Trio for violin, double bass and piano. And fortunately Wasserman’s instincts are anything but Triassic or Jurassic. His Tango Sonata bears witness to his canny absorption of Piazzollan models. Especially useful, dramatically, is his more intense and agitated writing and the goading piano of the finale; they bring a theatrical dynamism to the work, one that sets the violin and piano as partners or at odds with each other.  Ghaleb and the Donkey is a “very short ballet for two boys, for piano solo” and lasts less than five minutes. Its story is charmingly simple and Wasserman pours in some of his obvious affiliations here – Francophile, in the main, but with some brief tango measures and a distinct frisson of Ragtime.
The work that gives us the disc’s ostensible title is cast in three movements. Lyrical and dancing, with his own instrument propelling the action with pizzicati, this is a likeable and engaging trio. When Wasserman switches to arco the music becomes even warmer and denser. Wasserman conjures up some Jerome Kern-like melody in the central movement – shades of his theatre pit work - and there are some blues hues in the finale. He’s clearly au fait with baroque trios as there are some echoes in the outer sections of the finale – daringly contrasted with rather more abrasive material in the central section.
The double bass and piano sonata is a broadly avuncular piece that exploits some lower register work for the string player, Wasserman himself. The slow movement grabbed me most – its drifting harmonies are touched by melancholia and by songful and pop tinged tristesse. Whereas some impressionistic harmonies haunt the finale before the proper rhythm is established. Here Wasserman goes to town fusing rocky riffs, mini-minimalism, jazz-based piano and a sense of “all goes” to end the sonata in an eclectic brew.
The recording ambience is rather close – just a touch airless – but it doesn’t afflict the performances which are uniformly engaging, as one would expect when the composer-performer is on hand with some trusted lieutenants. Wasserman’s music spells dance, eclecticism and enjoyment.
Jonathan Woolf 


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