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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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