Tangent Shores- Amethyst

Under Moonlight [8:28]
Richard CIONCO
Four Postcards [8:07]
Garrett Ian SHATZER
Three Preludes [9:26]
Coming in Thirds [4:27]
Talia AMAR
Phantasmagoria [5:29]
The Road Less Traveled [5:14]
Sara Carina GRAEF
Nottanosti [5:18]
Seasons of New York [16:51]
Ballade [12:56]
Jai Jeffryes (piano)
rec. L. Brown Recording, Inc, New York, dates not given

Jai Jeffryes is a new name to this site, though I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from him in the years to come. His experiences as a keyboardist in theatre from Europe to Broadway lead one to suspect he would have a bomb-proof technique, but the sensitivity of the playing on this album of premieres delivers something far beyond the respectable but hard-boiled.

Amethyst is Jeffryes project to gather new music for piano following a call for scores. I’ve followed this to a certain extent myself, having been one of the hundreds of composers to send in some work. I didn’t make the final cut, but am delighted to see the project brought to life in such a vivid way and with a selection of highly attractive pieces by American composers.

Jeffryes’ programme on this CD has a ‘family’ feel to it, the line throughout being of music with plenty of narrative or descriptive texture couched more often than not in a tonal language. We’re not so much challenged as royally entertained with touches of impressionism, inflections of jazz, or moments of atmospheric reflection. Garrett Ian Shatzer’s Prelude No. 1 “Presbite makes us sit up and take note through its sparsity of notes and deep atmosphere, the other preludes including touches that remind us perhaps of late Liszt. This is a fascinating contrast with Ryan Suleiman’s French-tinted descriptions of nature in Under Moonlight, and the light touch and richness of allusion in Richard Cionco’s Four Postcards.

A more abstract and contrapuntal approach gives Mark Zuckerman’s Coming in Thirds a distinctive and more European tang, while Talia Amar’s Phantasmagoria is most theatrical both in its title and content. This piece retains a Romantic backbone but goes further than most in its use of effects such as damped strings, third-pedal sustain and chilling Crumb-like clusters and echo-chamber resonance noises from the strings. Devin Farney’s The Road Less Traveled brings us back to earth, and perhaps a smoky late-night bar with its delightful jazz character.
Sara Carina Graef’s Nottanosti is a flighty exploration of concentrated musical material that develops into a micro-sonata complete with atmospheric slow middle movement and a scherzo finale that recalls the opening, placing it into exciting car-chase territory. Waddy Thompson’s Seasons of New York is a ‘Four Seasons’ for piano, taking us from summer to spring and the Hudson River to Riverside Park via two locations in the huge green space of Central Park. These are each substantial pieces in their own right, taxing the imagination at times and by no means always offering an easy pictorial ride.

At nearly 13 minutes Joseph Prestamo’s Ballade is the longest single movement in this collection by quite a long way. This is one of those works in which structure plays a vital role from the outset, and you can feel cells and arches constantly forming and developing in front of your aural frontal-lobes.

If I have criticisms of this album then they are of more or less minor detail. One might consider including dates of composers and works important or not, but – like adding a scale to a scientific photograph – printing the timings of pieces and/or movements would seem to be a basic requirement. The single folded insert has room only for a brief outline on each composer but this background provides useful context, and the pieces are quite capable of speaking for themselves. The recording quality is very good. I would guess there has been some slight studio tweaking of the sound but the colour and balance suits the music and Jeffryes’ playing perfectly.

Dominy Clements