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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby




Laurel Zucker website
Pollack plays Jazz
Laurel ZUCKER (b.1955) The Yearling for flute and guitar (1989) [6.45]
Roberto SIERRA (b.1953) Primera Cronica del Descubrimento (2000) [2:04 + 2:33]; Segunda Cronica del Descubrimento (2000) [4:43 + 5:10]; Tercera Cronica del Descubrimento (2000) [3:04 + 3:22]
Jack PERLA
(b.1960)
Pollock Plays Jazz (2006) [3:28 + 1:46 + 3:46]
Mike MOWER (b.1958) Suite for Flute and Guitar (2006) [2:08 + 2:14 + 4:18 + 6:19]
Laurel Zucker (flute); Mark Delpriora (guitar)
rec. 2007, UUCB, Kensington, California. DDD
CANTILENA 66036-2 [51:46]

 

 

 


This disc opens with The Yearling, written by flute player Laurel Zucker, who is also one of the performers on this disc. We can assume, then, that this is a ‘definitive’ recording, with the composer in complete control of the overall sound; the performers also served as producers on this CD. The piece has traditional harmony with the character of a fantasy, fitting in well with much of the flute’s repertoire. Dedicated to the guitarist Mark Delpriora, this piece takes its title from the novel by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. It features a well executed extensive guitar solo [2:46], and the flute re-entry [5:15] is sensitively played, with Zucker changing her tone to suit a more delicate melody.

Roberto Sierra’s Cronica del Descubriemento is a substantial work in three parts, telling the tales of the meeting between the native Indians of the Caribbean and the Spanish conquistadors. The haunting opening is played with a good sense of its improvisatory character. The ensemble collaborate well together, with the guitar working like clockwork under the floating flute line. The complex rhythms of the Danza were accurately handled with a good sense of lightness and flow. Zucker’s flute sound is warm and her playing transports the listener to the atmosphere of a Caribbean Island. The second chronicle is the longest of the three. Noche has a beautifully played opening, which conjures up images of insects and of invisible things making sounds in the night. The music-making is full of character, and the beginning is particularly effective in contrast to the previous movement. Later, melodic fragments from earlier in the work become increasingly apparent. The ethereal sounds towards the end of the movement, including breeze sounds, pitch bends and whistle tones in the flute are convincingly played. En busca del oro (in search of gold) has an almost oriental character, due to the repeated use of particular pitches, which build up tension and drama. Zucker has beautiful evenness of tone and a singing high register, here supported by expressive and sensitive guitar playing. The final part of the Chronicles begins with an improvisatory flute line over a guitar melody. The piece ends with the Batalla (battle). The composer’s metronome indications seem quite slow, and this performance was perhaps a little too sedate for a fiery battle. The guitar solo had a sense of energy and drive which was lacking when the ensemble was together. The pizzicato effects work well in both parts, with Zucker executing a difficult technique with flair. The flow was sometimes disrupted by over long tenutos in the flute. The rhythmic writing is complex, with both parts contradicting each other and conflicting against the underlying pulse. I felt in general that this was a little too ‘nice’ – I wanted the sparks to fly with more violence and aggression! On the whole, though, this was a fine performance, with plenty of character and good technical control.

Jack Perla’s Pollack Plays Jazz is a newly composed work which was written specially for this duo. This CD contains three of the eight movements; the complete work is set for release next year. Towner Country is gently undulating, with an American feel. The music is wide and expansive, and the momentum carries the work along. There is excellent control from both players. Zucker handles the high quiet melody in Spaghetti Western with apparent ease. Fuzz Box captures the spirit of 1970s Rock and Roll, and provides wonderful variety, with some fantastic guitar effects. This is refreshingly different in comparison to the traditional flute and guitar sound.

This CD was the first I’d heard of a Mike Mower piece for this combination of instruments and I was excited by the idea. Mower’s music is well known by flute players for its sense of fun, fusing jazz style with contemporary classical. The Suite for Flute and Guitar was no disappointment. This delivers a virtuosic display for both performers, and was admirably handled by these two players. The first movement is short and explosive, followed by a dreamy second movement, which is full of atmosphere. This includes some playful percussive and flutter-tongued effects which interrupt the melodic line [0:52] and inject further energy. The third movement was my favourite, with its funky guitar riff. This is typical of Mike Mower’s writing: enjoyable to listen to and, from the sounds of it, enjoyable to play. The players captured the style well – these are performers who can handle anything. Here, they transport us from the concert hall to a smoky jazz club. The final movement is fast and typically playful. There is a great sense of ensemble and a strong, well-constructed melodic line. The composer demonstrates an excellent understanding of the instruments and how they work together. He once again uses percussion, and the melody breaks down completely into tapping and clapping from both players [4:56].

This is overall an enormously enjoyable recording evincing high standards, both in performance and in production values. The players should be congratulated for their adventurous programming and for bringing these new works to the attention of the public. These are polished performances, well balanced and technically accurate.

Carla Rees



 



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