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JH

Classically Composed Improv

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Indeed, one is struck by the wide variation of musical solos here. De Castro-Robinson has gone through her back catalogue of compositions and sought out talented individuals to re-present them in a new setting. Often these individuals have had no practical connection with experimental classical music at all, so the composer is very trusting that profound empathy will be the result. Her instincts have been remarkably good. The range of participants (their backgrounds) is breathtaking.

Rattle Records

Auckland

 

Eve de Castro-Robinson, with Ashley Brown, Mere Boyton, Delaney Davidson, Kevin Field, Steve Garden, Nathan Haines, Don McGlashan, Kingsley Melhuish, Callum Passells, and Ron Samsom

 

The Gristle of Knuckles 2018

Composer Eve de Castro-Robinson’s new The Gristle of Knuckles CD is very different from her previous 2015 I Stayed a Minute album in that it is less piano oriented, with several singers (instead of one) that include catchy ‘pop’ (Don McGlashan) and ‘country-blues’ (Delaney Davidson) voices that sing poems by Len Lye. Remember that de Castro-Robinson and Roger Horrocks collaborated in 2012 for an opera about Lye.

You can tell it is the same composer as I Stayed A Minute, with its classical /avant-garde working structures, even though there is a markedly jazz feel provided by traditional jazz instruments such as saxophone, or varieties of drum. The longest work has a ferociously energetic and improvised feel, even though it is played on a traditional classical instrument, the cello. Related to the Apocalyptica album of Metallica tunes played by a Finnish cello quartet, de Castro-Robinson’s piece, played by Ashley Brown, is even wilder. It is the highlight of the album.

Indeed, one is struck by the wide variation of musical solos here. De Castro-Robinson has gone through her considerable back catalogue of compositions and sought out talented individuals to re-present them in a new setting. Often these individuals have had no practical connection with experimental classical music at all, so the composer is very trusting that profound empathy will be the result. Her instincts have been remarkably good. The range of participants (their backgrounds) is breathtaking.

With the ten re-recorded compositions I was struck by the sequencing and how sometimes works paired or tripled up in groups—due to linking aural or methodological similarities. New mergings, that perhaps de Castro-Robinson did not foresee, are formed. You can think about them as singular aural units in isolation, or ponder them as contrasting stages in a small series.

The instruments themselves also keep you guessing, such as crystal glass (Mere Boynton), euphonium (Don McGlashan), bansuri (Nathan Haines), hue puruhau (Kingsley Melhuish), pumoana (Kingsley Melhuish), piano strings (Kevin Field), cajon (Ron Samsom), te reo (Mere Boynton), kalimba (Eve de Castro-Robinson), and chiming toy (Steve Garden).

The music tends to be textural, rather than melodic, though personally I think Delaney Davidson’s infectious version of Trouble Trouble Mind, with exposure, could be a ‘Top Forty’ hit. Plus the packaging design of the CD by Unklefranc makes it a snappily appealing object to hold and examine, with excellent separate commentaries on the music by de Castro-Robinson, the musicians and fellow composer, Alex Taylor.

Overall, listening to it, I would call this brilliantly interesting and stirring CD an improv jazz album (from the energetic way it sounds—as can be found with other composers too like say, John Zorn), with the occasional sortie into rock or classical. But, really, it is silly to try and limit through such terms. A superduper Xmas stocking filler.

John Hurrell

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