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For We Have Heard
(Primary Records, $13.98)
Two weeks ago, I went to see a solo performance by Steven Lugerner, a young reed and wind player and composer, after hearing an advance copy of his new CD. Lugerner played Bb and bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, and flute and alto flute to accompany backing tracks of some of the same instruments, as well as guitar, banjo, piano, and drums. He also played a track from his new CD, For We Have Heard: it’s a beautiful album of compositions and improvisations played by a superb group consisting of pianist Myra Melford, trumpeter Darren Johnston, and drummer Matt Wilson. Steven plays layered, multi-tracked flutes, clarinets, saxes, and English horn. He was inspired by the Book of Joshua, and describes his compositional process in generating chords and rhythms: “gematria is once again used as the starting point for composition…we recorded four tracks as a live band and six solo improvisations. The improvisations were then transcribed and orchestrated for multiple woodwinds which I overdubbed and mixed.” This CD is a great find, and I highly recommend it.
Go Back Home
A multiple Tony winner, Audra McDonald took some time off for a TV series. On her new album, she’s back to doing what she’s great at: she champions young composers of musicals like Adam Guettel, Michael John LaChiusa, Will Reynolds, Adam Gwon, Steven Marzullo, Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler. McDonald also links these Broadway and off-Broadway generations by bookending her album with songs by Sondheim, Kander and Ebb, Rogers and Hammerstein, and Comden, Green and Styne.
PULITZER PRIZES PART II
Alongside this year’s Pulitzer Prize winner in music (Caroline Shaw’s Partita for 8 Voices written for her collective vocal ensemble, and featured on the CD Roomful of Teeth (New Amsterdam Records, $11.99), it’s also worth noting one of the other two finalists for the award.
Trumpeter and composer Wadada Leo Smith’s Ten Freedom Summers (Cunieform, 4 CDs, $29.98) is an epic, multipart work that “memorializes 10 key moments in the history of civil rights in America, fusing composed and improvised passages into powerful, eloquent music.” Smith started writing it in 1977 and worked on it until 2011. The work is played by his Golden Quartet/Quintet (with Smith on trumpet, pianist Anthony Davis, bassist John Lindberg, and Pheeroan akLaff and Susie Ibarra on drums) and the nine-piece group Southwest Chamber Music.
Born and raised in Leland, Mississippi, Smith later moved to Chicago, and was part of the first generation of musicians to come out that city’s AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Music) in the late 1960s; he’s been leading different groups since, and has been teaching at Cal Arts since 1993.