“This is, so far, my Best New Record of 2014. Get it!”
These are the final words of Lynn René Bayley ‘s review of “Jukebox in the Tavern of Love” (Eric Salzman; text by Valeria Vasilevski) and “Basket Rondo” (Meredith Monk), commissioned and recorded by the Western Wind and released by Labor Records and Naxos as LAB 7094.
Here is a longer except from that review:
“…one of the oddest yet most refreshing discs I’ve heard in years… the music [of Jukebox in the Tavern of Love] is a lot of fun to listen to, based somewhat on Monk’s aesthetic, somewhat on polyphonic madrigals, but all of it constantly evolving and morphing.…there follows first a dancer singing nonsense lyrics in a peculiar rhythm, then a tune titled “When I romp with my baby tonight” that begins as a solo but becomes a fugue when other voices enter one at a time. Weird stuff, but good weird stuff! Next comes the song of a rabbi, “Do you know what a DP (displaced person) is?” This, too, evolves into its own polyphony as he describes how he wanted to become a Jesuit priest: “You can’t; you’re Jewish…a Jewish Jesuit will never do!” The nun then tells the story of her late aunt, who left her a pile of love letters and a confession that she was a lesbian. The poet sings a toast to love in all its forms, then a four-part madrigal (led by the rabbi) on the words “Salute amore” before the Con Ed worker (Consolidated Edison, the New York power and light company, for those who may need a translator) drinks and sings a toast to love: “Wine is the balm of lovers, come pour a cup for me…Awaken, lovers, listen!” It’s a wonderful, enchanting piece, difficult to put into words. You really have to hear it to appreciate it.
This is, so far, my Best New Record of 2014. Get it!” [© 2014 Fanfare]
–Lynn René Bayley
“Big Jim” excerpts on YouTube
Audio excerpts from the Faison Firehouse Theatre performance of “Big Jim & the Small-time Investors” are on YouTube together with photos from the two workshop performances. The link is <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DizfEtqODtg&feature=youtu.be>.
Videos from this performance are also on YouTube at <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKi9uB0sdg0>, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPn8lq80Gpw> and <www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFHHwjFcj8Y>
Monk/Salzman Western Wind album WQXR album-of-the-week
The Western Wind album of commissioned works by Meredith Monk (“Basket Rondo”) and Eric Salzman (“Jukebox in the Tavern of Love”; libretto by Valeria Vasilevski) is officially the WQXR Q-2 Album-of-the-Week this week. Go to http://www.wqxr.org/#1/series/q2/ and scroll down to the album cover or further down to Molly Yeh’s review. You can listen to either or both works through this site and also order a copy.
press release for Monk/Salzman recording
MEREDITH MONK, ERIC SALZMAN AND VALERIA VASILEVSKI JOIN FORCES WITH THE WESTERN WIND TO PRODUCE TWO CONTEMPORARY MASTERPIECES ON LABOR RECORDS
45th Anniversary Commissions for The Western Wind
Album-of-the-week on WQXR; release party at Rough Trade in Williamsburg on May 10
Basket Rondo by Meredith Monk and Jukebox in the Tavern of Love by Valeria Vasilevski and Eric Salzman are paired on the Labor/Naxos CD scheduled for release on April 29. The album has already been selected as a forthcoming album-of-the-week by WQXR, New York’s leading classical music station. Labor and Naxos will sponsor a release party at Rough Trade, 64 N. 9th Street, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on Saturday, May 10, from 1 to 3 pm with all the creators of this unique recording expected to be present. The public is invited.
Both works were created especially for the six singers that make up The Western Wind; both explore new areas of vocal technique and expression while retaining the deep expressive appeal of the human voice in its most basic forms. The Western Wind, celebrating its 45th anniversary, is noted for its performances of early music but has also been a leader in the performance of new work, much of it written especially for the group.
Meredith Monk is perhaps the most original and innovative vocal talent to have been working on the scene over the last fifty years. Although many of her works were created for her own and her Vocal Ensemble’s unique talents, she has recently been working with other performers to offer her work to a wider audience. Basket Rondo, like much of her work, uses phonemes to communicate a non-verbal language, and combines resonant, spiritual overtones with hocketing techniques, allowing the performers to pass, lean, toss and throw the music material between them. The title has very specific meanings for the composer who wanted to evoke “a pre-industrial community of people working together” as a kind of work song with a woven form. Other sections were based on what she calls “a natural kind of resonance” meant to evoke “a sense of nature or space”.
The madrigal comedy was an early genre of Renaissance music theater in which a band of vocalists got together to tell stories. One of the most popular of these, “The Boat From Venice to Padua” by Adriano Banchieri was a staple of The Western Wind repertory for many years but it needed a contemporary counterpart. Eric Salzman, a pioneer of the new music theater, was a logical choice to update a sixteenth-century art form. Valeria Vasilevski provided the text for Jukebox in the Tavern of Love which takes place in a New York bar during a severe storm and blackout. A group of strangers – a poet, a dancer, a rabbi, a nun and a Con Ed worker – has sought shelter and to pass the time each tells a personal story – humorous, tragic, touching — about life and love. Only after an evocation of the poet Rumi do the lights come on again; as they leave the bar they are again strangers but, in some special way, transformed. Jukebox was premiered at New York’s Tenri Center followed by a run at The Flea Theater in Tribeca; it was also performed at Bargemusic in the East River under the Brooklyn Bridge.
Members of The Western Wind in this recording are Kristina Boerger, soprano; Laura Christian, soprano; William Zukof, counter-tenor; Todd Frizzell, tenor; Richard Slade, tenor; Elliot Levine, baritone
“…the different voices [of Basket Rondo] weave together so that you can hear the individuality of each voice…a musical texture evocative of a pre-industrial community of people working together…a natural kind of resonance…a sense of nature or space”—Meredith Monk
“The score effectively blends elements of barbershop-quartet harmonizing, cabaret, Renaissance sacred music, polyphony, Tin Pan Alley and avant-garde effects….powerful …evocative…”–Vivian Schweitzer, New York Times
Salzman’s music is full of wit and high spirits. At times its contemporary dissonances seem a sendup… In the song for the Broadway gypsy its melodies and rhythms seem very much Tin Pan Alley. At times, as one would expect of as formidable a figure as Salzman, the music was more learned…the tone is fresh and entertaining…challenging and refreshing–Howard Kissel, New York Daily News
Salzman/Monk album to be WQXR ‘album of the week’
The Labor/Naxos album of the Western Wind’s newly commissioned works by Eric Salzman and Meredith Monk will be an upcoming ‘album of the week’ on WQXR, New York’s classical music station (and, with its sister station, WNYC, one of the leading public radio stations in the country).
The album features Salzman’s “Jukebox in the Tavern of Love”, a madrigal comedy with a text by Valeria Vasilevski. Written in the spirit of a 16th century Italian vocal work, it features six strangers — a bartender, a nun, a Broadway dancer, a rabbi, a Con Ed worker and poet — who are unexpectedly thrown together in a NY bar during a heavy storm and blackout; to pass the time, each one tells a personal story of love, earthly to spiritual. The work has been performed at the Tenri Center in NYC, the Flea Theater in Tribeca and Bargemusic under the Brooklyn Bridge; this is its first recording.
“Jukebox” is paired with Monk’s “Basket Rondo”, a work in her typically original vocal style but created for and with the Western Wind. Although the official release date is April 29th, the album is already available as a download from Labor’s web site <http://www.laborrecords.com/catalogue.html>