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Monday, August 25, 2014

Giacomo Merega, Noah Kaplan & Joe Moffett - Crows and Motives (Underwolf, 2014) ****

By Stef

Do you know Noah Kaplan (sax), Joe Moffett (trumpet) and Giacomo Merega (electric bass)? You may have come across them on ths blog as part of a quintet in Joe Moffett's "Ad Faunum", you may have come across Noah Kaplan's "Descendants" - unlike me - or you may have seen them perform in the broader New York area. In any case, they're not well known, and that's a shame, because they are good, really good.

On this intimate album the three musicians weave calm but intense sonic textures, with lots of emphasis and value on single tones, on shifting micro-tones which result in almost human voice inflexions, and an almost contemplative interplay. They describe it themselves as applying "traditional counterpoint to contemporary improvisation", and the result deserves to be heard to audiences outside New York.

The inspiration for the music came from the 15th Century composer Josquin des Prez' Missa L'Homme Armée, a composition that uses counterpoint and "mensuration canons", in which "each voice sings the same notes, but the length of time each note each note is sung differs", and we get a similar approach here with trumpet, sax and bass singing in layers of sound, creating a beautiful soundscape full of dark and melancholy undertones, full of human angst and despair. Not upbeat, but strange and beautiful.

Listen and download from the label.


Colin Green said...

For anyone interested in following up on this, I recommend both of Josquin's L'Homme Armée masses. The recording by the Tallis Scholars is marvellous, and can be downloaded from here:

It was common for Renaissance composers of choral music to use popular songs as the cantus firmus for a setting of the mass (strange as that may seem) and L'Homme Armée was used often. It became a sort of competition.