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Wednesday, April 3, 2024

The Choir Invisible – Town of Two Faces (Intakt, 2024)

By Don Phipps

The engaging musical poetry by The Choir Invisible on Town of Two Faces offers controlled passion among its minimalist sound adventures. A gentle halo floats above the music, like gray clouds interspersed with radiant light on an uncrowded beach at sunset.

The group, a sax trio comprised of Charlotte Greve on alto sax and voice, Vinnie Sperrazza on drums, and Chris Tordini on acoustic bass, is like a candle in a dark room – providing subtle lighting - enough to add distinction while retaining warm shadows. The album’s music is never rushed or flashy. Instead, all notes and phrases fit perfectly in place.

Greve approaches her lines using classical technique – distantly reminiscent of Jan Garbarek. Her lines are soft and dreamy while probing and exotic. There’s almost a slight sweetness to her approach that is encouraged by Tordini and Sperrazza’s subtle yet engaging accompaniment.

Tordini approaches his contribution in restrained fashion, providing solid lines that bring out his deeply wooden tone, a tone that brings to mind the late great Charlie Haden. Not to be outdone, Sperrazza provides poignant color to the absorbing tunes, with gentle cymbal and drum work that kicks in with intensity when needed but is more inclined to delicate flourishes and splashes.

Each of the numbers generate a different feeling but tie together neatly, from the happy switchback climb of “Membrane” and the dreamy but mysterious ballad “Lockwood,” to the bluesy and soulful “Stones Covers” and the rhythmically inventive “17 East.” The album even adds a couple of vocal numbers to the mix. One, “In Heaven,” featuring Fay Victor, is soulfully expressive, highlighted by its drawling assertion that “in heaven, everything is fine.” The other, “Town of Two Faces,” showcases Greve’s beautiful voice (sounding a bit like Suzanne Vega). In the number, Greve describes a city landscape of busy faces on sugar highs before they “crash,” a parade “that never really ends,” “the sign that is still missing”, and “birds and leaves… in this town of two faces.”

One would be amiss to leave unmentioned the sustained beauty of “Sustained Imagination,” with soft sax trills over bowed bass. Tordini picks his notes with great care beneath the lilting sax lines, while Sperrazza, always present yet understated, offers cymbal work that feels like ocean spray on a warm day.

Eschewing flurries and flashes, the adventures afforded by Town of Two Faces are ones all should embark on. Things in heaven may or may not be fine, but this album most definitely is.