“Hand Eye” = “Sleeping Giant” – Cedille

Up for a little adventure? Eighth Blackbird provides the roller coaster.

B01C5PTUSK “Hand Eye” = SLEEPING GIANT: Checkered Shade; Mine, Mime, Meme; I. Touch; II. Pulse; III. Send; South Catalina; By-by Huey; (Crossfade); Cast – Eighth Blackbird – Cedille CDR 90000 162, 72:21 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

Eighth Blackbird is a marvelously innovative ensemble that has brought much pleasure over the last—gasp!—20 years, and with six Cedille recordings to its credit the journey is well documented. The sometimes conflicting mix of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, percussion, and piano is never less than enthralling from this group of former Oberlin-bred musicians.

But this is an odd disc. The premise? A group of composers, not named on the album cover (so I won’t here) but operating under the moniker “Sleeping Giant”, each chose to musically respond to a specific art work found in the Maxine and Stuart Frankel collection. Hand Eye is a continuous journey though these responses to contemporary art. The question in cases like this always arises: does it matter? Of course not! While looking at any individual art work may prove interesting in terms of the composer’s own reactions, ultimately, based on the very nature of music itself, which always stands alone, our judgement must be on the aural level only.

Taken in those terms, this album is a fascinating collection of vignettes that hang together in a remarkable fashion for a “collective” effort. The contrast among the movements is excellent—though we are not told whose idea it was to order which movement where—that person should be congratulated as having a valued editorial role! The music itself is quite alluring, ranging in style and intent, quiet and subdued to the most energetic and exciting.

Leave it to these folks to come up with such a difficult concept, yet one whose possibilities have been more than fulfilled. Stunning Cedille sound as usual makes for a rewarding acquisition.

—Steven Ritter

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