Meeting of the Spirits – Matt Haimovitz, cello & Uccello (with John McLaughlin, Matt Wilson, Jan Jarczyk) – Oxingale Records OX2017. 51:04 *****:
This disc currently has one of the Grammy nominations for Best Classical Crossover Album. We reviewed innovative cellist Matt Haimovitz last CD Here. Like a number of classical cellists recently, he has been pushing the boundaries between classical and other genres – not only in his programming but in his venues – which have included bars, coffeehouses and rock concert situations. (He was the first classical artist to play at NYC’s infamous CBGB Club.) Uccello is Haimovitz’ all-cello ensemble (eight when he joins them). The album title comes partly from a Miles Davis quote about believing in spirits – “when working with great musicians they are always a part of you.” Interesting, since our new minister recently based a sermon on another Miles Davis quote, regarding playing the notes that are there but also play "the notes above the notes." The album title was also the title of one of John McLaughlin’s compositions for his Mahavishnu Orchestra nearly 40 years ago, which is included on the CD.
Haimovitz is Professor of Cello at McGill University in Toronto, and his all-cello ensemble’s next generation of cellists are or were students there. The CD is nine tracks of jazz standards redone for a band of cellos and arranged by prize-winning composer David Sanford. The band is joined on some of the tracks by guitar legend John McLaughlin, percussionst Matt Wilson and keyboardist Jan Jarczyk. The tracks include works by Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, McLaughlin, Miles Davis, Billy Strayhorn, Gershwin and John Lewis. Percussionist Wilson shines on the Ornette Coleman tune W. R. U., and influences of gypsy jazz are heard in the arrangement of Gershwin’s “Liza” from 1929. I really enjoyed John Lewis’ Bach-inspired four-part fugue in Blues in A Minor for a pair of cellos. Charlie Mingus’ rockin’ Haitian Fight Song closeS out the nine tracks.
Since the cello is so many music-lovers’ favorite string instrument, it follows naturally that the current genre-breaking efforts of so many classical cellists is meeting with acceptance. Was it kicked into gear by Yo-Yo Ma? Who knows? Anyway, it’s most satisfying.
TrackList: Open Country Joy, Half Nelson, W.R.U., Blues in A Minor, Meeting of the Spirits, Blood Count, Triptych, Liza, Haitian Fight Song.
— John Henry