Wayne Horvitz’ Gravitas Quartet – Way Out East – (Wayne Horvitz, piano & electronics; Peggy Lee, cello; Ron Miles, trumpet; Sara Schoenbeck, bassoon) – Songlines

by | Jun 6, 2006 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Wayne Horvitz’ Gravitas Quartet – Way Out East – (Wayne Horvitz, piano & electronics; Peggy Lee, cello; Ron Miles, trumpet; Sara Schoenbeck, bassoon) – Songlines multichannel (5.0) SACD SGL SA1558-2 (Distr. by Allegro), 62:54 ***:

Pianist Wayne Horvitz is an example of one of today’s composer/players who spans both the classical and jazz genres with ease.  He’s done some fairly avant but still accessible solo piano and piano trio recordings that easily qualify as modern jazz, but he has also been composing a number of works for various chamber groups such as string quartet and string orchestra.  Some of Horvitz’ compositions in this area have featured a single improvising soloist such as the cellist or bassoon in Gravitas; this led to his wanting to put together the unique quartet on this SACD.

Horvitz describes the music as being notated as though he is writing for a classical ensemble, but with places for improvisation. He wanted to bridge the gap between contemporary through-composed chamber music and small-group improvisation. On some of the 11 tracks synth replaces the piano and others have a combination of the two. The four instruments are spaced around the listener much as the Tacet label does with their string quartet and quintet SACDs and DVD-As.  This adds greatly to appreciation of the contribution each player is making to the group improvisation. The opening track is titled LB – short for Leonard Bernstein – but I’ll be darned if I could find any quotes from West Side Story in it.  I found some of the tracks most interesting listening, but others gave me the feeling that playing in the ensemble might be more fun than it was listening to the results. I was reminded of the dark night/wee hours of the morning mood of so many ECM jazz recordings; perhaps this is the Vancouver, B.C. equivalent. For those finding that sort of Northern melancholia appealing, this one is for you. The three pages of the note booklet unfold to a striking B&W panorama of some Eastern European city in the snow, to tie in with the tune that provides the album title. But the city is not identified.

Tracks: LB, Way Out East, a remembrance…an afterthought…what could have been a waltz, Between Here and Heave, Berlin 1914, Ladies and Gentlemen, Reveille, You Were Just Here, Our Brief Duet, One Morten, World Peace and Quiet.

– John Henry

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