Jirí Stivín

Alchymia Musicæ

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AllMusic Review by

Prague saxophonist and composer Jirí Stivín had a grand vision working when he assembled the elements for this recording. His intention was to take the great madrigals and villanelles from the 16th century in his own culture, and add a string quartet and a choir to his own jazz trio and try to bridge the span of centuries. Not only this, of course, but to do so with the mischievous grin of the '60s free jazz continuum that preferred improvisation to taking a shower most of the time. Seriously, though, in Stivín's sound world, these madrigali and villanuellas had the potential for being inimitable improv pieces because their cadences and rhythms were so elastic. He keeps the lyrics and adds a polyrhythmic sensibility to the proceedings and a healthy dose of free jazz frivolity and comes up with a transformed music, an alchemical blend, if you will. The opening suite, "Inspiration of the Renaissance," features a series of motifs from the dances these original tunes inspired, as well as their lyrical components and original harmonic architecture to stunning effect. On the next three cuts, all entitled "Cooking Something Up," Stivín employs his trio in complete improvisatory glory. They are blowing sessions that feature Stivín on baritone and soprano. Finally, on "The Metamorhosis of Time" and "The Alchemist's Trip," he engages his trio, a string quartet and a vocal quartet, on which he plays flute, pipes, clarinets, sopranos, etc., while evoking the modes of early music in the expressed nostalgia of the discoveries of postmodern European spontaneity with hard swinging, angular results that break all the codes. This is not for everyone, it's true, especially not for purists, but for those with a sense of humor who like their jazz moved up a few notches, this is the ticket.

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