American Dream: Scott Wollschleger

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The American avant-garde trio Bearthoven has nothing to do directly with Beethoven, or with bears. It's not a conventional piano trio but comprises a pianist, a double bassist, and a percussionist, which is enough to allude to the traditional format but to allow considerable flexibility in terms of repertory. Here they play music by composer Scott Wollschleger, who gets curiously muted billing in the graphics. But it fits the capabilities of Bearthoven quite well. Wollschleger favors shimmering textures that might group him broadly with the minimalist school, but he interrupts them with gestures of tension or fear that result in an effect entirely different from that of a Glass or Pärt. Here, Bearthoven pianist Karl Larson interprets such tensions as the result of the current socio-political situation. He might have had a more abstract interpretation at a different time, but the meeting point between composer and performer is clearly defined on this album. American Dream, broken into five tracks for recording convenience, is the only one that makes use of the full trio, and is the one where the extramusical meanings are clearest. But sample the final duo, We See Things That Are Not There, a duo for piano and vibraphone/crotales, where an attempted antiphonal agreement can never quite take shape. It's direct, somewhat unsettling, and performed with the requisite precision by this rising trio. Recommended.

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