David Alan Miller / Albany Symphony Orchestra

Derek Bermel: Migrations

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While it's possible to categorize Derek Bermel's music as eclectic, since he mingles elements of jazz, blues, folk, world, and avant-garde music within a western orchestral framework, that term seems to gloss over his originality, expressive depth, and serious purpose, especially because eclecticism implies superficial stylistic dabbling, not the in-depth appreciation he has for all the music from which he draws. Listening to his 2019 Naxos album Migrations, presented by the Juilliard Jazz Orchestra and the Albany Symphony, under David Alan Miller, one may be impressed by the consistency of Bermel's rich ensemble sound and his dexterity with textures and tone colors, whether in his jazz-oriented Migration Series (2006), the Portuguese saudade-influenced Mar de Setembro (2011), featuring vocalist Luciana Souza, or the evocation of modernist Americana in A Shout, a Whisper, and a Trace (2009), which was inspired by Béla Bartók's final years in New York. Bermel's feeling for musical variety and skill in adapting idioms to his expression would be remarkable in any composer, but in his hands, the category labels seem less significant than the authentic moods and emotions he brings to his work; the inventiveness of his approach makes style seem secondary, if not wholly irrelevant. Recorded in 2015 and 2016 at various sessions in Troy, New York, the performances on this release are clearly well-rehearsed and competent, conveying the inner substance of Bermel's work.

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