Thelonious Monk is an obvious inspiration for North Carolina-based pianist and composer Claire Ritter; she leads off her album Castles in the Air with a duo arrangement (featuring Stan Strickland on bass clarinet) of "Let's Cool One," then follows that track with a tantalizingly brief composition of her own written in explicit homage to Monk, the jaggedly lovely "Imagine That." But Monk is far from sight on most of the other Ritter compositions featured on this beautiful disc. The four-part "Opus 17" is written for piano and a shifting chamber ensemble that includes, at various times, harp, flute, violin, and wordless vocals. "Opus 17" is barely jazzy at all, and it is exceptionally lovely. The program also features Ritter's "True" (a samba performed in two versions, one for a piano trio and one for multi-tracked bass, the latter played by Steve Swallow), one more Monk composition, and several other originals. Ritter's gentle but idiosyncratic touch is a joy throughout the proceedings, and her compositional skills are exceptional. Highly recommended.
Castles in the Air Review
by Rick Anderson