Bob Afifi / Thomas Buckner / Ethel

Day of Love: Music of Mel Graves

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Jazz bassist Mel Graves is also a gifted contemporary classical composer. Day of Love focuses on this aspect of his work. The title piece is a moving song cycle based on the poems of Pablo Neruda and dedicated to the composer's wife. The seven songs are scored for flute (Bob Afifi), baritone (Thomas Buckner), and bass (Graves). An instrumental introduction and a bass interlude complete the cycle. The words of Neruda did not only inspire touching melodies, but also brought sounds from South America. Afifi's flute is central to the work; its aerial lines evoke the Andes, while the bass anchors the piece in jazz and Buckner's elegant voice brings it into contemporary music. It does not really result in third stream jazz, but in an idiom where all influences are profoundly integrated. Simply put, "Day of Love" may be Graves' finest composition -- the work of a fully-matured composer. "Global Village," an earlier piece (1988, while the previous one dates from 1996), takes the form of a string quartet and is thus less striking. Performed here by Ethel (Ralph Farris, Dorothy Lawson, Todd Reynolds, and Mary Rowell), it resulted from a commission by the Kronos Quartet. This music is all about movement (the three parts are titled as dances), contrasts, and emotion channeled through playfulness. The last movement particularly shares affinities with Boris Kovac's string quartets. The performance is convincing, but the overall interest of "Global Village" pales in comparison with the title piece.

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