After an absence of half a decade, Karen Mantler returned with this somber song cycle in 1996. Where her first two albums (MY CAT ARNOLD, and KAREN MANTLER AND HER CAT ARNOLD GET THE FLUE) chronicled aspects of her life as well as her attachment to her cat, FAREWELL looks at the death of Arnold and her life without him.
After two albums with a band, this work was created just by Mantler and percussionist Michael Evans, and the smaller scale approach suits the subject. The two players' inventiveness is compelling. "Help Me" is a mournful tune centered on the harmonium with evocative percussion underscoring the mood. Mantler sings, with some input from Evans, who adds counterpoint to the character-driven narratives. The mood throughout is not unlike that created on many of the works by her mother, the composer Carla Bley.