Joseph Gramley

Global Percussion

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Percussionist Joseph Gramley has assembled a diverse collection of music ranging from a traditional Ghanaian piece to transcriptions of nineteenth century guitar music to works newly composed for him. All the works share an engaging and attractive sound that masks a high level of technical complexity and compositional sophistication -- these are pieces that are very difficult for the performer, but not at all difficult for the listener. Most of the works feature the marimba, but not all; Eugene Novotney's A Minute of News is a virtuosic solo for snare drum, and in Philip Glass' 1 + 1, heard here in two versions, the performer plays on a table top with attached amplifiers. In John (no, not Joan) LaBarbera's Danza del Fuego, doumbek player Yousif Sheronick joins Gramley, who plays marimba. Charles B. Griffin's Visitations, for marimba, vibraphone and crotales (tuned finger cymbals), was inspired by the events of 9/11 and creates an emotionally fragmented soundworld that ultimately settles into a benediction. The piece that opens the album is one of the most engaging; Ghanaian composer Karkraba Lobi's Ganda Yina gives the left hand a simple but spirited ostinato, overlaid with rhythmically complex and melodically ecstatic elaboration in the right hand. William Susman's Marimba Montuño creates a brightly colored mosaic with unpredictably juxtaposed snippets of minimalist-sounding patterns. Gramley brings the pieces to life with the intensity of his rhythmic energy, and the musicality with which he shapes each of them. The sound is clear, present, and nicely resonant.

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