Meeting of the Spirits

Matt Haimovitz / Uccello

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Meeting of the Spirits Review

by Stephen Eddins

After establishing an auspicious but fairly conventional career as a cello soloist, Matt Haimovitz began around 2000 to broaden the scope of his playing to include more and more contemporary works, and to launch an ambitious series of commissions for new pieces. The Kronos Quartet had early on turned to arrangements of music by Bill Evans, Jimi Hendrix, and Thelonius Monk, pieces rarely, if ever, heard in classical concert halls, and Haimovitz's Meeting of the Spirits builds on that tradition. It includes arrangements of jazz classics by John McLaughlin, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, John Lewis, Billy Strayhorn, George Gershwin, and Charles Mingus scored for cello ensemble and assorted other instruments. The arrangements, by David Sanford (who is also represented by an original piece), manage to retain the spirit and loose-limbed energy of the originals and don't compromise their integrity as jazz. It's easy to hear these tracks essentially as covers of familiar songs. The performers aren't merely aping the originals, but bringing their individuality and an improvisational freedom to the pieces. The most noticeable difference from the originals is the timbre of the instruments; it's not typical to hear cellists play these pieces, but the fit sounds natural and unforced. McLaughin makes a guest appearance on his Open Country Joy, and Uccello, Haimovitz's cello ensemble, is joined in several pieces by electric guitar, drums, and keyboard. Many of the tracks feature the cellos alone, calling on them to emulate the sound of a pizzicato bass and to use their instruments percussively. The CD is beautifully engineered, with a sound that's clean, detailed, and vividly present.

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