Stephen Nachmanovitch

Saraswati Steps Up to Bat

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As solo violin recordings go, they usually are centered around classical or chamber music, and rarely in jazz or improvised styles. But what Stephen Nachmanovitch is capable of goes well beyond conventional, standardized nomenclature or the ordinary. This recording of spontaneous solo pieces has a tangible foothold in tonal structure, free discourse, and is influenced by, but doesn't assimilate Indian ragas. Combining natural and spiritual elements with good-natured feeling, the quite competent Nachmanovitch breezes through these themes and concepts as if they indeed were composed. The dedication to Saraswati is an important connection, being that she is the goddess of music, rivers and knowledge. Transferring this to the violin gives Nachmanovitch the option to approach the music in many ways. Whether playing cut time on the jazz/folkish "Saraswati Swings," stacking short improvs for "Confabulation," or using fast lines and high octaves during "Filthy Fiddle," one can be easily impressed with Nachmanovitch's abilities. Again, this music is based on pure melodicism and is remarkably compelling. "She Has You" might be a cautionary tale/tone poem, rife with introspection and probing, but it is not doting. Longer notes and some overtones identify "Flauta" as one might expect in assimilating a flute, while a choppy and spatial fa├žade centers "Monkeyman Plays Nice with Saraswati" and "Kapinga," the latter piece played on the deeper hued viola. "Yamuna" also features a strident viola. The CD is bookended by Nachmanovitch playing both string instruments in a wonderful melodic invention with digital delay on "Saraswati in the River's Mirror," and the final selection "Marriage" is a sweet repast on blissful union, a happy, dancing feeling accompanied by the harmonium-like tanpura. Nachmanovitch is a player to discover if you haven't already, and as he channels Saraswati, he's not only firmly digging in the batter's box, but also consistently hitting solo home runs.

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