Earl Howard

Strong Force

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Composed for Earl Howard's own Parabola Arts Ensemble and recorded live in November 1999, the 50-minute piece "Strong Force" came out three and a half years later. Despite some interesting passages and a virtuosic interpretation, the wait could have been longer. The piece never truly engages. Despite efforts to give the players room for improvisation, it never leaps out of the page. It remains a well-behaved assemblage of contemporary music cells informed by the recent history of free improvisation. That said, it does have its moments, especially in the third of the five movements, where drummer Gerry Hemingway and pianist Anthony Davis take solos. Its coda is also one of the only moments where cleverness turns into prettiness. Howard, himself on synthesizer, steps out of the spotlight for most of the performance, providing the electronic textures and occasional outbursts that cement the bits together, leaving Davis to take care of the flashy keyboard parts. Harpist Anne LeBaron and cellist Ernst Reijseger round up the ensemble, but often their contributions are buried in the mix. Still, Reijseger (still active within the Clusone Trio back in 1999) solos with the soul of a tender madman in the first minutes of the last movement.

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