Darrell Katz

The Death of Simone Weil

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In music, having the best of intentions doesn't always pay off creatively. There are many ambitious, well-meaning projects that simply don't work out; the pieces fail to come together, and the end result can be awkward or embarrassing. But that isn't a problem for Darrell Katz on this risk-taking, mildly avant-garde CD, which finds the Boston-based composer/arranger joining forces with singer Rebecca Shrimpton and the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra. The idea was to set poet Paula Tatarunis' The Death of Simone Weil (a reflection on the life and death of French philosopher Simone Weil) to music -- specifically, to Katz's own melodies. Shrimpton could have simply recited the text of Tatarunis, who is married to Katz -- that would have been an easier way to do things, but instead, she sings Tatarunis' words. And that's a positive thing, because her performances are quite compelling; stylistically, Shrimpton's contributions to this disc (which was recorded in 2001 and 2002) bring to mind Judi Silvano, Ann Dyer, and Kitty Brazelton (three of the more imaginative vocalists of the '90s and 2000s). Favoring an inside/outside approach, this CD underscores the fact that not all avant-garde jazz is atonal screaming; actually, the disc is quite musical -- abstract, cerebral, and left-of-center, certainly, but definitely musical. Of course, a project as esoteric and arcane as this one could have become overly self-indulgent if the participants weren't careful, but all of the pieces fit together nicely -- Tatarunis' words, Katz' melodies and arrangements, the orchestra's musicianship, and Shrimpton's expressive vocals make for an attractive, successful combination. Katz can take pride in the fact that this excellent CD is as thoughtful as it is adventurous.

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