Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Words Project II review on Courant

Words Project II - Sam Sadigursky (New Amsterdam) - Saxophonist-composer Sadigusrky has created a compelling second recording that, like the first, takes poems and puts them to original melodies. I truly enjoyed his initial endeavor (read my review here) and hoped his next recording would be as impressive.

In fact, it's better. Whereas his choice of poems shows sensitivity equal to "Words Project I", the music seems better integrated with the words - actually, I believe the melodies are stronger (and they were really good on the first disc.)

Sadigursky's choice of material comes from poets well-known (Langston Hughes, David Ignatow, and Audre Lorde) and writers new to me (Andrew Boyd, former Miss Teen U.S.A. contestant Caitlin Upton, Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti, Anna Swir and Dunya Mikhail.) The track that stands out immediately upon first listening is Mikhail's "The War Works Hard". The Iraqi-born poet, currently living in Michigan, reads her own work. Amidst sounds of war and a dirge-like melody, the piece seems like an answer to the question "War - what is it good for?" The answer is not pretty but the poet writes "How magnificent the war is!/How eager and efficient!" and goes on to explain how it gives work to grave diggers, ambulances, orphanages, etc. To read the entire text, click here.

Caitlin Upton is, perhaps, best known for her convoluted answer to a question asked during a recent Miss Teen U.S.A. contest. The question, which opens the track "Miss Teen U.S.A.", reads "Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can't find the U.S. on a world map. Why do think this is?" The reply is, at best, elliptical, and incredibly strange. The music, anchored by Bill Campbell's active drumming and Pete Rende's subtle Fender Rhodes piano phrases, has the feel of 1970s British fusion (Hatfield & The North) right down to Wendy Gilles's straightforward vocal.

Monika Heidemann takes the lead on Hughes' "The Dream Keeper." It's a beautiful ballad,sounding not unlike a traditional Scottish song Sadigursky's clarinet swoops up around the vocal while Rende creates a drone on pump organ and Nate Radley picks gentle lines on the banjo. Becca Stevens is the 3rd vocalist featured on the recording and her gentle reading of Ranson-Polizzotti's "Such Fruit - The Ritual" is bolstered by the active bass lines from Eivind Opsvik and rich piano chords from Rende. The leader's soprano saxophone tone bring Wayne Shorter to mind as does his declaratory solo lines.

Throughout the CD, Sadigursky often serves a second voice to the vocalists, sometimes in unison with them, creating an echo effect. His sonic shadowing not only provides depth for the voices but also creates fascinating colors - on "The Sea and the Man", there are moments when it's hard to differentiate between his tenor and Gilles' voice.

Each track, even the very short (1:24) "Therapy" that closes the program, is well thought-out. There's no hint of slapping this recording together just to get it on the market. From the title, one realizes it's really about the "words" but much of this music could stand on its own ("The Sea..." starts out with a sweet bass line, creating a feeling not unlike a piece Gill Evans might have created for Miles Davis.) This music is not about technical facility or long solos or vocals that "stop the show"; instead the music gives added strength to the words, makes them stand out more because one is compelled to listen closely.

For more information, go to www.samsadigursky.com or www.newamsterdamrecords.com (where you can listen to and/or buy all the tracks.)

I like the cover art, too, a reproduction of "Leaping Kiss" by Chilean-born artist Pablo Campos. Click on his name to see more of his engrossing work.

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