Jill Kemp Photo Matt Jamie.
New Releases: CD Reviews
Aztec Dances: New Works for Recorder and Piano with Jill Kemp (recorder) and Aleksander Szram (piano)
Prima Facie Records, 2016
Reviewer: Maya Sutherland-Fowler
With "Aztec Dances" recorder virtuoso Jill Kemp adds to the still comparatively small body of contemporary recordings for recorder. The pairing with Aleksander Szram on piano brings the music firmly into the realm of the new. For the most part the album offers a good balance between recorder and piano. The work is innovative with high production values and a polished performance. Kemp is highly skilled at creating a variety of moods, from playful and enigmatic to peaceful and resigned to dark and ominous, and always remains firmly in control of her art: where she intends, her tone is sweet and beautiful, traditional, but forceful and experimental where she chooses; Kemp is unafraid of pushing boundaries in articulation and breath control.
The title work, by composer Edward Gregson, transports the listener in time and place. "Ritual/Pastorale" sets the scene: mysterious, with good tone production through the range, with the lower notes giving an especially suitable reedy yet clear timbre, and the higher tones beautifully birdlike. "Ghost Song" and "Sacrificial Dance" hit the mark as they are terrifyingly haunting. Kemp creates a suitable and effective reedy timbre.
Composer Gregory Rose's "Garden of the Gods" offers a shift in mood to contemplative and again mysterious, while still embracing the realm of myth and mythology. The wordplay evident in the title of "Kemptown Races" (composed by David Bedford) prepares the listener for the playfulness that awaits in this new interpretation of a well-known traditional tune, which opens with some delightful birdlike warbling. This track is energetic, with the piano bubbling pleasingly beneath virtuosic flights of the recorder, with finally an entertaining foray into ragtime/jazz.
George King's "Dance Suite" is executed with excellent articulation. The minuet is plaintive and the bebop stands out for its playfulness and quick tonguing.
Finally, Daryl Runswick's "Cycles" provides a fitting close to the album, with the echoes of South American rain forest and reeds creating a good bookend with the "Aztec Dances" of the title.
- Pianist Aleksander Szram has a connection to Vancouver, having completed his Doctor of Musical Arts degree at UBC, studying piano with Jane Coop and harpsichord and organ with Doreen Oke.
© Maya Fowler-Sutherland 2017
Available on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play Music, Spotify, in all major and specialist CD shops in the UK including HMV and also online at http://ascrecords.com/primafacie/ and on Jill Kemp's Web site: http://www.jillkemp.com/cdsales.html