Various Artists — Conversations: Keyboard and Chamber Music by John Bilotta and David Gaines
(Navona Records NV5829, 2010, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2011-06-01
The subtitle of this recording is “Keyboard and Chamber Music by John Bilotta and David Gaines” – Bilotta and Gaines are not the performers here, that is handled by a varied cast of instrumentalists, most of whom appear for only one composition. There are three solo piano pieces, one solo clarinet piece, a few duets (flute and clarinet, alto flute and guitar, piano and euphonium, viola and mallet percussion, flute and oboe), plus one work for baritone saxophone and chamber orchestra. One of the joys of this CD is hearing the unusual combinations explored, with the tonal contrasts they provide. Euphonium and piano? Why not! Bilotta’s lovely “Shadow Tree,” for alto flute and guitar is a particular pleasure to hear, with the rich throaty flute tones and a guitar part that is modern (not derivative of a guitar tradition I can detect) yet sounds completely natural. Viola and marimba also make a nice combination, bowed vs. percussive, in Gaines’ “Suite of Changes.” “...And Dispel the Miseries of the World,” Gaines’ piece for bari sax and orchestra, finishes off the CD, and is the most substantial piece presented, both in instrumentation and length. James DeJoie (Moraine) leaves his effects pedals at home for this outing, fully exploring the range of the instrument in its unenhanced form, and it’s fascinating to hear it in a non-jazz setting, playing off strings, brass, other woodwinds, and orchestral percussion.
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