Attempts to meld pop, jazz, and classical music are abundant but many, like some of the poorly done string quartet transcriptions (there are a few good ones but most are guaranteed to offend pop and classical audiences alike). But this set of chamber group incorporations of essentially “pop” music is among the most engaging and convincing.
Here the truly fabulous Reed player, composer, conductor, and Bang on a Can member Evan Ziporyn takes listeners on a journey which, to this listener, are a modern equivalent of Aaron Copland’s “Old American Songs” and, for that matter, Luciano Berio’s “Folksongs”. It is a personal selection with (sometimes) quirky but ultimately convincing transcriptions which rise to the level of full blown compositions that function as an homage to the chosen songs.
Actually these “chamber transcriptions” are for multiple clarinets, all played by Maestro Ziporyn. Doubtless many will hear echoes of Steve Reich’s multitracked instrument pieces in his “counterpoint” series. In that sense this is also a set of pieces that does homage to Reich’s work as well.
01 UNCLE ALBERT/ADMIRAL HALSEY (5:05)
(Wings) Paul & Linda McCartney
02 RIDE CAPTAIN RIDE (5:07)
(Blues Image) Mike Pinera, Frank Konte
03 WOODSTOCK (5:32)
(Joni Mitchell) Joni Mitchell
04 ALONG COMES MARY (3:00)
(The Association) Tandyn Almer
05 WOODSTOCK IMPROVISATION/VILLANOVA JUNCTION (6:42) 06 SHINING STAR (2:17)
(Earth Wind & Fire) P. Bailey, L. Dunn, V. White, M. White, S. Burke
07 THAT’S THE WAY OF THE WORLD (5:56)
(Earth Wind & Fire) C.Stepney, V. White, M. White
08 PORTRAIT OF TRACY (2:23)
(Jaco Pastorius) Jaco Pastorius
09 I LIVE ABOVE THE HOBBY SHOP (3:43)
(McFabulous) Benjamin McFadden
10 DEADBEAT CLUB (4:12)
(B-52s) C. Wilson, F. Schneider, K. Strickland, K. Pierson
11 STRAWBERRY LETTER #23 (5:24)
(Brothers Johnson) Shuggie Otis
12 YOUR GOLD TEETH II (4:03)
(Steely Dan) Walter Becker & Donald Fagen
Ziporyn, born in 1959, played in Reich’s ensemble and that sound world is a surprisingly effective one for Ziporyn to share the pop music of his era. Certainly this music can benefit from musicological analysis but it speaks clearly and entertainingly as well to the casual listener. It is helpful but not absolutely necessary that listeners know the music upon which these pieces are based but this may have significant nostalgia for those who do.
Mr. Ziporyn’s familiarity with a wide variety of music ranging from avant garde classical to jazz and pop along with his composer’s acumen of form combine to make this one of, at least for this writer, most convincing and satisfying efforts to appropriate (or perhaps more like simply incorporate) some familiar pop standards. This is a marvelously entertaining album.