Jenny Olivia Johnson: Don’t Look Back (CD Review)

Jenny Olivia Johnson

Don’t Look Back

Innova Recordings CD 925

 

Wellesley professor Jenny Olivia Johnson presents a program of synth-inflected songs on Don’t Look Back, her debut recording for the Innova imprint. Like many good indie classical songwriters, her formula combines beautiful sounds with stark lyrics: I like to think of it as the “Corey Dargel effect.” Very fine interpreters sing the songs: Megan Schubert, P. Lucy McVeigh, and Amanda Crider. Johnson’s performances as percussionist and electronic musician are seamlessly melded with instrumental contributions by some of the luminaries from the current indie classical scene: violinist Todd Reynolds, cellist Peter Gregson, flutist Jessica Schmitz, clarinetist Eileen Mack, and pianist Isabelle O’Connell among them. Conductor Nathaniel Berman leads the ensemble in assured renditions of the material. While plenty of composers are reveling in the electro-acoustic playground, there aren’t too many that have the orchestrator’s ear and sense of pacing possessed by Johnson. Recommended.

Mark Applebaum: 30 (CD Review)

Mark Applebaum

30

Innova Records CD 928

 

To celebrate his thirtieth wedding anniversary, composer Mark Applebaum composed three pieces for percussion ensemble. They can be played successively or simultaneously. Each celebrates a different decade of the couple’s marriage Applebaum isn’t the only composer who has created works that have this capacity, but here it is no mere musical trickery. Each of the pieces adds a different layer of textures and rhythmic contour. When they are overlaid in various permutations, one hears startlingly fresh variations. I’m particularly taken with the ones that incorporate the “Third Decade” segment, filled as it is with succulently shimmering sounds. “30” is a CD of imaginative music by a composer who is brave enough to be willing to let us in on his creative process.

Playlist

Listening:

Girl Band, Holding Hands with Jamie

Pet Shop Boys, Discography

Alex G, Beach Music

Mary Halvorson, Melt Frame

Tyshawn Sorey, Oblique-I

Daniel Martin Moore, The Golden Age

Fred Hersch, Solo

Duncan Sheik, Legerdemain

Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Aerial

Elvis Costello, Mighty Like a Rose

Elvis Costello, Spike

Mark Applebaum, 30

Jenny Olivia Johnson, Don’t Look Back

Del Sol Quartet

Congratulations to my friend Ken Ueno, whose work Peradam features prominently on Del Sol Quartet’s new Sono Luminus release Scrapyard Exotica. The Blu-ray/CD recording also features music by Mason Bates for quartet and electronics and a piece by Mohammed Fairouz.