Brant Volume 8

The Henry Brant Collection: Volume 8


Whoopee in D; Music for a Five and Dime Store; Revenge Before Breakfast; Inside Track; Jazz Toccata on a Bach Theme; Jazz Clarinet Concerto; Double-Crank Hand Organ Music; Altitude 8750; Dialog in the Jungle
performed by:
Netherlands Wind Ensemble; Henry Brant; Vera Beths; Reinbert de Leeuw; New Performance Group, Seattle; Barbara Hannigan; Yvar Mikhashoff; Gerrit Hommerson; Werner Herbers; Jacques Meertens; Telluride Glacial Spatial Ensemble; Arioso Winds; Modern Brass Ensemble; Frank Baker

It feels a little odd for me to write a CD review on Brant’s music the day that I learned of his passing. I’ve been spinning the disc for the past few days and enjoying it quite a bit.

I was delighted to hear rash and exuberant music matched up with the meditative and spatial works. The opening Whoopee in D and Music for a Five and Dime Store are energetic and spleen-venting. The following Revenge Before Breakfast is rather subdued and mellow in comparison with a mournful accordion serving as a sonic centerpiece.

We are missing something in hearing Brant’s spatial works on CD instead of in a concert hall. Altitude 8750, Revenge Before Breakfast, and Inside Track are all given great performances that make me wish for the live experience. I hope that someone takes it upon themselves to create surround mixes of Brant’s spatial work so his acoustic visions aren’t mashed into a simple stereo field.

Back on task. Where Revenge is moody and spatial, Inside Track is an absolute nutjob of a composition. And I mean that in the best possible way. The energy and kinetic nature of Whoopee and Dime Store merge together with expansive spatial ideas in this rather trippy piano concerto. Strings, woodwinds, and a “street band” duke it out around the soloist. Inside Track synthesizes the playful and the expansive natures of Brant’s output in an extremely attractive package. Altitude 8750, an improvised work, shares more with the sound world of Revenge than Inside Track.

Now, throw all that away and listen to the jazz works: Jazz Toccata and Jazz Clarinet Concerto are up next. These live recordings are sparkling gems. The only complaint one might have about these two pieces is the audio fidelity of the concerto’s recording. Recorded in the 80s, it sounds a bit more like a vintage recording from the 60s. Since that recording aesthetic matches the spirit of the composition, it doesn’t bother me. It might bother some. If there is something wrong with his toccata on “Wachet Auf,” I certainly can’t think of what it would be.

Brant’s compositional craft and mercurial voice ooze all over this whole disc. Brant’s voice was too big to be contained in a singular focused output. His compositions are all over the map, brimming with ideas and sprawling out over the stage and into the world.

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