works by J. S. Bach, Olivier Messiaen, and David Sherr
Bel Air Jazz
Aria from J. S. Bach Cantata 56 (excerpt performed by The Bach Aria Group)
…then have I the Eagle’s Powers, then Soar I Up from this World, David Sherr
Le merle noir, Olivier Messiaen
Au revoir Merle noir, David Sherr
Abí®me des oiseaux, Olivier Messiaen
Otherworld Music, David Sherr and Olivier Messiaen
A Little Flight Music, David Sherr
To the Muses, David Sherr
The Bel Air Jazz Ensemble
This disc is, to be blunt, the damnedest thing. Things start out plain enough. A Bach aria begins to chug away but suddenly fades out into a woman speaking French. Various other languages and voices appear and disappear, making a melange of sound. The voices subside and then the Bach aria appears in improvisatory fragments in flute, vibraphone, piano, and bass. When the mellow sax solo takes over, you realize that you have no idea where this disc is going to take you next. It is, as I said before, the damnedest thing.
Messiaen gets the David Sherr treatment as well. Straightforward performances of La merle noir and Abí®me des oiseaux alternate with jazz-inspired works or improvisations of the same (in the case of Abí®me des oiseaux the improv stems from the Intermí¨de from the Quartet). This probably sounds like blaspheme and sacrilege to some. The kicker is: it works. David Sherr can make the Bel Air Jazz Ensemble sound like his music regardless the the music’s original DNA was Bach or Messiaen. To borrow from Homer Simpson, Otherworld Music is “sacrilicious.”
David Sherr’s music is equally beautiful when he is not functioning as a co-composer. The no-nonsense jazz style of A Little Flight Music is energetic but with a light touch. To the Muses is a soulful saxophone feature that oozes with gratitude and tenderness. If I could do what Sherr does, I’d be thanking the muses, too.