Derek Bermel: Canzonas Americanas

derek bDerek Bermel
Canzonas Americanas
(Cantaloupe Music)

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If one thing becomes apparent from composer/clarinetist Derek Bermel’s Canzonas Americanas, it is that the man has soaked up a fair amount of Copland, Ives and Gershwin with some Wynton Marsalis and Philip Glass (two of the many artists he’s worked with) and a goodly amount of Latin rhythms to work these influences to a hearty new album.

I love the fiddle opening and following piano runs of the four-movement title track, routing me quickly to 19th century folk traditions, even with some odd horn play mid-way into all the staccato-ness (the first taste of a West Side Story feel I get more than once here). The second part of the suite features the clarinet with other woodwinds coming to counter and part three an almost 60’s influenced electric guitar wackiness.

Alarm Will Sound, the collective “band” on here has made the song “3 Rivers” a specialty. It certainly sounds well-reasoned with slinky interludes of horns and strings, a consistent snare drum and trilling xylophone lines.

“Natural Selection,” another four-parter, features lots of Timothy Jones’ melodic baritone. The opening sounds like any good American show tune into running horns and strings (with wild piano too) and the third part is especially striking with plinking anvil accents, tickling piano and channels Cole Porter’s spirit more often than not.            

Alan Pierson, artistic director/conductor of Alarm Will Sound and the Brooklyn Philharmonic, takes the musicians as well as Luciana Souza (soprano), Kiera Duffy (soprano) and Timothy Jones (baritone) through these often challenging pieces expertly.

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