Album review: Archetypes

Published on May 31, 2021 by Rick Perdian       |      Share this post!

“…the six composer/performers have created fascinating musical vignettes that capture the essence of the individuals that they depict.”

“…music that lifts the spirits.”

An archetype is an easily recognizable, readily stereotyped, sort of person. In their new release, Grammy Award-winning Third Coast Percussion joins with celebrated Brazilian guitarist Sérgio Assad and his daughter – vocalist, composer and multi-instrumentalist Clarice Assad – to portray in music twelve of these universal characters that defy time and place. Whether they be a magician, hero, lover or caregiver, the six composer/performers have created fascinating musical vignettes that capture the essence of the individuals that they depict.

Third Coast Percussion was founded by Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin and David Skidmore to explore and expand the limitless sonic possibilities of the percussion repertoire. Through their concerts and residency projects with engineers, architects and astronomers, the ensemble has gathered an international following. It was the first percussion ensemble to win a chamber music Grammy Award for their 2016 Cedille label debut, Third Coast Percussion | Steve Reich and with Archetypes they might just have another contender.

At the age of 14, Brazilian guitarist and composer Sérgio Assad was arranging and writing original compositions for the guitar duo that he had formed with his brother Odair. Over the past 20 years, he has sought to expand that repertoire, as well as making hundreds of arrangements of chamber music for musicians such as cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and soprano Dawn Upshaw.

Clarice Assad is a significant artistic voice in the classical, world music, pop and jazz genres, known for the evocative colors, rich textures and diverse stylistic range in the music that she composes and performs. Her award-winning education program, Voxploration, has toured the United States, Brazil, Europe and Qatar.

All of the artists composed portraits for the recording: the four members of Third Coast Percussion one apiece and Sérgio and Clarise Assad each four. The sonic possibilities from the combination of percussion, piano, guitar and voice are vast and enticing. The surprise is how often the six composers went against type, exploring the sounds of instruments outside of the instruments that they normally play.

In ‘Lover’, David Skidmore creates music that surges with passion. It begins with a swirl of incessant patters played by the marimba which are soon pierced by crystalline sounds from the piano. They swell until a musical plateau is reached and percussion, piano and guitar serendipitously begin to exchange melodies. The unexpected clang of metal creates a sense of ecstasy that evaporates as the music fades away. Peter Martin’s ‘Ruler’ summons tradition by evoking an early English folk song, which gains in majesty and stateliness as it increases in complexity.

Crashing piano chords, rumblings from the depths, whispers from beyond and percussion spasms evoke wisdom in Robert Dillon’s portrayal of a sage. Sean Connors’ ‘Creator’ is built on an ostinato that underpins a celebration of life replete with the joyous pealing of bells that transport the listener to the sky.

Repetitive patters also gird Sérgio Assad’s ‘Innocent’ with dreamy vocals supplied by his daughter in music that is as light as a cloud on a bright sunny day. Assad is a master of color and rhythm, which he employs to depict the mystery and power of magicians, as well as the relentless drive and curiosity of an explorer.

A cymbal crash opens Clarice Assad’s ‘Rebel’ followed by a percussion explosion. The frenetic pace of the work is eased only by vocals that create a seductive sense of danger. Perhaps the sweetest and most sensitively etched of the portraits is her ‘Caregiver’ with its gentle melodies that are played so expressively by father and daughter. It’s music that lifts the spirits.

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