Beauty and grace

Submitted by Frederic Marand on Tue, 2005-06-07 23:30

Sometimes musicians do create themselves from art. Here is my account of one of these brief privileged moments with a oboe-toting lady.

Tonight, I played with the blues band as part of the monthly jazz session at Boby Lapointe, and thought I'd compare our workings with what the others were doing. After our small gig, a band of teachers from a nearby music school was announced prior to the jam session. On the set list, Chick Corea and a few other non descript jazz-rock numbers. Yawn... Plus this piece by a guy I didn't know: Richie Beirach. Hmmm... The band had an interesting setup, though: a drummer, a cellist, one of the Boby's guitarists, and this young lady at the piano. I love cello. Could it be good ?

Chick Corea : in short, such numbers always refresh in my memory the difference between music and jazz-rock. The guys and lady play very proficiently, but this is boring to death. Then a little bossa. Welcome change: so the lady doth sing and the band sometimes catches the languorous melancholy of the bossa nova. Cello in such a number is something I'd like to hear more often. Nice try.

On to Beirach, with a piece called Elm. The lady takes on an oboe. What can it be like ?

It's a shock. This music is immense: it sings, and sings, without a singer. A lyrical voice rises in majesty from the unsuspected depths of the cello, and unfurls slowly. But even this would be too simple: the main emphatic theme would be too easy, too classical, so it is broken by counterthemes running unexpected - yet so judicious - auditive symmetries to it, not only for the melody as any counterpoint would do, but also rhythmical ones.

And the voice of the oboe returns on and on, capturing the audience hypnotically, along with the gracious moves of the young lady blowing it, undulating like a snake to the curves in the main theme. Amazing: I hadn't noticed her previously and wouldn't recognize her later, but the suggesting gestures of playing the oboe, and the music itself together build a charm of their own that create beauty in her, magically: here is grace drunk from the fountain of the Muses.

It is for such moments that some fall in love with music. It takes another bland jazz-rock number after that to return to reality level 1.

Post scriptum: I checked for this piece on various sites and found it : see the links above. However, the only version apparently available these days, which I received a few days later, is not the same. It is performed by a very good trio: Richie Beirach on the piano, George Mraz on double bass, and Jack DeJohnette on drums. This could be the original performance, and the all-stars trio provides a very good interpretation, but the magic is not expressed. One can feel it, though: it is a bit like a magic potion, scroll or artifact, brimming with power, but with its spell yet uncast. Interesting, to say the least, but not entrancing like this live performance in another arrangement.

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