Geneva Camerata ‘Sounds of Transformation’ (Sony) 4/5

Combining classical music and jazz in one setting has sometimes proven a sticky wicket and one that fans of both genres have, on occasion, felt uncomfortable with. However, it has also produced high quality music that transcends narrowly defined boundaries with strings on recordings by Bill Evans, Stan Getz and Charlie Parker, embellishing the layered textures of sound. This new project goes a step further in two notable respects. First of all, it explores the interrelationship and commonality that exists between early music (i.e. pre-baroque and thus J.S. Bach, a major influence on a plethora of jazz musicians), more recent impressionistic classical music from Maurice Ravel and jazz. For French audiences, this is less problematic insofar as in the world of cinema, both directors and musicians have extolled the virtues of this coming together of genres. In the early 1990’s Alain Corneau scored a major commercial as well as critical success with the film, ‘Tous les matins du monde’, based on the life of the little known composer Marin Marais, and the soundtrack became a best seller with Jordi Savall and Hisperion XX opening a whole new world of music to listeners. Corneau is a jazz aficionado.

Secondly, and with particular respect to this new endeavour, the same composer is interpreted in both jazz and classical/early music idioms and that can be a little disconcerting, but also a liberating experience for the listener. It has been extremely well put together by conductor/pianist David Greilsammer and fellow jazz pianist, Yaron Herman. The former performs on piano on a complete rendition of the Ravel Piano Concerto in G, and both participate together on a scintillating four hands version of Lully’s, ‘Last dream’. The jazz interpretations work best on the more intimate pieces, including, ‘Marin’s night ballad’, composed and arranged by Jonathan Keren, and on the Gil Evans inspired big band hues of, ‘Rameau and the Flying Big Band’, where the bass playing is quite free in parts. This is preceded by the lovely early music sound of Rameau’s own, ‘Contredanse en rondeau’, which is taken from ‘Les Boréades’. The transition from classical/baroque to jazz is further exemplified on the famous Purcell, ‘Prelude from the Fairy Queen’, which morphs into a Massimo Pinca composition in the style of Purcell, aptly titled, ‘Purcell in transformation’. Maybe an initial leap of faith is required for both jazz and classical devotees alike in taking on board this project as whole, but with this caveat in mind, that faith is more than repaid several times over when listening to the album. Tri-lingual inner sleeve notes in English, French and German leave the reader in no doubt as to the devotion to the project.

Tim Stenhouse