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The 'Further Explorations' of the Alchemy Sound Project Fuse Classical and Jazz [REVIEW]

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Jun 18, 2016 01:28 PM EDT | Mike Greenblatt (

Alchemy Sound Project

The 'Further Explorations' of the Alchemy Sound Project is a Classical Jazz gas. (Photo : courtesy JCOI)

To properly distill classical music and jazz music, one must be on intimate terms with both or the experiment will most likely wind up being either one or the other -- but not both. Enter Alchemy Sound Project. Its Further Explorations debut (Artists Recording Collective) combines West African folk motifs with European classical and stateside jazz. Does it succeed? In spades!

Five of the seven ASP musicians met in the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute (JCOI), an entity that chooses 38 aspirants to experience one week of work with top composers, conductors and performers. Tenor saxophonist Erica Lindsay, trumpeter/flugelhorn player Samantha Boshnack, pianist Sumi Tonooka, bassist David Arend and multi-instrumentalist Salim Washington each brought two compositions for Further Explorations.

Washington-who shines throughout on tenor sax, oboe, alto flute and bass clarinet-brought opener "Charcoal Clear Beautiful All Over" where his bass clarinet skips, dances, flies and hops all over the mix. The South Africa college professor's "The Call," written for a hipster friend of his dad's, closes out this party of the mind.

Saxist Lindsay -- who has performed in the bands of McCoy Tyner and Frank Zappa -- contributed the title tune which builds in intensity from low-flying alto flute acrobatics to a druggy bass/drum jam that signals the entrance of the horns. Here, wild improvisation melds with a detailed arrangement, almost as a counterpoint to her other offering, "Beta," which is heavily orchestrated note-for-note style like the masters of classical old.

Pianist Tonooka brought "Waiting" from her native Philadelphia where she's worked with jazz greats like Philly Joe Jones and Rufus Reid while her other piece, "Joie de Vivre," combines aspects of music from Mali with the contrapuntal approach of her beloved Johann Sebastian Bach [1685-1750].

Bassist Arend, a veteran of the Oakland Symphony Orchestra, is also conversant in electronica, the avant-garde, backing up singer/songwriters and, yes, jazz. He brought "Her Name is Love" adapted from a piano etude by Czech composer Leos Janacek [1854-1928].

So is it jazz or is it classical? Let the listener decide.

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