Sonic Reducer: Evan Christopher, Sea Wolf, The Art Of Flying

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Evan Christopher long ago established his technical mastery of the clarinet—tone, nuance (emotions subdivided into their millionth parts), phrasing. To that, he adds a scholar’s curiosity, an artist’s sensibility and a capacity for deep feeling. They all come together in his masterwork, The Remembering Song, inspired by his return to New Orleans post-Katrina . This luminous recording, eight of whose 12 tracks are Christopher originals, captures the gratitude, pride, sorrow, anger, resolve, resignation, hope and celebration that quickens the Crescent City today. With help from Bucky Pizzarelli (guitar), James Chirillo (guitar) and Greg Cohen (bass), Christopher reflects profoundly and gently on the city’s tradition and both its historic and its metaphorical longing for home. “Waltz for All Souls” would test the limits of Odysseus tied to the mast. No sirens ever sang so beautifully. (MM)

Sea Wolf White Water, White Bloom (Dangerbird Records)

Produced by Bright Eyes’ Mike Mogis (who has also handled Rachael Yamagata and Tilly and the Wall), Sea Wolf’s second full-length crashes with big melody right from the opening track and smoothly slides down to low-key but catchy ear-pleasers. This back and forth continues throughout the disc, not merely a collection of songs but a thoughtful progression of splendid sounds. There are 20-some instruments here, but it never feels cluttered. Each song features precisely what’s needed to put it across. Sea Wolf (i.e., Alex Church) chooses backing musicians and lyrics with similar care and, most important of all, intent. (CA)

Art of Flying THOUGH the LIGHT seem SMALL (Discobolus Records)

Combining everything under the musical sun seems to be fashionable these days. With more than a dozen instruments—including piano, bass clarinet and oud—and a strange bedfellows musical style spanning moonlit café introspection, doo-wop folk and brassy Sgt. Pepper reggae pop, Art of Flying’s concept could be messy. I’m not sure it isn’t, but then again, one gets the feeling that not appreciating a CD such as this will brand you uncultured. Showing my ignorance, I’d pick the more accessible songs like the surfing and spying tone of “KALIYUGA, BABY!” or the breathy cello-backed Kate Bush / Tori Amos hybrid title track. (CA)
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