visit Laura Andel's website
RT 9322 (2003)
Surrealities, wandering through near distant paths. How far is here?
Pamelia KurStin theremin - Ursel ScHlicht piano
In The Midst & Murmur
Rebecca ShrimpTon voice - JerEmy Stein /Hiro HonshUku flute
Massimo Ricci - Touching Extremes
Laura Andel is a composer from Argentina, working on pretty various forms (just think she's also a graduate in tango performance). Somnambulist is a sort of orchestral rendition of concrete feelings and moments of human life, its challenging score maybe more oriented towards the performance itself than to the listener, who must pay a good amount of careful attention to bring out all the subtleties present in Laura's tapestry. The disciplined freedom I detect in "SomnambulisT" tells me about suffering and liberation; it talks about the darkness experienced before coming to the end of an infinite tunnel. This music is very lively and deeply thought, even if its technical complexity and theatrical approach will find most people not ready at first listen. Even if the slow moving first movement seems to prelude to an opening of the space around, it brings instead lots of questions not easy to answer to; lovers of hard-to-cathegorize artists must have their ears burning right now.
Ken Waxman - Jazz Weekly
Occupying that mid-range between jazz and classical music, Laura Andel is a composer to watch, as much for her audacity as for her conception.
Argentinean-born, she's a woodwind player who first received a degree in tango performance in Buenos Aires, then studied jazz composition and film music in Boston, and has since written for large and small ensembles in Boston, New York, Germany and Venezuela. Cinematic, with swathes of jazz and South American rhythms and quirky orchestral instrumentation, Somnanbulist is a nine-part, 46-minute suite that tries to compress all her influences and studies into a definitive whole.
Disjointed in parts, the ghostly-sounding program music raises the age-old question of how much was actually written and how much improvised by her first-class soloists. With so much happening in this work that depicts a sleepwalker and her dreams, there are times that formalism threatens to outweigh the improvisations. Overall though, the suite manages to resolve as many queries as it raises
By the second track, the Eurocentric conception built on viola, theremin, accordion, electronics and flute meets a heavily rhythmic guitar vamp, an unvarying drum beat, high-pitched strings and harmoniously sonorous bass clarinet and baritone saxophone tones. The sleepwalker's confusion may then be represented by the insect-like buzzing of voice, electronics and viola, succeeded by plunger trombone, vibraphone pressure and honking woodwinds and brass. Vocalist Kyoko Kitamura's voice wiggles, burps, screams and cries in a subsequent outpouring that sounds more like the nightmares of the certifiably insane then someone suffering from repose disquiet.
Soon quasi-classical influences predominate, with very legit-sounding viola glissandos, circling, clicking piano keys and ethereal flute tones. As discordant transitions arise, almost too much happens at the same time. The bass trombonist buzzes through the piece with a jet-plane-like drone, the accordionist introduces an expansive tango rhythm manipulating the squeezebox bellows back and forth to maximum expansion. Whistling cuts through all this as the drummer introduces splashing jazz rhythms with echoing percussion lines. Eventually the motif is tossed from one instrument group to the next encompassing muted brass, Sam Furnace's honking and slurring baritone saxophone and vibes-accordion counterpoint, until it lands in Oscar Noriega subterranean bass clarinet.
Rubbed drum heads introduce overblown saxophone slipsiding and brass flurries, as the vocalized breaths sustain throughout this section, while the strings buzz like worker bees, the accordion squeezes discordantly, the clarinet reed shrieks and the distinctive wavering theremin modulations suggest the cosmos.
Finally, as the horns advance a vaguely far-eastern theme on top of ghostly piano chords, a single triangle peal sounds sharply, as if it is an alarm clock bell rousing the sleeper from slumber. Kitamura's mumbling and murmuring imply the sleepwalker has awakened; though instrumental voices such as high intensity piano tremolos from Ursel Schlicht suggest that the potential for other nocturnal experiences still exist.
From a slightly earlier session featuring a different group and vocalist, the penultimate and final tracks offer small-scale versions of Andel's preoccupations. With the same mixture of influences and performed in a similar manner, the orchestral condensation merely extend what has gone before.
It will be interesting to see what else Andel can do with her fecund musical imagination. If future releases are as notable as this one -- and she recruits as sympathetic improvisers -- she'll be definitely move from the promising to the consummate composer category.
Eyal Hareuveni - The Squid's Ear
In her debut release Laura Andel, Argentinian-born and now New York- based composer, shows that she is a talent to watch out for. With the help of Elliott Sharp, who recorded the live SomnambulisT suite and mastered two other live short pieces, and many creative soloists - including Tastsuya Nakatani on drums, Reuben Radding on double bass, Jamie Baum on flute and electronics, Oscar Noriega on clarinets, Sam Furnace on saxes and Taylor Ho Bynum on cornet - Andel succeeds in a delivering very thoughtful, imaginative and creative work.
Andel desribes the nine-part SomnambulisT suite, which stretches over 45 minutes, as "surrealities, wandering through near distant paths.. a trace of infinity conceals and unfolds." She combines heavy influences of modern classic music, free improv and a bit of modern tango with the help of accordion player Carl Maguire with subtle electronics and theremin, leaving a lot of space for the excellent improvisers. The ethereal and dreamy, sometimes insomniac, character of this suite ends in a symbolic way with the sound of an alarm clock. The following shorter pieces are performed by the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra from Boston with lesser known soloists. In The Midst ("the simple, magnified in the space of time", according to Andel) and the beautiful "Murmur" ("slow oceans, imperceptibly moving on a dark quiet night, expand and contract") keep the floating character of the longer suite. Sharp's description of Andel's music, in the short liner notes of this disc, is quite accurate: "The end result is a transformation - we may not know the answers but we are left with a new set of mysterious and wonderful questions." Indeed.
The Squid's Ear
François Couture, All Music Guide
SomnambulisT features three works by composer Laura Andel, whose music defies categorization since it draws from avant-garde jazz and modern ensemble music without hitting the creative pitfall of "third stream." The title track takes up 46 of the 56 minutes of the disc. Split into nine seguing sections, "SomnambulisT" depicts a night of troubled sleep. The music, richly arranged and heavy on creative textures, alternately evokes a state of dream and ritual music. After the loose "Entering," where the composer shows how she intends to lead her 13-piece orchestra into toneless tapestries, the accordion (Carl Maguire) announces the beginning of the "Procession." New voices are brought to the forefront in each segment, those of thereminist Pamelia Kurstin and singer Kyoko Kitamura being the most haunting, but in general this work leaves little room to individual musicians, focusing on (and succeeding in) developing an ensemble sound. The piece is not without its weaknesses (the ultimate "Waking Up," in particular, fails to conclude in a convincing way, although it can be seen as the evaporation of the dream). The two shorter pieces (four and six minutes long) feature the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra, a large modern jazz ensemble that has recorded some of Andel's compositions in the past. Shapes and figures are only sketched on "In the Midst," a puzzling arrangement of restrained outbursts. "Murmur" provides the highlight of the set: beginning with a tuba call that sounds like the foghorn that would naturally follow a track titled "In the Midst," it grows slowly into a drone lead by Rebecca Shrimpton's soft, soulful vocalizes. A bass pulse anchors the piece as it grows chaotically into its climax and then recedes. An interesting release.
DOWNTOWN MUSIC GALLERY
Ms. Andel moved here after going to school in Boston (NEC I believe) a couple of years ago and has worked hard at putting together a fine large local ensemble to play her distinctive and challenging music. Her debut release features the long title work performed by her NY orchestra and two shorter works performed the Jazz Composers Alliance from Boston. The NY ensemble features a fine cast local players and unusual instrumentation, many of who we've come to know and some of who have played here at DMG. The NY Orchestra consists of Jamie Baum, Oscar Noriega, Sam Furnace, Taylor Ho Bynum & Julie Kalu on horns/reeds; Ursel Schlict on piano, Carl Maguire on accordion, Pamelia on theremin, Stephanie Griffin on viola, Danny Tunick on vibes, Kenta Nagai on fretless guitar, Rueben Radding on double bass and Tatsuya Nakatani on drums. All three works were recorded live and Elliott Sharp recorded the title track and mastered the entire cd. A somnambulist is a sleepwalker and this is an apt title for this fascinating, mysterious, dream world work. "Somnambulist" features a spacious and suspenseful blend of bowed vibes or percussion, a disembodied voice, floating horn spirits, a throbbing bass pulse, an intricate tapestry of piano, accordion, vibes and viola and some scary sustained el. guitar. This strange dreamscape seems closer to Xenakis or Penderecki than to any jazz composer I can think of. Laura uses space and deals with textures in a most careful way, as each kernel of sound is there to evoke a specific vibe. The overall structure or underlying thread becomes more apparent as it moves through interconnected sections. An excellent debut and a bit scary a times. Laura Andel seems to be on her way to having her pieces performed at Miller Theatre or Merkin Hall in the future. We can only hope she gets the recognition she certainly deserves.