Just off a worldwide 3-band tour with pop Icons Joe Jackson and Todd Rundgren performing for screaming crowds, Ethel takes the category "crossover" to new levels in this CD featuring favorites from their road-tested repertoire.
The long-awaited follow-up to their highly-acclaimed Cantaloupe debut has the string foursome veering in a new direction. Robust Americana and fiddle tunes from across the world, originals and new comissions fill a CD that's as danceable as it is thought-provoking.
"Downtown darlings Ethel must be having fun playing in a string quartet. How else to explain all those car noises, footsteps, bird chirps, parrot talk, cowboy yelps, rooster crows, cat meows and strains of Marvin Gaye, Texas swing, Brazilian folk and Appalachia on the group's new CD, Light? That's light as in light, fun-loving music."
- New York Press
"Ethel is a genre unto itself."
- AM New York
"If you're not sure what to expect from a string quartet that calls itself Ethel, the most sensible advice is simply to expect the unexpected. From one track to the next on Light, the group's second album for the wonderfully eclectic Cantaloupe Music label, you'll encounter Brazilian dance rhythms and Finnish fiddling, jazz licks and blues cadences, and a flawless classical technique in the service of rock 'n' roll energy."
- Barnes & Noble
"It is one of the most thoroughly entertaining collections I've heard this year. The energetic performances - rhythmically sharp, brave, and altogether involving - match the remarkable creativity of the composers."
About the Music
Marcelo Zarvos: Nepomuk's Dances
"A character from Thomas Mann's novel "Doktor Faustus" inspires Nepomuk's Dances. The author describes Nepomuk as an "...archaic child" who brings immense joy and ultimately, upon his tragic and premature death, tremendous sorrow to his reclusive uncle. The piece is divided into three movements - Fast, Slow and Fast - and was written for and dedicated to the members of Ethel."
- Marcelo Zarvos
Brazilian pianist and composer Marcelo Zarvos has written for virtually every medium from the Concert Stage to Film, Television, Theater and Dance and is currently working on a NYSCA commission for the Quintet of the Americas. Among his recent scores are "Kissing Jessica Stein," the Academy Award-nominated short film "A Soccer Story," "Tully," the award-winning PBS documentary "The Buffalo War" and a collaboration with Eumir Deodato in "Bossa Nova." In the realm of modern dance, Zarvos collaborated with Jelon Vieira on "A Jornada," a commission by DanceBrazil, which received its premiere in 2001 at the Joyce Theater, and he recently completed a new dance score for Cleo Parker Robinson Dance. As a recording artist, Zarvos has been featured on CNN, WKCR, NPR and he has released three critically acclaimed albums for MA Recording, "DUALISM," "MUSIC JOURNAL" and "LABYRINTHS," which landed a TOP 10 JAZZ CD of 1999 on CDNOW. He has appeared at the Knitting Factory, Americas Society, Merkin Hall, New Jersey Center for Performing Arts, AT&T Latino Arts Festival and New York Texaco Jazz Festival. He has appeared as guest conductor with the Tokyo Symphony Chamber Orchestra and Sadao Watanabe.
Mary Rowell: Sambula in D
"Sambula in D was was inspired by and originally scored for the collaboration of Ethel and Gutbucket, "New York's Punk/Jazz Kerzoom." With elements of dance music from Hawaii and Brazil, bebop and rhythmic improvisation, it combines apparently disjunctive motives into a cohesive structure. The piece was conceived as part of a commission for the members of Ethel by the Jerome Foundation and the Greenwall Foundation."
Cornelius Dufallo: Lighthouse
"Lighthouse is a bittersweet groove in three sections. To me, the image of a lighthouse conjures feelings of both loneliness and hope. Lighthouse was commissioned by the fusion ensemble Nurse Kaya, and first performed by that ensemble in August of 2004. I am thrilled to have arranged it for Ethel, and I love playing it with Mary, Dorothy, and Ralph."
Dorothy Lawson: Chai
"Chai was commissioned by the Preparatory Division of the New England Conservatory of Music. Originally conceived as a trio, it started out as an exploration of a rock style for violin, viola and cello. Never one to be left out of a tea party, Ethel got her hands on it and made another place at the table. Her manners are a little rough, but the brew is nice and spicy. It's the second piece I've ever written down, and I'm as amused as anyone at the form it took."
Tristano/arr. Rowell: Requiem
"Requiem, originally a sparse, stark and pensive piano solo, moving into blues, evokes the feel of a New Orleans funeral
ritual. In the traditional Louisiana form, a minor-key march erupts into a triumphant Major-key heterophonic jam, the band celebrating the deceased's entrance into heaven. In Tristano's Requiem, the blues that follows the procession-like opening section is intimate and melancholic, an inward-looking take on the tradition."
Lennie Tristano was a unique and pioneering figure in American improvised music. He was born in Chicago during a particularly virulent flu epidemic, which rendered him blind by age 9. By the mid-1940's, Tristano had become one of the most versatile and accomplished jazz musicians in the Midwest. Relocating to New York City in 1946, he there found a cadre of players that were interested in experiments leading to a synthesis of jazz and traditional European concert music. One classic Tristano presentation took place during a brief stint at Birdland, when he and his group opened several sets with Bach Inventions -- sometimes played "straight" and other times serving as a mere departure point for a collective contrapuntal improvisation. Tristano was also a pioneered multi-track recording of the piano and he founded New York City's first school of jazz in 1951.
T. Alakotila /arr. Farris: Pelimanni's Revenge
"This tune never fails to make me smile, and it was the perfect confection to bring to Ethel. Pelimanni is the Finnish version of a classic Nordic folk dance music, and it is the younger of the two main Finnish folk music traditions, the other being kalevalaic music (a storytelling vocal tradition). Tonal in origin, pelimanni music evolved as a fiddle style and eventually incorporated harmoniums, accordions and clarinets. The Finnish region of Kaustinen became the hub for pelimanni music, and it was there that Alakotila, with co-founder Arto Jarvela founded the sensational JPP in 1982. Fun fact: The CD upon which this tune was originally featured is entitled "Kaustinen Rhapsody". Check it out!"
Timo Alakotila is a huge figure in the Finnish music scene. A harmonium player, pianist, composer and arranger, he holds faculty positions at the Sibelius Academy Folk Music Department and Helsinki Pop & Jazz Conservatory. Timo has collaborated with such artists as Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Karen Tweed and Mollie O?Brien and has been commissioned by The BBC Concert Orchestra, Tsuumi dance group, Unto Tango Orchestra and the Sibelius Academy Folk Music Department.
Pamela Z: Ethel Dreams of Temporal Disturbances
"Ethel would like to settle down and relax after a long day's work and watch something she has recorded, but she's so tired, that she drifts off before she's even made it through the opening credits. She sleeps fitfully as mixed messages from her program, along with countless advertising breaks and news bulletins, infomercials and cultural programs scan forward and backwards across her closed eyelids and seep in through her vulnerable open ears. Ethel is puzzled as her dreams are re-written and edited to please the corporate sponsors and their themes are influenced by the whims of the underwriters. She becomes disoriented as time stretches, condenses, pauses, races forward and backwards, and she finally wakes up with her head on the TV remote."
Pamela Z is a composer/performer who makes solo works combining a wide range
of vocal techniques with electronic processing, sampled sounds, and The
BodySynth gesture controller. She has also composed scores for dance, film, and new music chamber ensembles. Her audio works have been presented in exhibitions at the Whitney in NY and the Di?zesanmueum in Cologne. She has toured throughout the US, Europe, and Japan in concerts and festivals including Bang on a Can, the Japan Interlink Festival, Other Minds, and the Venice Biennale. Her numerous awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Creative Capital Fund, the CalArts Alpert Award, the ASCAP Award, and the NEA/JUSFC Fellowship. For further information, visit: www.pamelaz.com
Mary Ellen Childs: After Dust
"After Dust, written for Ethel, is from the evening-length Dream House, for string quartet with accompanying multi-image
video surrounding the musicians. Dream House serves as a commentary on cycles of time, the rhythm of work, and the intertwined nature of destruction and creation. The stunning video imagery for the work (edited by Daniel Polsfuss) is based on footage collected at three construction sites, including one in which an existing house was demolished to make room for construction of a new home on the same site. After Dust follows a dramatic destruction scene and is heard as the dust settles and excavation begins."
-Mary Ellen Childs
Mary Ellen Childs is a composer who creates both rhythmic, exuberant instrumental works and bold, kinetic compositions that integrate music and dance and theater in fresh and unexpected ways. She has created numerous "visual percussion" pieces that embody the concept of music in motion, for her ensemble CRASH. Childs also composes "purely musical" concert works and has received commissions from the Kronos Quartet, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Dale Warland Singers, Lila Wallace/Meet the Composer Commissioning program, and two commissions from the Rockefeller Multi-Arts Fund. Full evenings of her work have been presented at the Walker Art Center, The Southern Theater in Minneapolis, experimental Intermedia Foundation in New York, at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and in St. Petersburg, Russia. She has also received performances at the Bang On A Can Festival, Lincoln Center, New Music America - Miami, The Other Minds Festival (San Francisco) and elsewhere around the U.S., in Europe and Japan. A compact disc of her work, Kilter, is available on the XI label. She is a recipient of two Bush Artist Fellowships and she has recently completed an innovative three year residency with the Southern Theater, St. Olaf College and Eden Prairie High School through Meet The Composer's New Residencies program.
Don Byron: String Quartet No. 2, four thoughts on Marvin Gaye
"In the last few years, I have gained confidence, inspiration, and spiritual grounding in gospel culture. Black religious music is the elephant in the room when any serious discussion of serious music takes place. So much of the great music of the sixties and seventies was made by vocalists with gospel roots. While Aretha and Ray Charles are the obvious giants, Marvin Gaye is right there with them. His was a subtle art. His melismatic improvisations seemed to happen almost in slow motion. He was seldom flashy, always sexy. I saw him several times, the final time in Boston. He flashed the audience several times and when he'd howl like a wolf, the women in the audience would scream on cue. A careful examination of his line reveals a complicated blues structure, full of bends and tears; a Sinatra-like smoothness; and a consistently dirty mind. His personal life was troubled, particularly his relationship with his father, who ended up killing him. What a story! I think he's a great subject for a string quartet, if not a mini-series."
For over a decade, Don Byron has been a singular voice in a dizzying range of musical contexts, exploring widely divergent traditions while continually striving for what he calls "a sound above genre." As clarinetist, composer, arranger, and social critic, he redefines every genre of music he plays, be it classical, salsa, hip-hop, funk, klezmer, or any jazz style from swing and bop to cutting-edge downtown improvisation. He has been consistently voted best clarinetist by critics and readers alike in leading international music journals since being named "Jazz Artist of the Year" by Down Beat in 1992. Acclaimed as much for his restless creativity as for his unsurpassed virtuosity as a player, Byron has presented a multitude of projects at major music festivals around the world, including recent performances in Vienna, San Francisco, Hong Kong, London, Monterey, New Zealand, and on New York's Broadway. (See also: A Ballad for Many)
Mary Rowell: Also Sprach Einstein
"Also Sprach Einstein is yet another arrangement of Sambula. It is a sort of "re-mix" that was inspired by and features the vocal stylings of Einstein the African Gray Parrot, who resides at the Knoxville Zoo, (TN). Einstein's vocal track enhances the inherent party sensibility of the tune."
For more information about the performers, please visit the artist pages for Ethel.