Canzonas Americanas marries two postmodern forces - American composer/clarinetist Derek Bermel and the contemporary chamber band Alarm Will Sound. Sharing a joy for stylistic eclecticism and complexity, they form a remarkable recording that combines Bermel's wide range of instrumental colors with the virtuosic rhythmic ensemble that his music demands. This marks Bermel's follow-up CD to the Grammy-nominated Derek Bermel: Voices (BMOP/sound) album of large orchestral works.
"Derek Bermel synthesizes the diverse musical languages of his time into a unique, thoroughly individual American voice that is tuneful and rich, engaging and sophisticated," says Alan Pierson, Artistic Director/Conductor of Alarm Will Sound and the Brooklyn Philharmonic. "Canzonas Americanas establishes Derek as a composer firmly in an American tradition like Copland, Ives, Gershwin, and Ellington before him."
The versatile Bermel has been widely hailed for his creativity and theatricality. He re-imagines the sounds of indigenous world music, jazz, and rock in his uniquely virtuosic and dynamic compositions. Canzonas Americanas takes listeners on a rhythmic and sonic journey - from the yearning, pulsating choros at a club in Rio di Janeiro to the intricate, colorful xylophone music of a West African village. "Music is a prism through which I see and reflect the world," says Bermel.
The title track "Canzonas Americanas" (2010) was commissioned and premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic led by Gustavo Dudamel. Through a wide array of American popular music idioms and Latin rhythms, "Canzonas Americanas" evokes the spirit of Gershwin, Ellington, Villa-Lobos, Bernstein, and other trailblazing composers who have been indelibly influenced by both North and South American musical traditions.
Based on Lobi xylophone music of Ghana, "Hot Zone" (1995) draws from Bermel's study of the West African gyil in 1992 with Ngmen Baaru. Bermel is scheduled to return to Ghana next year. "Hot Zone" has been described as elegantly contrasting "the heavily syncopated tutti rhythms with the melismatic solo writing for English horn and cello" (New Music Box).