Matt Blostein

To See And Hear This Week


Out today, and appearing on stage for eight performances starting tomorrow, is an opera from composer Yoav Gal, Mosheh . This is Gal’s telling of the story of Moses, set in contemporary New York City. The baby is plucked out of the East River and raised under the BQE.

It’s a tightly integrated project, with the composer responsible for the music, libretto and the staging, including creating the video projections that will be seen in performance and collaborating on the sets and costumes. The sung narrative is all in high voices, that of five women involved in saving and raising him, with the voice of God conveyed by a counter-tenor and alto. This gives the music an eerie, compelling sound, enhanced by Gal’s ear for unusual and evocative timbres. The language of the music is developed from the post-Minimal techniques of Arvo Pärt and David Lang, and he uses woodwind’s to create a shofar-like, microtonal sound. There’s very much a ritualistic structure to the work, at least in the hearing, and the audio alone makes the case for Mosheh as an innovative update to the dramatic oratorio. There are long instrumental sections that strongly imply an accompaniment to something on stage, and since this is such interesting and involving music, I recommend catching a performance even more than just buying the music.

Mosheh will be performed at HERE Arts Center, 145 Sixth Avenue, January 26 through Feb 5. TIckets are $20, $50 for opening night, but that price gets you a CD and afterparty.

At the end of this week, you can see and hear new music from Marika Hughes, who has two CDs out this month. Hughes is one of a growing number of string players who are at ease and accomplished in classical and contemporary chamber music, jazz and pop, and her releases put both sides of her playing on display. The Simplest Thing is her “pop” record, with her core band of guitarists Kyle Sanna and Shahzad Ismaily, Todd Sickafoose on bass and Mathias Künzli at the drums, and numerous guests, including Jenny Scheinman, Charles Burnham and Jewlia Eisenberg. The disc sounds like a labor of love, a musician presenting what seem to be a very personal set of songs and with a talented bunch of true friends adding fine, sympathetic support – the ensemble sound and playing on the record is really fine, with a relaxed, confident focus and a sure and supple feel. Hughes cello is secondary, she’s the front girl and singer on all the tracks. There’s a nice mix of urban and rural flavors, and the best songs, and the ones that are best for Hughes singing, have a touch of country twang. A mix of songs that are seem so tightly woven into the artists experiences means that there will be a couple missteps for every listener, but overall this is a polished, solid and good natured CD.

The other side of her musicianship, and the stronger one for my taste, can be heard on her Afterlife Music Radio , a set of eleven pieces for solo cello, all contributed by other musicians, including Burnham, Scheinman and other bandmates, and also with works from Nasheet Waits, Carla Kihlstedt, Eyvind Kang and others. These are all compelling works that succinctly explore specific qualities of the instrument, from long, singing phrases to rough, aggressive bowing. Hughes plays these with an improvisational feel that seems perfect, and the sequencing of the collection makes this sound like an extended and involved suit, a real journey from the musician through fascinating, introverted places, and back out again. An involving listen from beginning to end, and a disc that fits right along side with the recent recordings of Maya Beiser, Zoe Keating and Matt Haimovitz.

Marika Hughes is presenting both sets of music at 92YTribeca, Friday January 28.

This Sunday, you can hear music from Matt Blostein and Vinnie Sperrazza at the Cornelia Street Cafe. The two have a new CD out next month, Paraphrase , a nice example of contemporary small group jazz, with solid writing, smart and musical interplay within the band, and a great group sound. I’m a sucker for the trombone in small group settings, and Jacob Garchik has a tasty sound. The music is maybe a little too polite and modest, but in the live setting you can expect more fire from the band. Still, a fine record and a completely satisfying listen. Here’s a sample: