Hand Eye, the newest project from multiple Grammy award-winning “super musicians” (Los Angeles Times) Eighth Blackbird, features a musical dream team of performers and composers in an album of great beauty, energy, and immediacy. Eighth Blackbird won Grammy awards for all three of its Cedille recordings released between 2007 and 2013. Its next Cedille album, FILAMENT, was released in September 2015 and won the 2016 GRAMMY for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.
Eighth Blackbird joins forces with Sleeping Giant, six young American composers “rapidly gaining notice for their daring innovations, stylistic range and acute attention to instrumental nuance” (WQXR Radio). The result is an album of world-premiere recordings of works written for eighth blackbird and inspired by stunning pieces of contemporary art. In Timo Andres’ Checkered Shade, the aural perspective zooms out as musical fragments coalesce into an expressive chorale. Andrew Norman’s Mine, Mime, Meme places the cellist in a sonic space where the other instrumentalists mimic his playing. Robert Honstein’s three-movement Conduit takes its cue from an interactive digital sculpture pulsing with colors and the world of touch-screen electronic devices. Christopher Cerrone’sSouth Catalina reflects both an audio-responsive interactive light sculpture and the composer’s discomfort with Southern California’s perpetual sunshine. Ted Hearn’s By-By Huey is a soul-infused jam session. Jacob Cooper’s Cast assembles an array of distinctive musical gestures around a vibraphone line.
The sextet features flutist Tim Munro, clarinetist Michael J. Maccaferri, violinist Yvonne Lam, cellist Nicholas Photinos, percussionist Matthew Duvall, and pianist Lisa Kaplan. Hand Eye producer Elaine Martone and engineer Michael Bishop are multiple Grammy winners. Martone was awarded Producer of the Year, Classical in 2006. Audio editor is Cedille’s own Grammy-nominated engineer Bill Maylone.
“That is to say each composer has taken his own musical style and pushed the logic that binds its constituent units together to grow wild, to generate something complex and strange. Sleeping Giant is, for lack of a better term, hacking music — and the results are dazzling.”
Daniel Stephen Johnson, WQXR (New York)
“Hand Eye, a recording of six works so of the moment, so vital, and so provocative that it could very well turn the way you listen to music on your ear.”
Jason Victor Serinus, Stereophile
“The amazing blackbirds are very much on top of their frisky game here, and the recording quality is superb as well.”
John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune
“What is most striking about the suite, apart from the brilliance and immediacy of Eighth Blackbird’s performances, is the lack of sameness in the individual pieces. Though minimalism – Reich and Adams more than Glass – seems to be a common starting point for all six composers, and they move unselfconsciously between purely diatonic and much more complex, heavily chromatic textures, their musical personalities seem markedly different and sharply contrasted. Some of the music, such as Cerrone’s South Catalina, is bright, shiny, outgoing; other pieces, such as Hearne’s By-By Huey, are darker and more conflicted. As a snapshot of what one group among the younger generation of US composers is doing, it’s encouraging and revealing.”
Andrew Clements, The Guardian
“More intellect is involved on this album than we usually encounter in what we review, but the emotion is what makes Hand Eye an immediate front-runner for that fifth Grammy; as they say in sports, one for the thumb.”
Richard Allen, A Closer Listen
“The music is appealing immediately upon first listen. One hears the influences of Terry Riley here, John Adams there, David Lang, etc. In short these pieces are informed by the preceding generations of minimalists much as they also address their debt and do honor to their mentors. It has some of the character of Lang’s “Child” in that this is essentially a suite of pieces of post-minimalist chamber music (though this music has an almost symphonic quality at times).
The recording is superb and up to the high standards of Cedille releases and the musicianship, as always, is superb.”