On this recording, Eighth Blackbird wanders through an unfamiliar house. With each track a new door is opened, releasing unexpected sounds and dramas. Some are sweet, touching. Others have hilarious quirks. A few possess a disturbing strangeness.
The remarkable new-music ensemble Eighth Blackbird has won Grammy Awards for its last two albums on Cedille Records. Now, the “polished, personable, routinely dazzling sextet” (New York Times) returns with meanwhile, an album highlighting the kaleidoscopic diversity of contemporary classical music. meanwhile includes world-premiere recordings of three exciting and accessible works written for the adventurous young sextet: Stephen Hartke’s sparkling, fanciful Meanwhile: Incidental Music to Imaginary Puppet Plays (2007) looks to classical Asian puppet theater for inspiration, with gamelan-style Flexatones and piano altered to sound like a Vietnamese hammered dulcimer; Missy Mazzoli’s Still Life with Avalanche (2008) paints an idyllic landscape disturbed by unexpected news; and Two movements from Roshanne Etezady’s Damaged Goods (2001) grapple with the psychic bruises of everyday modern life.
“eighth blackbird’s taste is stylistically omnivorous. They tend to avoid any school of composition in favor of real personality and high imagination. The result is a rare mix of substance and entertainment. I did mention that they’re able to negotiate all the subtleties of these different languages with equal virtuosity, didn’t I? Also, I salute them for sticking with the plucky Cedille label, which has been one of Chicago’s greatest cultural ambassadors for a couple of decades now. A wonderful disc.”
Robert Carl, Fanfare
“. . . Gratifying as it is, however, to hear eighth blackbird take on the music of stars like Adès and Glass, one of the greatest thrills offered by this album is the sense of discovery that accompanies pieces by under-recorded composers, such as the quasi-symphonic grandeur of Damaged Goods by Roshanne Etezady — represented here by two movements — and most of all, Philippe Hurel’s dazzling …a mesure. Hurel’s combination of virtuosity with an uncompromising, yet undogmatic sense of focus are a one-to-one match for eighth blackbird’s own strengths as a band.”
Daniel Stephen Johnson, WQXR
“Is there an ensemble anywhere that conveys the sheer exuberance and joy of contemporary music like eighth blackbird? To listen to this brilliant young American sextet is to be constantly reminded of just how exciting, funny and ingratiating new work can be – especially when it’s delivered with these players’ characteristic blend of breakneck virtuosity and charm.”
Joshua Kosman, SFGate.com
“meanwhile” eighth blackbird (Cedille 90000 133; CD). “The adventurous ensemble Eighth Blackbird has entranced listeners in recent years with its theatrical interpretations of new music. Its performances on disc are equally electric, with dynamic interpretations of works including Philippe Hurel’s Kaleidoscopic “… à mesure,” Stephen Hartke’s quirky meanwhile: Incidental Music to Imaginary Puppet Plays and Philip Glass’s Music in Similar Motion.”
The New York Times (www.nytimes.com)