Sunday, 25 January 2015

A new recording of music by Joseph Daley on the JoDaMusic label proves to be a fascinating and engaging release with some fine performances from all concerned

Musician and composer Joseph Daley was born in New York City’s Harlem beginning his musical studies in elementary school and later studying at the High School of Music and Art, receiving high honours and recognition.  He was a member of the most prestigious ensembles in the New York City school system where he began performing on the Latin music scene performing alongside such fine musicians as Rene McLean, Monquito Santamaria, Andy Gonzalez, Alex Blake and many others.

A scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music resulted in his Bachelor’s degree in Performance and a Master’s degree in Music Education and led to a career as an educator in the New York and New Jersey school systems from 1976 until his retirement in 2005. Daley balanced his extensive educational commitments with recording and performing in the ensembles of some of the most provocative musicians on the contemporary jazz scene including Muhal Richard Abrams, Makanda Ken McIntyre, Jason Hwang and Dave Douglas and was an original member of Howard Johnson’s ground breaking tuba ensemble, Gravity. He has also been a long-time collaborator with the highly respected composer/ethnomusicologist and master of non-Western instruments, Bill Cole.

As well as composition, Joseph Daley works with his Earth Tones Ensemble and Ebony Brass Quintet as well as performing as part of duo and trio collaborations and solo performances playing the tuba, euphonium and valve trombone. Daley is also currently a member of the highly eclectic ensemble Hazmat Modine, under the direction of musician and visual artist Wade Schuman.

After nearly 40 years of recognition as one of the most consummate musicians on the adventurous music scene with remarkable artists like Sam Rivers, Carla Bley, Gil Evans, Charlie Haden, Taj Mahal and many more, in 2011, Daley released his CD, The Seven Deadly Sins to enthusiastic reviews, making several Best of 2011 lists. It featured his Earth Tones Ensemble (a full Jazz orchestra augmented by six additional low-toned horns, and including a seven-member rhythm section and four special guests). This was followed up two years later by The Seven Heavenly Virtues for string orchestra.

JoDaMusic has recently released a new album of Daley’s compositions entitled Portraits: Wind, Thunder and Love featuring percussionist Warren Smith together with a full string orchestra comprising eight violins, four violas, four celli, two basses, piano and percussion conducted by Joseph Daley.

JoDaMusic 002

The main work on the disc is the five movement suite Wispercussion: Five Portraits of Warren Smith who recently celebrated his 80th birthday yet still maintains a demanding teaching and performing schedule. Here Daley has composed a homage, featuring Warren’s remarkable musicality on vibraphone, marimba, tympani, gongs and trap drums (drum kit) sequentially on each movement.

A small number of special guests join for the three remaining pieces, Shadrack: Portrait of Bill Cole, Doretha and the Blues:Portrait of Wanda Daley and Industria.

In Movement 1 of Wispercussion: Five Portraits of Warren Smith for String orchestra and percussion the string orchestra is soon joined by the vibraphone with 12 tone shifting harmonies. The music soon picks up the pace and becomes more rhythmic leading to a solo section for vibraphone which gently picks out and varies the theme. The orchestra soon re-join and move the music forward to the coda.

The marimba alone picks out a theme as Movement 2 begins. The piano joins as does the orchestra in a syncopated theme, very American in flavour and rhythm. Movement 3 opens with pizzicato strings and piano chords, continuing the rhythm of the second movement. Timpani join adding a rhythm before the strings rise up with the beat subtly changing as the drama increases. There is a solo timpani passage before the music becomes ever more menacing with the timpani bringing out the rhythm, Warren Smith providing some terrific playing.

A gong sounds deeply to open Movement 4 followed by lighter gong textures as Warren Smith achieves some fine textures and sonorities. The orchestra takes over in a dissonant yet melodic motif before more gong sounds are heard, full of colourful effects with Smith finding so many varieties of sound. The orchestra again takes over to develop the theme with a piano adding texture. Once again the lone gong sounds before the orchestra re-joins developing and enriching the theme, becoming ever more rich and beautiful. Evocative distant gongs change the atmosphere to one of mystery, the orchestra enters warming the atmosphere with its romantic texture before a gong can be heard within the orchestra for the sudden conclusion.

Movement 5 opens with a snare drum roll followed by a work out on the drum kit. A rhythm is settled on as the orchestra joins, complete with piano in staccato phrases before leading forward with an insistent drum rhythm. Soon there is a solo passage for Warren Smith to utilise all aspects of the drum kit with a terrific display from this percussionist before the orchestra joins again.  Daley really lays out the orchestration well with little pauses for the soloist to add distractive touches. Eventually the rhythm and mood changes and becomes more upbeat with a jazz violin joining as the orchestra moves ahead in a Latin rhythm. Here Daley creates a sophisticated mood with a South American flavour whilst all the while Warren Smith adds sparkle and life, bringing an extended, ever developing, insistent solo passage right up to the end.

This is a varied, colourful and engaging work, full of unusual and distinctive ideas and bringing an amalgam of musical elements.

The final three works bring guest artists Jerry Gonzalez (trumpet and percussion), Onaje Allan Gumbs (keyboards), Satoshi Takeishi (percussion) and Richard Huntley (percussion) as well as Gregory Williams (French horn) for the final work.  

Shadrack: Portrait of Bill Cole is dedicated to the multi-instrumentalist in whose ensemble Daley has been preforming for over 40 years. Bill Cole  is featured on this recording playing the double-reed Indian negaswaram.

Jazz is very much to the fore in this work though filtered through the prism of strange and dissonant writing with the strange sound of the reedy South Indian nagaswaram used in such a bluesy fashion despite its Asian flavour. This is a terrific virtuosic achievement for Bill Cole as he improvises some amazing passages. Eventually the cello of Akua Dixon brings a further Eastern sound as she weaves an exotic line with the nagaswaram joining for a wild and braying coda. A remarkable piece.

Doretha and the Blues: Portrait of Wanda Daley celebrates over 40 years of Joseph Daley’s marriage to Wanda Daley with the orchestra opening in a mellow jazz inspired theme that flows gently with keyboard of Lafayette Harris and percussion accompaniment. Soon a violin solo enters and really swings along with the orchestra. The violin of Charles Burham joins achieving some fine textures as he adds so many inventive phrases along the way showing him to be a fine soloist.

Industria takes as its theme Diligence from Daley’s composition The Seven Heavenly Virtues. Timpani open with pedalling before a regular rhythm is established. The drum kit joins as does the solo violin and keyboards, all keeping a regular rhythm as the strings of the orchestra join. The violin soloist Elektra Kurtis becomes increasingly free and florid, weaving around the orchestra in almost Eastern inflections as the music builds to a tremendous swirl of instruments, the two double basses of Benjamin Brown and Ken Filiano providing a darker yet always transparent texture. Midway there is a drop in intensity in a section where the players provide some unusual instrumental textures before slowly the music falls quieter with no basses and percussion.  The orchestra rises up to bring about the coda, that nevertheless concludes on a sparser texture.

This is a fascinating and engaging release with some fine performances from all concerned. They are well recorded though a little more air around the players would have been welcome. There are brief but informative notes by the composer.  

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