"Pleasant" is almost always a pejorative word in a review, a classic case of damning with faint praise. But Reference Recordings' vivid-sounding new CD of contemporary chamber music would be "deeply pleasant" if such a thing could be said—we can settle on "highly pleasing." Chris Brubeck and Michael Gandolfi, both in their late 50s, contribute genial works, jazz-and-pop-inflected, that work well together and are followed neatly by an "urban bluegrass" piece by the recently deceased, constantly self-reinventing Lukas Foss.
Boston Symphony violinist Wendy Putnam, founder of the Concord Chamber Music Society, appears in all three works, along with pianist Vylas Baksys. But we move, or dwindle, from the larger-scale work by Brubeck — 6-piece ensemble, 30 minutes — to the 23-minute Gandolfi trio (clarinet-violin-piano) and close with Foss' playful 10-and-a-half-minute duo. As one expects from RR, the recording is of very high quality, with a clear spatial sense of the players and warm, natural sound for each instrument.
Labels: Chris Brubeck, Concord Chamber Music Society, Lukas Foss, Michael Gandolfi, Reference Recordings, Review