J. Pavone String Ensemble: Lost and Found (Astral Spirits, 2020)

November 14, 2020 at 12:27 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

J. Pavone String Ensemble: Lost and Found

The latest album from Jessica Pavone’s unconventional string quartet (two violins, two violas, no lower octaves) contains four pieces which mix traditional notation and improvisation. It was recorded at New Haven’s Firehouse 12, a venue always described as “intimate”, and that’s all too appropriate for an ensemble meant to be “lightweight and compatible”, according to the composer. That said, this isn’t gentle, easy background music. The pieces are all around 10 minutes each, and they all seem to slowly creep from one side to another. It’s almost suspenseful, particularly the somewhat ironically titled “Nice and Easy”, but then there’s no real sense of attack, it just sort of slides away from the action when you expect it to go all in. Even when it all seems like it’s slowly melting and becoming disfigured, there’s still brief moments when it hints at a more traditional sense of beauty, like the more harmonious notes near the end of “Nice and Easy”. “Pros and Cons”, however, could make the listener feel seasick if they play it loud enough. “Lost and Found” is a bit more glacial and actually the most relaxing piece here, although it’s still probably too dissonant to play around your grandparents.

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