Saturday, January 11, 2014

Exploring Blurred Lines with Maria

I have a confession. Lately, I've been listening to jazz. A lot.


I know! I know. I've surprised myself. This is classical music blog; I'm only supposed to listen to that. But I've been spending my waking hours actively searching for and wantonly consuming its riches. Could you ever forgive me?

(*Melodrama over*)

On a serious note, though, as I've been riding this jazz wave for the past three weeks I've come to notice that much of the current jazz scene sounds a lot like current classical one. Maybe it's just me. So as heretical as this may come, this post is dedicated to one such composer whose jazz compositions have me conflicted over where my loyalties lie ('cause she knows I want it).

I just met a girl named Maria

Maria Baptist

OK, so maybe she's a woman and from Germany, but that doesn't stop me from loving her heartbreakingly beautiful music. Maria Baptist rocks!

She recently released an album last November called Episodes for piano and string quartet. In it she crosses all over traditional boundaries exploring the relationship between the styles of chamber music and jazz. Each track varies in length from the barely there Interludes that each last an average of thirty seconds, to the longer more contemplative Impressions of a Journey. She only offers clips on Soundcloud, so I highly recommend buying the album.

First off, this clip begins deceptively a lot like a contemporary classical piece. It actually wasn't until 20 seconds in when I noticed the syncopated rhythm in the violin that I began to suspect anything. And even if screaming angsty strings aren't you're thing, hang in there because about halfway through this clip it transitions into this Scott Joplin fangirl piano melody.

One could even argue that she's making a statement. Seriously, the zeitgeist at the turn of the 20th century is not that different from that of the new millenium--a focus on upward mobility, fashionable multiculturalism/cultural appropriation, the ever increasingly socioeconomic disparities, and the (misguided) accumulation of personal and sovereign debt with the vain confidence of future security. 

You begin to see the parallels...but best to just enjoy the music! Buy this track as it continues its playful batting match between the two timbres and styles for dominance and equilibrium. 

Now, this clip comes from her earlier album Gate 29 (click the link to buy it) and I love it. Really, the whole album is gold, but this track! There's a fragile hymn-like quality about this track, so much so that you can almost hear the drawn breath of someone about to sing. I especially love the added touch of solemnity from the baroque-esque walking bass before the cymbals come in and you finally realize that this is a jazz work. I would have sooner classified this a contemporary classical piece if I didn't already know that it was part of a jazz album. But I'm wondering if this was the beginning of a beautiful journey for Maria in exploring the similarities between two genres, two worlds, and two countries. 

Say it loud and there's music playing
Say it soft and it's almost like praying'


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