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Album Review: Hear in Now's Debut Album

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Hear in Now String Trio
Courtesy of Rudi Records
Hear In Now is the debut album by the string trio of the same name. It is a diverse and engaging collection of pieces that recognize no stylistic boundaries. The trio, featuring violinist Mazz Swift, who also sings, cellist Tomeka Reid, and bassist Silvia Bolognesi, embraces a host of musical influences, including the blues, folk music from various traditions, classical music, and free improvisation. It presents its artistic vision in a tightly executed yet unpredictable mix of pieces that either tell single, unbroken stories, or fracture into wild collective improvisation. The trio deliver their music with strength and clarity of purpose, with a clear focus on democratic interplay and an embrace of diversity without contradiction or apology.

Hear in Now, the group, was put together in 2009 by an Italian promoter for the WomaJazz festival, a festival celebrating women in jazz, in Salsomaggiore Terme, Italy. Since then, the group, whose members have performed with bassist William Parker, Anthony Braxton, Butch Morris, Vernon Reid, Enrico Rava, and many others, has toured the world with their unique take on improvised music.

William Parker, a creative pioneer of New York's avant-garde jazz scene, and who the members of Hear in Now consider a mentor, offers this analysis in the liner notes:

"This is music with a new sensibility that flies and hops over fields of blues, jazz, bluegrass, classical, yet it is none of these things; it is MUSIC - nameless, eloquent, not locked into category. 12 illuminated strings singing, as one voice."

Parker’s point is that the trio’s incorporation of so many musical traditions creates music that can’t call any one place home, whether in terms of genre, geography, or demographic. This lack of specificity invites a more plural point of view, where the music has a greater chance of embracing the open-minded listener of any background, even as it loses the attention of someone listening for proving points of genre-based orthodoxy. Parker’s use of the word “illuminated” is apt. This inclusive, open-armed music captures a spirituality rooted in a celebration of multiplicity, rather than a single-minded pursuit of any one goal. To these three women, improvisation, with its inherent trust in the creative spirit of one’s partners, is its own spirituality.

“Cakewalk,” the opening piece on the album and a composition by Mazz Swift, is a romping, careening excursion. The trio plays fast, unison passages, jumps into frenzied improvisations, and then turns on a dime back to ensemble melodies. It is a great example of the brilliant ensemble playing of which this trio is capable. It also shows their willingness to turn musical ideas on their heads by transforming a minstrel dance form, which was born out of a mix of black and white culture in the American South, and whose history pre-dates jazz, into an abstract vehicle for intense, frenetic improvisation. The last piece is just as memorable for its poised beauty. Silvia Bolognesi’s “Malitalian Lullabye,” with delicate pizzicato ostinati and a moving cello solo by Reid, sets the scene for a wordless melody with Swift’s voice floating over the soft, percolating bass and cello pizzicato that recalls the beginning, but is more calm, more hushed. This song completes a journey that brings the album to a serene, but riveting close. Hear in Now comes highly recommended.

Release Date:

2012 on Rudi Records

Personnel:

  • Mazz Swift – violin

  • Tomeka Reid – cello

  • Silvia Bolognesi – doublebass

Track List:

  1. Cakewalk
  2. Spiderwoman
  3. Bassolo
  4. La Cittá di Lop
  5. Effendi
  6. Ova
  7. Impro 1
  8. Ponce
  9. Malitalian Lullaby
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