New Focus On Song
by Euan Stevenson & Konrad Wiszniewski
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1. Air In D Minor
2. Green Park
3. Destination Unknown
4. Sophia’s Song
5. Little Allegory
7. Corea Change
9. Piano Interlude
10. Fourths Ostinato
11. Ascension (Reprise)
Official worldwide release date - August 19, 2016
Scottish pianist/composer Euan Stevenson and saxophonist/composer Konrad Wiszniewski continue their musical collaboration New Focus with a second album New Focus On Song for Whirlwind Recordings. After the critical success of their first release which featured a unique blend of classical, jazz and Scottish Folk that was shortlisted for the 2012 Scottish Album of the Year Award, the pair have established themselves as leading lights on the burgeoning creative music scene in Scotland.
Much of the acclaim received to date for New Focus has centred on the pair’s ability to write beautiful, haunting melodies where every piece in the sequel balances emotional power with exquisite craftsmanship. Stevenson provides the majority of the compositions and orchestrations and largely employs the subtle palette of the first album (jazz quartet, string quartet and harp), further enriching these textures with the addition of woodwind. Wiszniewski solos on both tenor and soprano saxophones throughout, while on ensemble passages he and his wife Nicola Wiszniewska a provide orchestral colour on clarinet and flute respectively with Alina Bzhezhinska once more featured on concert harp.
The resulting chamber music is rich and varied. Both composers pay tribute to their young daughters with heartfelt musical letters dedicated to each; but sensitivity and sweetness is balanced with hard edged improvising on the fast swinging 'Corea Change' and the angular and spiky 'Fourths Ostinato', whilst the folky 'Green Park' and 'Sophia’s Song' (with Wiszniewski on Celtic whistle) leave the listener in no doubt as to the composers’ heritage. That being said, the Gallic influence of Debussy, Satie and Ravel is never far away - tracks like 'Ascension' and 'Braeside' are a unique blend of French impressionism and jazz, a testament to Stevenson’s versatility as a composer/performer who is able to move seamlessly between idioms. This holistic approach is moreover exemplified in the two short improvised solo piano vignettes which appear as sparkling contrasts to the full ensemble dynamic.
Alive to every textural nuance is drummer/percussionist Alyn Cosker, hooking up splendidly with the ever supportive bassist Andrew Robb. Indeed, the Glasgow String Quartet, all members of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, are used to working in perfect synergy, and from start to finish all the players on this genre-defying album appear to breathe joyfully as one, a powerful demonstration of accessible, creative music making in the 21st century.
"Luscious moments as jazz and string quartets entwine... A highly organic and lyrical collaboration."
★★★★ The Scotsman
"An idiosyncratic amalgam of folk, jazz and classical music... The arrangements with the strings on eight of the thirteen pieces, work extremely well. An album of clever, original music, On Song clearly demonstrates how the perceived boundaries between different musical genres are arbitrary or artificial at best."
All About Jazz
“Another impressive offering from the team of Stevenson & Wiszniewski… Lush, rich colors and textures. If anything the synthesis between the three different strands of jazz, classical and folk is even more successful this time round.”
★★★★ The Jazz Mann
"The balance between the jazz instruments and the string quartet is such that they reinforce each other rather than competing for attention... The album stands on the quality of the writing, musicianship and the relationship between the two principals."
"A wholly convincing synthesis of musical styles which integrate not only strings but other instruments into an absorbing whole."
Sandy Brown Jazz
“Acoustic jazz roots with a rush of strings… Tuneful melodies and lyrical improvisation.”
The Financial Times
"Quite Lovely... Evocative of the best of movie music."
“Stevenson channels those Satie, Debussy and Ravel influences… His writing is consistently inventive and imaginative but always unfailingly melodic… A highly accomplished piece of work with the potential for considerable cross genre appeal.”
★★★★ The Jazz Mann
"An unabashed celebration of melody."
"Meticulously conceived and delivered with exquisite care and attention to detail... Hugely accomplished."
“A melting pot of jazz idioms and classical nuances but what is finally memorable is the improvisatory freshness.”
The Wexford Echo