by Uncle Dave Lewis
Critic Alex Ross has mentioned in his writings that the youngest composers on the New York Scene in 2007 employ a kind of "pragmatism -- music beyond ideology," and references veteran composer Scott Johnson's observation that such new music has "an appealing openness about it, an optimistic spirit." One New York-based critic, commenting on this trend in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, said in essence that young composers should stop having so much fun; this is serious business and we are supposed to be committing ourselves to an art form that is "dying." Cellist Jody Redhage is a representative of this school of thought, and her choice of discipline is in itself quite extraordinary -- she is a cello player who likes to sing. She sings in a light, airy, and attractive pop voice, and her debut album on New Amsterdam Records, All Summer in a Day, collects one original composition along with eight others written expressly for Redhage by other young composers like herself.
This practice of singing and accompanying one's self with a basically monophonic instrument goes way, way back in the annals of Western music; in notated form, at least as far back to Francesco Landini, who added a single instrumental line to a few of his vocal pieces. Landini, of course, did not have the benefit of digital electronics and multi-tracking as does Redhage, although she doesn't make use of these resources to add additional parts so much as to layer on effects of various kinds -- the opening of Anna Clyne's Paint Box is no more than the sound of Redhage's breath. Congratulations are due to New Amsterdam Records in achieving some sense of sonic unanimity to a program whose individual elements were recorded in so many studios. Perhaps the most integrated of the pieces here, purely in the sense of matching the voice of the singer to that of the cello, are Judd Greenstein's Corrupted and Jacob Cooper's Postlude, both of which employ ostinati on the cello against sustained tones in the voice -- a pleasant combination. Nevertheless, all of the pieces on the disc are worthwhile; patient listening and repeated tries pay off, whereas in a concert setting such a program would perhaps make more immediate impact.
If you need comparisons between Redhage and other performers to get your bearings, one that does come to mind is Vetza, the mysterious chanteuse of the Los Angeles Free Music Society, who also, incidentally, plays the cello. Nevertheless, this album skirts most comparisons and Redhage's dedication to her specific kind of expression is tempered by no small amount of fearlessness. For those interested in a freewheeling, slightly edgy and altogether "different" kind of musical experience from a classical music artist other than typical crossover fare, Jody Redhage's All Summer in a Day will prove highly rewarding and worthwhile.