The American Record Guide:The Newest Music II

Bill Faucett, reviewer

DARK FIRES: Karen Walwyn and Friends”
Albany Records
Karen Walwyn

Ellis Marsalis: Fourth Autumn;
David Baker: Piano Sonata 1;
Alvin Singleton: In Our Own House;
Adolphus Hailstork : Trumpet Sonata;
Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson: Piano Sonata 2

Branford Marsalis, saxophone
Rodney Mack, trumpet
Jason Marsalis, Percussion
Albany 384 – 74 minutes

Pianist Karen Walwyn’s Dark Fires, Vol. 2 is very much a Marsalis family affair. Walwyn is joined by her husband, trumpeter Rodney Mack, and his cousins Branford and Jason Marsalis; the program opens with a selection by the family elder, Ellis Marsalis. This recording presents the music of five black composers without the accompaniment of political statement-several exceptional works speak for themselves. Marsalis’s contribution, Fourth Autumn for solo piano, is a beautiful and of course jazzy concoction. In the same vein is Alvin Singleton’s In Our Own House, also fascinating and effective.

David Baker’s name will be familiar to serious jazz enthusiasts. His carefully-crafted Piano Sonata is tinted with jazz but is more traditionally “classical” and modernist than one might expect. The reflective second movement is masterly. Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson’s energetic Second Piano Sonata is more standard fare, replete with disjunct melodies, stark harmonies, and the like. The gem here is Adolphus Hailstork’s trumpet sonata, a soaring, delectable piece from 1996 that should have little difficulty establishing a place in the repertoire. Walwyn’s pianism is superb.