Friday, May 25, 2012

Joel Frederiksen Requiem For A Pink Moon Harmonia Mundi

Once in a blue moon...

In this particular case make that Requiem For A Pink Moon, a stunning Elizabethan tribute to Nick Drake. Elizabethan meets contemporary classical? Joel Frederiksen is joined by the Ensemble Phoenix Munich to pay more than fitting tribute to the late British troubadour Nick Drake. The initial buzz of Drake's work was good but nothing overwhelming. Some thirty nine years later we have a release receiving world wide acclaim and justifiably so.

There is an enchanting zen like quality of less is more that seems to permeate this release in such an simplistic fashion that multiple plays are not required to understand the recording in as much as they are required to catch the deceptively simple and incredibly subtle nuances that add an organic texture to this elegant if not oddly romantic gem. While hybridization would appear to be all the rage in the modern jazz world, this modern classical masterwork merges key portions of the Gregorian Mass with Drake's songs arranged for Renaissance instruments so as to portray Drake as a more contemporary singer/songwriting fixture whose prose speak directly to that which is the basic human condition.

Melancholy. An artist slightly out of place, a lost romantic.

Not all of the original work was included, merely six songs but more than enough to have a visceral connection made with heartbreak and perhaps in some ways a signal as to the suicide that would ultimately end Drake's life. I would be remiss if I failed to mention the sublime
performances of his Ensemble Phoenix Munich. The contributions of Timothy Evans (tenor, drum), Domen Marincic (viola da gamba) and Axel Wolf (theorbo, arch lute) provide a wonderfully eclectic accompaniment to Joel's voice and lute.

One of the most transcendent combinations occurs a medley of John Dowland's "His Golden Locks" and Drake's "Place To Be," especially in the second half of "Place To Be" when the two songs are sung simultaneously, stressing a lyrical cohesion. Hearing these baroque pieces, with Gregorian texts next to "Road" or "Which Will" is a testament to the brilliance of Frederiksen, few true artists would have dared to take such an incredible roll of the musical dice and wind up with results that border on stunning.

Once in a blue moon does a release bring forth such an emotionally charged presentation without the air of pretentiousness often found under similar circumstances.

An epic work.