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Respite from cacophony

MUSIC | Albums offer quietly arresting melodies


Ezio Bosso Mario Carlini/Iguana Press/Redferns/Getty Images

Respite from cacophony
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In times such as ours, when an overabundance of media cacophony threatens to discombobulate, were it possible, even the elect, it’s good to have recourse to music without words, especially the kind not yet ossified by overfamiliarity.

Both the Avos Project Ensemble’s debut recording of the late Ezio Bosso’s Emily Reel #15 (Sony Classical) and Omri Mor and Yosef Gutman Levitt’s Melodies of Light (Soul Song) provide such a respite.

Actually, Bosso, who succumbed to a COVID-aggravated neurodegenerative condition three years ago, intended Emily Reel #15 to have words when he composed it in 2007 and 2008—specifically, the words of the Emily Dickinson poems that inspired the piece’s 15 discrete parts. “For actress, two keyboards and strings and electric guitar” reads the description on eziobosso.com.

But Rome’s Avos Project Ensemble has dispensed with the guitar and the poetry-reciting actress, leaving two ­violins, a viola, cello, double bass, and piano to transmute Dickinson’s ecstatic lyrical compression into mournfully meditative sound. Even when paying Philip Glass the highest form of flattery (most obviously in “To whom the mornings,” “Wondrous sea,” “I make his crescent fill or lack,” and “Who cares about a Blue bird’s tune”), it’s a sound that caresses rather than excites. The solo-piano “We Cover Thee Sweet Face,” like the poem on which it’s based, achieves a uniquely eerie beauty.

Mor and Levitt’s Melodies of Light caresses rather than excites too. Originating spontaneously in the aftermath of sessions for Levitt’s recently released Soul Song (itself a commendably luminous jazz excursion, with a title cut indebted to Midnight Cowboy–era John Barry), the album took gradual shape as an interaction between the Israeli-born pianist Mor and the Israeli-born drummer Ofri Nehemya. When the South African Levitt joined on acoustic bass, the project became more—much more, in fact—than a Soul Song coda.

Thanks to the trio’s light touch in general and Mor’s sparkling moonlight-­on-water pianism in particular, each of the album’s 13 official “Movements” takes on quietly arresting qualities demarcated by subtitles such as “Hamotzi” (a Hebrew blessing of the bread), “Hananya” (think “Hananiah”), “Lament,” and “Let Me Draw Water.” Movements 14 through 17, each subtitled “Bonus Track,” go with the flow.

The album’s press release attributes that flow in part to the musicians’ “shared headspace of Emunah,” a Hebrew term with roots in the against-all-odds faith in God demonstrated by Abraham. Nothing so theologically explicit, of course, emerges from Mor and Levitt’s wordless “melodies.” But only the jaded won’t find themselves at least a little curious about the “light” that emanates therefrom.


Arsenio Orteza

Arsenio is a music reviewer for WORLD Magazine and one of its original contributors from 1986. Arsenio resides in China.

@ArsenioOrteza

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