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Colores del sur - Feasting Through Southern Europe with a Soupçon of Brazil

05-03-2022 | By Rushton Paul | Issue 121

Here is an excursion through the Spanish inflected music of southern Europe with a few side ventures to Brazil. It’s a feast for the ears and the heart, with music of Isaac Albéniz, Manuel de Falla, Paule Maurice, Jean Françaix, Heitor Villa‑Lobos, Maurice Ravel, Darius Milhaud, and Kurt Weill. All musicians influenced by the rhythms and melodies of Spain, with a touch of Brazil to keep it spicy.

Colores del sur, Femke IJlstra, saxophone, Celia García-García, piano. TRPTK 2022 (DXD) HERE

Saxophone and piano? For over 55 minutes? How can they possibly maintain a listener's interest? Spanish inflected music by a saxophonist from northern Europe? How can they possibly capture the complexity and color of this music with just these two instruments?

But they do, they do. Very nicely, they do. On my first hearing I was not sure what to expect. And I kept listening..., and kept listening. Oh, yes, I was drawn in thoroughly. And when the album was over, I wished it would continue, so I played it again.

Celia García-García I first encountered in her charming EP for TRPTK performing on the celeste HERE. I've been watching for new releases from her ever since, and find her here on piano. She has a lovely delicate touch and phrasing, but can be a demon where the music calls. I like her style of playing and find her most enjoyable. She has Spanish roots and plays with an appropriate passion reflecting those roots.

Femke IJlstra I'd not heard before. The album notes describe her as "very blonde saxophonist from the phlegmatic north of the Netherlands." Hmmm… But, as books are never read by their covers, music needs to be heard. There is some passionate music-making in her soul. She captures nuances of the music I did not expect to hear on the saxophone. Her playing is like singing through the instrument. She catches subtle shifts, pauses, leaps that bring life and energy to her interpretations.

Together, Duo IJlstra-García (as they have named their collaboration) give us a very convincing tour of exotic places and music. A bit of fire, a bit of spice, a bit of languor, a bit of raucous energy, Duo IJlstra-García are as fine a pair of tour guides as one might hope to find. And they are perfect collaborative partners. For an example, listen to their performance of Villa-Lobos' O canto do cisne negro with IJlstra soaring, lilting saxophone supported by the rippling foundation provided by García-García—its hypnotic. And then they roar into the first of Jean Françaix's jazzy Cinq danses exotiques. Perfectly in sync. Perfectly complementing and supporting one another. This is all very fine music-making.

There are a lot of famous tunes on this album, from the opening Tango from Albéniz's España to de Falla's Siete canciones to Scaramouche by Milhaud to the concluding Youkaliby by Kurt Weill. And then in between are works I'm pleased to hear for the first time by Jean Françaix and Paule Maurice. The album is nicely programmed with a touch of the old and a bit of the new. It stays throughout a fresh and interesting program.

Supporting the music is the excellent sound quality we have come to expect from TRPTK's founder and chief engineer, Brendon Heinst. The recording sounds like real musicians, performing live, in an authentic acoustic space. And an authentic space it is indeed as Brendon returns to Westvest Church, Schiedam, once more for this recording session. (This is the same venue as for the superb Wintereisse he gave to us earlier this year HERE.)

I encourage you to take a side-trip to something a bit different in your listening, take an adventure. I think you may enjoy this album. I certainly have.

Setup for Colores del sur recording session June 24-26 2021, Westvest Church, Schiedam

Images courtesy of Brendon Heinst and TRPTK