Monday, February 16, 2015

Dial & Oatts, That Music All Around Me

I've found Garry Dial and Dick Oatts, both separately and in tandem, players and composers well-worth hearing. Their new one is exceptional. That Music Always Round Me (BCM+D 2-CDs) combines Oatts' soprano, Dial's piano, a mid-sized instrumental ensemble and the massed choral forces of the Temple University Concert Choir, the Temple University Vocal Jazz Collective and New York Studio Vocalists along with vocal soloists. They conjoin for a most ambitious work that utilizes the poetry of Walt Whitman as lyrics and features the impressive choral arrangements of Richard DeRosa. The music was composed entirely by Dial & Oatts.

I have the unfortunate tendency when first listening to non-classical choral music of envisioning the wholesome, crew-cutted and bobbed personages of Sing Out!, a quasi-folk choral group of my youth. And so I had to deconstruct that image when first listening to this work. Once I did I was ready to appreciate this unique and ravishing offering.

The choral ensemble(s) almost function as the horn and wind sections of a big band, with parts floating above the rhythm-team that you could imagine being played by instrumentalists. Except of course they are not. They are sung, sung well, and we get the Whitman poetics to contemplate along with the very contentful compositional presence.

This is very much in a jazz vein, with spaces for Oatts and Dial as soloists. Dick sounds especially good, but both are very much present and accomplished in their spots.

After you get used to the feel of the way the various forces work together there is much to appreciate. This is a milestone that triumphs as a unified work. I've never heard choral jazz sound so convincing. More than that everything works together to ravish you with music that is memorable, lyric, swinging and harmonically rich.

I won't say more. This must be heard to fully appreciate. It is rather remarkable!

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