Folias Duo—Blue Griffin 229—47 minutes
This is a set of pieces written either by the flutist, Carmen Maret, or the guitarist, Andrew Bergeron; one was co-written. Sources of inspiration are Latin American influences and the outdoors, hence the title combining the two. Besides the obvious, Piazzolla, this music is informed by the tangos of Juan d’Arienzo and Angel Villoldo, the playing of Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and singers Mercedes Sosa and Susana Baca. The overall effect is a creative, post-Piazzolla exploration of the tango territory in an expanded sense. This release belongs next to the Cavatina Duo’s Piazzolla album (Bridge 9330; Nov/Dec 2010); if you don’t already have it, you need to get both!
Although the lower range of the flute is not avoided, these flute parts inherit the convention of using the instrument’s top octave and a half, up to the very highest notes. In Latin American combos, where the flute could easily be overpowered by other instruments, this was the range that offered the most carrying power. I winced a couple times at the risk of extreme high notes, but they were executed perfectly and with confidence, which is the only way to pull them off. The opening track, ‘Tango Destroyer’, poses a different problem for the flutist as a moto perpetuo toccata with almost nowhere to breathe. Again, despite my rising anxiety the flutist kept going, making it to the end. This highly capable flute playing and degree of daring in self written music reminded me of the flutist-composers Gary Schocker and Rhonda Larson.
The five-movement suite Through the Rain by guitarist Andrew Bergeron reminds me of Sunleif Rasmussen’s work Dancing Raindrops (last issue). It portrays a storm using extended techniques in the flute and scordatura and drumming in the guitar (the tuning is E-B-C#-G-A#-E). The dramatic opening of IV, ‘Down-pour and Release’, cedes to microtonal trills as the storm settles down. The final movement, ‘After the Rain’, uses the soothing sound of alto flute juxtaposed with much higher tremolo “dripping” notes in the guitar.
For some reason, the ‘Adequate Conditions Blues’ is an excuse for showers of a different sort: showers of notes from the flute. This so-called blues has the most virtuosic noodling this side of the Woodwind Quintet in C (c.1830) by oboist-composer Henri Brod. The 5/4 introduction to Full Long Nights Moon, is a nice touch of originality in what could otherwise be a more banal New-Age excursion.
Overall, I did find quite a bit to enjoy in both the dance-inspired and nature-inspired pieces. The pickup is fairly close but not too close, and the sound is clear and dry without sterility. There is more resonance on one track with piccolo, ‘The Sound of Rain’. Maret plays Pearl flutes, and plays them well. She has a solid, no nonsense sound and plays with virtually no vibrato. Her sound is a degree removed from the very tight style of playing among flute players from Cuba south. Bergeron plays classical and flamenco guitars with a great range of energy and sensitivity.