CROSS ISLAND is the duo of cellist Suzanne Mueller and pianist Elinor Abrams Zayas. Founded in the summer of 2007, the duo made its first public appearance at Old Westbury Gardensin New York in August of that year. Since then, audiences have responded enthusiastically to the duo’s obvious love and passion for the music they perform, as well as for the pleasure they so obviously derive from performing together. on this, their debut album, they are joined by guest clarinetist Joseph Rutkowski, Jr. - a frequent concert collaborator.
About the Album
The tracks on this album cover a broad range of styles, genres, and periods, reflecting the eclectic tastes of the artists. Two of the works:
Schubert's "Shepherd on the Rock" is an arrangement by John Gibson of a beautiful Schubert favorite, with cello substituting for soprano.
Andreas van Haren's "Good Night" is a lovely lullaby - one of several works the composer has arranged especially for CROSS ISLAND.
Paquito D'Rivera's "Contradanza" and "Danzon" are two very different Latin works by this versatile composer- the latter giving clarinetist Joseph Rutkowski, Jr., the chance to show off his improvising skills.
The "Allegro con Moto" and "Nachtgesang," are contrasting works from a set of eight pieces from for this combination (or, alternatively, clarinet, viola, piano by Max Bruch, perhaps best known for his setting of "Kol Nidrei."
Free improvisations are hallmarks of all CROSS ISLAND concerts. The first, a piano/cello duet, was recorded in concert at Old Westbury Gardens (you may hear some wind in the background, as the concert was outdoors. The second, by the trio, was recorded in a session at the United Methodist Church of Bay Shore (NY).
"The Desert and the Parched Land" is a transcription by cellist Derek Snyder of Dave and Matthew Brubeck's piano improvisation from the recording "Quiet as the Moon." It is originally drawn from a soprano solo in Dave Brubeck's Mass, " To Hope!," composed in 1979.
Finally, the album draws to a Swingin' close with Mark McCarron's "Movin on Up," arranged especially for CROSS ISLAND.
Cellist Suzanne Mueller is a graduate of both the Pre-College and College of The Juilliard School and has studied with such notable cellists as Alexander Kouguell, Channing Robbins, Harvey Shapiro, Marion Feldman, Lorne Munroe, and, recently, Eugene Friesen, for improvisation and non-classical performance and perspective. Her chamber music coaches have included Joseph Fuchs, William Lincer, and collaborative pianist Margo Garrett.
She made her New York recital debut under the auspices of Artists International, as a member of the piano/cello duo ELYSIAN DUO and went on to perform as half of its successor, ELYSIAN II, for ten years. Currently, she is Beech Tree Concerts Artist-in-Residence at Old Westbury Gardens (NY), where she presents a series of outdoor summer concerts, . In addition, she is also half of McCarron & Mueller, a partnership formed in 2000 with guitarist/composer/arranger Mark McCarron, which frequently performs as a trio with percussionist Stefan Schatz..
A proponent of non-traditional cello performance styles and genres, Suzanne is a member of the New Directions Cello Association. She has performed with singer/songwriter Terry Winchell and Retro Folk duo Hungrytown, and can be heard on the CDs: "Hungrytown, " Terry Winchell’s "Vice Versa," and Dave Rave’s and Mark McCarron’s "In the Blue of My Dreams" (2007); Alli Collis’s "Signal on the Starboard" and Lauren Agnelli’s "Love Always Follows Me" (2004) and Rebecca Hall’s "Sunday Afternoon" (2002).
Pianist Elinor Abrams Zayas is a piano soloist, chamber musician, and collaborative artist. Her early teachers were Ruth Koch, Claude Gonvierre, and, at The Juilliard Pre-College, Howard Aibel and Leonard Eisner. Undergraduate studies at the Manhattan School of Music were with Constance Keene, and chamber music with Artur Balsam. She studied jazz and improvisation with Valerie Capers, arranging with John Carisi, and performed in Jazz ensembles led by Dave Samuels and David Freidman. Her graduate studies, also at Manhattan, were with Robert Helps, who introduced her to contemporary music, and also to the techniques of Abby Whiteside. Sophia Rosoff—a Whiteside disciple, whose pupils included Gary Graffman and jazz pianist Barry Harris, was a major influence, as was the the jazz pianist Joanne Brackeen.
Ms. Zayas formed the chamber ensemble Nepenthe in 1984. Nepenthe presented a successful concert series at the Boulton Center for the Arts in Bay Shore (NY), and performed widely. Elinor has also been the pianist for the Long Island Masterworks Chorus, and the Long Island Philharmonic Chorus, a musical director at the Gateway Playhouse in Bellport, NY, and a soloist in the metropolitan area, at such venues as Trinity Church in NYC, and the Friends of the Arts Beethoven Festival at Planting Fields Arboretum. This year, she has also begun performing with Cross Road, a string jazz group led by composer/bassist Reynard Burns. That group recently performed at Dowling College and on the Patchogue Theater Chamber Music Series.
Ms. Zayas maintains a private piano studio in Bay Shore, NY. She has served on the music faculties of Five Towns College, Hofstra University, and is currently on the music faculty of the Sachem Public Schools.
Hailed by The New York Times as "...an agile and powerful player" and by International Clarinet Magazine as a clarinetist with "awesome technical prowess," Joseph Rutkowski, Jr. has performed with James Galway, Mstislav Rostropovich and Maurice Andre and under the batons of Alan Hovhaness, Karel Husa, Laszlo Halasz and JoAnn Falletta. His recording of Schubert's "Shepherd on the Rock" for Ali Mar Records received critical acclaim in Richard Gilbert's The Clarinetist's Discography.
Joseph studied in New York and Germany, receiving degrees in performance from Mannes College and Queens College and in Educational Administration from Hunter College. His musical lineage includes studies with Lawrence Sobol, Heinrich Geuser and Eric Simon. He has worked with composers Leo Kraft, Alan Hovhaness, Elliot Finkel, Nelson Kole, Michael Flamhaft, Roger Ames, Alan Schwartz and Dr. Karel Husa.
As Director of Instrumental Music at Great Neck North High School since 1991, Joseph is a two-time Presidential Scholars Teacher Recognition Award recipient and has conducted several of the school’s ensembles at Carnegie Hall. He served on the faculties of Queens College, Mannes College, Westchester Conservatory and was the Symphony Orchestra conductor and teacher at Stuyvesant High School for the eight years preceding his appointment in Great Neck.
Joseph resides in New York City In his leisure time, he enjoys playing classical music and jazz and with his sons: Benjamin on trombone, and Daniel on trumpet and piano. They often perform jazz concerts together with Joseph's father, "Grandpa" Joe, Sr., a legendary polka band drummer.