Over the past thirty years of touring and recording, I’ve been exposed to some great music and musicians. Playing with drummers from Brazil, Africa, Cuba, India and the Middle East, improvising in inspiring natural places and cathedrals, and working with musical giants like Paul Winter, Oscar Castro-Neves, Paul Halley, Glen Velez, Howard Levy, Jamey Haddad and many others, have all contributed to my desire to use my cello and voice in new ways.
I fell in love with the sound of cello and piano while playing sonatas by Brahms, Beethoven and Debussy. Infusing that with the flexibility of improvisation and the rhythmic energy from folk, jazz and world music is like heaven for me. Colorful Transitions features what’s become the trademark of my repertoire and sound: improvisation in a wide variety of compositional environments.
The album includes five choros from Brazil. These are instrumental pieces normally played by guitars, mandolins, percussion, and sometimes flute or clarinet. The cello is fun to use in this music since it can play the melodies but also be part bass, guitar and percussion.
1. Doce de Coco (3:38) – Jacob do Bandolim (1918-1969)
Born Jacob Pick Bittencourt, his stage name means “Mandolin Jacob,” after the instrument he played. Jacob achieved fame as an exceptional soloist, composer and bandleader, though to support himself he worked as a pharmacist, insurance salesman, street vendor and, finally, notary public.
2. First Ride (4:40) – Eugene Friesen & Paul Halley
In November of 1986 Paul Winter invited Paul Halley and me to record some duets in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. The resulting improvisations became the album New Friend, and this was the first of our duets to really take flight.
3. Pedacinhos de Ceu (Small Pieces of the Sky) (2:21) – Waldir Azevedo (1923-1980)
4. Seresta/Flor do Cerrado (Meadow Flower) (5:41) – Waldir Azevedo
Like Jacob do Bandolim, Azevedo was another brilliant soloist on an unlikely solo instrument (the cavaquinho). He composed dozens of beautiful choros, recorded and performed widely, all while maintaining his livelihood outside music.
5. My Funny Valentine (6:59) – Richard Rodgers (1902-1979)
A show tune from the 1937 Rodgers and Hart musical Babes in Arms, our version pays homage to the style of Chet Baker, the legendary trumpeter and singer, who recorded such a haunting and memorable rendition of this song.
6. Wedding Day (3:44) – Eugene Friesen
I wrote Wedding Day in 1992 when Wendy and I were living in Charlestown, New Hampshire with our one-year-old son, Noel. It’s dedicated to Rick Friesen and Bunni Magison.
7. Ravel Pavane: Rio to Paris (4:35) – Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), arr. E. Friesen
French music has been a huge influence on Brazilian music and we used the intimacy of the bossa nova to make our version, dedicated to the passengers of Air France #447.
8. Two Shadows That Flow Together (6:07) – Tim Ray
The title of this piece comes from a love sonnet by Pablo Neruda, and was composed as a gift for, and celebration of, the marriage of Tim’s brother Dan Ray. With the recent and untimely passing of Dan, we now offer it as a celebration of his life.
9. Way Upriver (7:37) – Eugene Friesen
This is actually two of my compositions: Upriver, from The Song of Rivers, and Buryat Drumboat from In the Shade of Angels.
10. Remembering You (4:55) – Eugene Friesen & Paul Halley
Originally an improvisation Paul Halley and I played in 1987 for a live radio show in Baltimore, Remembering You was first included on my album Arms Around You, and is dedicated to my father, Dietrich Friesen.
11. CelloMan Blues (4:09) – Eugene Friesen
12. Voice of the Wood (3:42) – Eugene Friesen
In 2004 I had the opportunity to spend seven nights recording in the extraordinary Miho Museum in Misono, Japan. Each morning as we were leaving the museum we were greeted by the song of the Japanese bush warbler, a distinctive song brought to my attention by our friend Ryuichi Tashiro. The piece commemorates the 100th birthday of the museum’s founder, Kaishusama (1910-2003).
13. Maracaibo (4:48) – Eugene Friesen
First recorded by Trio Globo on our Carnival of Souls CD in 1994, Maracaibo is inspired by the Venezuelan joropo, an alluring waltz with multiple time feels.
14. Brejeiro (2:43) – Ernesto Nazaré (1863-1934)
Ernesto Nazaré (or Nazareth) was a prolific composer and pianist in Rio de Janeiro. His music gracefully combines diverse influences of Brazil, Europe, Africa and ragtime. Brejeiro, composed in 1893, is the first of his “Brazilian tangos.”
These recordings were made in Studio A at the Berklee College of Music in Boston by Berklee faculty engineer/producer Stephen Webber. Special thanks go to Stephen for his exceptional skill in capturing the cello/piano interplay in such vivid colors, mixing, mastering and collaborating with such patience and warmth. I’m grateful also to the Berklee College of Music for providing support and recording time as well as a stimulating environment for interacting with interesting and gifted students from all over the world.
Thank you, Tim, for your extraordinary inventiveness and musical support, your beautiful composition Two Shadows That Flow Together, and for years of exciting concerts.
Wendy, all this music has your likeness in it and would not exist in the world without your enthusiasm, optimism and love. I am so grateful. I love you.