Personnel: Sainkho Namtchylak (vocals); Aleksander Kolkowski (violin); Arkady Shilkloper (French horn); Vladimir Miller (piano); Vladimir Tarasov (drums).
Recording information: Queen Elizabeth Hall, Unsung Music Festival (06/20/1996).
On her fifth effort with the Moscow Composer's Orchestra (which features master drummer and percussionist Vladimir Tarasov from the original Ganelin Trio), Tuvan vocalist Sainkho Namchylak uses her instrument to color, narrate, streak through, and elevate her backing musicians. It is as if the three compositions on this recording were written specifically with Namchylak in mind -- especially "Two Tone Tuva II" by Vladimir Miller. But Namchylak and the Moscow Composer's Orchestra are not merely a unit of musicians gathered around the theme of experimentation, they are brought together by the discipline required to play these compositions and their meld of meltdown musical styles. Recorded during 1996, it is almost impossible to think of this music being created before Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika in the 1980s. When Disney themes float through harmonies written by Aaron Copland and fugues by Elliott Carter, which are then literally violated by Namchylak's vocal acrobatics, it is easy to see why. The standout here is the 35-minute "Brief Meditation" in which orchestra and vocalist are simply one and the same. There are no boundaries placed on Namchylak as she literally soars through a range of expressive improvisations that include the differing dynamic tensions of the orchestra as it begins an ascent and descent into who knows where. She resolves the open-ended questions by asking new ones as brass, piano, and woodwinds call to each other for help in closing the hole in the sky opened by the vocalist. It's a stunning if overly long exercise, and the score is rigorous for each of the instrumentalists with pitches being bent at near right angles and directions for certain lines to be "smattered" with color. This is a collaboration that seems, after four albums, to have created more opportunities for exploration of the union of these two entities. Look out. ~ Thom Jurek