In the Weeds: Music for Wind Quintet
This is an engaging – and engagingly played – programme of mostly unfamiliar music for wind quintet. The New Brunswick-based Ventus Machina are relatively young, formed as recently as 2011, and their first full CD includes two pieces written specially for them (by Martin Kutnowski and Mike Titlebaum), two neat arrangements and one of their favourite items, by some way the largest work here, Cuban-born Paquito D’Rivera’s seven-movement suite Aires tropicales (1994).
Like D’Rivera, well known as a jazz performer and composer, Ventus Machina have a foot in jazz and popular music, genre experience that serves them well in D’Rivera’s musical travelogue of Spanish America. There is a marked crossover aspect to the opening work, Titlebaum’s Short Set (2016), too, the central movement of which is loosely based on Billy Strayhorn’s Isfahan. The finale provides the disc’s title, relating to the quintet’s home base near the Tantramar salt marsh by the Bay of Fundy.
The other commissioned work included is Tonadas y mateadas (2015), a single-movement tone picture the title of which could loosely be translated as ‘Tunes sung drinking with friends’. There is a slightly boozy jocularity about Kutnowski’s musical discourse which is rather diverting. Despite his Eastern European name, Kutnowski – also resident in New Brunswick – was born in Argentina and Tonadas y mateadas evokes the warm nights of Buenos Aires amid the snows of Eastern Canada. William Scribner’s arrangement of Piazzolla’s Song Without Words is nicely done but given here in the quintet’s own adaptation replacing the oboe with a cor anglais. With a timely nod to the Bernstein centenary, Richard Price’s 1989 arrangement of four songs from West Side Story makes a pleasant encore.