MAYA HOMBURGER/BARRY GUY

Ceremony
ECM 1643 453 847-2

Probably something that could never have been imagined during the 1960s heyday of the Third Stream, this masterful CD doesn't try to meld classical music and jazz, as much as celebrate the congruence of both traditions.

Maya Homburger, who plays an Italian violin built by dalla Costa in 1740, is a specialist in the interpretation of Baroque music and the first track here was written by Bohemian composer Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (1644-1704). The other compositions and the bass half of this duo are the products of the mind of Barry Guy — born more than 300 years after Biber — and best known for his membership in the Evan Parker Trio and leadership of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra.

Fruits of this partnership can be heard on most clearly on Guy's "Immeasurable Sky", which leaves ample space for improvisation. As concerned with the beauty of small dissonances as any of the more formal works here, the track allows both players ample space for innovation. Nowhere do you get the idea that it's merely the classically trained violinist who is playing the lyric melody, while the jazz bassist slaps out strident rhythmic decorations. Guy, who performed for years with the Academy of Ancient Music, is cognizant of the particular demands of pre-modern music, while Homburger is a Baroque specialist not a purist.

CEREMONY's fascination resides in the fact that Guy's string treatments seem perfectly aligned with those of Biber, who, after all, was one of the first composers to use scordatura, the unusual tuning of strings.

Biber-influenced scordatura plays a large part in Guy's meditative "Ceremony", which features Homburger live in the studio improvising against seven pre-taped tracks of herself playing four other specially-tuned violins. Casual listening to these sweet string clusters may make it appear to be merely another period chamber piece. Actually, with the various sections layered so the soloist can use as much or as little of them as she wishes, it has all the elements of a contemporary creation.

Similarly, Guy's solo track, "Still", fits perfectly in with the pensive mood of the rest of the disc. Yet, at the same time, with its brisk pizzicato attack and sonorous resonance it also wouldn't be out of place on a freewheeling improv disc featuring the likes of Parker.

Neither Third Stream nor a crossover mix of different styles, CEREMONY is instead a fine example of how structures can be opened up to expose music's emotional core. As someone who prides himself on writing for individual personalities, Guy has shown once again that style is just a word and memorable sounds can appear in any medium.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Annunciation 2. Celebration 3. Immeasurable Sky 4. Ceremony 5. Still 6. Breathing Earth

Personnel: Maya Homburger (baroque violin); Barry Guy (bass)