In 1957, American composer Gunther Schuller first referred to the synthesis between classical music of European tradition and jazz as “Third Stream”. Since then, many creators have offered their versions of this marriage. One of the most recent such experiments is the new album by saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff, the very ambitious Pivotal Arc. A colossal undertaking, it required the services of musicians from New York, Toronto, and Montreal.
The album opens with a violin concerto featuring Quebec violinist Nathalie Bonin as lead soloist, delivering a breathtaking performance. She traverses the three movements of this work with impressive aplomb and creativity, her extremely colourful playing highlighted by the work of the indefatigable rhythm section of double bassist Mark Helias and drummer Satoshi Takeishi. These two top jazzmen impart a deconstructed tango cadenza to this composition that evokes Béla Bartók, Igor Stravinsky, and Balkan music at the same time. The contribution of the wind and strings section led by JC Sanford is also to be underlined.
The second piece on the program is a string quartet that Nachoff created for the Molinari Quartet. The members of the Montreal ensemble clearly enjoyed playing this work, which is reminiscent, once again, of Bartók, but also of the Second Viennese School. Nachoff shows beyond any doubt that he is a creator who has nothing to envy contemporary composers of classical allegiance, even though he comes from the jazz world.
A superb solo by Helias opens the title track, a piece closer to jazz that offers a splendid conclusion to the album. Takeishi and Toronto vibraphonist Michael Davidson are particularly imaginative. The mysterious atmosphere that the music exudes is resolutely modern, although at times it is influenced by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. The piece ends its rotation on itself with another solo by Helias, bringing this very successful opus by Nachoff to a fitting conclusion.