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New York City-based, Puerto Rican-born jazz guitarist-composer-visual artist Gabriel Vicéns explores contemporary chamber music in his fourth studio album, Mural. Vicéns composed seven pieces for piano trios, the Nu woodwind quintet and the Pierrot ensemble that corresponds with 12-tone serialism, experimental modern music, and minimalism. The album’s title relates to Vicéns’ passion for Roman and Egyptian mural paintings, and it was recorded at the Bunker Studio in New York in August 2022.

Vicéns is interested in how music and painting correlate and enrich each other, in particular, his attentiveness to the two-dimensional flatness of the canvas and how that translates into music. Or how the dimensions of melody, harmony, rhythm, timbre, and register correlate with color, form, line, and texture. «I see my paintings as an extension of my music and vice versa», he says. His compositions are characterized by their embracement of dissonance, pointillistic textures, large intervallic leaps, gestural complexity, prolonged silences, great dynamic contrasts, and quiet sustained tones. They owe much to the seminal influence of composers Anton Webern and Morton Feldman.

Mural presents Vicéns as a distinct and mature composer with a musical vision of his own. The first, title piece (2021) for clarinet, violin, and piano references the spacious and almost silent minimalism of Feldman but spices it with concise playfulness. «Sueños Ligados» (2020) a different piano trio with violin and cello is more dramatic in its spirit but allows the pianist Mayumi Tsuchida to improvise on its theme. The 15-minute «El Matorral» (2022) for the Pierrot ensemble, conducted by David Bloom, suggests a mysterious, understated story filled with brief silences that demand the listener to imagine those missing, silent segments. «Una Superficie Sin Rostro» (2020) for solo piano, featuring Corinne Penner is a beautiful, deeply moving minimalist composition, Feldman-esque in its austere atmosphere. «Carnal» (2019) for violin and piano allows Vicéns to paint an enigmatic texture that plays with timbre, silence and form. «Ficción» (2021) for the NU woodwind quintet enjoys the ethereal, timbral qualities of the flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn. The album concludes with «La Esfera» (2021) for a duo of cellist Julia Henderson and pianist Mikael Darmanie, a quiet and delicate piece that highlights, again, the idiosyncratic voice of Vicéns.

Eyal Hareuveni

Raissa Fahlman (clarinet), Joenne Dumitrascu (violin), Corinne Penner (piano), Adrianne Munden-Dixon (violin), Rocío Díaz de Cossío (cello), Mayumi Tsuchida (piano), Roberta Michel (flute), Wick Simmons (cello), Corinne Penner (piano), John Ling (vibraphone), David Bloom (conductor), Kim Lewis (flute), Michael Dwinell (oboe), Kathryn Vetter (clarinet), Tylor Thomas (bassoon), Blair Hamrick (horn), Julia Henderson (cello), Mikael Darmanie (piano)