Leppin, Janel - Ensemble Volcanic Ash: To March Is To Love CD

SKU Rune 529
Larry Ferguson: drums
Luke Stewart: bass
Anthony Pirog: guitar
Sarah Hughes: alto saxophone
Brian Settles: tenor saxophone
Janel Leppin: cello, piano

It is extremely gratifying to work with this superb ensemble, which brings many of the things that *I* personally like best about contemporary music together (composition, performance ability, improvisation, the breaking of musical barriers, etc) because not only does it do all of these things, but it does all these things while featuring some of my very favorite DC-based musicians, all of whom I have seen many times in many different configurations!

And despite the difficulty of bands and keeping bands together, the reason for doing so is that no matter how excellent the individual players, all great bands are greater than the sum of their parts and Ensemble Volcanic Ash is truly much greater than the sum of its already amazing parts.

If cellist/composer Janel Leppin’s wonderful and widely celebrated 2022 solo debut album Ensemble Volcanic Ash was a creative eruption, her follow up, To March Is to Love, is a glowing magma flow that greatly expands her singular band’s sonic terrain. The project thrums with immediacy as Leppin and her all-star sextet honor their musical ancestors and reflect on disquieting times.

Bandcamp Daily declared “There’s no end to the melodic intensity of Ensemble Volcanic Ash. Even at its lushest and most approachable, Janel Leppin delivers the music with a resolute force of will." Their debut was also included in JazzTimes Critics Poll Top 50 New Releases of 2022.

“This is new music recorded in one day live in the studio. I was thinking a lot politically while writing this album, and wanted to lean into a message of hope, but not shying away from the reality. Some pieces are quite intense, some coming from personal experience and drawing on modern classical influence.”

With its volatile mix of composition and improvisation, Leppin’s densely orchestrated music could be called rambunctious chamber jazz, but she’s carved out her own niche shaped by the particular contours of her collaborators. Leppin melds an illustrious array of Washington D.C.-area talent into an expressive organism that surges, expands, ebbs and dances in multiple directions at once, and while there’s no shortage of virtuosity, Ensemble Volcanic Ash is more concerned with acutely calibrated interplay, inspired charts, and sky-shattering solos than with a lot of free improvisation.

The music is progressive chamber jazz with the steely avant-garde that descends from Julius Hemphill’s 1972 LP Dogon A.D. “As Wide as All Outdoors” is from a quote by Hemphill, "Jazz is as wide as all outdoors," which inspired Janel to write a raucous introduction and take a far reaching and dynamic cello solo.

That landmark recording featured Janel’s lodestar, the late Abdul Wadud, a pioneering cellist who cleared the path she traverses today. On the first track, Wadud is one of Janel’s honorees (“Ode to Abdul Wadud”). The album is bookended with her other greatest influence on the cello, Pablo Casals (“Casals’ Rainbow”). Wadud and Casals, Janel points out, were musical revolutionaries — in the case of Casals, he was a political firebrand, as well — so their presence is welcome on an album that is “very political. This is the moment where people are going to have to step up. We’ve done this before and we can do it again. It’s a very D.C. message, but a very important message.”

  • LabelCuneiform
  • UPC045775052922
Your Price $15.00

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