There’s more than a casual analogy between this group and the album title. Alchemy is "a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination."
What didn’t work for Medieval chemistry is beginning to work for 21st-century music. These musicians combine the deepest elements of musical sound—rhythm, melody, and harmony. So far, so good. But beyond that, artists achieve musicality to connect with the listener. If that means creating new micro-idioms for individual compositions, so be it.
Only superb musicians can operate this way. George Brooks (saxophones), Kala Ramnath (violins and vocals) and Gwyneth Wentink (harp), joined by special guests Kai Eckhardt (bass) and Selvaganesh Vinayakram (kanjira) have done it throughout The Alchemy.
The album opens energetically with violin and harp stating the first motif of “To The Light.” Wind instruments join them midway and the bright, punctuated pace continues to the end.
Ambika begins with harp arpeggios that imply a minor harmony and set the mood. Violin joins, with Eastern glissando phrases and expressive, sparse playing. The reed voice enters and sustains the mood through to the closing chord.
“Traveling Music for Ann” opens with a harp figure that continues throughout. Like the miles of a journey as they go by? A reed motif joins, then a solo voice singing syllables. The blends of the two instruments with the voice in the distance continue and sustain the travel metaphor until all three voices disappear over the horizon, one at a time.
-by Harold Fethe