Reviews of Z Octet
Peggy Stern is a musician's musician. She's made her mark in Philadelphia, San Francisco, New York City, Europe, Seattle and now Austin (where she's embraced country music; see embedded video). Her multi-hued musical worldview also includes classical, salsa, Latin rock, jazz and R'n'B. Her new Z Octet on her own Estrella Productions label veers classical as a suite in 10 movements. To that end, she's enlisted musicians like cello virtuoso Ilia Delarosa from the Dominican Republic to go with her piano and such colors as flute, clarinet and trombone, all anchored by bass, drums and even vocals.
Yet it's her solo piano treatise "Time @ Time/Hymn" that steals the show. Taken from melodic fragments of the 1947 standard "Time After Time," it's a fascinating unraveling and putting back together of a song that's been ingrained in our collective DNA for 69 years.
"The Elephant's Tango" opens on a flurry of notes. The following "New Year's" is akin to an Americana anthem complete with vocals ("since the dawn of time we like to live in fear"). The only other track with vocals is "Caterina/Isabela." Sung in Italian by Suzi Stern (no relation), it's the true story of a woman from the pianist's River Jazz Choir killed in a car crash nine months pregnant and of the baby who miraculously survived ("when the young play/it's the simple truth that every bell wants to ring/Listen! You can hear it/The sound of every distant star in the sky lighting our way").
Peggy Stern has taken from her experiences playing in the bands of Eddie Henderson, Machito and Lee Konitz to weave a very special tapestry of indefinable music that bobs and weaves like a boxer named Ali. -
The music on Z Octet runs a wide gamut, from the humid southern hemisphere stylings of "The Elephant's Tango" to the vocally inflected "New Years" to the elegantly pastoral solo piano of "Red Bug Slough" (channeling the spirit of Aaron Copland crossed with George Winston). Just when you think you have gotten beyond any jazz, "Anomie" shows up, reed-rich and jaunty with plenty of sass and attitude. Even Alex Coke's subdued flute pipes up with Su Terry's dry clarinet when pitted against Alex Heitlinger's muted, talking trombone. This is Duke Ellington’s brilliance, Maria Schneider’s local color, and Miles Davis’ diamond hard seriousness all melded and tempered by a singular mind and talent into a cogent and familiar musical statement.
TCA Touring Roster 2016-18
“We are part of the Texas Commission on the Arts Texas Touring Roster. Support may be available to assist with our booking fees through the Arts Respond Performance Support grant program. This quarterly program provides support to Texas schools, libraries, and nonprofit organizations for hiring an artist from the TCA Touring Roster to give a performance, residency, or workshop. These applications are funded based on a sliding scale ranging from 30% to 50% of contracted fees. Support is based on TCA’s available funds. Contact TCA at 512/463-5535 for more information.”