Saturday, March 1, 2014

Feona Lee Jones: Water for Notes / Mark Alburger

Composer-pianist Feona Lee Jones emerges as a fully-formed artist in Water for Notes (2013), an alluring assemblage of recent works that show her as a wonderful new voice in her synthesis of J.S. Bach, Dmitri Shostakovich, Philip Glass, and popular musics.  Beginning with You, she demonstrates a fearless confidence and imaginative variety in reinterpreting  the 1950's progression (I-vi-IV-V) as i6/4-bVI-iv-VMaj7/5.  More rhythmically and tonally adventurous is Story of Water, with its upward modal cascades of steady eighth notes: first in five measures of 8 groups of 7's, offset by a single utterance of 6 x's 5, then branching out intuitively into patterns including 6's and 8's, with touches of blues in its expanded F Phrygian / Major tonality.  The titular selection turns out to be a shimmering C Harmonic Minor binary variant (ABAB') with arresting rhythmic repercussions of 3+3+2 over steady pairs of eighths. 

Particularly appealing is Morning Mist, with its gentle bitonality of black notes against white, often forming thirds and sixths, but also likely to strike very poingant seconds, sevenths, fourths and fifths in dreamy ascending three-note arpeggios in 6/8.  Melting Snow puts a pulsating octave over a sycopated bass, before exploring beautiful minimalist arpeggiations of I-V6-vi5-V6, ending with a minor plagal cadence.   

Moonwater lives up to its name, now in ascending patterns of 6 eighths in 6/4: veiled impressions in F# Minor, with E-Sharps re-spelled as F-Naturals, and a welcomely counterbalancing coda of 5's in 5/4.  The album, and accompanying volume of sheet music, the latter intriguingly illustrated by black-and-white art photos (taken in Greece, but evoking universal, rather than site-specific sentiments) drivingly concludes with Tears, a passionate, forceful romp in Bb Dorian / Harmonic Minor in two verse-chorus cycles.  Jones's prelude cycle successfully evokes a succession of evocative moods and modes that are sure to delight listeners and performers alike.  We look forward to her further endeavors.

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