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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Neil Welch, Sleeper

Sleeper (Table & Chairs) features a mid-sized chamber ensemble of tenor and soprano sax, alto and soprano sax, bass clarinet, trombone and two cellos. Neil Welch, Seattle-based, plays tenor/soprano in the ensemble and composed the 27-minute piece that the disk showcases.

The work addresses and reacts to the questionable death of an Iraqi General by US forces during the last Gulf War. The music has a somber cast at times but is also actively noteful with bursts of long-lined, asymmetrical cyclical phrases in the winds countered by dramatically slower moving and otherwise contrasting lines in the strings and brass.

From there new themes, more long-lined motor-driving passages, modern chorale-like sequences and long notes emerge and submerge. They form a musical-narrative counterpart to what might have been in another context a verbal essay.

It's highly personal music, somewhat understandably anguished at times, but ultimately transcendent, as music. Neil Welch has his own voice. It is expressive and musically rich. I hope we can hear more of his music soon.

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