Threads of a Prayer Volume 1
2CD/DL Solaire Records SOL1003
Sandro Ivo Bartoli, piano
Szymon Marciniak, bass
Wolfgang Fischer, timpani
Johannes Kronfeld, trombone
Working with a delicate mix of space, patience and subtle dynamics, the music of Jeffrey Roden is a veritable test of stamina for every recording engineer: During the sessions to threads of a prayer, even the breaths of the musicians and the birds in the beams turned out to be distracting. At the same time, this intense restraint is one of the many strengths of Roden’s work, which is undeniably reminiscent of the great works of Arvo Pärt and Morton Feldman. With this epic double-CD release, the first in a two-part series, he now firmly established himself as a composer with a sense of tradition as well as a strongly personal script.
For Los Angeles-based Roden, threads of a prayer marks the culmination of a more than ten year long period of soul searching. After having spent the early decades of his career as a session musician for legends like Bo Didley, Roden turned his gaze inwards and moved from chambermusical electro-jazz to solo improvisations and the epic beauty of his large-scale bass composition the bridge to the other place. While the connection with Feldman may seem most obvious in terms of the epic scale of the pieces and their use of silence, it was the spirituality and soft resolve of Arvo Pärt’s oeuvre that would turn into the foremost source of inspiration.
The sessions to threads of a prayer took place in the small town of Neumarkt for a full four days, at the same location that had already served Solaire Records well for their first two releases: The renowned Reitstadel, known for classic recordings by the likes of András Schiff, Mitsuko Uchida and Kirill Gerstein. Featuring a young esemble, including the leading Czech string players of the Bennewitz Quartet, up-and-coming double bassist Szymon Marciniak and Solaire’s long-term creative partner-in-crime Sandro Ivo Bartoli, many sections of the music were taped at night to capture the quietude and otherworldliness of the late hours – with the largest part of the entire piano CD of the release being finished by Bartoli in a single long nocturnal session.
As both an introduction into his compositional work and a compilation of many years of gestation, Threads of a Prayer presents a diverse, yet atmospherically coherent look into Jeffrey Roden’s music, from the sparse beauty of his piano pieces to the brittle serenity of the chambermusic works and the string quintets on CD2. Careful listeners will be able to discern the underlying spiritual questions, but the music works perfectly fine without any conceptual considerations – as an antidote to the constant noise of the world outside.