Besser & Bravura

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Jonathan Besser (piano)
Nigel Gavin (guitar and mandolin)
Miranda Adams (violin, gamelan)
Tatiana Lanchtchikova (accordion)
Peter Scott (bass)

Over many years, Bravura has developed a very intuitive and sensitive sense of each others ‘voices’. The approach to recording Turn played to the group’s collective strength. Jonathan Besser and producer Steve Garden sought to create a sound that had a very ‘open’ texture, in which the compositions were starting points for improvisation. The group started recording within moments of seeing the score for the first time, and developed the pieces over the course of the session. This spontaneous approach had a very palpable effect on the finished music. 

Another influence on Turn is the early summer New Zealand environment. Former Auckland Mayor Christine Fletcher offered ‘Bravura’ the use of her Cook’s Beach Coromandel Beach house. The band lived and worked together for 4 days and nights in this relaxed idyllic setting.

The simplicity of the round as a musical form belies the subtlety of this music. The title alludes to more than just compositional structure, but as a stylistic arc through folk, jazz and classical terrains that ultimately arrives at a sound that is curvaceous, feminine, welcoming, unforced, gentle, reflective, and poignant.


Review by Bruce Morley

New York-born Jonathan Besser has had considerable success as a composer-at-large, but it is probably his group Bravura that most succinctly encapsulates his many influences. Besser’s compositions on Turn are based on that simplest of musical forms, the round, and allow the players some spontaneity and freedom. The result is beautiful, free-flowing ambient, peaceful music, where at times it is not clear where improvisation ends and composition begins. Miranda Adams’ violin (and gamelan) and Tatiana Lantchikova’s accordion bring classical and folk elements to the group, while guitar-meister Nigel Gavin and bassist Peter Scott take care of business at the ‘secular’ end. Scott’s work is pivotal in linking and underpinning the diversity in Besser’s compositions. Besser himself contributes composed but ebullient piano. Curiously, without the additional percussion that he sometimes adds in live performance, the music sounds much more introspective and meditative on disc, indicating that the group, all accomplished improvisers, can probably deliver quite varied performances of the same material. 



RAT-D013 (May, 2006)

Recording and Production: Steve Garden