Witty & Dramatic
Aaron Jay Myers: Late Night Banter
(May 19, 2023 / Neuma Records)
Melodic, dramatic, and if it can be said in today's world, offering a good-natured sonic palette, Late Night Banter is a showcase for American composer Aaron Jay Myers. Much of the album came together as a COVID project, for which he wrote new works as well as recording others that had already been performed live for years.
The pieces are united by a pulse that's strongly rhythmic, informed by an idiosyncratic sensibility, and embellished by his personal quirks - such as the love of lichens that inspired the appropriately named Lichens III (2018). Here, soprano Stephanie Lamprea takes standard vocal techniques to extremes for a beguiling performance that stretches over a series of short movements. Her gift is to sound equally compelling in the upper squeaks as in the resonant lower range.
Adrienne Baker (flute) and Seychelle D. Corbin (baritone saxophone) make up the Northstar Duo, who perform the amusingly animated Save One Life, You Save The World Entire (2017). It requires a nice edge of precision and technique to pull off.
Late Night Banter, the title track, (2011, rev. 2015) adds layers of instrumentation to his vivacious approach to composition. Each instrument makes a melodic contribution, as well as adding their distinctive colours to the soundscape. That includes Sarah Brady on flute, Amy Advocat on clarinet, Philipp A. Stäudlin on tenor saxophone, Andrew Kozar on trumpet, Alexis Smith on trombone, Lev Mamuya on cello, Will Yager on contrabass, Sarah Bob on piano, Greg Simonds on percussion, and Aaron Trant on drum set, with Matt Sharrock conducting.
You Get On My Nerves And I Don’t Like Your Hat (2020) is a work for four voices, with soprano Helen Hassinger, mezzo-soprano Emily Harmon performing the alto part, tenor Wes Hunter, and baritone Brian Church. There are both church-like harmonies and vocal pyrotechnics in the expressive piece. The voices rise and fall against each other, occasionally coming together in harmony, in words and sounds that convey a rising dramatic curve.
Myers plays electric guitar on Perception Stains Reality (2022), joined by Aaron Trant on drums for a ride through a fusion of prog rock and contemporary neoclassical.
A composer, guitarist and educator, Myers has performed and had work commissioned across the US. As a musician, he's performed genres ranging from punk to classical.
You Get On My Nerves, and I Don't Like Your Hat, with its nod to Star Trek for four solo voices: