Adam Guettel’s theater cult-classic MYTHS AND HYMNS is no stranger to genre-bending and reimagination, the original song cycle itself leaning heavily on the concepts. So it comes as no surprise that renowned guitarist Garrett Gleason, never shying away from the new or imaginative, would produce his own reworkings of the beloved songs for guitar, bass, and drums.
There’s no shortage of fresh takes in these often experimental arrangements sifting between the lines of rock and theater. Gleason’s re-workings add a vivacious flair to works like Pegasus and Sisyphus, the various guitar effects an inventive means of exciting the original content without failing to honor it entirely. Even the subdued slow-rock of How Can I Lose You finds itself ever so gradually slipping into admirable madness sure to please even the most experimental of music listeners.
Gleason’s new take on MYTHS AND HYMNS is a welcome revival and renewal. Not only is it sure to meet approval by fans of the original, but it’s been approved by Guettel himself, the two eventually coming together in person to completely reimagine the closing song, Saturn Returns (Reprise). Gleason hopes for his arrangements of MYTHS AND HYMNS to bring the worlds of theater and rock together, that perhaps, like myths and hymns, there is more in common between the two than one would think.
Composed by Phil Scarff and performed by world-jazz ensemble Natraj, RAGAMALA PAINTINGS ALIVE! shines a contemporary light on historic artwork from India. The members of Natraj individually and collectively bring a wealth of experience exploring the intersection of jazz and global musical traditions. Their stunning performance showcased in this release is wide ranging, deep, and accessible, while firmly rooted in the rich tapestry of Indian classical music. RAGAMALA PAINTINGS ALIVE! is part of a larger multimedia work created in collaboration with Indian classical dancer Jayshree Bala Rajamani, incorporating dance, music, spoken word, and projected images. It brings to life historic ragamala paintings, with each painting representing one Indian classical raga or melodic framework. Inspired by Modest Mussorgsky and his iconic work, Pictures at an Exhibition, Scarff threads the suite together with musical “promenades” that represent the viewer entering and moving about an art gallery, with each theme anticipating a painting or set of paintings to come. Whether heard on its own or experienced as a full multimedia performance, RAGAMALA PAINTINGS ALIVE! takes listeners on a compelling contemporary journey that celebrates classic ragamala paintings from India.