From Honey to Ashes (2007) is a set of eleven contrasting miniatures by composer and guitarist Stephen Goss. This recording features the last three pieces of the set, which are played without pause and give the impression of a whirlwind trip through far-away lands. The Hotel Kempinski uses part of a groove by David Byrne, founder of the American new wave band Talking Heads. Tango Brawl is a homage to Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla, and The Ajman is infused with Arabic influences.
Dreams of Yesterday and Tomorrow (2013) is part of the Klezmer Suite by composer, flutist, and guitarist Carl Dimow. Featuring the rarely-heard bass flute, it is built around a rhythmic groove which is common to both Jewish and Middle Eastern musical traditions. This piece includes a substantial improvised section known as a taqsim. Dimow sees this piece, with its crossover between Jewish and Arabic music, as a kind of prayer for peace in the Middle East.
Soledad (1997) is written by composer and guitarist Patrick Roux. This piece expresses hopes, fears, losses, and dreams felt in moments of solitude. Like many of Roux’s works, this piece has the unmistakable influence of Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla.
Use Me is from Bill Withers’s 1972 album titled Still Bill. It’s a funk tune known for its repeated bass figure and heavy percussion. Both Gruca and White contribute to the percussion effects to drive the groove.
The Shepherd’s Dream (2014), from the Balkan Songbook, is written by composer and guitarist Alan Thomas. The composer states “While perusing a folk song collection, I came across a little tune labeled ‘Croatian Lovesong.’ Though only eight bars long and extremely simple in its rhythmic and melodic construction, I became somewhat obsessed by the haunting beauty of the melody. I am often troubled by these ‘earworms,’ and as I sang the melody over and over in my mind, an image began to form of a shepherd on a hillside in the still evening air, playing variations on the melody as he drifted off to sleep.” The alto flute lends its voice to the dreamy nature of this piece.
Chamber Music is the title track of the 2009 CD by Ballaké Sissoko, from Mali, and Frenchman Vincent Segal. Improvisatory in nature, this album brought together the sound of the kora, a traditional West African plucked string instrument, and the cello. While the two instrumentalists come from very different musical traditions, they created a unique hybrid sound. Gruca White’s interpretation replaces the cello with bass flute, and uses a unique guitar tuning created by South African guitarist Derek Gripper to imitate the kora.
Homage to the Harvest Moon (1982) by Masamitsu Takahashi is written for two traditional Japanese instruments: shinobue, a small seven holed flute made out of bamboo, and koto, a large plucked instrument with 13 strings and moveable bridges. Gruca and White are playing their modern Western instruments, but imitating the unique characteristics of these traditional instruments. The title refers to a mid-autumn festival in Japan known as the Harvest Moon Festival, in which the moon is celebrated and admired at its brightest appearance of the year.
I Wish is a soul tune by musical icon Stevie Wonder. It was released as a single in 1976, then again on his award-winning album, Songs in the Key of Life. Stevie Wonder’s recording shows the full sound of Motown; the catchy electric bass, synthesizer, horns and vocals.
Lake Effect (2007) by pianist and composer Marshall Griffith was originally written as part of a larger work titled Jazz Impressions of Cleveland. The title Lake Effect refers to winter snow storms common in the Great Lakes region. Written in a lead-sheet format, the debut performance featured a jazz quartet with the composer at the piano and White as the flutist. In setting this piece for guitar and bass/alto flute, Gruca’s guitar serves as the melodic instrument portraying the swirling, descending snow.
Bossa Blue (2017) by composer and bassist Stephen Stanziano is part of a four-movement work, Suite for Flute and Guitar, which was written for the Gruca White Ensemble and debuted in 2017. The suite was created with the idea that any of the movements could stand on their own as miniatures. The sultry sound of the alto flute in the opening leads to the typical Bossa Nova pattern in the guitar, but with a twist: whoever heard of a bossa in 5/4 time?
Black Magic Woman, by Peter Green of the band Fleetwood Mac, was released as a single in 1968. It was made even more popular by Carlos Santana’s recording released in 1970. Gruca White’s take uses bass flute which imitates the quality of male vocals and complements the blues rock characteristics of this popular tune.
Special thanks to The Music Settlement, Gabe Pollack, Ruth Ann Ritchie, Bruce Gigax, and all of the family, friends and fans that have been with us since the beginning! — Linda White
CONNECT with Gruca White Ensemble
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Big Round Records is dedicated to presenting world-class musicians doing what they do best: smash the walls of genre and create groundbreaking new sounds while keeping one foot firmly rooted in tradition. Overdriven bassoons, orchestra-backed swing groups, blues-inflected Zydeco, outlandish arrangements of Disney songs, and modern-protest tunes is just a small slice of what you'll hear on our releases, which feature some of today's most forward-thinking and respected artists such as John Hall (Orleans), Steve Gadd, Andy Jaffe, Eddie Gomez, Tony Oxley, Charlie Barnett, Richard Stoltzman, Tony Clef, Mika Yoshida, and many more. Out of the box? With Big Round, there is no box.
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