American Record Guide

Carson Cooman (b 1982) is a remarkably pro­lific composer with a deep well of creativity; this is the fourth album of his music I have reviewed (March/April 2010). Trumpeter Chris Gekker is heard in several of the works, and that’s a real plus – he has a round, warm trum­pet sound and always plays thoughtfully. He commissioned Cooman’s 14-minute song cycle Chasing the Moon Down (2009), for mezzo-soprano, trumpet, and piano. The four poems, written by Gekker’s sister Katherine, are reflections “during each of the seasons of the year – in the wake of a great loss”. The texts are poignant, the music potent, and the per­formance by Gekker, mezzo Katarzyna Sadej, and pianist Jeffrey Grossman quite powerful.

In a musical rumination inspired by evenings on Nantucket Island, the nine-minute Quidnet Shadows (2009, for flugelhorn and harp), the harmonic language is abstract, the materials seemingly improvised. The fine harpist is Rebecca Smith, Gekker’s colleague at the University of Maryland. Gekker is also heard in the anguished, five-minute ‘Autumn Sun Canticle’ (2005) for trumpet and piano and the brief and contemplative ‘Woodbury Sestina’ (2009) for solo trumpet.

Cooman’s 15-minuteTuba Sonata (2007) is quite dissonant and dramatic. In I (‘Speaking of Sunsets’), the action is grim and intense. II (‘Build Me a Garden’) is quiet for a while, becomes violent, and then calms down at the end. The mood lifts in the lively III (‘Rising at Dawn’). The reading by tubist Mark Nelson and pianist Marie Sierra is strong and commit­ted but marred by tuba tone problems, indis­tinct fast pitches, and muddy low notes.

Pianist Grossman gives fine accounts of three solo works. ‘Cantus I’ (2011) is a six-minute contemplation with rippling, sustained sounds and a central hymn-like, chordal sec­tion. ‘Cantus II’ (2011) is subtitled ‘Into Unknowing Light’ and memorializes a deceased mother. The album ends with the somber and touching ‘Yizkor’ (2011), named for the Jewish prayer recited in memory of family members no longer living.

—Barry Kilpatrick