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Pratt's Alchemy

Daryl Pratt: Works for Percussion

$23   (Australian dollars)


buy at: AMC - Buywell - iTunes

This recording contains percussion compositions by master percussionist Daryl Pratt. Pratt is one of the Australia’s finest vibraphonists in both classical and jazz contexts, as well as being a sought-after general percussionst. He teaches at the Sydney Conservatorium, and manages to find time to write these beautiful and challenging works for his instruments.

In Alchemy we can hear that Pratt has produced an exciting blend of jazz and classical elements, performed brilliantly by Synergy Percussion with jazz luminaries saxophonist Dale Barlow, pianist Mike Nock and drummer Chad Wackerman.

The newest work on this CD, Bundanon Landscape, captures the beauty of the Shoalhaven River on the NSW South Coast at Bundanon (the estate of artist Arthur Boyd, now an Australian artist’s retreat where Match was in residence in 2003).

A CD of Pratt’s music would be incomplete without music for vibraphone, and the two works included here show the virtuosity inherent in Pratt’s approach to his instrument.

Fantasy showcases Synergy Percussion, the phenomenal contemporary group
that celebrated 30 years of performance in 2004.

This CD has been funded by the Music Fund of the Australia Council.


Synergy Percussion (Michael Askill, Ian Cleworth, Alison Eddington, Colin Piper)
Villa Montezuma

Daryl Pratt: vibraphone
Bundanon Landscape

Match: Daryl Pratt & Alison Eddington
Web Spinner

Alison Eddington: vibraphone

Dale Barlow: tenor saxophone, Mike Nock: piano, Chad Wackerman: drum kit
Synergy Percussion: Michael Askill, Tim Constable, Alison Eddington, Phil South


This CD is devoted to five works for percussion by Daryl Pratt: "Villa Montezuma," showcasing the composer on vibraphone; "Bundanon Landscape," displaying superb keyboard-mallet work by the percussion duo Match (Pratt and Alison Eddington); "Web Spinner" impressively played on vibes by Alison Eddington; and two ensemble works, "Fantasy," and "Alchemy." The music on this disc undoubtedly benefits from Pratt’s background, which emphasized improvisation and contemporary art music. Apparently, in the early ’80s, his focus shifted from music such as Stockhausen’s "Zyklus" and Berio’s "Circles" to improvisation on the vibraphone. Contributing to the accessibility of his music (as evidenced in "Fantasy," for example) is Pratt’s interest in writing melodically for all instruments, including non-pitched membranophones and even whistles. "Villa Montezuma" reveals his attempt to blend the unique sound of the vibraphone with other instruments, to manipulate modes of attack by rolling claves across the keyboard, and to activate the instrument with hand bells.
"Fantasy" and "Alchemy" were commissioned by the Synergy Percussion Group, Australia’s flagship percussion ensemble. In the former piece, Pratt uses an interesting hocket-like technique, in which a melodic line is shared by several performers, each playing portions of that line, alternating with another musician so that while one plays the other is silent. "Alchemy," however, is the pièce de résistance of this disc, with stunning performances by three of Australia’s finest jazz musicians: tenor saxophonist Dale Barlow, pianist Mike Nock and drummer Chad Wackerman. One of the musical highlights of the work is an extended dialogue between Wackerman and the Synergy percussionists. (Synergy personnel for "Fantasy" and "Alchemy" includes Michael Askill, Ian Cleworth, Alison Eddington, Colin Piper, Tim Constable, and Phil South.) The final track brings the CD to a spectacular close. It makes this listener wish for an entire CD featuring the same cast of "Alchemists" that transmuted Pratt’s composition into pure musical gold.
© John R. Raush
Percussive Notes June 2005

It’s a little difficult to really get my head around the latest disc from Daryl Pratt – "Pratt’s Alchemy." To call it a jazz album would be to stretch the definition of the word to an alarming degree. Of course, the argument about what is and what is not jazz is as old as jazz itself, so I suppose the determination is best derived from the ear of the beholder. Having said that, on all but the last track my ear beholds little that is ‘jazzy’ on this collection of five tunes. It’s not that Pratt and his cohorts are not marvelous musicians. But when I first listened to this disc, the comparison that immediately came to mind was that of steak tartar (raw ground beef). Steak tartar is a fine delicacy, but one that is, without doubt, a bit of an acquired taste. And so it is with the music on this CD – it is certainly exquisite but this music (which is more closely related to classic than it is to jazz) is definitely not going to appeal to everyone. The classical direction is not surprising considering Pratt’s background. He has a Bachelor’s degree from the California Institute of the Arts and a Master’s from UC San Diego, and while he has a very broad performance background, his emphasis has been in improvised and contemporary classical music (he has taught at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, in Australia, since 1991.) The first four tracks of this album are pure percussion – vibraphone, claves, guiros, hand bells, whistles, etc. Much of the music is stark and very minimalistic – there are passages as long as a minute which are so quiet you might think the CD had stopped playing. Adding to the originality of this recording is the fact that the various percussive instruments are not always played in the traditional way – at times strange sounds are created by using one instrument to create sound on another; i.e., rolling the claves across the vibraphone or using the hand bells to activate the vibraphone. All the music on this disc was written by Pratt. Three of the pieces were composed for duo concerts and two were commissioned for the percussion quartet Synergy. Here Synergy performs the first track, "Fantasy," in the configuration of Michael Askill, Ian Cleworth, Alison Eddington and Colin Piper. The next track, "Villa Montezuma," features Pratt alone on vibraphone and other percussion. "Bundanon Landscape", the third track, is a duet played by Pratt and Eddington. For the fourth track, "Web Spinner," Eddington plays solo vibraphone. "Alchemy," the fifth and final track, is the only truly jazz piece on the album, and it is a real tour de force – a great modern jazz composition that incorporates some very creative percussion work . It again features Synergy, but this time Cleworth and Piper are replaced by Tim Constable and Phil South. In addition, the group is joined by Dale Barlow on tenor saxophone, Mike Nock on piano and Chad Wackerman on drum kit. The track clocks in at 20:53 and in that period of almost twenty-one minutes it takes the listener on a fantastic journey as the musicians both soar and dig deep down with technical and improvisational chops that constantly amaze. This album is definitely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are a big fan of percussive orchestrations, this just might be the CD for you.
Reviewed by: Roman St. James
Copyright© 2005 JazzReview.com®. All Rights Reserved.

This is a compilation of recordings of Daryl Pratt’s percussion music,
varying from solo vibraphone to percussion quartet with jazz trio. Two of the works on this disc, "Fantasy" and "Alchemy," are results of commissioning projects by the Australian percussion group Synergy. "Fantasy" is a 20-minute tour de force for percussion quartet. Each player is given a central keyboard percussion instrument along with several accessory instruments. Interlocking rhythmic and melodic lines are passed from voice to voice to create the overall texture. "Villa Montezuma" is a solo for vibraphone and various accessory instruments (woodblock, guiro, gong, claves, etc.). It blends fixed compositional material with elements of improvisation. Pratt’s virtuosic rendition on this disc makes the listener aware of the various sonic possibilities of the vibraphone, as it is played with assorted implements, including claves!

"Bundanon Landscape" is performed by The Match Duo (Pratt and Alison Eddington). This work draws inspiration from the flora and fauna located in the Bundanon properties on the South Coast of Australia. The duo performs this work beautifully, creating an everchanging sonic landscape as they move between the ten short sections. Alison Eddington’s performance of "Webspinners" effectively captures the improvisational quality of this work, which also explores various timbres of this instrument by using various parts of the mallets, rubbing the bars with the fingers and hands, glissandi and pitchbending techniques.

The final work, "Alchemy," combines the jazz talents of saxophonist Dale Barlow, pianist Mike Nock and drummer Chad Wackerman with the sounds of the Synergy Percussion group. Pratt fuses elements of jazz improvisation with formal composition, which work well with this instrumentation. Wackerman’s solos, which trade off with brief interludes of percussion ensemble, provide one of the highlights of this recording.
© Scott Herring
Percussive Notes June 2006

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 TP (1-901)



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