Gary Gray: Shades of Gray
2013: Centaur Records, Inc.
Gary Gray on Clarinet, Tenor Sax, Alto Sax
On Piano: Bill Cunliffe,
Joanne Pearce Martin, Vince Maggio
Judith Farmer on Bassoon
Adam Korniszewski on Violin
Gary Foster on Alto Sax
Kenny Burrell on Guitar
Juliette Gray on Voice
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 14, 2015
This very unique and high quality CD is a selection of seven, pre-recorded or newly created, clarinet duos. Gary Gray, on clarinet, and on tenor and alto saxophones on two bonus tracks, is a master clarinetist, who has been widely featured on recordings of concerti, sonatas, and chamber quartets. On Shades of Gray, Mr. Gray bookends the selection of duos with new arrangements of two, iconic Gershwin works, the 1927 Three Preludes and the 1926 Rhapsody in Blue. This is an exquisitely sumptuous album, technically clear and resonant. Appearing on the album and collaborating with Mr. Gray are Bill Cunliffe on piano, Judith Farmer on bassoon, Joanne Pearce Martin on piano, Adam Korniszewski on violin, Gary Foster on alto saxophone, Kenny Burrell on guitar, Juliette Gray on voice, and Vince Maggio on piano. Seventeen diverse tracks are included in the nine duos and two bonus pieces. The duos are both originals and new arrangements, by George Gershwin, Gernot Wolfgang, Mark Carlson, Charles Harold Bernstein, Bill Cunliffe, and Kenny Burrell. The two bonus tracks, with Mr. Gray on saxes, are “Lush Life” by Billy Strayhorn and “Wave” by Antonio Carlos Jobim. This is a fascinating, must-own album.
#7 – Twilight – Composed by Mark Carlson, from “Hall of Mirrors” for clarinet and piano, Joanne Pearce Martin on piano. This lovely, melancholy duet, by Mark Carlson, highlights Mr. Gray’s virtuosity, in fluidly taking the lead theme throughout the almost six-minute track. Ms. Martin performs interconnecting piano chords, as well as a dashing, central solo. This is the third movement from Mr. Carlson’s clarinet and piano sonata, and the liner notes indicate musical influence from 1930’s and 1940’s songs. One senses a yearning romanticism in the expansive tones of Mr. Gray’s charismatic clarinet.
#13 – Canon – Composed by Bill Cunliffe, from “Yin and Yang” for clarinet and alto saxophone, Gary Foster on alto saxophone. “Yin and Yang” is from the “canon” movement of Bill Cunliffe’s commissioned suite. Gary Foster, on alto sax, joins Gary Gray, on clarinet, in breezy improvisational style, like a midnight, after-hours club riff. It’s neither a song nor memorable melody, but a mesmerizing, serendipitous duet, showcasing both instruments and both master musicians.
#15 – Rhapsody in Blue – Composed by George Gershwin, arranged for clarinet and piano, Bill Cunliffe on piano. Gary Gray and Bill Cunliffe have adapted Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue for a clarinet lead, and this track, alone, is worth buying a dozen copies of this album and giving them out as gifts. I have never heard “Rhapsody” like this, so soaring, so sensational. Mr. Cunliffe does have many spotlighted, keyboard phrases, with thrilling chords and tantalizing trills, while Gary Gray takes the opportunity to rise to the occasion and give the listener a stunning, showcased interpretation of this beloved work.
#17 – Wave – Composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim, from “Improvisation” for piano and saxophone by Gary Gray, Vince Maggio on piano. Here, Mr. Gray on alto saxophone, with Vince Maggio on piano, create a unique interpretation of Jobim’s renowned ballad, for a streamlined duet that gives each artist breathing room for solos that twist and twirl through the enchanting melody, evocative of the original lyrics, “…When your eyes met mine it was eternity…”.