Wednesday 8 October 2014

Universal Classics bring a very appealing release for those with tastes that encompass folk, jazz and pop as well as classical string sounds featuring the classical string trio, Time for Three, with special guests

I am always happy to stretch the boundaries of this blog by listening to recordings that may to some not really fall within a classical remit. What matters most in looking farther afield is that any review should include classical artists even though they are bringing their own special artistry to a new field of music making.

Such a case is that of the trio Time for Three who have recently released their debut disc for Universal Music Classics


Time for Three consists of violinists Zachary (Zach) De Pue and Nicolas (Nick) Kendall and double-bassist Ranaan Meyer who defy traditional genre classification with a mix of virtuosity, creativity and showmanship.

The American trio perform music from Bach to Brahms and beyond and have given world-premieres by Pulitzer Prize-winners William Bolcom and Jennifer Higdon as well as playing originals and their own arrangements of other genres.

Their debut album on Universal Music Classics showcases not only the trio’s melody-rich string weave but also its flair for collaboration, with the group teaming with pop singer-songwriter Joshua Radin, jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis, classical cello star Alisa Weilerstein and ukulele ace Jake Shimabukuro, among others. The new album features four new items from popular indie-pop songwriter Joshua Radin's songbook, featuring vocals from Joshua himself.

The Trio and Jake Shimabukuro open with a piece called Happy Day with harp like phrases from the ukulele before drums point up a rhythmic beat. As Time for Three join in a theme that seems to blend folk and world music harmonies there are some most attractive sonorities, with solo violin and solo ukulele appearing through the texture. There is a fresh buoyant feel, with Shimabukuro surprising the listener with the attractive sounds the ukulele can make in the hands of a fine player.

Roundabouts has the string harmonies of the Trio swirling around before a theme emerges out of the mists, full of atmosphere and nostalgia, a lovely piece.

Vocalist, Joshua Radin joins Time for Three for his own song, Winter, that has an equally atmospheric opening to which Radin adds the sounds of his guitar, bringing a folksy blend to a pop style song. This acts as a well-planned variety to the purely instrumental pieces with, again, more lovely string sonorities.

The pizzicato double bass of Ranaan Meyer opens Banjo Love with a rhythmic motif joined by the other two string players as the violins weave a rhythmic melody over the pizzicato bass line, slowly becoming more frenetic in some terrific jazz style playing. These artists are certainly fine musicians. They occasionally produce the odd vocal outburst as well as clapping and finger snapping to the bass pizzicato rhythm in this great little piece.

The strings open Queen of Voodoo before percussion spices up the rhythms. When saxophonist, Branford Marsalis enters he adds to the free jazz style of this piece – a real foot tapping piece. Marsalis is on great form and obviously enjoying himself with this trio.

Joshua Radin returns for Everything'll Be Alright with pizzicato strings before the singer enters. There are again lovely string sonorities to which Radin’s voice and guitar blend well. It is the trio that add a more folk like element to this song.

Most classical music lovers will have heard one or more of Rachmaninov’s arrangements of his Vocalise, but nothing quite like the arrangement played here. Time for Three are joined by Alisa Weilerstein to bring some unusual string harmonies to Rachmaninov’s well known tune, soon pointed up by pizzicato double bass as the two violins and cello weave the melody in this attractive arrangement.

Closer is another song featuring Joshua Radin. The trio introduces a fast moving rhythmic theme before Radin enters with the trio’s fine string harmonies blending with the vocalist, guitar, with drums pointing up the forward flowing rhythm.

A deep pizzicato double bass in a slow rolling theme picked up by the other strings soon reveals the Lennon and McCartney song behind Norwegian Wood, though to my ears Chopin (F major Ballade) should take some of the credit. Time for Three weave some lovely sonorities around the theme before the coda arrives with rich deep harmonies.

Vocalist Joshua Radin appears again in his song, What if You where he joins the rich sonorities of the Trio in a strikingly atmospheric song, with, again, the strings bringing a folk like element.

Bon Iver arranged Bach’s famous Chaconne In D minor calling it Chaconne In Winter treating it with respect and care whilst beautifully revealing the layers of musical thought  before increasing the tempo with some fine playing with harmonics and slides and pizzicato passages in the most extended piece here. The music works through a variety of variations, virtuosic at times, particularly towards the end where the opening sonorities re-appear to bring about the coda.

Danny Boy brings the fine vocals of Lily & Madeline to the pizzicato violin accompaniment which soon broadens bringing a blend of these two voices together with the increasingly richer string harmonies that adds so much to this well-known song.

UFO features Time for Three alone in a folksy little tune that receives some lovely working out with, at times, a Scottish feel pervading as the music leads to a lovely coda.

For those with tastes that encompass folk, jazz and pop as well as classical string sounds, performed by top class musicians, this new release will be very appealing.

I cannot disagree with their publicity that states ‘TF3 is incredibly relatable to both classical fans and a new generation of music listeners with wide tastes – each of the group members have been influenced by an eclectic mix of music genres’.

These artists receive a first rate recording which, in my download, I found to be clear, detailed and well balanced. 

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