Viola da gamba player, Gerald Trimble www.msrcd.com/catalog/cd/MS1523 was born in 1957 in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. His early musical experience began with guitar and singing. He studied jazz theory with the late John Elliott, Indian classical theory and technique with sitarist Acharya Roop Verma and Indian vocal technique with Pandit Pran Nath, Hema Sharma and Nirmal Singh. Under the tutelage of Bora Özkök, he began years of travel and study in Turkey and became proficient on numerous Eastern lutes, including the saz, lavta, tar and setar. His introduction to bowed instruments began with the kemanche, a skin-covered gourd-shaped spike fiddle, an instrument that prepared him technically as a viola da gamba player.
Gerald Trimble’s new release for MSR Music www.msrcd.com entitled Uncharted - A Viola da Gamba Adventure finds him playing a large variety of instruments, an anonymous English 6 string bass viola da gamba c.1680-1700, a 6 string bass viola da gamba by Hans Christof Fleischer of Hamburg c.1680’s, a 6 string bass viola da gambaby Pieter Rombouts of Amsterdam from 1708, a 5 string bass violin by Barak Norman of London c.1714, a 6 string pardessus de viole by Michel Colichon, Paris, 1685, a quinton de viole by Nicholas Chappuy, Paris, c.1745 and a viola d’amore 7/7 by Louis Guersan of Paris, 1762.
Trimble is joined on this disc by Webster Williams playing a 6-string bass viola da gamba by Barak Norman, London, c. 1690 or 1722, Eliot Wadopian playing a double bass by Abraham Prescott of Deerfield, New Hampshire, USA, c.1820 and River Guerguerian playing just as wide a variety of percussion instruments including Middle Eastern frame drums, Doumbeks and riq tambourines, African djembes and rattles, Brazilian pandeiro drum and caxixi shakers, Peruvian cajon, Indian kanjira drum, Persian daf drum, Latin American congas, bongos, Chinese gongs and Turkish cymbals.
I rather wondered what to expect when I received this disc with the only clues on the outside of the wrapped disc being A viola da Gamba Adventure and titles on the rear insert such as The Black Nag and Crockery Ware. Looking further I found that Trimble’s performances are said to combine Celtic, Eastern and Early Music influences with modern techniques and improvisational skills that span several centuries – from Baroque to jazz. That is certainly what is provided here in the most spectacular fashion.
Gerald Trimble opens this disc with Argiers, a tune that apparently dates back as far as 1651. Changing from bass viola da gamba to viola d’amore and quinton de viole he brings the most unusual timbres as the music rises, with something of a folk music feel. River Guerguerian adds some fine percussion sounds as this music moves forward with its terrific rhythm in this intoxicating performance.
Trimble’s bass viola da gamba alone brings a more Eastern feel to Parson’s Farewell, a tune that appears under different names around Europe. He extracts some terrific sounds from his instrument, soon rising to a terrific rhythmic with great panache and it must be said, an entirely believable performance style.
Greensleeves to a Ground brings a theme that is surely known to all even though its origins are unknown. Trimble’s bass viola da gamba rises up from a terrific opening to reveal the well-known theme in a freely moving performance with something of a swing, pointed up by a drum.
Dokumaci Kizlar Yalelli is a Turkish tune meaning ‘weaving girls’ played by Trimble using a bass viola da gamba, pardessus de viole and quinton de viole. It opens with shifting Turkish harmonies as Trimble slowly develops the theme. A rhythmic passage arrives, driven along by percussion with some fine harmonies and textures as this piece moves forward. There are some terrific freely improvised moments including an Eastern style vocal contribution before building to a climax before the end.
The Lunatic Lover or The Young Man’s Call to the Grim King of the Ghosts for a Cure is said to date back to the last quarter of the 17th century and is played here on a bass viola da gamba and quinton de viole. The vocal contribution from Trimble does have a rather modern feel and is not perhaps the most successful arrangement here.
The Duke of Norfolk or St. Paul’s Steeple follows with Trimble using bass viola da gamba and pardessus de viole to bring some terrific timbres to the intricate opening. He adds a Moorish sound to this English tune, soon moving ahead with a terrific rhythm before providing some jazz style improvisations complete with vocal additions from the players.
Antalyanin Mor Üzümü (The purple grapes of Antalya) again bring the bass viola da gamba and quinton de violeas. Iit moves quickly and rhythmically forward in another Turkish theme to which, later, there are subtle vocal harmonies added as well as a fine contribution from the double bass of Eliot Wadopian.
Gerald Trimble plays just a bass viola da gamba for Sylvie, bringing a quite different sound with simpler harmonies and a vocal contribution as the song assumes a folk character, quite appropriate to the music.
The Black Nag is another tune that dates back to the 17th century, played here on the bass viola da gamba and quinton de viole with drums opening rhythmically before Trimble’s bass viola da gamba enters in an intoxicatingly forward moving theme, absolutely terrific, developing with quite a jazz swing.
For MacKenzie’s Farewell Trimble uses a 5 string fretted bass violin, playing pizzicato to pick out the theme believed to have been composed by John Bsan MacKenzie and published in 1875. It develops with a distinctive Scottish lilt that expands into a quite lovely melody, a fine lament with some especially fine musicianship here.
Crockery Ware is said to be a song from Britain and Ireland. Here Trimble plays a bass viola da gamba bringing a folksy, rhythmic buoyancy before moving into another of those pieces that it is impossible to resist. Soon Trimble brings his own vocal sounds which give a sound that seems to recall early America as much as Ireland before launching into a ground on John Come Kiss Me Now from the 1684 The Division Violin.
The Moor’s Revenge (Abdelazer) will bring to mind for many Purcell and his incidental music to the play, indeed in part 2 of this arrangement it is a jig by Purcell that appears. In Part 1 - Laylat Al-Qadr a Moorish tune is slowly woven together with subtle wordless contributions providing some very fine textures from Trimble’s bass viola da gamba and Juan Camillo Reyes’ palmas before moving into a Jig as Part 2 arrives with clapping from the players as the well-known tune is taken ahead in a terrific rhythm.
Hijaz Taksim is an improvisation on the Hijaz mode, Taqsim being Arabic for an improvised instrumental solo. Playing a bass viola da gamba Trimble brings a particularly brilliant improvisation with many Eastern intervals as the music develops, rising to some terrific moments as this fine musician soars up in a spectacular fashion to the heights.
La Chercheuse d’Esprit and Danse de l’Ours are two dance tunes known by different names throughout Europe, the latter dating from as early as 1700. Again playing a bass viola da gamba, Trimble moves swiftly ahead in a fine dance rhythm, bringing some very fine textures and timbres and moving through some terrific moments of fine improvisation before fading out.
Gerald Trimble’s free and natural style brings its own authenticity to these old tunes. Whilst Trimble crosses many boundaries, his natural and fine musicianship manages to bring performances that are often quite intoxicating. The recording is fairly close but provides much fine detail. There are useful notes and full instrumental details.
I do hope that this new release will gain an equally enthusiastic response from music lovers across the spectrum.