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Since the pandemic began, loss has been a consistent theme throughout the musical spectrum, with writers of various disciplines facing their fears and personal experiences through new compositions and performances. Ironically, that includes pieces that have nothing to do with the rise of Covid. Ruins and Remains, the latest brainchild of Dutch pianist Wolfert Brederode, was intended to commemorate the end of World War I, at its time the most significant war in history in terms of the devastation it wrought. Sadly, it’s as relevant in the early twenty-first century as it is in the twentieth. Backed by stringsmiths Matangi Quartet and drummer Joost Lijbaart, Brederode produces a beautifully textured multi-part piece that blends melancholy with resolve. The strings enhance the pianist’s melodies without pushing them into lush territory – squeaks and drones flavor the lines as much as expertly executed legato and vibrato. Lijbaart stays subtle, giving the songs a kick when needed, but mostly delivering accents and a quiet heartbeat. Brederode himself never goes for ostentatious displays of overwrought technique, allowing the strings to pull the ear and focusing on gently propelling the tunes forward. “Duhra,” “Cloudless” and the multi-part “Ruins” obscure the line between jazz and classical music, composition and performance, arrangement and improvisation, as if aurally representing the way life’s best-laid plans never quite unfold as one might expect – and the advantages of that cycle. Brederode isn’t interested in wallowing in tragedy, but instead learning from it, teaching us how to express sorrow while lifting our heads with purpose to move forward, the spirits of our lost beside us in encouragement.
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