(2019 - Orenda Records - USA)
An absolute treasure of Middle Age and beyond pieces that are from select composers such as Alfonso X, Martin Codax, and many unknown authors, balanced with a modern take of studio marvel and a mostly contemporary (but a few age-old) and large array of instruments. The early music does not lose its character but gets new life and stimulating presentation on 'Fontis' (Latin for 'Source'), a grand third (the first two were just the trio of women doing pure early music) by Los Angeles group Voxfire. Now with special members
The three female vocalists are Samela Aird Beasom (Voice, Cello, Marimba, Percussion), Christen Herman (Voice, Marimba), and Susan Judy (Voice, Marimba, Percussion), who all have extensive histories in both solo and ensemble work in many areas, but especially ancient, opera, and avant-garde. Added to this chemistry are composer/arrangers and instrumentalists Nick DePinna (Trombone, Bass Trombone, Toy Trombones, Ukelele, Piano, Synthesizer, Percussion, Live Effects Processing) and Ross Garren (Harmonica, Piano, Toy Piano, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Synthesizer, Marxophone, Yamaha YC30 Organ, Harmonium, Accordion, Harmonetta, Marimba, Live Tape Delay, Live Effects Processing). Some will recall DePinna did 'Nexus Music, Vol 1', which I reviewed recently. They both bring a tremendous amount of diversity to the gathering, with their skill in jazz, classical, and other genres. Icing on the cake is producer and Grammy-winning conductor, composer, and educator Peter Ruttenberg. Guest spots include Hitomi Oba - Tenor & Alto Saxophones, Flute/ Jens Kuross - Electronic Drums, Drum Set, Synthesizer/ LA Signal Lab & Noah Meites - Trumpet & Flugelhorn/ and Mark Beasom - Percussion. If this doesn't give you the confidence of a brilliant and talent filled project, you'll just have to listen for yourself.
The music explores styles that fans of Hildegard Von Bingen, VOX, and Estampie (both bands a 1990's early music hybrid ensemble who covered ancient music in a stunning fashion, with their first few releases featuring a heavenly female group of vocalists), trios like Trio Mediaeval, Varttina (from Finland), 4 piece modern eclectic group Tuuletar (also from Finland), and any devotee of chants and ancient melodies will adore. The modern extensions enhance and increase the impetus greatly, never having the effect of impurity, but lovingly create a progressive and utmost inventive result. The vocals are sung in many medieval dialects that were spoken in Spain and France in the 12th - 14th centuries (Latin, Galician-Portuguese, Provencal-Occitan, Ladino: Judeo-Spanish, and Arabic). Music from a cross section of ten centuries, the listener can imagine the varied settings of chapels, courts, and countrysides, transformed into the 21st century and perhaps the future.
Occasional drums, percussion, electronics, sax, piano, flute, trombone, ukelele, marimba, oddities, and even live tape delay, all allow the simple to become more dynamic, even more interesting and something new. All arrangements and recompositions by Ross Garren and Nick DePinna, except track 5 arranged by Jens Kuross, Nick DePinna, and Ross Garren. Voxfire weave a rich tapestry from the past with a beautiful formula, with more than enough variety and invention to peak the interest of music lovers seeking something fresh and miles beyond the ordinary. VERY RECOMMENDED.
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 10 - 20 -2019