1 - Spring Haiku
2 - It's So Beautiful
3 - Sky, Mountain, Stream
4 - Chrysalis Intro
5 - Butterfly
6 - Summer Haiku
7 - Say I Am You
8 - Where the Fish Are This Big
9 - I Write You & Love Poem
10 - Rosa Maria
11 - Autumn Haiku
12 - Dissolve
13 - The Orchid Room
14 - Winter Haiku
15 - Snow Peace Calms Us
16 - Despedida (Farewell)
CD Quality - 16 bit / 44.1 khz
There are few things as inspiring as a commune with nature. Artists have continually sought the refuge of the great outdoors for assistance in the stimulation of ideas, practice and awareness.
What better place for nature to meet art than at a botanical garden? It was in the Japanese Tea Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden where cellist/vocalist/composer Jody Redhage had the inspiration to embark on a musical project that would pay homage to these oases of tranquility. It would take her some time, and a fortunate turn of events, for the project to come to a head as an all woman ensemble called Rose & the Nightingale and their recorded tribute to botanical gardens, Spirit of the Garden.
In late 2010, Redhage became a part of bassist Esperanza Spalding’s Chamber Music Society Tour. The ensemble would be on the road for 120 concerts spanning 5 continents. It was during the tour that the botanical garden project began to take shape, as Redhage met a number of brilliant musicians (and future friends) who would inspire and collaborate with her to write and rehearse.
Originally a classical cellist, Redhage had found herself more and more involved in jazz projects. Spalding’s tour allowed her to follow both muses along with an amazing array of talented co-conspirators. Among these musicians were violinist Sara Caswell and vocalist Leala Cyr. Redhage began to share her experiences and garden visits with one or both on most of the stops on the tour, loving every minute.
Soundchecks before performances finally gave Redhage the chance to improvise and rehearse sketches of music from her project with her new friends. Caswell had a similar approach to music, beginning in classical and developing an ever-increasing emphasis on jazz. Cyr was also drawn to the music, which allowed them all to flex their improvisatory muscles. The band, Rose & the Nightingale, was completed when percussionist and co-producer Ben Wittman suggested pianist/vocalist Laila Biali, recently settled in New York after a tour with Sting, as the fourth voice and additional chordal instrument for the group. Thus, Redhage had the three-part vocal harmony group she had wanted; she just had to wait for the right voices.
Rose & the Nightingale is thus a quartet of enthusiastic and highly malleable female musicians. All of the members can double on various instruments, including trumpet, mandolin, and various percussion, providing a vast timbral palette for Redhage’s compositions.
The first fruit of Rose & the Nightingale’s collaboration is their recorded song cycle, Spirit of the Garden. There are four thematically arranged sections, one for each of the four seasons, led by a collectively improvised haiku (based on poems of legendary Japanese haiku poets) and corresponding compositions reflecting the season. Each composition also features a poem either written for the ensemble or picked because of its appropriateness to the material.
Redhage composed the words and music to “It’s So Beautiful,” a bright and spirited reflection on the water garden at the Barbican Centre in England. “Sky, Mountain, Stream” features Wyoming-based Ella Cvancara’s poem in a moving, polyphonic counterpoint between vocalists Redhage and Cyr. Redhage’s solo cello on “Chrysalis Intro” leads to the airy “Butterfly,” based on a poem of Miquel Décor, a French poet from the historic Oc speaking region, which floats on the wings of Cyr’s vocal improvisation. “Say I Am You” comes from a Rumi poem arranged for an intriguing three-voice a’ccappella chant.
Originally written for the group’s first concert at the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers in June 2012, “Where the Fish Are This Big” features a poem by Evan Karp about the fish pond at the Conservatory in a touching setting with lead voice by Biali echoed by Cyr’s trumpet. Maria Brady-Smith’s poem, “I Write You a Love Poem,” is performed in a quiet, piano led ballad. “Rosa Maria” features words and music by Redhage, a blossoming tribute to all gardeners and their work using plants as art.
“Dissolve” is based on a poem by Vermont-based poet Wyn Cooper, and arranged by Redhage’s husband, trombonist Alan Ferber, varying pace and intensity throughout. Silvi Alcivar’s poem, “The Orchid Room,” is another feature from the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers performance, providing a great example of the sensitive, expressiveness of the ensemble on this highly emotional piece. The exquisite and spare “Snow Peace Calms Us” is based on Ella Cvancara’s poem, written while Redhage braved a Vermont blizzard. Mario Laginha’s wordless composition “Depedida (Farewell)” closes the record with a lovely, subtle adieu.
Rose & the Nightingale has become more than a concept project for Jody Redhage and her ensemble. Their love of botanical gardens and the wealth they provide has been transfigured by the love that was shared within the group and their collaboration. Spirit of the Garden was made in tribute but it has also been made as a testament to the ensemble and their spirit of inspired music making.