Classical Album Review

Brooklyn Rider, ‘The Brooklyn Rider Almanac’


Brooklyn Rider (Mercury Classics)

Deriving its name from the Blue Rider Almanac, a revolutionary, media-crossing compilation from roughly a century ago, this collection from the intrepid string quartet Brooklyn Rider assembles short works from an eclectic group of composers, each inspired by a contemporary muse. The fancifully diverse collection kicks off with the monstrously deep groove of “Necessary Henry!,” Albanian cellist Rubin Kodheli’s salute to jazz composer Henry Threadgill; more complex rhythmic processes are at work in Vijay Iyer’s fast-changing “Dig The Say,” inspired by James Brown.

Dana Lyn’s “Maintenance Music” brilliantly evokes the sounds of public infrastructure maintenance during a New York day, and the nimble polyrhythms of Ethan Iverson’s “Morris Dance” are ingeniously matched to that piece’s muse, Mark Morris. Colin Jacobsen, one of the group’s violinists, enlists Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond for “Exit,” a quizzical tribute to David Byrne.


Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche contributes the scattering, minimalist “Ping Pong Fumble Thaw,” a perfect foil for Christina Courtin’s warmhearted “Tralala,” itself a nod to Stravinsky’s melodic writing. By the time Bill Frisell’s brief “John Steinbeck” fades out, multiple worlds have passed by the listener’s ears. The “Almanac” is both an all-over-the-map stylistic tour and a treatise on present-day quartet writing. It’s also a lot of fun, and Brooklyn Rider sounds passionately at home in everything.


David Weininger can be reached at globeclassicalnotes@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @davidgweininger.