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November 2008

Judi Silvano
Cleome: Live Takes
JSL

Nothing in vocalist/flutist/songwriter Judi Silvano’s vibrantly eclectic, postmillennial oeuvre—not her knockout pairing with pianist Mal Waldron on 2002’s Riding a Zephyr; not her sublime wade through the Great American Songbook on Let Yourself Go; not her back-to-back ventures into the new-age realm with Spirit Music and Celestial Voices; not even last year’s superb foray into an all-female world of performing and composing, Women’s Work—can prepare fans for the explosive experimentation at the heart of her latest.

Perhaps that’s because these nine wild tracks, the release of which coincides with the 20th anniversary of JSL records (co-founded and operated by Silvano and her husband of nearly a quarter-century, saxophonist Joe Lovano), were actually recorded first, preceding Zephyr by two years. Designed, as the title states, to celebrate various live takes by Silvano and her then working group (clarinetist and saxophonist George Garzone, drummer Gerry Hemingway and alternating bassists Michael Formanek and John Lindberg), the disc is a smorgasbord of outré treats. Or, more aptly, it is a cleome: a genus of spider plant raised by Silvano in her Hudson Valley garden, known for its brash, showy nature and many, divergent tendrils.

There’s the loose-limbed, dervish-esque title track, the cacophonous, quasi-robotic swing at the core of “Boscarob,” the reinvention of Silvano’s “Bougainvillea” (from Women’s Work) as a haiku-delicate tone poem, the menacing Middle Eastern stealth of “Yapi Credi,” the ghosts in the machine of “Cocolalla Land,” the money-in-orbit tumult of Sun Ra’s “Love in Outer Space” and the regal chant of the Japanese folk song “Sakura.” All are bracing, all demanding of wide-eyed attention (no casual listening here), all immensely daring and all disturbingly brilliant.

Originally published in November 2008
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