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John Gentry Tennyson: Europa

Europa finds pianist John Gentry Tennyson meditating on the Continent’s old-world cultures. Inspired by Tennyson’s own travels, the album features vivid small-ensemble orchestrations. The results are diverse, dramatic and evocative, from “Citta Vecchia (per Mirella),” with its snaking, exploratory violins and Italian folk touches, to “Milonga Sinistra,” which builds sly intrigue through string tension and a tango-toned introduction. Tennyson’s piano chops are evident throughout, as his fleet fingerwork depicts awe in the meditative “Fortunato,” and quiet grace in “Preghiera di Vita e della Morte,” a simultaneously mournful and uplifting piece. “La Mer a Monaco” is a gentle drama in the mold of Satie, building on a simple figure and opening into rolling waves of piano and strings. Though largely classically wrought, Tennyson’s compositions incorporate many styles and textures, which lend them a timeless feel: “Europa,” for example, takes a classical opening flourish, then incorporates straightahead bass textures and European folk figures. The effect captures the emotion of observing a modern, bustling city in which culture and a reverence for history endure.

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