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Jed Distler
Gramophone, September 2012

Big Grenadilla, the title-track of the latest Cantaloupe release from Bang on a Can All-Stars founding member, composer and clarinet wizard Evan Ziporyn, refers to the type of wood from which a bass clarinet is manufactured. It is a 14-minute concerto for bass clarinet and chamber orchestra that takes it cue from concertos by great 19th-century virtuoso composer/performers such as Paganini and Liszt but in unmistakably 21st-century terms. It begins with an unaccompanied passage packed with extended techniques such as multiphonics and bent and slapped notes. The orchestra gradually enters, mirroring and expanding Ziporyn’s solo licks, eventually settling into a swinging, asymmetrical groove where pentatonic harmony and open fifths dominate, as well as chatty yet never cluttered imitative writing. The percussion-writing grows increasingly elaborate and colourful as the piece progresses, although there are plenty of sparse moments, such as an extended ‘arpeggio etude’ cadenza punctuated by jabbing percussion rejoinders.

As usual with Gil Rose and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, precision and passion magically fuse. This is certainly the most ambitious and fascinating music I’ve heard from Ziporyn; and may his compositional range and sonorous palette continue to expand and evolve at this high, even rarefied level. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Kraig Lamper
American Record Guide, September 2012

Evan Ziporyn’s Big Grenadilla is a spirited concerto for the bass clarinet filled with syncopated rhythms, mixed meter, steady pulses, energetic melodies, and loads of color. The other work offered on the program is a deep and varied one for tabla in three movements, Mumbai. The tabla itself has a large range of sounds, conventional and unconventional, allowing for engaging, melodically interesting material that keeps your attention through solo sections. © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online

Evan Burke
I Care If You Listen, July 2012

Evan Ziporyn‘s new recording, Big Grenadilla /Mumbai, manages to be futuristic while playing with tradition, exotic without being artificial. Ziporyn himself, a clarinetist, composer…is clearly used to living in several simultaneous musical worlds, and has found a way to fuse them without compromising their essences…the two works demonstrate Ziporyn’s unique approach to composing with the sound and energy of improvisation. Joining him in his endeavor are the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, conducted by Gil Rose, for both pieces, and tabla virtuoso Sandeep Das for Mumbai.

Big Grenadilla opens with Ziporyn intoning a low, resonant prayer. Overtones unfold and reach mournfully outward, alone at first, then joined by a cautious orchestra. In the early bars, the clarinet and ensemble join and separate like blobs of sonic mercury, often indistinguishable from each other. The second section, a driving riff reminiscent of John Adams, is alluded to briefly a few times before finally roaring in. Big Grenadilla builds slowly, to a glorious climax that sounds like Gershwin scoring a Bollywood-produced spaghetti western.

Mumbai…is practically defined by dread. Divided into three sections…Given specific parts but allowed to interpret, emphasize and embellish at his desire, Das weaves the improvised virtuosity of classical tabla into Ziporyn’s sparse, eerie orchestrations with sharp precision. Part 1 (“Before”) bustles and bubbles in gentle homage to its namesake, with Das strolling through streets built by quivering strings, exuding sly confidence.

Part 2 (“During”), opens with Das in a dizzying panic, bursting with percussive flurries evoking jittery dread. Plowing through the orchestra’s slow pulse with quick, demented patterns, Das strikes a manic balance with the incessantly plodding march. His virtuosic embellishments come more frequently in this part…

Part 3 (“After”), emotionally wrenching while ambiguous, formless, yet dynamic, allows Das to wander through shifting tempos submerged in churning orchestral clouds. A loose, supple theme of hope and light appears throughout, but each statement is always met with Das’ spastic bursts, or sudden, manic shifts in the strings towards charred wastelands of harmony.

Ziporyn is balancing a lot here: both European and Hindustani classical musics, modern avant-garde art music, minimalism, free improvisation… but you’d never know it unless you specifically stop to over-analyze. It was on the fifth or sixth listen where I started trying to grasp all the components of Ziporyn’s sound and style, and it is wonderfully impossible, like trying to see all the atoms in a hurricane. He takes what he loves, from old traditions to modern experiments, and finds ways to comfortably squeeze them together, fitting improvisation into through-composed orchestral works, or making two traditions with essentially opposing rules and structures sound as uniform and natural as a folk song. Ziporyn has written a gorgeous and thoughtful elegy for the victims of the Mumbai bombings, and in doing so has also produced one of the finest works of his career. © 2012 I Care If You Listen Read complete review

Anastasia Tsioulcas
National Public Radio, April 2012

Mumbai [is a work that is] luminous and dreamlike, unfolding with a glow and a sense of wonder both intimate and soaring. This is music you climb inside as the tabla cuts through the gleaming strings.

Ziporyn's way of framing the excellent Das, a member of the Silk Road Ensemble, as soloist carries a deep satisfaction for lovers of Indian classical music.

The companion piece, Big Grenadilla, is an amazing, virtuosic showpiece for bass clarinet, played by Ziporyn himself with Rose and the BMOP. And this brief 14-minute concerto is in itself worth a serious visit. Here the terrain is more like a stage at an indie rock show than a meditative landscape. At the beginning, his clarinet growls and buzzes like an electric guitar—and by the end, Ziporyn is wailing away like a rock legend, bathed in the light of the orchestra's pumping, frenetic energy. It's a whole other side of Ziporyn, a composer as variegated as the cultures he celebrates. © 2012 National Public Radio Read complete review

Olivia Giovetti
WQXR (New York), April 2012

Q2 Music Album of the Week

There’s something about Big Grenadilla/Mumbai, Evan Ziporyn’s newest album on Cantaloupe which pairs two concertos for unconventional solo instruments, that leaves it akin to a mental yoga exercise, finding balance in extremes.

It’s the Mumbai portion of the album that perhaps has the most profound effect…it’s a haunting and cathartic 35-minute ride that thunders with Sandeep Das’s free-form tabla talents and a full-colored performance from Gil Rose and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Ziporyn’s ethnomusicology…is in full force here, incorporating modes of Indian classical music that seamlessly blends the northern and southern disciplines of Hindustani and Carnati composition, a nod perhaps to Mumbai’s situation in the midsection of the country.

The end comes with a numbing blow that hints at renewal, but also leaves you feeling a bit raw, an appropriate feeling to have four years after the city’s devastating attacks.

In Ziporyn’s performance, there’s a hint of that godlike sigh that created the universe—grand yet with some understandable uncertainties and ambiguities…—set against an orchestra as vast as the final frontier.  It builds in intensity, leading to a remarkable climax that mirrors the same in Mumbai, but to an entirely different end: Where the latter is about destruction, this is about creation. © 2012 WQXR (New York) Read complete review

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