Benji Kaplan’s newest recording, Chorando Sete Cores (translated as “Cries of the Seven-Colored Tanager”), explores his mental process. Each instrumental imagines visuals and transforms them into music. Here, he twines a woodwind quintet together with his acoustic nylon-stringed guitar. In many ways, this project differs greatly from Kaplan’s previous releases, Meditações no violão, Reveries em Som, and Uai Sô.
Making up his quintet are Anne Drummond on C and alto flutes, Remy Le Beouf on clarinet and bass clarinet, David Byrd-Marrow on French horn, and Kaplan himself on nylon-string acoustic guitar. Every member is essential to the narratives being told in the recording. Their statements and the trajectory of their notes are each vital, leaving the listener with a distinct impression. The music translates visuals, forming a single stream of vignettes flowing like a movie.
“Chorando” is the action word for choro, which represents a Brazilian style of dance music. It means “cry” in Spanish. “Sete-cores” means “seven colors.” The four musicians play six instruments that cry seven colors. The meaning of the title is symbolic and puts a distinct impression in listeners’ minds, imagining the musicians painting images with their notes.
Showing spontaneity, the musicians are motivated by their imagination. Kaplan provides the base from which the band members spin their loom of notes. The band weaves choros, lullabies, sambas, maracatus, and various other forms of Brazilian-based rhythms, displaying a flexible beat or rubato. Around every curve, the musicians make new shapes. Each note is integrated into the narrative, so everything is essential to both the individual tracks and the overall vision. Hence, the quintet’s continuity and cohesive playing adds to the recording’s beauty.
The first four pieces touch on Kaplan’s personal journey, referencing both his hometown of New York and the Brazilian musical traditions. “Bryant Park” is built upon ascending and descending patterns, forging climaxes and depressions. The ribbed notes of the French horn are deftly syncopated. Proficiently, the passages of the horns catapult the bouncy excursion, bringing forth a sense of joy and whimsical play, which is often a part of Kaplan’s method.
“At the Vanguard” embraces the history of New York’s venerable jazz club with the clarinet-led ensemble firing up intricate embellishments. The composition alternates between intervals played in unison and free-flung solos. The piece is full of unexpected twists and turns along the jaunt. “Canção de Ninar (Berceuse)” focuses on Kaplain’s guitar work with its lilting theme, sometimes fluid and sometimes budding into large flourishes.
The rollicking tempo of “Trenzinho para Lapa (Little Train to Lapa)” chugs energetically through a wonderland of vivid images. Moving along, “Familiar Strangers” offers a ride through peaks and valleys, showered in sprigs of delicate notes. Poignantly, “The Wind” is an episodic journey through changing patterns, with the melodies of the woodwinds swirling around those of the guitar. Meanwhile, “A Happy Sadness” opens with the flute and blends with contrasting horns that intermingle calmness and exuberance.
Chorando Sete Cores is a true accomplishment for Kaplan, cementing him in the role of composer, visionary, and orator of stories set to music. The recording’s beauty lies in the agile imaginations of its musicians, creating colors and figures with their notes.
Anne Drummond – alto and C flute, Remy Le Boeuf – clarinet and bass clarinet, David Byrd-Marrow – French horn, Benji Kaplan – nylon-string acoustic guitar