The acclaimed After the Rain was released in 2001. It was followed up by the 2013 Music For Strings, Percussion and the Rest, produced by his son Brent Fischer. Much more than a memorial to his deceased father, the newer album is a compendium of some truly excellent music, music that deserves the wider recognition it is getting.
“Pensamientos for Solo Alto Saxophone and Chamber Orchestra,” the album’s opening composition was the winner of the Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition in the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, an honor richly deserved for the prolific musician. The work is conducted here by Gary Foster who also handles saxophone duties.
It is not, however, the only significant work on the new album. “Interlude for Piano” and “Reflection for Piano” are both quite interesting pieces played here with some magic by Bryan Pezzone. His “Two For the Road” takes a basic pop melody by Henry Mancini and turns it into a classical gem, in a way reminding listeners of the many illustrious composers who transformed themes taken from their often lesser contemporaries.
The album also includes some original work by the younger Fischer. This includes his “Weekend in Stockholm,” originally composed for solo vibraphone, here with a sextet added and “Retrograde Orbits for Vibraphone,” based on what he defines as his father’s “intensely percussive approach to the piano.” There are also some new arrangements of his father’s work, notably a transformation of “Suddenly,” originally written for a quartet, now with the addition of a full orchestra.
Taken together with the three larger works on After the Rain, the two albums reveal a composer steeped in the traditions of his classical forbears. The older album opens with the three-part “Suite For Cello & String Orchestra.” “Time Piece,” another three-movement piece follows, and the disc concludes with two cleverly titled “Bachludes.”
Fischer was not chasing after the avant garde musical movements of the day. He was content to look back to the masters and explore what they had done with an eye (or perhaps I should say ear) to the present. As Brent says in the liner notes to the new disc, his work is “a synthesis of influences across an unusually broad spectrum.” The influential names he points to are familiar and diverse—Bach and Bartok, Ellington and Strayhorn, Jobim and Villa-Lobos.
Fischer has studied the musical tradition, and he has used his studies to create his own artistic voice. It is a voice that becomes more and more powerful, the more it is heard.
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