2024 / Andree-Ann Deschenes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Wanderings is a fascinating project by pianist Andree-Ann Deschenes. The album consists of seven new solo piano works that Deschenes commissioned seven renowned composers to create specifically for her. I have reviewed two other albums Deschenes has released to date and have been beyond impressed and inspired by her enthusiasm for lesser-known works and music that doesn't fit neatly into one specific genre. The composers for Wanderings are Cassio Vianna, Jasnam Daya Singh, Bianca Gismonti, Jovino Santos Neto, Kerry Politzer, Carmen Sandim and André Mehmari. The various tracks are quite different from each other, yet the album holds together beautifully as a unique listening experience. It also underscores Deschenes' commitment to new piano works influenced by jazz, Brazilian, and classical aesthetics.
Currently on the faculty of the Music & Visual Arts department at Algoma University, Andree-Ann Deschenes earned an Advanced Diploma in Jazz (Humber College), followed by a Master’s Degree in Afro-Latin music (California State University), and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Claremont Graduate University. Quoting Deschenes about this project:
"Picture this - You find a building. It looks kind of abandoned, it’s empty, it’s dark. You walk in, and see all of these little spaces and rooms. You start wandering around, exploring each of these rooms, not knowing what you’re going to find....I wandered into a room, or an idea, and came out some time later with seven brand new musical works by seven brilliant composers. Each piece is its own musical space to be explored, each one of them waiting for you to wander around, and maybe stay for a bit."
This creative endeavor attracted the attention of both the Canada Council for the Arts and the City of Sault Ste. Marie’s Arts and Culture Assistance Program, the two primary funding entities supporting this project. Produced by Greig Nori and Deschenes, the album was recorded at the Loft Studio in Sault Ste. Marie.
The album begins with the three-movement "Adanças" by Cassio Vianna a beautiful piece that covers a lot of musical as well as emotional territory - from mysterious and abstract to smooth and more melodic to lively and a bit agitated. Jasnam Daya Singh's "Chardi Kala" is also in three movements: the dramatic "Bhana," the tranquil and soothing "Peace Within" (a favorite!), and the lively and fanciful "High Spirits." Bianca Gismonti's "Two Moons" is another favorite with its gentle rhythm and dream-like melody, powerful middle section, and return to a variation of the first theme. Jovino Santos Neto composed "Naiad Oshun," a colorful tribute to Oshun, a goddess important to the Yoruba religion. At 8 1/2 minutes, the piece has plenty of time to evolve and venture into a number of different moods and musical statements. It also clearly demonstrates what an amazing and versatile pianist Deschenes is. Kelly Politzer's three-movement "Microclimates" goes from dark and turbulent to agitated and murky to even more agitated and foreboding. "Amanhecer Ao Entardecer" translates to "Dawn to Dusk" and Carmen Sandim's piece is beautifully understated and calm for the first few minutes, gradually intensifying while telling a story without the use of words. The last track on the album is "Tanguinho" composed by André Mehmari. Big, bold and full of life it all but swirls and dances right out of the music player!
What a glorious album this is! Andree-Ann Deschenes is to be congratulated for her vision as well as her impeccable and incredibly expressive playing. Wanderings is available from Bandcamp, Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites including Spotify. The album is released on vinyl, CD and digitally.
January 26, 2024