PFMCD044

Jim Connolly and The Gove County String Quartet (PFMCD044)

$10.00


Sally Barr: Violin
Laura Hackstein: Violin
Kirsten Monke: Viola
Jim Connolly: Contrabass

1 – Even Dust Sparkles on the Moon – 4:11
2 – Pinocchio – 4:25
3 – Forgetting the Names of Trees in the Polish Woods – 5:13
4 – On Rue Clark – 4:22
5 – Patience Makes the Ocean Blue – 6:30
6 – Noodling for Flatheads – 2:51
7 – Hymn for John – 5:42
8 – Peter and Amy – 3:02
9 – Crows would steal the Stars if they could fly that high – 5:34
10 – Time Rides the Ferris Wheel – 3:46
11 – Once, For the Last Time – 4:00

All Music © 2007 James Connolly Music (ASCAP)
except “Across the Universe” as Lennon / McCartney
© ATV (Northern Songs Catalog) / EMI Blackwood Music

Recorded at Trinity Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara, CA
Recorded, Mixed, and Mastered by Jeff Kaiser
Cover Painting “Circus” By Yevgenia Nayberg
Graphic Assistance Provided By Ted Killian

pfMENTUM CD044

PFMCD044

Reviews

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    Jim Connolly and The Gove County String Quartet is the debut of the Santa Barbara-based composer’s newest ensemble. Leader of the mercurial chamber music septet The Gove County Philharmonic, contrabassist Connolly largely eschews the Philharmonic’s eccentricities in favor of a more refined approach.

    While the larger Philharmonic tends towards cinematic flourishes and a circus-like atmosphere that invokes Kurt Weill by way of Carl Stalling, Connolly’s string quartet reveals an even richer vein of lyricism.

    Drawing inspiration from his heritage, Connolly’s compositions for string quartet owe a great deal to such American composers as Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber and Charles Ives. A classic songwriter at heart, he focuses squarely on folksy sing-song melodies and rhythmic momentum for the basic foundations of his work.

    Connolly regularly uses the wide dynamics, quicksilver tempo-shifts and non-linear development commonly employed by many contemporary composers. But where many of his peers allow dissonance and angularity to dominate, Connolly concentrates instead on harmonic counterpoint and the purity of a strong melody.

    Influenced by folk, gospel, country and other strains of Americana, his compositions overflow with pastoral atmosphere and bittersweet nostalgia. No stranger to popular music, he even summons a melodic kernel from the Beatles’ “Across The Universe” in “Pinocchio.”
    Rich in harmonious detail, Connolly’s compositions are not without subtle surprises. Sprightly Raymond Scott-inspired asides and strident Bartokian episodes alternate with regal passages of Bachian austerity. More episodically varied than the minimalists and more conceptually conservative than the post-serialists, Connolly’s work shares similarities with new tonalists such as Aaron Jay Kernis, Michael Torke and George Tsontakis.

    A beautiful record, Jim Connolly and The Gove County String Quartet expands beyond the free-wheeling antics explored by his seven-piece Philharmonic, resonating with a sense of timeless maturity.

    Troy Collins, http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=26894

    Jim Connolly’s latest work on the pfMentum label reduces his more free-wheeling Gove County Philharmonic to a string quartet, but retains all the charm and cinematic qualities that made earlier Gove County outings so resonant with all who encountered them.
    Connolly’s outfit, presumably named for the sparsely-populated Kansas county, presents an interesting amalgam of styles throughout the disc. Old-time country moments mingle just measures away from a pure lounge vamp, and then dissolve into something out of a cartoon-mouse-on-a-journey sweetness. Along the way, there are numerous more avant-garde moments– sudden changes of tempo, truncated endings, and the odd scraping and pawing of “Crows Would Steal the Stars If They Could Fly That High.”
    Overall, the album is a distinctly American mix– probably best appreciated by those with a fondness for a little carnival music in their iPods.
    Along with this latest self-titled release, pfMentum was kindly enough to send along a copy of an older Connolly disc, featuring The Gove County Philharmonic. The 2002 release, “Time Stops to Visit” is far more raucous than the current album, most notably due to contributions from Jeff Kaiser on trumpet and Jim Bement’s accordion. Bruce Bigenho also propels the album– recorded in Connolly’s living room, incidentally– with a chipper bar-room style at turns, but also with Sun Ra moments as in “Time Stops to Visit.”
    The album closes with the lovely “Hi Lili, Hi Lo,” which should have you singing along and guessing at the words within seconds. Frankly, I wish more of the songs between both albums had such singing; perhaps this is a nice wish for next time Jim makes the trip to Gove.

    DaveX, http://startlingmoniker.wordpress.com/

    Jim Connolly and the Gove County String Quartet (CD, pfMENTUM, Jazz), Time Stops to Visit: Jim Connolly and the Gove County Philharmonic (CD, pfMENTUM, Jazz)
    These two CDs feature contrabass player Jim Connolly playing with the Gove County String Quartet and the Gove County Philharmonic. The String Quartet features Sally Barr (violin), Laura Hackstein (violin), and Kirsten Monke (viola). Interestingly, the tracks for the first CD were recorded in June 2005 and May 2006 and were recorded, mixed, and mastered by Jeff Kaiser (whose recordings we were already familiar with). We were expecting experimental music or modern classical on this release…but were instead surprised at how classic/classical and traditional these pieces are. We have always loved string quartets. These folks are a good example of why quartets are so aesthetically pleasing. Everyone was obviously on the same wavelength during these recordings (made at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara, California)…and the sound quality is excellent throughout. The second CD features the Gove County Philharmonic…which consists of Sally Barr (violin), Kirsten Monke (viola), Ron McCarley (clarinet), Jeff Kaiser (trumpet), Jim Bement (accordian), and Bruce Bigenho (piano). As you might guess from the instruments used, the music on this second CD is more fanciful and playful. Some of these compositions remind us of Frank Zappa’s later classical pieces. Packaged in what appears to be a simple homemade cardboard sleeve, this album is deceptively complex…ranging from quirky and odd to moody and subdued. We particularly like the fact that these tracks were recorded “direct to DAT in Jim Connolly’s living room.” Both of these discs are superb in terms of both quality and musicianship. Recommended. (Rating: 5+)

    babysue.com

    While listening to albums for this issue, I heard the String Quartet album first, liked it and tossed it in the “full review” pile. A couple days later, I listened to the Philharmonic set and did the same thing. I didn’t realize I had two albums from the same artist until I sorted out the piles. These must have come in the same envelope and gotten separated.
    Which is cool. I like it when I have two validations for a given review. It means I’m not losing my mind. Yet.
    The String Quartet album is just that, a set of pieces played by a muscular string quartet. It is the newer album (recorded this year), though I’m not sure that matters much when we’re talking about classical music. Classical with a hint of the avant garde, I suppose, but classical nonetheless. The melodies are often haunting, but the rhythmic passages really set this album off for me. This baby moves. Exceedingly well.
    The Philharmonic album adds clarinet, trumpet, accordion and piano to a basic string trio (violin, viola and Connolly on bass). This album (recorded in 2002) moves, too, but in a much more conventional way. This one feels like a day at the fair: playful, exciting and ultimately exhausting. Sometimes the songs run themselves into the ground. In a good way.
    It’s easy to hear the progression in Connolly’s writing. Where the older album is often manic without apparent motive, this year’s effort is purposeful–almost stalking–in the way it moves. Both are vibrant and alive in ways that most music (of any sort) is not. Quite a two-fer.

    Jon Worley, Aiding and Abetting

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