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A Fascinating Programme

Joseph Gramley plays
music for percussion,
reviewed by

Towerhill    TH-72003

Joseph Gramley - Global Percussion. © 2005 Towerhill Recordings

The prospect of just over an hour of percussion playing may seem daunting to any who feel the need for greater variety in their listening repertoire, but Joseph Gramley has assembled a fascinating programme of relatively short pieces (the best of the inventory is invariably short and succinct), most of which are for solo marimba.

The music draws on a wide range of sources from the Ghanaian tradition which is the basis of Kakraba Lobi's colourful marimba piece Ganda Yina ('The strong man is out'), a series of variants on a ground celebrating with some joy the great life of a tribal elder [listen -- track 1, 0:01-1:35] -- a piece that would make a splendid recital opener -- to rather ineffectual transcriptions of guitar pieces by Fernando Sor which seem unnecessary given the preceding eight tracks of more colourful originality.

The most substantial piece is Visitations by New York composer Charles Griffin, in which Gramley plays keyboards, marimba, vibraphone, crotales and various untuned percussion. There are great advantages in working with a composer, but here the extended time span (the piece lasts fifteen minutes) is too much for the weak material, lacking drive and purpose and taking far too long to arrive at its modest climactic point [listen -- track 8, 11:30-12:54].

The short pieces are better. Marimba Montuño by William Susman and Prism by Keiko Abe both explore the solo marimba well. Gramley also includes pieces for solo drums in two versions of Philip Glass's 1+1 and A Minute of News by Eugene Novotney. But it is the barely five minutes of energy in Danza del Fuego by John La Barbera, in which Gramley is assisted by Yousif Sheronick playing doumbek, that makes the recital worth while. After an extended cadenza for the drums, the marimba returns with its ostinato [listen -- track 5, 3:10-4:36].

This is an entertaining CD but not one that stimulates mighty admiration. Gramley seems very competent but is in need of a much more musically challenging repertoire.

Copyright © 7 October 2006 Patric Standford, Wakefield UK


Joseph Gramley - Global Percussion

TH-72003 Stereo FIRST RELEASE 62'44" 2005 Towerhill Recordings

Joseph Gramley, marimba, vibraphone, crotales, untuned percussion, keyboards; Yousif Sheronick, doumbek

Traditional (Kakraba Lobi, arr Kakraba Lobi and Valerie Naranjo): Ganda Yina; Eugene Novotney: A Minute of News; William Susman: Marimba Montuño; Philip Glass: 1+1 (take 220); John LaBarbera: Danza del Fuego; Keiko Abe: PRISM (for marimba); Philip Glass: 1+1 (take 218); Charles B Griffin: Visitations; Fernando Sor: Estudio #6; Estudio #17






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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular series of shorter CD reviews