By Donald Rosenberg, August 2015
You might not expect a composer who has contributed to such action films as Die Hard and Lethal Weapon to be as comfortable in the, shall we say, less driven world of chamber, vocal and choral music. Then again, Bruce Babcock is an unexpected composer, as this disc of his music, entitled ‘Time, Still’, reflects in striking ways.
The six works reveal a musician who blends superior craftsmanship with a colourful, expressive sense of narrative. Each piece is scored for a different complement of instruments and/or singers. All are fresh in texture. Babcock’s rhythmic vitality is core to Irrational Exuberance, scored for alto saxophone, cello and piano. The sax (wondrously played by Doug Masek) is also present, with soprano and piano, in This Is What I know, four affecting and dramatic songs on poems of Dorothy Parker.
Babcock shows his Impressionistic stripes in Springscape, a glistening and atmospheric conversation for harp, flute and viola. The aura is completely different in All Unto Me, a soaring a cappella choral work dedicated to Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Brief, but haunting in its sense of time and stillness, is Metaphor Two for solo piano. The three movements of Imagined/Remembered, for cello and piano, range from zesty and lyrical to dark-hued and jaunty, with all sorts of delicious rhythmic and harmonic twists to maintain suspense.
Along with saxophonist Masek, the disc’s performers comprise a host of superb Los Angeles-based musicians, including the vibrant soprano Juliana Gondek and the fine Coventry and Canterbury Choirs of All Saints Church in Pasadena.