Before we begin, a reminder that today (Juneteenth), Bandcamp will be waiving their normal fee in order to support racial equality, justice and change. 100% of their share will be donated to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. So if you purchase this new album or anything else on Bandcamp today, you’ll be getting some great music while helping a great cause!
Given lead singles “Boatman” and “The Other Side,” one thinks of Chris DeBurgh’s “Don’t Pay the Ferryman.” But while The Quest Ensemble does dwell in drama, the trio of Filipe Sousa (piano), Tara Franks (cello) and Preetha Narayanan (violin) avoids narrative, allowing listeners to form their own conclusions after hearing lovely melodic set pieces along with some surprising bouts of improvisation.
The first singles make great entry points. “Moment” is fast-paced from the start, although the strings refuse to adopt the speed of the keys. The keys slow in the title track, while a wordless voice beckons the ear. “Boatman” offers more action from the left side of the scale, along with instrumental verses and choruses. The action pauses midway to allow the cello to perform a mournful elegy. Is there no money for the return fare? The track recovers softly and slowly, but resists returning to the chorus. These trajectories are difficult to predict.
“Space Between” opens to a wider vista. This pensive piece is dotted with notes that seem more like dripped paint than music. Contrast the end of that piece with the beginning of the title track, and one can hear an immediate difference in the velocity and pressure. Even the voice swirls rather than soars. “Drops” delves in abstraction, creating a sense of suspense. Sub-movements provide the feeling of a short film with multiple scenes taken from various angles.
The back end of the set contains the most experimentation, but the most compelling track precedes them. “Land of None” begins like a lullaby but ends like a chase. We suggest that this is what Quest Ensemble does best: they impress with improvisation, but thrill with composition. Fans of each will find plenty to satisfy their palates. (Richard Allen)