The music of Jeffrey Roden is a veritable test of stamina for every recording engineer: During the sessions to “Threads Of A Prayer”, even the breaths of the musicians and the birds in the beams turned out to be distracting. At the same time, this intense restraint is one of the many strengths of Roden’s work, which is undeniably reminiscent of the great works of Arvo Pärt and Morton Feldman.
The musicians counted on this double CD release are Sandro Ivo Bartoli (on piano), the Bennewitz Quartet, Szymon Marciniak (on bass), Wolfgang Fischer (on timpani) & Johannes Kronfeld on trombone.
However, with this epic double-CD release, the first in a two-part series, Roden has now firmly established himself as a composer with a sense of tradition as well as a strongly personal script.
For Los Angeles-based Roden, threads of a prayer marks the culmination of a more than ten year long period of soul searching. After having spent the early decades of his career as a session musician for legends like Bo Didley, Roden turned his gaze inwards and moved from chamber-music to electro-jazz to solo improvisations and then the epic beauty of his large-scale bass composition “The Bridge To The Other Place.”
While the connection with Feldman may seem most obvious in terms of the epic scale of the pieces and their use of silence, it was the spirituality and soft resolve of Arvo Pärt’s oeuvre that would turn into the foremost source of inspiration, according to Roden.
The sessions to Threads Of A Prayer took place in the small town of Neumarkt for a full four days, at the same location that had already served Solaire Records well for their first two releases: The renowned Reitstadel, known for classic recordings by the likes of András Schiff, Mitsuko Uchida and Kirill Gerstein. Featuring a young ensemble, including the leading Czech string players of the Bennewitz Quartet, up-and-coming double bassist Szymon Marciniak and Solaire’s long-term creative partner-in-crime, Sandro Ivo Bartoli, many sections of the music were taped at night to capture the quietude and other-worldliness of the late hours, the small hours – with the largest part of the entire piano CD of the release being finished by Bartoli in a single long nocturnal session.
As both an introduction into his compositional work and a compilation of many years of gestation, threads of a prayer presents a diverse, yet atmospherically coherent look into Jeffrey Roden’s music, from the sparse beauty of his piano pieces to the brittle serenity of the chamber music works and the string quintets on CD2. The music works perfectly fine without any conceptual considerations – as an antidote to the constant noise of the world outside.
However, as with all good music, this is a transformative body of work. “Threads Of A Prayer” is an exceptionally transformative body of work. I feel Roden experienced what St. John Of The Cross termed ‘La noche oscura del alma.’ This series of compact discs will leave you thinking in a new, more meditative way. It is a quiet spiritual rebirth – by someone I believe has seen darkness and now light.
Volume 1 is out now – please click here – and the second volume of Threads Of A Prayer is scheduled for release in 2017.