A Lovely Discovery: Mira Opalinska and Douglas Whales, Pianist and Bassist
In my perusal of websites, stores, and labels, I came across a description of this CD, "Lumiere" (Natural Studio Records 2012) by Mira Opalinska and Douglas Whates, on piano and bass respectively. Given the subject matter -- the cinema scores of some well known European composers from some wonderful movies -- I went ahead and ordered a copy. This is a restrained set with a low key, beautifully harmonic and expressive chamber jazz ethos of spare and beautiful melodies. The approach is that of two minimalists, with Opalinska displaying a lightness of touch which draws upon her classical origins. The two invest the music with a tranquil beauty, and capture an ECM like spirit of quiet intimacy. Biographies of the two are at http://owduo.com/about.
The music includes pieces from "Rosemary's Baby" and "Knife in the Water" by Krzysztof Komeda, Vangelis' "Blade Runner", two pieces from "Cinema Paradiso" by Andrea Morricone, and three other pieces from lesser known composers and movies. I must say, for the first three minutes of the opener from "Rosemary's Baby" I wondered what I had gotten into -- this section was extremely slow and full of unusual bass playing, with large spaces and little flow. But at the three minute mark, everything coalesced and from then on the CD was full of delicate play. “Ballad for Berndt” from “Knife In The Water” exhibits the virtues of careful and precise piano playing of the graceful melody accompanied by a queitly plucked bass. The lesser known excerpt from “Rikyu” is from Toru Takemitsu’s score for a film celebrating the Japanese Tea Ceremony. Whates combines bowing and plucking and Opalinska periodically plucks the strings of the piano from under its lid, creating a striking piece with an Eastern sound and a good deal of dramatic interplay. The “Blade Runner” sequence begins in an intensely quiet fashion and gradually blooms as Opalinska provides the wispy melodies over a strongly played bass undertone which portends some of the drama inherent in the movie. .Ennio Morricone’s music from “Cinema Paradiso”is played with sensitivity as a beautiful solo piano performance.
“Lumiere” is a CD with a singular mood and atmosphere, established early and played throughout the entire CD. the partnership is celarly intense about its play, but that intensity is rendered not with dramatic changes in tempo or loudness, but with feel, texture and nuance. this is a uniformly slow tempo, quiet and introspective CD. It is enjoyable for those who like sensitive play; it’s chamber jazz in the ECM vein of Anat Fort or Marilyn Crispell, disciplined, simple and memorable. This pair have created a distinct world of sound for themselves, but one that is eminently enjoyable for the listener.
Recorded a Filharmonia Podlarpacka, Rzeszow, Poland October 2011