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Album Review

It's been awhile since Zeena Parkins released a recording on Tzadik. Her last for the label, Pan-Acousticon was issued in 1999, and it was here she set out to explore relationships between orchestral instruments (sampled), strings, drums, and homemade instruments. She appeared in collaboration with Lesli Dalaba on her fantastic Tzadik issue Timelines in 2004 and collaborated with Ikue Mori on Phantom Orchard for the Mego label the same year. Necklace contains four new works, beginning with the dazzling "Persuasion," for string quartet and electronic processing. Performed by the Eclipse Quartet (Parkins' sisters Sara and Maggie are members), "Persuasion" is a dazzling series of moments where texture, dynamic, and timbre are brought into play gradually, interlocking with others. As one set of themes is ushered in, another leaves, only to return in combination with others in sometimes staggered and layered forms. This is done by the electronic processing of Parkins and Doug Henderson. The quartet can sound like dozens of strings harmonically playing as one. "16 Feet + Cello" was written for eight dancers (from Comanie Sui-Generis) and Maggie's cello. Scratched, plucked, detuned strings are mic'ed on the same level as the dancer's feet. Percussive patterns emerge under the sonic assault provided by the lone instrument. Parkins' "Solo for Neil" is a short work she performs on her harp. Haunting, spare, full of surprises, it is an exercise in droning tones and glissandi that resonates form one passage into the next. The effect is somewhat eerie but utterly beautiful. The final work here, "Visible/Invisible," was scored solely for string quartet and is performed by Eclipse. In three parts it explores drone and percussive attacks as they emerge from the sound of wood to scrapes and saws, all in overtone in the first section, to the large spaces and tensions in the second to the sprightly, minor key explorations of the third,which is breathtaking and intense. These are disciplined, orderly, and striking pieces that offer a small view of what Parkins, one of the more ambitious artists on the downtown scene, has been up to. Recommended.


Born: 1956 in Detroit, MI

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Zeena Parkins plays the harp, piano, accordion, and sampler in a variety of improvised, new music, modern composed, and avant-garde jazz settings. Born in Detroit, Michigan, she studied dance, harp, and classical piano, and earned a Fine Arts degree from Bard College. Parkins moved to N.Y.C. in 1984, where she began collaborating with other musicians in downtown's avant-garde music scene. She performed in Butch Morris' ensembles and in John Zorn's Cobra. She also formed Skeleton Crew with renowned...
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Necklace, Zeena Parkins
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