Cory Smythe | Accelerate Every Voice Review
by Stamish Malcuss
Cory Smythe is a jazz and classical pianist developing a strong voice as a new-classical and improvised music musician. A pioneering improviser, Smythe performs as a soloist and in ensemble settings, among them, Peter Evans, Vijay Iyer, Steve Lehman, and Anthony Braxton. This season will see the release of recordings featuring Smythe in projects led by Tyshawn Sorey and Nate Wooley and Smythe’s own album, Pluripotent. He is a core member of the new music group the International Contemporary Ensemble, Smythe has given numerous premieres, collaborated in the development of new pieces, and worked closely with composers John Zorn, Philippe Hurel, Dai Fujikura, George Lewis, and Alvin Lucier among many others. ICE’s 2013 release on Mode Records features Smythe as the piano soloist in Iannis Xenakis’s ‘Palimpsest.’ Smythe has also been a featured guest and soloist with many new music ensembles throughout the United States, including Milwaukee’s Present Music, the Boston-based Firebird Ensemble, Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s MusicNOW, and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. He performs regularly in collaboration with many of the leading concert artists of his generation, appearing this last season with the cellist Joshua Roman, violinist Karen Gomyo, the Imani Winds, and members of the Providence and Rubens string quartets. Smythe is releasing Accelerate Every Voice on Pyroclastic Records.
“Northern Cities Vowel Shits” opens the recording and sets the tone for the music to come. Joining Smythe is Kyoko Kitamura, voice; Michael Mayo, voice, looper; Raquel Acevedo Klein, voice; Steven Hrycelak, vocals bass; and Kari Francis, vocals, percussion. The vocal ensemble is colorful, singing dissonant chords accompanied by Smythe’s piano chords and single notes, electronic drums, and a bass looper. Along with Smythe, each member takes the solo spotlight while the rest of the ensemble follows and interacts. The freedom that the vocalist exhibit is inspiring, and even though the music is tense, there is still a cohesive quality that propels it forward and in a unified direction.
“Marl Every Voice” shows the technical skill of the vocalist. Each expresses a wide range and cohesiveness in the glissandos and falls. The sound transforms in an evocative and sophisticated manner that is both unusual and stimulating. The drum sound brings in elements of electro-pop, while the vocal ensemble has sounds of new classical and avant-garde. Smythe, a consummate listener, is always supportive while still taking the lead in the right moments.
Accelerate Every Voice is shaped by Smythe’s appreciation for Andrew Hill’s record Lift Every Voice and the James Weldon Johnson-derived lineage of optimistic songcraft it transforms. The calamitous vocal ensemble and piano engulf waves of emotions. The music is ambiguous and unusual, any emotion can be found within these notes.