“Launch” may be described as a way to introduce something new, which is precisely what the US-based Admiral Launch Duo is achieving with their uncanny/intriguing instrumentation. Since their 2013 Fresh Inc Festival debut, saxophonist Jonathan Hulting-Cohen and harpist Jennifer R. Ellis have spent years working together. Their debut 10-composition release features wide-ranging stylistic commissions, transcriptions and premiere recordings.
Five Admiral commissions are included. Patrick O’Malley’s three-movement Thaumaturgy is a current day exploration of harp and sax effects. Amazing how the performers can match colours on two such diverse instruments in an arpeggiated ripple section, while the loud programmatic final meteor movement stuns with harp glissandos and high pitch sax notes. More wailing sax extreme high dramatics with mournful contrasts appear in Christine Delphine Hedden’s Amhran na Casca, while dark low and high tones emulate emotional distress in Angelica Negron’s Still Here. Close atonal interchanges and tight playing are heard on Jasper Sussman’s …nice box! “Oh So Square” and Natalie Moller’s nature-inspired starshine & moonfall.
The other works include changes of sonic pace. Highlights include traditional Romantic harmonies and melodies in the duo’s arrangement of Marcel Tournier’s La Lettre du Jardinier, and a contemplative lyrical harp part against sensitive saxophone phrasing and surprising flute-like tone fluttering on composer Ida Gotkovsky’s own arrangement of her Eolienne.
Musical common sense assumes that it just won’t work but like anything different, the Admiral Launch Duo’s talent, balance and sonic experimentation blossoms with repeated listening.