By RICK HOLLAND, JazzRadio247.com, September Issue, 2006
Ramona Borthwickâ€™s A New Leaf is a newÂ recording which introduces Ramona as a composer, bandleader and fine
pianist. She surrounds herself with some fine musicians including guitaristÂ Noel Borthwick, to bring us a set of new music which pushes the boundariesÂ both harmonically and rhythmically. The result is a fresh and creative discÂ that is not for the faint of heart.
One of the captivating things about Ramonaâ€™s music is she is so influencedÂ by world rhythms, and she is able to incorporate these rhythmic ideas intoÂ her landscaped compositions. Her tunes convey contrast, and they seem toÂ have a story-like quality to them. This is jazz music that reflects worldÂ ideals and these ideals are translated in a variety of ways to give theÂ listener contrasting viewpoints.
Ramona is joined by Noel Borthwick, a fine guitarist, who is a proclaimedÂ self-taught musician. However, Noel spent a year of private study withÂ acclaimed Indian sarod player Shekhar Borkar. His primary concentrationÂ happened in his late teens. He began to develop a strong interest in bebop,Â modal and mainstream jazz styles, and was inspired by guitarists such asÂ Pat Martino, Joe Pass, Jack Wilkins and the music of John Coltrane. NoelÂ brings a genuine sense of joy to this project, and is a fine compliment toÂ Ramona and her group.
I took the time to give some explanation of Noel, because itâ€™s this kind ofÂ presence that Ramona brings to this music as well. Although she wasÂ classically trained, (and you hear this in her compositions) she is veryÂ influenced by world music in a similar way as Noel. Her compositionsÂ reflect varied forms, rich harmonic textures and a variety of cross and
polyrhythms which give this music a fresh and distinct sound.
Let me share some of the interesting contrasts to this recording. First ofÂ all, when you listen to her compositions, they reflect global priorities.Â From theâ€ Argentine â€˜chacareraâ€™ rhythm in Garbarero. Then to Latin Quarter,Â which is a reflection of street life in Montrealâ€™s latin quarter, to BaarahÂ Sur, which translates 12 tones in Hindi, and then you’ll hear the BrazilianÂ influenced composition Lotus Lake. Ramona is capturing an ideal ofÂ improvisational music that incorporates a variety of cross-culturalÂ exchange.
The musicians are up to the task on this recording. The music is at timesÂ difficult and challenging, but the improvisations seem ever flowing andÂ seamless. Theyâ€™re comfortable playing over a variety of rhythmic feels, andÂ they embrace the harmonic challenges given to them. Noelâ€™s playing capturesÂ so much of the ideals of Ramonaâ€™s phrases. And he adds so many crossÂ rhythms and punches to accurate harmonic layouts. Phil Grenadier, trumpet,Â has a warm rich sound on this recording, almost as if heâ€™s playingÂ flugelhorn. He will remind many of Kenny Wheeler in the way he uses colorÂ and expanded range.
Overall, Ramona has debuted a fine recording that conveys a perspective ofÂ world culture. The disc has fine Â performances throughout. The compositionsÂ are interesting, but will take reflection and understanding to appreciate them fully. This is a great recording and I hope many get a chance to hearÂ it and buy it!
For more information about Ramona Borthwickâ€™s music, please visit:Â www.ramonaborthwick.com