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CD review: Enigma

Jen Oliverio
Featuring: Dr I-Chen Yeh (piano)
Available in download and CD format:


‘Enigma’ is an absorbing release from Dr Jennifer Oliverio, the accomplished principal cornet of Fountain City Band, flugel soloist, Assistant Professor of Trumpet at Oakland University and founder member of the Trilogy Brass Trio.

It features six original, finely drawn, explorative compositions - the works welcome additions to the repertoire.

Bluesy satisfaction

Andrea Hobson’s ‘Silver-Backed Fox’ is a playful flugel study of a wily hunter of the Southern African veld.  

Oliverio cleverly modulates the style and intent; from the lazy early morning sun warming the blood, to the padded soft pawed search for prey. The rhythmic structures change as capture is followed by a bluesy satisfaction; an early morning hunger sated.

The rhythmic structures change as capture is followed by a bluesy satisfaction; an early morning hunger sated.

A personal introspection of the emotions of enforced isolation and loneliness is explored with ‘In the Cold’ by Lucy Pankhurst. A deeply reflective portrait, the soloist’s pensive muted opening is backed by an ice-cold piano accompaniment; a sense of time drifting without end as the composer sits peering through a window home watching the snow fall. 

There is a fragile beauty to the writing and playing (the accompaniment of Dr I-Chen Yeh throughout the release is superb) - an inner warmth finally emerging by its close.

Emotive thread

An emotive thread is also woven into ‘Elegy for Karyn’. Written by Dorothy Gates in response to her sister’s death, it acts as a lyrical commentary of her life and the recalled memories it brings; happy, intense, quirky even. 

The Covid-19 pandemic cruelly denied the composer the chance to attend her funeral, yet the immediacy of the writing accentuates the closeness so obviously shared – warm, tender and uplifting.

The contrast with the intense representation of the mindset of depression is marked.

Raw touchstone

‘The Dark Place’ by Jen Mitchell is a raw touchstone of anguish, anxiety, melancholy and disorientation. It forms a discombobulated canvas, but one that also contains a kernel of hopefulness as opaque fragments of Leslie Bricusse’s ‘Pure Imagination’ are heard - a reminder of happier times. 

It is music of haunting emotional feeling.

 It forms a discombobulated canvas, but one that also contains a kernel of hopefulness as opaque fragments of Leslie Bricusse’s ‘Pure Imagination’ are heard - a reminder of happier times. 

The simplicity of Joel Collier’s ‘Song Without Words’ offers a striking counterbalance; a simple melody treated with tasteful, elegant modulation in its sentimentality, whilst Kevin Day’s title track finale provides a neat twist of enigmatic puzzles and ciphers, questions and enquiries to close.

Its resolution, like the release (despite the CD itself lacking sleeve notes, although they are available on-line) as a whole, is brave, open minded and thoroughly stimulating.

Iwan Fox 


To purchase: https://www.jenniferoliverio.com/product-page/enigma

Play list:

1. Silver Backed Fox (Andrea Hobson)
2. In the Cold (Lucy Pankhurst)
3. Elegy for Karyn (Dorothy Gates)
4. The Dark Place (Jen Mitchell)
5. Song without Words (Joel Collier)
6. Enigma (Kevin Day)

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