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CD Review: Numinous/Joseph C. Phillips Jr. 

click to enlarge 2009, Innova Records
  • 2009, Innova Records

Hmmm…how would the voluble New Yorker journalist Whitney Balliet have written about the four compositions on Vipassana? “With its air of Reich-minimalism and mystic jazz motifs, composer Joseph C. Phillips Jr. and his ensemble, Numinous, have created a sound e-scape, strewn with beautiful melodic lines as thin as phyllo dough.” Ah, something like that. Balliett never intruded upon the artists’ reveries; he just humbly and vividly interpreted them. So have the Hudson-based Phillips Jr. and Numinous (an amalgamation of like-minded spirits encircling New York) with their second release.

Let us dispense with the comparisons to Steve Reich now, shall we? Like Reich, Phillips Jr. delicately layers his instrumentation (25 instruments and voices), as we hear in “Into All the Valleys Evening Journeys.” Every layer has a personality that speaks out at the appropriate moment. It has a bold opening that is then slightly punctured by vibraphones and voices. Also like Reich, Phillips Jr. can break away to a jazzier plane in “The Nothingness that is the Source of Everything.” Julie Hardy’s hypnotic reading of text by Denise Levertov and Dan Willis’s sensuous flute solo settles so peacefully into one’s chest. The opener “Of Climbing Heaven and Gazing On the Earth” percolates with pulsating rhythms and darting riffs, while “Stillness Flows Ever Changing” has a more pastoral flair to it, with a thickened melodic texture.

Phillips Jr. and Numinous flatter the work of Reich and others, comfortably engaging with classical and improvisational music. Vipassana exemplifies that one shouldn’t try to exist without the other. www.innova.com.

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