Andrew Rathbun Large Ensemble

The Atwood Suites

origin 82755

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MUSIC REVIEW BY Kevin Press, Badd Press

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Canadian author Margaret Atwood is arguably more relevant, and her work more consequential, than ever. And that's saying something for a world-famous writer with a long shelf of celebrated publications.

The Hulu television treatment of her insightful The Handmaid's Tale has helped win her a new generation of readers. It is a deeply unsettling thing to find that particular book gaining such resonance three decades after its first printing. But that is where we are in 2018.

Composer, saxophonist and band leader Andrew Rathbun (another Canuck) appears just as taken with Atwood as the rest of us. His three Atwood Suites feature an 18-piece orchestra, effectively playing her poetry.

The release's 10 works stretch 94 minutes. There are multiple highlights. Rathbun pulls extraordinary performances out of trumpeter Tim Hagans and guitarist Nate Radley, for example. As impressive as the solos are though, it is the ensemble's ability to maintain a light touch throughout that really makes this special. The players never once resort to a jazz orchestra cliché.

That gives the whole thing room to breathe. And Atwood's powerful writing - sung with real flare by Luciana Souza and Aubrey Johnson - stands tall and strong. This is a fitting tribute to a Canadian giant.






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