During the course of two decades, flutist and alto saxophonist Karolina Strassmayer and drummer Drori Mondlak have maintained a dynamic partnership. Their camaraderie and shared creative vision with like-minded musicians has resulted in a uniformly superb discography. Quiet Fortitude
, their ninth release, documents a live, mostly improvised, cohesive set where each piece logically progresses to the next.
Only three of the tunes were composed, all by Strassmayer, including the title track, a tender ballad with a dream-like aura. Vibraphonist David Friedman embellishes the main theme with a mesmerizing array of ethereal tones and sparse, resonant notes. Strassmayer engages Friedman in an elegant, enchanting duet as her passionate alto contrasts with the cooler chimes of his vibes.
“Short Story” features Friedman unaccompanied and is simultaneously melodic and freewheeling. The vibist’s blues-tinged extemporization unfurls with agility and panache without sacrificing emotive aspects to technical prowess.
Another spontaneous creation, “New Beginning,” starts with Strassmayer’s forlorn flute. Bassist Hans Glawischnig dramatically punctuates her lines, an effect which is further enhanced by Mondlak’s shuffling beats. Out of this soulful cadence emerges Glawischnig’s lyrical solo, while Mondlak’s exciting polyrhythms create a seamless transition to the next track, “Sun Rising Again.” Here, the atmosphere is languid and somber, with dark and shimmering vibes, rustling percussion and melancholic con-arco bass. Then, Strassmayer’s airy, muscular saxophone creates a Latin-esque effervescence which lightens the mood and results in a captivating ensemble performance.
With each new entry in their oeuvre, Strassmayer and Mondlak explore a different aspect of their singular musicianship. Quiet Fortitude
thrills with originality while maintaining the duo’s unique style. — Hrayr Attarian