Judith Olson – Urban Counterpoint: The Piano Music of Ed Bland

Title: Urban Counterpoint: The Piano Music of Ed Bland
Artist: Judith Olson
Label: Cambria
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: February 7, 2020


Urban Counterpoint: The Piano Music of Ed Bland is the second release of the music of the late Chicago composer Ed Bland by Cambria Master Recordings. Bland’s instrumental compositions were the focus of an earlier album, Urban Classical: The Music of Ed Bland (1994). However, the focus of Urban Counterpoint is on Bland’s piano works. Performed and interpreted by pianist Judith Olson, the album explores his genre-blending compositions which incorporate “a broad range of textures and diverse rhythms” from the early 20th-century Western European music canon as well as jazz, gospel, and West African rhythms.

Tracks such as “Classical Soul,” “Zone Blue,” “Sunday School,” “Cell fone Blues,” “Phunky Phrogs Rag,” and “Three Chaconnes in Blue” showcase Bland’s compositional style. His mission was to “simultaneously maintain the ‘aesthetic Now,’ or ‘extended Now’ of jazz improvisation, and unpredictability of the work within a coherent structure.” This idea of an “extended Now” is certainly felt in the stirring renderings by Olson as listeners experience the exhilarating contrapuntal selections that embody both African American musical aesthetics and Western European classical structures.

Reviewed by Jamaal Baptiste