"Hang the classifications, and bring on more jazz art songs," noted classical music critic Terry Blain, "They are certainly not 'crossover': The term is a tad demeaning and does scant justice to the subtleties and innovations achieved by Walker in his richly suggestive new cycle." —Specialist to the Star Tribune (BBC Music Magazine, Opera Magazine U.K.)
It was an unlikely partnership: a jazz pianist/composer and international award-winning Schubert vocalist, but the sparks of Jeremy Walker and Clara Osowski's artistic collaboration appeared the first time she sang “Alma Gentil,” Jeremy’s commission for the early music ensemble, Consortium Carissimi.
Clara’s work was gaining recognition. In 2017, she had became the first ever American prize winner when she placed second at Thomas Quasthoff’s International Das Lied Competition in Heidelberg, Germany, and in September 2017, was awarded the Richard Tauber Prize for the best interpretation of Schubert Lieder at the Wigmore Hall/Kohn Foundation Song Competition in London. She was getting requests to release her first album as a soloist—it was assumed her recording would showcase the music of Schubert. As a champion of new music, Clara had other ideas. Jeremy had already begun writing for her. This collaboration resulted in Haunted Blue.
Clara shared some of her favorite Whitman and Longfellow poems with Jeremy, and Jeremy shared lyrics by Greg Foley (originally conceived for rock songs—another unlikely pairing!) with Clara. They selected their favorite works, Jeremy started composing for Clara’s voice and introduced her to renowned jazz bassist, Anthony Cox (Joe Lovano, Stan Getz, Sam Rivers). He added Anthony to half of the pieces on the album including some mood-shaping miniatures that appear between the full-length songs. A friend to both Jeremy and Clara, tenor Tesfa Wondemagenehu (who last collaborated with Jeremy on the sold-out performance of 7 Psalms at Minnesota's Orchestra Hall) joined Clara on two songs—including “Open Road,” a work similar to an aria but with a free jazz section.
In Haunted Blue, the artists ventured into uncomfortable territory. They pushed the idea of genre, with the goal to make the most beautiful music they could create together—and the risks, danger and drama of this unlikely partnership is there for the listener to experience in this very personal, emotionally-transparent project.
In a feature on MPR’s New Classical Tracks, host Julie Amacher notes the album Haunted Blue contains, “songs that may reflect the future of classical music” and asked, “If Franz Schubert were composing songs today, would they sound like the songs heard on this new recording?“
Coverage of the album release concert included Classical Minnesota Public Radio, “All the works revel in spectral zones between light and shadow, loss and connection, classical and jazz;” Minnpost, “It was high time for Twin Cities mezzo-soprano Clara Osowski to make an album;” City Pages Best Concerts of the Week; and Star Tribune, “Pianist Jeremy Walker rethinks jazz fusion with new songs for mezzo-soprano.”
Mezzo-soprano Clara Osowski, "a rarely beautiful mezzo-soprano" who sings "from inside the music with unaffected purity and sincerity" (UK Telegraph), is an active soloist and chamber musician throughout the United States and Europe. In 2017, Osowski became the first ever American prize winner when she placed second at Thomas Quasthoff’s International Das Lied Competition in Heidelberg, Germany, and in September 2017, was awarded the Richard Tauber Prize for the best interpretation of Schubert Lieder at the Wigmore Hall/Kohn Foundation Song Competition in London. Recent wins include the 2018 McKnight Artist Fellowship, the Radio-Canada People’s Choice Award and third place in the song division at the 2018 Concours Musical International de Montréal where CBC Music reported she "had us on the edge of our seat." Other appearances include the Dame Myra Hess Series in Chicago and the Schubert Club International Artist Series in St. Paul, MN. For more information about Clara >>
Anthony is known for his work with several leading musicians including Geri Allen, Dewey Redman, Dave Douglas, John Scofield, Pat Metheny, Gary Thomas, Sam Rivers, Marty Ehrlich, Ed Blackwell, Uri Caine and Joe Lovano, (performing on Lovano's album of the year in 1996 - Quartets Live at the Village Vanguard). Cox grew up in Minneapolis and attended college at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire before moving to New York. His albums as a leader include Falling Man (Muse, 1989), Dark Metals (Polygram), Factor of Faces (Antilles) and his solo bass project That and This (Sketch). Anthony has been a clinician and instructor since 1993, serving as Adjunct Professor at the University of Iowa (Iowa City), Adjunct Faculty at Augsburg College and Chair of Music Business at McNally Smith College of Music. He is in the final stages of completing his Masters in Liberal Arts degree at Metropolitan State University which includes a focus on the intersection of cultural anthropology and jazz. For more information about Anthony >>
Tesfa’s time in Minneapolis began as the Assistant Artistic Director of VocalEssence while concurrently serving as the Manager of the Choral Works Initiative and the Choral Stream™ at American Public Media. During his tenure at APM, he was named the founding artistic director of The Radio Choir from American Public Media which debuted at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis performing 7 Psalms by jazz composer Jeremy Walker. Wondemagegnehu serves as the conductor of the Viking Chorus and the Chapel Choir at St. Olaf College. He maintains an active voice studio and teaches Music and Social Justice with the goal of helping bridge the gap of social injustice through music, dialogue, and inspiring it’s participants to take action in their communities. He most recently was the Director of Choral Ministries at Westminster Presbyterian Church of Minneapolis where he co-founded the Justice Choir movement with noted composer Abbie Betinis. For more information about Tesfa >>