Reaching In / Reaching Out
Reaching In / Reaching Out is an extended story told through music, spoken-word poetry, and visual art of a protagonist's journey from struggles of isolation, low self-worth, social anxiety, addiction, and loss, to finding peace, acceptance, belonging, and a sense of community. This multi-movement suite is composed and performed in a classical-jazz fusion style. Using powerful musical expression and recurring motivic gestures the work conveys deep emotions and extra-musical meaning. Supplemented by poetry, the instrumental music itself and the painting of Reaching In guides us through a narrative of overcoming personal challenges to offer an uncertain, yet hopeful future.
Reaching In album was released in on June 23, 2023.
Reaching Out album is scheduled for release in 2024.
See below for a list of tunes, solos, contributing artists, and meaning behind the music.
Trailer for Reaching In; Photo of JME at Music and Beyond Festival (2022)
Reviews for Reaching In
“This is an excellent example of a composer thinking beyond one particular musical style and focusing on what needs to happen to convey the story that starts from within. The writing is first-class, as is the playing, and the storytelling so vivid and emotionally connected. It is not often I hear such an affecting work of art that is equally theatrical, classical, and jazz inspired.” — Simon Defty, Simply Jazz Talk
“The work is at times theatrical in its parts, sometimes classical, sometimes jazz-inspired, but undoubtedly a grand and beautiful artistic creation, somewhat radical, which will only appeal to those of you capable of being moved by a work of art to the point of feeling the need to discuss it among friends. Few works of this style are created nowadays, which is all the more reason to take an interest in it. To be honest, it takes several listens to fully grasp the richness of this work, as it can be bewildering at times. But after all, true art is meant to make us look, read, or listen deeply, and Reaching In encompasses all of that.” — Thierry De Clemensat, Paris Move
"Mix of impressionist cello and piano give solace on "Inner Peace" with Moxon give some rockish guitar on the melodic “Augmented Reality.” None of the juxtapositions feel forced, and the music feels comfortable guiding you through the pilgrim's progress." — George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly
"The collection of sixteen tracks combines bold tonal connections, juicy instrumental expression, recurring themes and several key musical motifs. Thus, the concept album holds together, it does not fall apart. And there's always something to listen to. The listener is constantly surprised, he is captured by images, his imagination blossoms; the music is like a soundtrack to an imaginary movie. Of course, sensitive and expressive recitations also evoke imagination and personal reflection.” — Jan Hocek, Jazz Port (translated from Czech)
"...a curious and compelling concept album... The confluence of jazz and classical music inspires some lush textural arrangements." — David Reed, Kingston Whig Standard
“Reaching In is thoughtful, inspirational, and highly recommended as a motivational listening experience.” — Midwest Book Review
Descriptions of the Music
1. Imagine, Part 1 - Jamaal Amir Akbari, spoken word; with Octet: Despax string quartet and Modasaurus jazz quartet. The first six tunes explore the depth of internal turmoil (of isolation, grief, anxiety) and the hopeful commitment to do the self-work of reaching in.
2. Thoughts and Prayers - Octet: Despax string quartet and Modasaurus jazz quartet. Solo by Valérie Despax (cello).
3. Internal Conflict - Octet: Despax string quartet and Modasaurus jazz quartet.
4. Grief and Despair - Despax string quartet. Joined by Modasaurus jazz quartet (free improvisation from 4:35 to the end).
5. Uncertain Future - Modasaurus jazz quartet. Solos by Alex Moxon (guitar), JP Lapensée (bass), James McGowan (piano).
6. Reaching In - Octet: Despax string quartet and Modasaurus jazz quartet. Solos: James McGowan (piano), JP Lapensée (bass)
7. Imagine, Part 2 - Jamaal Amir Akbari, spoken word; with Cal McGowan (cello), Despax string quartet, Modasaurus jazz quartet, and the four horns. Solo: Alex Moxon (guitar). These next five tunes explore one's efforts to rise out of turmoil, while dealing with mental health issues and escapism, eventually coming to terms with the simple reality that you are worth it.
8. Time to Rise - Despax string quartet, Modasaurus jazz quartet, and the four horns. Solo by Petr Cancura (tenor sax).
9. Tripping Triceratops - Despax string quartet, Modasaurus jazz quartet, and the four horns. Solos by Alex Moxon (guitar), Mike Tremblay (tenor sax), Jamie Holmes (drums).
10. Augmented Reality - Despax string quartet, Modasaurus jazz quartet, and the four horns. Solo by Mark Ferguson (trombone).
11. Simple Reality - Despax string quartet, James McGowan and JP Lapensee.
12. Imagine, Part 3 - Jamaal Amir Akbari, spoken word; with Octet: Despax string quartet and Modasaurus jazz quartet. These next five tunes build on these efforts to reach in to seek peace. A bittersweet realization is that inner peace may not be possible, but the efforts to understand oneself and one's inner child leads to self-acceptance. Efforts to connect with others through music will be continued in the next album: Reaching Out.
13. Inner Peace - Despax string quartet, Modasaurus jazz quartet, and the four horns. Solos by James McGowan (piano), Olivier Philippe-Auguste (viola), Cendrine Despax (violin).
14. Inner Child - James McGowan (solo piano).
15. Through My Tears I Cry - Octet: Despax string quartet and Modasaurus jazz quartet. Solo by Jean Despax (violin).
16. Acceptance - Cal McGowan (cello), Modasaurus jazz quartet