Antiquity yields modern insights in The Pythiad, an extraordinary nine-movement suite for voice, bass violin, and Jim Gailloreto’s Jazz String Quintet, the interdisciplinary ensemble that blends the leader’s soprano saxophone improvisations with traditional string quartet. It is also the first collaboration between Gailloreto – a veteran jazz musician and acclaimed composer of modern “third-stream” works – and his son Coleman, a gifted writer who penned the lyrics as well as the program notes for this wildly inventive project.
In The Pythiad, music and words combine to weave the stories of nearly a dozen lesser-known Greek heroes and heroines: crafty Autolycus (son of Hermes), the master thief; selfless Menoeceus, who sacrificed himself for the good of his city; and the lovers Philemon and Baucis, whose kindness led the gods to immortalize them in nature; and more. Greek mythology brims with gods, demi-gods, and mortals lost to popular culture. But The Pythiad restores them to us, using modern language in a work that intermingles such contemporary tropes as video games, athletics, disaster films, medical ethics, and gender diversity.
It all unfolds under the steady guidance of a sage psychotherapist, who turns out to be the Oracle of Delphi. As their narratives unfold, this good doctor discovers and shares their motivations and obsessions, their strengths and weaknesses – the qualities that made them archetypes for the Greeks yet still relevant today. Portraying the Oracle, and embodying the multiple characters on display, the brilliantly versatile vocalist Cheryl Wilson shares the spotlight with Gailloreto’s solos to bring this unique endeavor to life.
Cheryl Wilson - vocal
Jim Gailloreto - soprano saxophone
Carmen Kassinger - violin
Lisa Fako - violin
Loretta Gillespie - viola
Jill Kaeding - cello
Christian Dillingham - bass violin