The Elements

The collective Madre Vaca (which in English means “Mother Cow”) never plays the expected. Their previous project, 2020’s Winterreise, recast Franz Schubert’s song cycle as modern jazz performed by a dynamic and creative octet.

For their fourth album, The Elements, Madre Vaca transforms the four elements of the earth into music that is often quite cinematic and always inventive. Each of the members of the quartet (guitarist Jarrett Carter, pianist Jonah Pierre, bassist Thomas Milovac, and drummer Benjamin Shorstein) contributed an extended piece that challenged the musicians, blending together compositions with improvisations filled with colour, character, and subtle surprises.


Shorstein’s “Fire” depicts both the good and bad of fire. Guitarist Carter takes the lead at first with the other musicians contributing stimulating accompaniment, pianist Pierre builds on the wondrous mood, bassist Milovac adds to the atmosphere, and drummer Shorstein takes a fiery solo before the four musicians improvise together at a rapid tempo, leading to the inevitable explosive conclusion.


Carter’s “Water” starts peacefully with the depiction of a lake and the beginning of a rain storm that picks up momentum as it progresses, building in tension as the water becomes a surging river.


Milovac’s “Earth” sees the planet as a beautiful place but one that is regularly beset by natural disasters. Its contradictions are very much prevalent in the episodic music which alternates a quiet but complex calm with passionate contrasts including a section in which the musicians dramatically speed up the tempo together.


Pierre’s “Wind” has the quartet emulating a breeze (the bowed bass is a major asset). A melody soon emerges along with a happy optimistic mood that concludes the four movements of the jazz symphony.


Since 2017, the members of Madre Vaca and their musical friends have recorded 13 albums on their Madre Vaca label and seven have thus far been released including four ambitious projects by the main group: Nexus (2018), Nero (2019), Winterreise (2020) and now The Elements.

To be featured on World of Jazz 441

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