Elizabeth Woodbury Kasius & Heard, Flyway

by Ferell Aubre

Multi-instrumentalist and leader of the group Heard, Elizabeth Woodbury Kasius grew up in Glens Falls, New York.  She studied piano performance, composition, and ethnomusicology at the University of Washington and Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle.  In 2008, Kasius met Ghanaian drummer/musician Zorkie Nelson at Russell Sage College in Troy, New York where both were providing music for dance projects at the time and found a special kindred spirit in each other.  They began writing for what would one day become the band Heard.  This is the groups second offering the first album titled Elizabeth Kasius and Heard Karibu released in 2010, it launched the groups notoriety in the industry with chart-topping success at #15 on the Jazzweek World charts.  Now with the release of their second offering Flyway, the album features a kaleidoscope of world music idioms with a splash of jazz for its exquisite aptitude.

“Antice,” to my ears, offers a Middle-Eastern flavoring highlighted with a Himalayan credence.  With cellist Melora Creager and clarinetist Jonathan Greene creating a beautifully hued sound that is exotic and caramelized with hypnotic swirling. A strong canvas of rhythm is created by Brian Melick on cajon and riq.  While Nelson firmly roots the rhythm of the song on drums.  Kasius additionally colorizes with exotic instruments such as melodica, surdo and Tibetan prayer bells. For an entrancing listen.

The firmly jazz pointed “Southwest,” is a celebratory sound. This time Kasius utilizes her voice to sing well-orchestra lines, along with electric piano that offers a specialized keyboard sound that almost mimics a horn instrument at times, while once again Greene and electric guitarist George Muscatello add their unique skill set to the tune. A bass solo by Bobby Kendall drives the solo section. While in the percussion department, drummer Melick creates diverse dynamics from large kit crashes to the smallest of rhythm details.  A sound that was new to me, the Talking Drum by Zorkie, added a timbre to the song of warmth and resonance.

Flyway is a journey of regions, though some I was not familiar with or their origins that is what gave the album its most delightful moments of discovery. The opportunity to simply enjoy the music and its cornucopia of sounds.  Each musician that comprises Heard is equally masterful, together they create the elated sounds of the overall group signature.  Flyway is a magnum opus for Heard.  One meant to be enjoyed and savored for many years to come.

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