James McGowan Ensemble – Reaching In

James McGowan Ensemble – Reaching In

May 21, 2023

James McGowan: piano, keys, compositions
Jamaal Amir Akbari: spoken word
Cendrine Despax & Jean Despax: violin
Maxime Despax & Olivier Philippe-Auguste: viola
Valérie Despax & Cal McGowan: cello
Ed Lister: trumpet
Petr Cancura & Mike Tremblay: tenor saxophone
Mark Ferguson: trombone
Alex Moxon: guitar
Jean-Philippe Lapensée: bass
Jamie Holmes: drums

Reaching In is the first half of an extended story told through music, spoken-word program notes and visual art. It depicts 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 by composer and pianist James McGowan is created and performed in a fusion of classical and jazz styles, with other influences of free improvisation, hip hop and latin styles. Combining the Modasaurus jazz-fusion quartet with Despax string quartet at its core, several tunes also feature an enhanced ensemble with Petr Cancura and Mike Tremblay on tenor sax, Ed Lister on trumpet, and Mark Ferguson on trombone. 

Using powerful musical expression, tonal interconnections, recurring themes and several pervasive musical motifs, the 16-movement concept album conveys deep feelings and extra-musical meaning. Guided by the composer’s poetry, the omnipresent instrumental musical motifs acquire intentional signification as the pieces unfold. Like a soundtrack to an imaginary film, the music itself is a narrative voice. It invites the listening audience to experience the emotional richness of life even more fully through one’s own imagination and personal reflection. The CD cover/digital album art depicting An Nguyen’s painting of Reaching In,also contributes a visual dimension that adds meaningful metaphors to the overarching narrative. The poetry, art and music take us through a story of overcoming personal challenges to offer an uncertain, yet hopeful future. The album seeks to engage the listener with their mind, heart and soul.   

The continuation of this musical journey—and second half of the story—will be presented in the next album, Reaching Out to be released by the James McGowan Ensemble in 2024.


Release Date: Friday, June 23rd 2023.