The following music review comes courtesy of friend and writer Marc S. Tucker, carried over from his newsletter VERITAS VAMPIRUS and is NOT of my doing despite being featured on my blog - please keep this fact firmly in mind for future reference.
CATHERINE STAY - A Tribute to Greatness
2016 / no label cited
Review written by Marc S. Tucker - 07/29/2016
Violinist/pianist Catherine Stay was born with cerebral palsy, and, as if that weren't enough, had the bad luck to run into more than one example of homo sapiens idioticus in the form of teachers giving up on aiding the reach for her dreams. In just two examples: one piano teacher dropped lessons because Cat's feet couldn't reach the pedals, and a violin teacher devoted no more than one day to her education, seeing the budding aspirant as hopeless. Sigh!! What the hell is wrong with people??? Never mind, that's rhetorical. I already know: they're goddamned humans. She, however, was an artist from the git-go and doggedly chased her aesthetic wont over hill and dale: noodling with grandma and grandpa's' portable keyboard, sneaking into the family living room before the school bus arrived so she could plunk around on the piano there, trying the cello out in 6th grade in the school orchestra, taking choir at age 17, and, finally, picking up the violin half a year after getting out of Hell…oops!, I mean: high school.
Stay had to, however, locate a left-handed version of the instrument due to her palsy, a 3/4 size one at that. Preliminary travails accomplished, she finally tracked down a good teacher…just as the family decided to move!!! God, but the deck was stacked against this woman. Catherine was perpetually, however, more than determined and thus arrived at this debut with a collection of recitations of classical compositions breathing vibrant new resonances I find not dissimilar to what Keith Emerson ushered in on keyboards, though in VERY different fashion: Keith liked to reverentially kick the crap out of the, as Brian Eno put it, dead cathedral while Stay injects 10 fully-loaded syringes of zealous vivacity.
Her twist on things resides entirely in uniquely individualistic intonations on violin, the piano far more faithful as a standard recital backdrop. The very first of six cuts, "Violin Concerto in D Minor" (Tchaikovsky), is a long example of skyblown prowess on the strings…with, of course, a satisfying flanking work-out on piano. That raspbox vocabulary, though, is highly voluble, extremely vibrant, fluid as a mountain stream tumbling down from snow-melt, and, to my ears, redolent with improvisation or damn near to it. I'm not an anal retentive classicalist, y'all, far from it, you know that, so if Stay's remaining faithful to the score, then she's bringing a life to it I've rarely heard, transcending score through spirit and a perspicacity progressive as hell in a literacy wrought of considered interpretation and soul-deep inspiration. Listen to the movements in the second half of that opening track, and if you're not moved and stunned, then I'll eat my hat (it's made of cotton candy). Stay isn't playing the violin, she's playing herself, heart and mind emerging through those strings, the mark of the true musician.
Ironically, on the cover photo, Catherine seems to perhaps be a version of The Great Kat, a female Brit thrash metalist who trashed the classics on guitar and was definitely not impressive, just rambunctious on top of being a mouthy pain in the ass. Stay, on the other hand, is a revelation, and anyone treasuring the violin, from aficionados of Menuhin to devotees of Didier Lockwood to fans to Jean Luc Ponty, is going to be in for one hell of a ride, so don't be fooled by the liner shot’s echoes; this is a VERY bright new star in the violin firmament. Catherine Stay is, trust me, destined for great things, and A Tribute to Greatness will find itself in your ears many times as you marvel at her capacities.