“Tet” by Beata Pater shines with startling artistry

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Violinist turned vocalist Beata Prater presents her ninth album, “Tet” (stylized “TET”). “Tet” is the Hebrew word for nine. The number is significant to the album: there are nine songs on the recording, it matches Prater’s number of recordings and as Pater explains “it is symbolic of creativity, a vessel which holds something within, a womb for creation. Goodness is hidden with in it.”

On “Tet,” Pater delves into classic and contemporary jazz. She is backed by an 18-piece ensemble that includes a wind and brass double quartet and a double string quartet. The overall sound will remind listeners of the big band sound. The quality is rich, even lush, and plays well with Pater’s qualities as a vocalist.

While there is much about this album to warrant multiple spins, the songs “Little Sunflower” and “I Feel You” are arguably the best examples of the shapes and sounds that Pater’s voice can take. Her flexibility is impressive and the full roster of musicians never overwhelm the vocals.

About Beata Pater

A native of Poland, Prater began her journey to professional musicianship as a violin-obsessed child. She began playing at age 6. Pater recalls, “My childhood was different than the other kids. When everyone else was playing outside, I was inside, practicing my music. I was totally obsessed with the violin.”

That obsession led to Pater becoming a serious student of classical music, but she frustrated her parents and teachers when she joined a funk/jazz/fusion band at age 15. The band garnered some success around Poland and even managed a few recordings.

But, always on the lookout for a challenge, Pater went to England to continue her violin studies. While there, she learned of another opportunity that took her to Japan where she got a job as a violin teacher at the Yamaha school. She would live in Japan for 10 years, and in addition to teaching music, Pater also found work as a studio singer for CBS. She could be heard in commercials, movies, on television and as a backup singer for a pop band. Her career morphed again when Pater found herself performing with Japanese and American musicians. The band played American-style acoustic jazz.

In 1995, Pater moved to the US, first settling in San Francisco before moving to the deserts of Southern California in 2006, where she has lived ever since.

Pater recorded her first album in Japan in 1993. Her subsequent work was recorded in the US.

On her last album, “Fire Dance,” Pater only used her voice as an instrument. She did not scat, but wordlessly told stories in song. The artful approach continues to impress audiences. Now, on “Tet,” Pater uses words and audiences are just as likely to be impressed.

“Tet”: soundscapes and style

Typically, descriptions of albums delve into what stands out on recordings. On “Tet” so much “stands out” that it is difficult to know where to begin.

First, the instrumentation does not include drums. And while it is true that some jazz artists might only use a piano, the lack of drums places the onus of rhythm, or groove on other instruments, perhaps where listeners do not expect it. The result is music that feels like liquid. Bass notes pull like heavy drops bulging before falling. The entire ensemble often feels kinetic like a small body of water rippling.

Second, there is Pater’s voice. The trained violinist sometimes uses her natural instrument in the same ways a violinist might work the interaction of bow and strings for effect. The ends of lines sometimes have a vibrato that is more felt than heard. And, even on songs that do not have that particular effect, the unexpected vibrato shows up in the middle of phrases and the effect is artful and adds beauty each time it appears. This is easily heard on “I Feel You.”

There is such a shift in Pater’s vocalizations from song one (“Little Sunflower”) to “I Feel You” and “Invitation” that the varying dynamics might make listeners pause. Just when audiences are sure they understand Pater’s register and skillset, she does something else. For example, when she uses her voice as part of the instrumentation on “Invitation.” The technique displays Pater’s unique approach to music and her musician (violinist) approach to playing with an ensemble.

Beautiful interpretations and lush renderings permeate “Tet.” The album will be available May 10, 2019.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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