Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

The Brooklyn Youth Chorus Soar Through an Ambitious, State-of-the-Art Program at National Sawdust

To paraphrase Rebecca Turner, Brooklyn is so big because it has to hold a lot of beautiful voices. Last night at the newly opened and sonically exquisite National Sawdust in Williamsburg, approximately fifty of those voices performed an exhilarating, richly dynamic program of new works for choir and chamber ensemble by four of this era’s outstanding women composers. The singers’ average age, from the looks of it, was around sixteen. In case you haven’t seen them, director Dianne Berkun-Menaker has shaped the Brooklyn Youth Chorus into a magnificent, meticulous powerhouse of an ensemble. There are young women in this group who will be able to sing for a living, especially the two high sopranos on the far end, stage right. To the young blonde lady in the black suit and her bandmate in the peroxide pageboy and glasses: stick with this and you’ll never need a dayjob.

As if we need further proof that music doesn’t have to be dumbed down to appeal to younger musicians, this concert was it. These works were sophisticated, employed all kinds of intricate counterpoint, required considerable amounts of what an instrumentalist would call extended technique, and the group rose to meet those demands efficiently and expertly: they schooled the old people in the house. Caroline Shaw was represented by two works, Its Motion Keeps and Anni’s Constant. The former was pinpoint-precise, full of quirky staccato, dizzying polyrhythns, a delightfully dancing groove and the occasional playful, hair-raising accent leaping in unexpectedly. The latter took a comfortable, homespun folk tune and made an ecstatically swinging, sometimes stomping celebration out of it – with some hilariously goofy vocalisms midway through.

For Sarah Small‘s Around the Forest, A Youth Roams – an electrifying, bracing mashuup of Bulgarian folk and postminimalism – the paradigm-shifting composer/arranger and Balkan music specialist was joined by both the choir and her a-cappella trio Black Sea Hotel with Shelley Thomas and Willa Roberts. The trio handled its challenging whoops, microtones and exotic ornamentation while the chorus grounded the piece with equal parts lushness and austerity, bolstered by Rima Fand’s darkly ambered string score.

National Sawdust impresario Paola Prestini joined the chorus to narrate the choral segments of her forthcoming multimedia work Aging Magician, a soberingly surreal collaboration with director Julian Crouch, with lyrics by Rinde Eckert. The pieces worked well as a stand-alone suite, sharing a trickily rhythmic and dynamically-charged playfulness with the Shaw works, but were both more pensive and more baroque-tinged in places. While it wouldn’t be fair to spoil Prestini’s occasional musical jokes, they were pretty hilarious. Throughout the program, the chorus were accompanied seamlessly by the American Contemporary Music Ensemble: Ben Russell and Caleb Burhans on violins, Hannah Levinson on viola and Clarice Jensen on cello, augmented by Dave Cossin on percussion, David Dunaway on bass and Geremy Schulick on electric guitar plus a pianist uncredited in the program.

The Brooklyn Youth Chorus’ next performance will also be alongside Black Sea Hotel to celebrate the opening of the new space at St. Ann’s Warehouse on October 17 featuring works by Shaw, Aleksandra Vrebalov and others plus world premieres from Mary Kouyoumdjian and Sahba Aminikia. There are two performances, one for free beginning at noon and another at 8 PM for $25.

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October 7, 2015 Posted by | avant garde music, concert, folk music, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Rare US Show by Briliant Middle Eastern Jazz Guitarist Amos Hoffman

Guitarist Amos Hoffman makes a rather long-awaited return trip to Smalls tonight, October 7 at 9:30, where he’s leading a quintet playing the album release show for his new one, aptly titled Back to the City. It’s a return in a lot of ways for Hoffman – born and now once again based in Israel – considering how ubiquitous and highly sought after he was back in the early days of the scene at that club back in the 90s. It’s also a real change of pace, a purist, trad mix of standards like Darn That Dream, Pannonica and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes along with originals inspired by the Wes Montgomery/Kenny Burrell tradition. The album’s not out yet, hence no spotify link, but you can get a very good sense of how individualistic and often genuinely brilliant Hoffman is at his video page. If you’re a fan of Middle Eastern jazz, this guy’s a must-see, and he’s just as well versed in New York postbop.

Like Omer Avital – who holds down the bass chair on the new album – Hoffman also plays oud, and draws deeply on sounds from his native land. The jauntily hypnotic Yemeni bounce on the first of the videos, Machla, with singer Rechela, is a good example of where he goes when he’s in a good mood. Brown Sugar – an original, not the Stones song – goes in a more pensively romping direction His allusively Djangoesque, bitingly nuanced staccato on a seven-minute live clip from Tel Aviv shows what he can do when he’s the anchor in the band. An 2012 clip from the Ankara Jazz Festival reasserts just how tuneful and anthemic his material can be, but also airy and introspective. An older clip of Rea, a tantilizingly Andalucian-flavored jazz waltz of sorts, has the feel of what Dudu Tassa might have been doing ten years ago.

A couple of videos from the Xabia Jazz Festival in 2011 offer a closer look at both what Hoffman will probably bring to the Smalls gig, along with his slinky snakecharmer style. There’s also a galloping solo from Bialik Square TV in the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey vein and the gentle, spare ballad All Alone.

October 7, 2015 Posted by | jazz, middle eastern music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , | 1 Comment