Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Dreamy, Woodsy Sounds from Makoto Nakura

Viirtuoso marimba player/vibraph0nist Makoto Nakura has a thematic album of new works by contemporary composers titled Wood and Forest just out on American Modern Recordings. If soothingly earthy sounds are your thing, he’s playing the cd release show at the Rubin Museum of Art, 150 W. 17 St. on Wednesday, Nov 14. The concert begins with a museum tour at 6:15, a brief break for refreshments and then the show at 7; $15 advance tickets are still available as of this writing. Also on the program is Nakura’s eclectic percussionist labelmate Robert Paterson, whose latest album showcases his pioneering six-mallet technique.

The version of Jacob Bancks’ The Trees Where I Was Born on Nakura’s album is a condensed arrangement of a work for orchestra and choir. As Nakura plays it, solo, it shifts from slightly jungly to strolling and folksy, through a spacious nocturne and then a crescendo that swells while maintaining a hypnotic Southern forest ambience. Violist Kenji Bunch’s Duo for Viola and Vibraphone features the composer joining Nakura on this triptych. A brightly circling, twinkling night theme hints at a brisk bustle, goes more cantabile and then illustrates birds in flight with a jaunty bounce that turns into something akin to March of the Baby Penguins.

By contrast, Paterson’s Forest Shadows opens with a dappled insistence but soon goes macabre: these woods are haunted! Based on plainchant, Bancks’ Arbor Una Nobilis is a long mini-suite, Jesse Mills’ violin mingling and sometimes dancing with the marimba through minimialist, staccato insistence, echoes of the baroque, quiet ambience and then a slightly more muted return.

Winik/Te, by Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez uses a Mayan myth as metaphor for ecological crisis, men made of mud and wood up to no good in the forest. Rubato rhythms and surreal conversational exchanges create the most vivid work here (along with Paterson’s eerie cinematics). The album concludes with Michael Torke’s After the Forest Fire, a portrait of destruction and renewal featuring Wilhelmina Smith on cello and David Fedele on flute, which quickly expands into the album’s most anthemic track. Throughout the pieces, Nakura’s nimble malletwork creates an echoey resonance that’s by turns trance-inducing, bracing and often utterly pillowy. To say that an album is good to fall asleep to is usually an insult to the extreme: as far as this one’s concerned, it’s hard to think of any recent release that’s as pleasant a launching pad to Dreamland.

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November 13, 2012 Posted by | avant garde music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Makoto Nakura Plays Bach, Osada and Bunch at Trinity Church, NYC 2/21/08

Interpretation has never been more fresh than it was this afternoon, as Japanese expat marimba player Makoto Nakura played a fascinatingly imaginative, spectacularly virtuosic program of classical and modern works. Although Nakura didn’t seem to even break a sweat, the passion of his performance matched his precision. He began with his own arrangements of two etudes and then two preludes by Villa-Lobos. Playing the marimba or vibraphone requires equal amounts of athleticism and meticulous skill, and Nakura nailed it all, both during the baroque-inflected studies that seemingly served as a warmup, and the more complicated, lyrical two works that he followed with.

Next, he tackled a piece written for him by Japanese composer Moto Osada, entitled Sylvan Lay and Pastoral Air. From traditional Japanese mythology, it’s a narrative of confrontation and forgiveness involving a couple of medieval warriors, although there was absolutely nothing remotely antique about this difficult, tonally challenging, intensely cerebral work. There were some striking passages, including an ominously percussive series of tritones early on, and one particularly impressive, rapid run down the scale midway through, but this is a piece that requires repeated listening.

After that, Nakura played his own arrangement of Bach’s popular Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Minor. This is one of those NPR Bach pieces, a well-known composition frequently heard around Christmastime during pledge drives, but Nakura made it all his own, from the sad tonalities of the adagio that opens the piece, to the interesting, Vivaldiesque “Siciliana” that serves as a third movement, to the rousing Presto that wraps it up. Following this with the Fugue from one of Bartok’s final compositions, the Solo Violin Sonata, was ambitious, but the move fell flat: as can happen in Bartok’s work from time to time, the piece is fussy and overworked, and the new arrangement did nothing to compensate for the lack of emotional compass.

To close the show, Nakura invited composer Kenji Bunch up to the mic to introduce his recent composition Triple Jump, also written for Nakura. Written specifically for the marimba, it’s an intriguing, smartly arranged three-part suite, the first evoking Chicago lounge-psychedelia instrumentalists Tortoise, the second being a thoughtful, somewhat pastoral evocation of stones skipping across a placid pond, the final being an impressively upbeat portrayal of muscle and sinew in action. A program like this might at first glance seem far better suited to something like the Next Wave Festival or an outsider jazz club like the Stone, but Trinity Church has incredible acoustics, the tones of the marimba bouncing around gorgeously, creating something of an organ effect especially when Nakura was using his soft mallets. Adventurous listeners got a real treat this afternoon. Three cheers for whoever booked this winter’s series here. And there wasn’t a single bus alarm blasting in from outside and disturbing the concert, either!

February 21, 2008 Posted by | classical music, concert, experimental music, Music, music, concert, New York City, NYC Live Music Calendar, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment