Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Trio Tritticali’s Issue #1 – One of 2011’s Best Albums

Brooklyn string ensemble Trio Tritticali have just released their new Issue # 1, one of the most gripping, intelligent, richly eclectic albums of recent years. Drawing on elements as diverse as Egyptian dance vamps, the baroque, bossa nova, tango and European Romantic chamber music, they blend those styles together seamlessly and imaginatively for a bracingly intricate sound that’s uniquely their own. The chemistry between violinist Helen Yee, violist Leanne Darling and cellist Loren Dempster is intuitively playful. As the songs slowly unwind, the band exchanges thematic variations, converses, intertwines and occasionally locks horns, individual voices often disappearing or reappearing when least expected: they may be a trio, but there are surprisingly many moments when it’s only two or even one of them. They love minor keys, and have a thing for chromatics, no surprise considering that Darling also jams with the Near East River Ensemble. Yee also plays yangqin dulcimer in Music from China; Dempster also performs with the avant-garde Dan Joseph Ensemble and with well-known dance ensembles.

Which makes a lot of sense: Dempster’s rhythmic, often funky edge is key to this group, right from the title track, which alternates stark, dark funk, then goes quiet and mysterious, then finally explodes in a blaze of chamber metal. It’s the most dramatic moment on the album. They follow that with a bracing tango, La Yumba, which takes a detour into early Beethoven with a cello solo that rises imperceptibly until it’s sailing over the lushness of the other strings. The dynamic shifts in this one are especially yummy.

A long, suspensefully crescendoing Middle Eastern piece, Azizah begins with a casually ominous series of taqsims (individual improvisations), shifting methodically from tone poem to processional to triumphant swing, voices constantly shifting and handing off ideas to each other. By contrast, Corcovado is a nostalgic bossa ballad that takes a turn in a more wistful direction, Dempster’s brooding solo leading to an intricate, stately thicket of violin and viola. A jazz-pop song in disguise that goes unexpectedly dark, Stolen Moments is a showcase for Dempster’s walking basslines, pensively swinging lines and bluesy accents. The sarcastically titled Ditty is actually one of the album’s most stunning compositions, another long detour into the Middle East with a funky modal edge, a memorably apprehensive Darling solo and an equally memorable lead-in from Yee, who comes in buzzing like a mosquito with an off-kilter, swoopy edge while the cello and viola lock in an intense, chordally pulsing bassline.

The seventh track, Who Knows Yet is a gorgeous, starkly wary waltz with a series of artful rhythmic shifts and a series of bitingly bluesy variations – it reminds a bit of Rasputina in an especially reflective moment. Psychedelic and very clever, Sakura is a diptych: an austere tone poem with the cello mimicking a koto, then a pensive, minor-key 5/4 funk theme with yet more deliciously unexpected tradeoffs between instruments. The concluding tone poem, Heart Lake, evokes Brooklyn Rider’s adventures in Asian music, viola and violin trading atmospherics over Dempster’s hypnotic, circular bassline – it’s like Copal at their most ambient, with distantly Asian motifs. This is one of those albums where every time you listen to it, you’ll discover something new – you can get lost in this music. With compositions like this, it won’t be long before Trio Tritticali will be playing big stages like Symphony Space; for the moment, you can catch them at low-key Brooklyn brunch spot Linger Cafe (533 Atlantic Ave. between 3rd and 4th Aves) on frequent Sundays – the next one is December 10 – starting around 1 PM.

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November 24, 2011 Posted by | classical music, middle eastern music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Concert Review: Felix Lajko and Antal Brasnyo at the Schimmel Center, Pace University, NYC 6/1/09

Were Hungarian violinist Felix Lajko and his violist cohort Antal Brasnyo at Bang on a Can on Sunday? Actually not. Carving out new territory embodying elements of gypsy music, classical, jazz and the avante-garde, they would have fit in well at Sunday’s marathon. In their duo performance, Lajko played lead, Brasnyo’s viola functioning much like a harmonium, creating washes of chords anchoring Lajko’s wild glissandos and stark, rapidfire staccato passages. How much was composed and how much was improvised was hard to tell, other than several false endings after which Lajko would meander mysteriously before winding up with a big crescendo or a sudden, cold stop. A couple of the pieces were straight out of the mid-70s Jean-Luc Ponty songbook, fast two-chord jams where Lajko would cavort with a gypsy dance feel. Another was a straight-up four-chord rock melody with a soaring, upbeat chorus.

Lajko switched to zither on a couple of numbers, Brasnyo maintaining the ambience while his partner picked away frenetically (with the size of the auditorium, it would have been nice if the zither, with virtually no sustain, could have been amplified). After a solo series of variations on a gypsy dance by Lajko, the duo played a capitivatingly morphing number that moved from a vintage soul melody to a tango to a joyous dance before closing with another two-chord jam. Despite the blazing speed of pretty much everything they played, neither musician looked like they broke a sweat. Bang on a Can ought to enlist these guys next year. This show was part of the ongoing Extremely Hungary festival, featuring a diverse series of musical, literary and theatrical events running through the end of the year in both New York and Washington, DC.

June 3, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment