Sunday, September 22, 2013

Quartet San Francisco Pacific Premiers Violin Jazz 2013

quartetSF 2013 cd cover_web.jpg

Gordon Goodwin hits pay dirt with the Quartet San Francisco Pacific Premiers.
Brent Black /

Gordon Goodwin is one of the premier big band leaders in the country and his skills both as a composer and arranger are without question some of the very finest. With Pacific Premieres the Quartet San Francisco takes their own prolific skills and embraces New American music from not only Goodwin but Vince Mendoza, Patrick Williams and Jeremy Cohen. For many, "New American Music" is code for modern classical but here Goodwin combines his love for both the improvisation form we know as jazz with the more traditional aspects of one of the most daunting of formats in the string quartet.

Chamber music for the modern audience.

This is not what many would refer to as art gallery ensemble performance but instead a program of delicious subtle nuances of both textural and technical explorations on material from the lyrical improvisational sense of urgency and the more visceral edge of a hard bop ensemble. Chamber music that pops. Third Stream is the latest buzz word for the genre and perhaps the most accurate if labels are where you hang your hat in terms of classification.

The Goodwin works are "California Pictures For String Quartet" along with "Three Stages For String Quartet." Both pieces embrace the vivid images evoked when thinking of the Golden State and the whimsical elegance and buoyant motion that characterize what many refer to as the "left coast" do in fact paint the perfect melodic picture of this iconic musical locale.

Vince Mendoza's "String Quartet No. 1: Funky Diversions" is a three part exploratory of highly evolved musical realms of contemporary masters The Brecker Brothers, Earth Wind & Fire and the improvisational genius of Ralph Towner. Again, this is not your grandfather's string quartet as the subtle nuances of post bop funk, organic whimsy and visceral grooves of all three artists are embraced as only a master such as Mendoza could put to paper.

The Patrick Williams composition "The Bay Is Deep Blue" while easily identifiable to the composer is an eclectic riff on the hybrid of the jazz meets chamber music skill set but with an effervescent sense of harmonic movement and direction.

First violinist Jeremy Cohen dots the i's and crosses the t's on this spectacular outing with "Guamba" which is the essence of what the cutting edge mentality of chamber jazz or third stream music should be heading with both a serious world music approach celebrating references to the tango while retaining a Bo Diddley type edge that will be the new training ground for modern string players no matter the genre. 

The reason Pacific Premieres works so incredibly well is that unlike some of the more predictable recordings attempting to follow a similar path, this is not genre specific. There are easily identifiable influential moments however the broader portrait here is left open for interpretation. My view? 

Personnel: Jeremy Cohen: Violin; Matthew Szemela: Violin; Chad Kaltinger: Viola; Kelly Maulbetsch: Cello