Camerata Pacifica at Hahn Hall, Friday evening, November 18.

Clay pots and electronic loops – what’s chamber music coming to?

Bach stitches it all together, old and new

Review by Joseph Miller

Artists are always stretched by a tension between past and future, known and unknown. When an artist’s work meets acceptance, the temptation is to capitalize on that form, to repeat and stay with what is safe. Aging rockers become tribute bands to their own glory days. And in the classical music world, we tend to view Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Bach as fixed constellations in an unchanging heaven. No one dreams of improving the night sky, nor of exhausting the wonder it arouses. But, as contemporary astronomy reveals, there is nothing fixed about the stars; celestial objects are not only diverging and receding, but accelerating in that expansion.

Ani Aznavoorian, Ji Hye Jung (David Bazemore)

Ani Aznavoorian, Ji Hye Jung (David Bazemore)

It’s trite to say, of course, but even the music of J.S. Bach was once new. And with this audacious program, Camerata Pacifica’s Artistic Director Adrian Spence seemed intent on storming the museum and freeing Bach from the glass case where he’s been suffocating. Not only was Bach’s music juxtaposed to modern compositions, but instrumentation ranged from harpsichord to clay flower pots, and even finished with live electronic looping.

The concert began gently and accessibly with harpsichordist Paolo Bordignon playing 2 Part Invention in F Major, a short lead-in really to Bach’s Trio Sonata in G Major, which added flute (Spence), oboe (James Austin Smith), and cello (Ani Aznavoorian). The Canadian-born Bordignon, whose far-ranging career includes principal harpsichordist with the New York Philharmonic, is one of the world’s experts on the instrument. He has graced the Camerata stage before, memorably at the Brandenburg Concerti climax of the 2014-15 season. For the Sonata Aznavoorian played from an upraised platform, that amplified the cello’s sound while doubling the basso continuo line. Woodwinds paired and sparred like twirled DNA strands above the steady stepping of cello and keyboard.

Adrian Spence, James Austin Smith (David Bazemore)

But this was all prelude to the night’s heavy-hitter, Elliott Carter’s Sonata for Flute, Oboe, Cello & Harpsichord (1952). Spence reported from stage that Carter always insisted his music was very simple. “It is simple,” Spence quipped, “there just happens to be lots of simple.” He advised the listener to step back from the music a few paces for perspective, and even permit the attention to wander. I took that suggestion to heart, attending to the phrases and contours rather than the notes, and verified indeed that Carter has a point. Still, it is easy for the diatonically-minded to be unsettled by broader tonalities; a surprising dunk in cold water, which assaults while it invigorates. From the musicians’ side, the Sonata is a demanding work that frequently places the harpsichord in dialogue with the ensemble, which then answers in tightly arranged outbursts. If the sound of harpsichord instinctively calls up baroque associations for you, this work goes miles in updating that mental file.

Then percussionist Ji Hye Jung and bassist Timothy Eckert joined Smith and Bordignon for Les Citations for Oboe Harpsichord Double Bass & Percussion by Henri Dutilleux, which “cites” or quotes composers Benjamin Britten, Clément Janequin and Jehan Alain. The work began with a beguiling plaint on Smith’s oboe, but soon textures thickened and tensions ratcheted. One compelling section featured solos by Eckert and Jung, and moved with the loose logic of free-form jazz.

The first half concluded—in obvious features at least—as it had begun: Bach for solo harpsichord. But after the Carter and Dutilleux, the ears were ready for a very different face than the one communicated in the Trio Sonata. Bordignon handsomely tackled the wild Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue in D Minor with all its roving key centers and irresolution. Spence’s programming intention seemed clear: it’s not a question of how radical was Bach, but how radical is Bach! And, of course, there was the rare pleasure of hearing the work articulated on harpsichord rather than piano. This might ordinarily have felt like a ritual concession to “authenticity”; but after the Carter and Dutilleux it simply became the right color and texture for the piece.

The second half of the program featured Jung in three duets by young composers. But first the percussionist wowed the audience with her solo marimba arrangement of the Fuga from Bach’s Violin Sonata No.1 in G minor—the most stunning translation of Bach to my ear since Edgar Meyer modified the cello suites for double bass. Aznavoorian then joined Jung for Caroline Shaw’s whimsical Boris Kerner for Cello & Flower Pots. Shaw, who is the youngest composer ever to win the Pulitzer Prize, is impressively conversant with styles and daringly open to unconventional sounds. Jung knelt on a mat before 9 clay flower pots which she played with drum sticks. The introduction was a quarter note walk on the cello through scaler figures and intervals that resembled a dance from a Bach sonata, before the pots burst out in with rapid-fire rolls. The aural colors of ceramic flower pots are unlike anything found in the conventional percussion arsenal, some bordering on wood blocks, others as delicate as glass bells. Spence joined Jung for the most lyrical and soft moment of the night, Japanese composer Naoko Hishinuma’s duet for flute and percussion, On a Full Moon Night. Finally, the program concluded with the very unusual upbeat work, 21 for Marimba and Cello by Caribbean steel drum virtuoso and composer, Andy Akiho. Not only did Aznavoorian and Jung master the impossible polyrhythms, but they made it look like fun. The opening measures were digitally recorded, and then looped back at several points for extra texture. Amping-up the concept of multi-tasking, Aznavoorian played the foot-pedal bass drum and cello simultaneously, while Jung added to her marimba a foot-controlled tambourine and the electronic loop petal. The result was a sense of four or six distinct musicians on stage. And to top all, Bach stitched together this second half as well: Akiho’s 21 was inspired by the sequence of harmonies in the 21st measure of the Fuga that began the set.

We can thank Camerata Pacifica for a very unusual night of cutting edge music, old and new; one that certainly would have pleased a progressive artist like Bach.

Christmas at Sea

The Christmas Revels at the Lobero Theatre, Saturday, December 20.

Review by Joseph Miller

D. Bazemore 2012

D. Bazemore 2012

The Santa Barbara Yule was twice-blessed by the isle of Éire this year. Early in December, UCSB Arts & Lectures hosted traditional Irish-Celtic super group Danú. Coincidentally, Santa Barbara Revels this past weekend set its festivities aboard the S.S. Furnessia making her 1907 sea voyage from Londonderry to Ellis Island during the Christmas holidays. Both shows spread delicacies refreshingly foreign to American holiday sensibilities: the Wexford Carol, rollicking jigs and reels, traditional Celtic dance, and songs in celebration of St. Stephen’s or Wren’s Day—the day of drinking, disguises and revelry on December 26.

But here in Santa Barbara revelry saturated the weekend prior to Christmas, thanks to Santa Barbara Revels. At seven years, the local tradition is, by all appearances, soundly rooted and flourishing. Santa Barbara Revels, founded by artistic director Susan Keller, is one in a network of ten companies nationwide that marks significant seasonal changes—especially the winter solstice—with performing arts celebrations of old world traditions. At one level, Revels is a theatrical spectacle with sets, costumes, drama, comedy, song, music and dance. Yet the spirit of the enterprise is community, and that cohesion was in abundant evidence this weekend: performing arts professionals melded with a spectrum of amateurs, volunteers and ultimately the audience. Patrons sang out enthusiastically on Saturday during sing-a-longs, and many brave souls even left their seats to join “The Lord of the Dance,” parading up the aisles hand-in-hand and out to the patio.

Much of the fun of Revels has to do with the sheer variety of the spectacle. Live music was the soul of the enterprise with two musical groups providing skilled accompaniment. Traditional string-based music was handled by a sextet—tagged ‘The Kilkenny Coterie’ for the occasion—and directed by tenor and guitarist Adam Phillips. Phillips not only conducted the performance, but as the new Revels Music Director, brought his multiple talents to bear selecting and arranging music—including a wonderful setting of Irish nationalist George William Russell’s “The Voice of the Sea.” A brass quintet dubbed ‘The Belfast Brass Ensemble’ and directed by trumpeter James Watson, rang-out in burnished holiday tones throughout the performance. The crowd showed great enthusiasm for four advanced dancers from Southern California’s Claddagh Dance Company who took the stage several times, skillfully demonstrating footwork-intensive Celtic dance. An annual Revels’ favorite was Santa Barbara’s Pacific Sword Company and their human-living-Mobius dance of mesmerizing twists and crossings.

The entire showcase was bound effectively by the narrative of Irish emigrants at sea en route to Ellis Island, holding uncertainties at bay by celebrating their heritage. Veteran Santa Barbara actors included Matt Tavianini, Bill Egan, Meredith McMinn and Simon Williams in leading roles and colorful dialects. Egan’s gregarious Welsh ‘Purser’, Tavianini’s reclusive Irish ‘Poet’, and Williams English ‘Captain’ were humorously set in friendly rivalry at times. The play opens, for example, with the Purser registering passengers as they board, and the idealistic Poet—nationalism in full display—giving his family name as “Ireland,” only to be rebuffed by the Purser’s amused skepticism. The Poet continues, however, with a line that speaks for the collective uncertainties of all emigrants, “Tread softly on my dreams.”


Django Reinhardt Festival All-Stars at the Lobero 11-11-14

Groovin’ to that French-Gypsy Swing

“Jazz Manouche” stars, straight from NY festival, will light-up the Lobero in Santa Barbara debut. Nov 11, 8pm

By Joseph Miller
Dorado Schmitt

Dorado Schmitt

When Jazz at the Lobero brings French guitarist and violinist Dorado Schmitt to the stage next week the occasion will mean irresistible swing and supremely melodic improvisation by the legendary string man and the rest of his quintet. Of course, swinging and ‘singing’ are marks of any good jazz artist. But Schmitt’s “Gypsy jazz” spells more—a living extension of the European continental jazz of Django Reinhardt dating back to the 1930s. Guitarist Reinhardt’s own genius was ignited by the sounds of American trumpeter Louis Armstrong, which then found expression through the French “Musette” café music and the traditional Roma sensibility of his roots. Quintette du Hot Club de France, headlined by Reinhardt and violinist Stéphane Grappelli, became an international sensation, with Grappelli and Reinhardt gaining the approbation, and sometimes sharing the stage, with American legends like Armstrong. The most prominent exponent of America’s new music in the Europe of his time, Reinhardt blasted preconceptions about the guitar, and made records that powerfully influenced modern guitarists from Jimi Hendrix to George Benson.

Schmitt, like Reinhardt, is of Romani stock. Born four years after the death of the latter, he came of age learning the rock guitar licks of Carlos Santana and Hendrix, until his father made the suggestion, “Listen to Django, and you will understand.” Today, sporting a Clark Gable pencil mustache—like Django—Schmitt looks as if he’s magically materialized from the frames of an old Hollywood romance.

And yet, according to accordion player Ludovic Beier, Schmitt’s approach subtly incorporates his rock ‘n roll past. “All that influence opened his playing to do a lot of things inside the Gypsy jazz, which is very important—to open the music—because Django Reinhardt is one genius and there will never be another one,” Beier told me by phone from a tour stop in Chicago. “So it’s very important for artists today that they add a personality inside their tribute to Django.”

Alongside Schmitt and Beier, Django Festival All-Stars includes violinist Pierre Blanchard, rhythm guitarist Francko Mehrstein, and Xavier Nikq on double bass. Named for the annual Gypsy jazz celebration at Birdland Club in New York City, which marks its fifteenth anniversary this week, the ensemble’s Santa Barbara debut couldn’t be better timed—radiant in the afterglow of the Django Festival while priming for a performance at the San Francisco Jazz Center. Expect uncontrollable toe-tapping. “That’s why I think it’s so popular,” Beier explained. “You have very catchy romantic melodies that can break your heart, but in the concert you also have very fast virtuosity in the sound, so you can switch from one mood to the other very fast, and I think this is something very interesting.”

Jake Shimabukuro interview, Oct. 2014

While His Ukulele Laughs

Ukulele genius Jake Shimabukuro returns to Campbell Hall, Thursday Oct 23, 8pm

Presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures

“Music is not just the universal language, but it’s the language of the universe. It is the language of human emotion – and whether you play an instrument or not, you communicate in this language every day. Music is not heard, it is felt. Music is in a smile, a hand on the shoulder, a pat on the back, a gentle kiss on the forehead. It’s in the way we treat people, help a friend, love our family. Music is everywhere.”  

Jake Shimabukuro

Jake Shimabukuro, credit Adam Jung

Jake Shimabukuro, credit Adam Jung

An aura of inherent boyishness infuses ukulele star Jake Shimabukuro: the gee-whiz adventurousness of an extreme skateboarder, game to go for the impossible, coupled with a disarming humility and genuineness that wonders at his skyrocketed popularity. The Hawaiian resident, Japanese-American by birth, shuns sophisticated framings of his virtuosity, insisting that the essence of music is the communication of feelings, and that the ukulele is essentially a child’s voice. Since the age of four he has regarded the seeming limitations of four strings and two octaves as an attractive challenge rather than a deterrent, just itching for defiance. Shimabukuro is a rebel, but a rebel with causes that reach beyond his own career, and even the immeasurable extension of the ukulele universe. His non-profit Four Strings Foundation is picking up where under-funded public music education is failing, providing ukuleles, materials and training to teachers nationwide. The master performer and string wizard, renowned for his jaw-dropping covers of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” returns to Campbell Hall by popular demand, after his hit Arts & Lectures show in 2011. Shimabukuro took a few minutes out of his crammed “Uke Nations” tour to field a few questions from the Independent.

Continue reading

Joshua Bell interview, Oct 17, 2014

Violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Alessio Bax in Recital

Presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures

Granada Theatre, Tuesday Oct 28, 7pm

“The highest praise you could give to a composer like Bach was to take and make your own arrangement; it was sort of an homage to that composer and to his work. And so it wasn’t considered sacrilegious to do something like that. It’s only recently, I think in the past 50 years, that there’s been this hesitance to alter music, with this quest for “authenticity” reigning supreme.”     Joshua Bell

With next week’s performance by Joshua Bell, Santa Barbara will have twice hosted the renowned violinist in a span of only seven months. But I don’t think anybody is getting tired of him anytime soon. For one, he’s Joshua Bell, after all! And two, the concerts show very different sides of his artistry. Last March he came here with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields Orchestra (courtesy of CAMA), whereas Tuesday he will play an intimate recital with Italian pianist Alessio Bax (courtesy of UCSB Arts & Lectures). Despite being only 46 years young, the American violinist and conductor has recorded critically acclaimed albums for nearly three decades. Bell has served as Music Director for the Academy of St Martin in the Fields since 2011—the first person after founder Sir Neville Marriner to hold that position in the 55 year-old ensemble. Continue reading

Camerata Pacifica 25th Anniversary Season Opener

The Today and Tomorrow of Chamber Music

Composer John Harbison present for premiere of “String Trio”on Sept. 12 at Hahn Hall
John Harbison and members of Camerata Pacifica during recording session January 2014

John Harbison and members of Camerata Pacifica during recording session January 2014

Triangles have fascinating regularities. It doesn’t matter how unequal the sides, the altitudes always meet at a point, and so do the perpendicular bisectors. However, if the triangle is made up of violin, viola and cello, there is no such automatic balance. The string trio is such a daunting compositional form—presumably for the difficulty of defining harmony with relatively lean instrumentation— that American composer John Harbison, now in his seventies, only just completed his first and only. The generically titled String Trio was doubly-celebrated by Camerata Pacifica on Friday night: in a world premiere performance, and as the leading work on their brand new all-Harbison CD. The season opener, a twenty-fifth anniversary event for the acclaimed chamber group, also included Mozart’s charming Flute Quartet No. 1 in D Major and Schubert’s epic Piano Trio No. 2 in E-Flat Major.

The evening was, in fact, a kind of epitome of what the Camerata experience is all about: the solid presence of core principal players; new visiting artists of renown culled from an international roster; treasured compositions from the European canon; and a forward-leaning faith in the infinite possibilities of tomorrow’s music. The occasion opened aptly with the featured flute of founder and artistic director Adrian Spence, who reminded the audience that the inspiration for Camerata took shape during his mid-twenties while he moonlighted at a futon shop. Since then, the group has become a professional and artistic model for what twenty-first century chamber music is all about. The Mozart also introduced new faces: Armenian-born violinist Movses Pogossian, a veteran chamber musician who is passionate about new music; and New York-based cellist Raman Ramakrishnan, whose credentials include Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. Principal violist Richard Yongjae O’Neill completed the foursome.

The meticulously crafted and mesmerizing String Trio seems already destined for rank with the masterpieces of the twenty-first century. Harbison, present at the premiere, took the stage in his signature plaid shirt and jeans—looking more the part of a Vermont maple farmer than Pulitzer Prize-winning composer—and made the case that his Trio, like most serious music, deserves, perhaps requires, repeated listening. Yet what followed was accessible, and felt effortlessly organic in its unity, bursting with the spirit of spontaneity. Each of the six movements is distinct: an alteration of aggression and repose in the first; a dialogue with silence in the second; a fractured waltz in the third; the jazz-and-folk-infused fourth, etc. Principal cellist Ani Aznavoorian joined Pogossian and O’Neill for this impressive premiere.

No Camerata Pacifica anniversary would be complete without a representative reminder of the stellar keyboardists that have graced so many performances. Principle pianist Warren Jones was joined by Pogossian and Ramakrishnan for a fiery rendering of the Schubert.


Perla Batalla: Songs and Sundries Variety Hour – Saturday August 23


Perla Batalla: Songs and Sundries Variety Hour, Grant R. Brimhall Library, Thousand Oaks, Saturday August 23

Grammy-nominated singer Perla Batalla possesses not only a signature voice known to summon soul-stirring depths, but the professional and personal clout to pull-in a slate of heavy-hitters when she decides to throw a party. And party is exactly what patrons of Thousand Oaks’ “Live at the Library” got for the closing show of the season at Grant R. Brimhall Library on Saturday night, dubbed “Perla Batalla: Songs and Sundries Variety Hour.” The Ojai resident and perla2former back-up singer to Leonard Cohen hosted, with grace and humor, two generous sets of music, sharing the stage with a dozen or so musicians from her personal and professional family circles. The effect was pure enchantment. “I grew up watching Carol Burnett and Engelbert Humperdinck,” Batalla told a capacity audience, relating the genesis of the idea. But those of us who have seen the film, Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, can think of a more recent example of a variety concert that Batalla played a role in.

The evening rotated through subsets of the singers and instrumentalists, ranging from light-hearted songs by Batalla’s brother, Ovation Award-winning actor and writer Rick Batalla, to a cerebral work for solo piano written and performed by television and film composer/producer/keyboardist Dave Palmer. Rhythm dharma for the evening was solidly braced by Batalla bedrocks Gilberto Gonzales on bass, young wonder drummer Alejandro Medeles, Claud Mann (Batalla’s husband) on congas, with special guest Grammy-winning composer/producer Jon Gilutin on piano, whose improvisational visions blissfully filled a multitude of song choruses throughout the night. Continue reading

River Song Quintet and The Westerlies at SOhO

Call me brass player road kill. I admit it. For nine years of my precious youth I practiced religiously, first attempting to conquer the trumpet, and then as the god of high range did not answer my prayers, I jumped ship and swam to the trombone row boat. I made it as far as college jazz ensemble, but finally, at age 22, I was done. I accepted that I wrestled with the plumbing for the better part of a decade, and the plumbing won.

It was painful going. I had been dedicated, practiced hard—in other words, performed the requisite sacrifice—and expected the gods to do their part. But they only modestly responded. Yet they bestowed their graces liberally on other boys I met along the way, and some of these I know did not practice as hard as me. It wasn’t fair. I didn’t understand why I was being marginalized from something I wanted so badly. Eventually I watched myself veering away from the center lane towards the brass highway shoulder, and I took the next exit. I sold the horn the following year.

I know I’m not the only jilted lover to be blown out the brass players’ spit valve. Continue reading

Violinist Daniel Hope at Music Academy of the West

The Debut of Hope

Violinist Daniel Hope, Mosher Guest Artist, in concert, presented by The Music Academy of the West. Saturday July 5, 2014, at Hahn Hall.

English violinist Daniel Hope’s debut recital Saturday night was an exemplary Summer Festival guest performance: virtuosic in expression, fresh in programming, and winning in the guidance of an Academy ensemble. The unforgettable first half of this concert consisted of a variety of works for unaccompanied violin, all played with power, presence and astonishing control of sound, tone and tuning. The second half brought to the stage an ensemble of fifteen fellows and three faculty members for a performance of contemporary composer Max Richter’s “recomposition” of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons violin concertos, a work premiered by Hope in 2012.

The evening began with an unprogrammed segue to Passacaglia by Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber, composed by his late seventeenth century contemporary, Johann Paul von Westhoff.  Imitation of Bells was a mesmerizing experience, a melody-less sequence of rhythmic arpeggios affected by the steady rocking of the bow over all strings. The resulting block of sound was at once static and dynamic, undulating on the surface while gradually transforming harmonically. Von Biber’s Passacaglia, which followed without pause, is another work at once simple and complex. A slow-walking descent of four repeated notes (think “Sing Christmas Bells”) forms the unvarying backbone of this solo violin showpiece, with all the interest invested in imaginative variation, ornamentation and filled-ins. Hope captured the improvisational character of Passacaglia, and proved that our favorite rock and jazz solos, inventions often built over just such simple vamps, are at root nothing new.

The jaw-dropping event of the evening, however, followed next, with two modern masterpieces that combined broad tonal language with advanced techniques.  Hope joked that Alfred Schnittke’s A Paganini pays homage to the legendary violinist and composer by running his Caprices through a blender. The Soviet and Russian composer, who made his living writing film scores, was fascinated by electronic effects, and Hope’s rendition was tastefully enhanced by the live manipulations of English sound artist Chris Ekers. Erwin Schulhoff’s Sonata for Solo Violin unfolds in four short movements, and evinces folk fiddle influences. Hope gave a touching introduction that honored the Czech composer whose life was cut tragically short during World War II.

Max Richter allegedly wrote Recomposed: Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons’ not merely in homage to the composer, but in revolt to nauseating habituation that employs the original as elevator and dental office music. The meta-dimension is extremely effective for awakening the listener: hooking the ear with familiar fragments of melody or orchestral ostinato, only to launch into the unknown (and frequently unresolved)—as if a familiar highway had been magically rerouted overnight. The fine ensemble was augmented with harpsichordist Chien-Lin Lu and harpist Ruriko Terada, as well as faculty members Jorja Fleezanis (violin), Alan Stepansky (cello) and Nico Abondolo (double bass).

eighth blackbird at Music Academy

Clockwork Convergence

eighth blackbird presented by Music Academy of the West.  Thursday, June 26 at Hahn Hall.

Like the anticipation of a sunrise, the central focus of the Music Academy of the West is always just ahead of the horizon—that is, the professional musician of tomorrow. While ensuring continuity with the past, the faculty and administration also leave windows open to the present moment: opportunities for young Summer Festival fellows to hear and meet the pros who are only a decade or two down the road. 2013 MAW patrons will remember cellist Joshua Roman’s hip inauguration of new venues last year—curating at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and performing an unforgettable solo set in a Funk Zone photo loft. In through the open window this year flew eighth blackbird, the Chicago-based Grammy-winning contemporary classical sextet founded in 1996 that has made a name for itself playing new music. Indeed, the two sets performed at Hahn Hall, which displayed complex rhythmic finesse and theatrical flair, consisted entirely of new wine in new bottles, with no vintage older than 1982. New music is not everyone’s favorite cup—and as with wine, value becomes a function of age for many classicists—but the MAW does right by pointing to potential career routes outside of the symphony hall, and also by including imaginings from the front lines of musical invention.

The most entertaining work of the evening was Counting Duets, a sequence of four Etudes by György Ligeti (arr. for ensemble by blackbird flutist Tim Munro and pianist Lisa Kaplan) that interlocked with four of Tom Johnson’s spoken word Counting Duets (1982). The Johnson pieces play out like a game, with two parts speaking entirely in numbers, contesting in dialogue, counting backwards and forwards, diverging and then coming together again in clockwork convergence. The Ligeti—notoriously beastly on keyboard—displayed new dimensions and marvels in these ensemble renditions. Duo for Heart and Breath by Richard Parry constituted the most intimate moment of the night, an experimental duet where pianist (Kaplan) monitored her heartbeat (via stethoscope) for tempo, while violist Yvonne Lam communed with her own breath (and I had the vivid sense that others in the room, like me, were suddenly made aware of their own vital signs).

eighth blackbird (intentionally written in lower case) gets its name from a Wallace Stevens poem, the eighth verse speaking of “noble accents and lucid, inescapable rhythms.” More than anything, one comes away from a blackbird performance impressed with the rhythmic textures—the weave, the palette, the broad plateau of churning patterns. Matthew Duvall’s versatile percussion helps this along, with metal and rosewood marimbas, kick bass drum, snare, and much else. But at root the rhythm is in the writing, and every player, winds and strings included, helps the pulse along.