Axiom Brass Quintet serves up a generous helping of Latin music

By Dorothy Hindman

The Axiom Brass Quintet performed Sunday at Barry University in Miami Shores.

The Axiom Brass Quintet performed Sunday at Barry University in Miami Shores.

Fresh-faced and sharply dressed, the Axiom Brass Quintet wowed the crowd Sunday on the St Martha–Yamaha Concert Series with the aptly named “New Standards” program. St Martha also celebrated their new location at Barry University’s Broad Center for the Performing Arts, a cavernous space with surprisingly good acoustics.

First trumpet Dorival Puccini, Jr. and tuba player Kevin Harrison delivered program notes and educational comedy from the stage, allowing the quintet necessary chop rests. However, when combined with St Martha’s announcements, intermission, and a bonus performance of George Gershwin’s sprightly Rialto Ripples rag by founder Paul Posnak, the concert ran nearly three hours.

With more ripples, Axiom’s jazzy, dissonant harmonies and cascading lines in living composer Bernard Rands’ brief, powerful Fanfare generated excitement that carried throughout the afternoon.

Three Baroque masters followed, beginning with Puccini’s arrangement of Claudio Monteverdi’s “Si ch’io vorrei morire,” a stately chorale with staggered suspensions, bringing out traded lines with gorgeous clarity.

Harrison had the players surround the audience with their slick iPad music stands to ‘kick the tires’ of the new space with his arrangement of Giovanni Gabrieli’s Canzona per Sonare No. 3. The thrilling, super-sized antiphonal effect was sublime.

Although claiming to have “no idea what a fugue is,” Axiom’s performance of J. S. Bach’s Contrapunctus VII from Art of the Fugue proved otherwise, delineating Bach’s dense music well, including sublime descants by French horn player Jacob Diedwardo and second trumpet Kris Hammond.

In Victor Ewald’s romantic Quintet No. 3, Op. 7, trombonist Orin Larson and Harrison’s long, lyrical hunting calls made for an exciting Allegro moderato. Puccini and Larson’s brooding octaves in Intermezzo were set off by perfect alternating eighth notes in tuba and horn, and rapid, bright fanfares. Gently moving sustained tones in the Andante supported Puccini’s melancholy melody, and Axiom’s virtuosic Vivo delivered rollicking, fast-tongued notes.

Five short movements showcased each performer in Patrice Caratini’s Passages. The best of these were Harrison’s Morse-code rhythms under modern harmonies and jagged counterpoint in the first movement; his mellow, rounded tone in the second movement; and the quintet’s lurching rhythmic syncopations of the third movement.

In Liduino Pitombeira’s Brazilian Landscapes No. 2, Op. 78, “Santo Antônio” represents his mother’s hometown, evoking calm distance through slow inner chords and a languorous melody in trumpet and tuba. Pitombeira portrayed Ingá, his father’s hometown, with festive Brazilian dance music in quintuple time, briefly interrupted by Axiom’s heartfelt rendition of the mother’s theme.

In Paquito D’Rivera’s Danzón, simple, nostalgic melodies including a brilliant, stratospheric trumpet duet alternated with authentic Latin-dance syncopations, and jazz muting by Puccini added old Havana colors.

Mutes were also central to Ástor Piazzolla’s Two Tangos from the operita María de Buenos Aires. “Fuga y misterio” was a showpiece of muting colors on a highly animated tango theme passed through the upper instruments, before a powerful statement in low, unmuted brass, morphed into an ensemble melody over a tango tuba. Although over the course of the long afternoon lips started to give out, Diedwardo’s pristine horn theme in Piazzolla’s Milonga de la Anunciación was genuinely impressive.

Posted in Performances

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Tue Jan 27, 2015
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