Nu Deco, Magda Giannikou fire up the Light Box with engaging program

By Inesa Gegprifti

Magda Giannikou performed with Nu Deco Ensemble Thursday night at The LIght Box in Wynwood.

Magda Giannikou performed with Nu Deco Ensemble Thursday night at The LIght Box in Wynwood.

This week Nu Deco Ensemble, led by Jacomo Bairos, is wrapping up their residency at the Light Box in Wynwood for the season.

Thursday night’s concert opened with Luminosity, a short work by Chris Rogerson. Although only 29 years old, Rogerson has already achieved national acclaim for his compositions. Luminosity was written in his late teens, and the spacious sonorities and epic brass climaxes are reminiscent of a Copland score. The ensemble tapped into the youthful character of the piece through the playful opening unison followed by the brass offbeats and the accentuated percussion entrances.

Magda Giannikou and two bandmates joined Nu Deco in a performance of her original works. This unique artist comes from Greece, yet sings in six languages. Her band’s music combines folk elements of Balkan and Latin American origins with jazz: the outcome is a retro timbre with whimsical charm. Equally well-versed in accordion playing and singing, her demeanor throughout the show was empowering as a creative woman, entrepreneur, and colorful performer.

Giannikou’s ability to interact with the audience was outstanding in “Tigre.” This narrative song exposed elements of the human experience like fear and self-doubt through a fairytale imagination. In “Amour t’es là?” she sang smooth and whispered melodies, scatted over a rhetorical accordion solo, conducted with body movements and vocal inflections, and lead the ensemble to a percussion breakdown a la Brazilian Carnival—all achieved with a touch of tasteful exoticism.

John Adams’ Son of Chamber Symphony is the most challenging work that Nu Deco and Bairos have presented thus far and offered the weightiest composition of the evening.

The first movement draws its rhythmic foundation from the Scherzo of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The textural fabric is created with juxtaposed brief gestures. While the repetition of patterns showcases Adams’ minimalist inclination, the intricate development places him beyond that label.

The second movement showcased solid and well-projected execution from the woodwinds and brass. Flutist Daniel Velasco gracefully placed the reflective melodies over the pizzicato strings and the bassoon and bass clarinet formed a firm backbone with consistently firm articulation.

Even though the pulsating rhythms persisted throughout the third movement, the obsessive momentum got lost at times in the ensemble’s interpretation with the restless energy fizzling out abruptly at the end.

Undertaking this complex work was ambitious, and it showed. Although Bairos’ eyes were glued to the score for most of the performance, gestural clarity and emphatic movements did not always translate into absolute tightness of the ensemble. While this was certainly a tall order for Nu Deco Ensemble, it is important that they keep bringing music of this caliber to their audiences.

The evening also featured two arrangements by Nu Deco’s own Sam Hyken, who does an excellent job at bringing instrumental diversity and combinations to the foreground. These two works are in Bairos’ and Nu Deco’s wheelhouses as they thrive in projecting a young and fresh perspective on existing themes and music.

In Refried Farandole, oboist Kendra Hawley and bassoonist Gabriel Beavers exhibited gorgeous duet singing lines. Closing the concert with flamboyance was The Purple Suite, a reimagined Prince tribute. A keytar solo by Dan Strange added to the “purple” feel and the overlay of strings and woodwinds in abrupt mood shifts created striking dynamic layering.

This program will be repeated 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Light Box in Wynwood.

Posted in Performances

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Fri Apr 14, 2017
at 3:32 pm
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