Nu Deco and guests bring out the noise and the (Daft) Punk

By Lawrence Budmen

Time for Three joined the Nu Deco Ensemble Thursday night at the Light Box Theater in Miami.

Time for Three joined the Nu Deco Ensemble Thursday night at the Light Box in Miami.

Streams of rhythm, both pulsating and calm, dominated the Nu Deco Ensemble’s performance on Thursday night at the Light Box in Wynwood. Time for Three, a highly active crossover group comprised of classically trained musicians, played their own high-energy compositions and most of the concert proved musically engrossing.

The program’s weakest offering came right at the top of the evening. Inspired by the work of the electronic group Apex Twin, Paul Dooley’s Point Blank is a brassy, hyperactive series of rhythmic fragments in search of a coherent score. Growling solos by Tim Leopold on trumpet and Gabriel Colby on trombone added some pizzazz to the brief opener which lacks the cumulative punch of Dooley’s Velocity Festivals, played by Nu Deco in 2016. 

And Legions Will Rise by Kevin Puts is an exquisitely crafted chamber work. Scored for violin, clarinet and marimba, the 17-minute score blends the three instruments’ timbres in repetitive motifs that, for all their intricate complexity, flow in progressions both lovely and serene. Opening with quiet violin and clarinet riffs over pulsating marimba lines, the works turns to hard drive with country and jazz influences along the way. The score is reminiscent, in the best fashion, of the early works of Steve Reich in its melodic charm and overflowing exuberance.

Three of the orchestra’s members gave Puts’ surging writing a performance that was both incisive and beautifully calibrated. Elizabeth Van Wirt displayed absolute mastery of the marimba, handling Puts’ challenging patterns with both force and delicacy. Anna Brumbaugh’s mellow tone wove the lyrical clarinet lines with a trancelike simplicity. Guest concertmaster Pauline Kim soared in the violin’s neo-romantic thematic bursts. The performance received prolonged applause and cheers from the engaged audience.

The New World Symphony has played several of Guillaume Connesson’s impressionistic orchestral works but the three-movement suite Night-club finds the French composer in a different mode. Short, catchy fragments draw inspiration from such divergent musical impulses as rock, funk and Stravinsky. In the second movement, the clarinet sails over rumbling strings in a ruminative night music. Hints of Ravel infuse the luminous string writing. The super-caffeinated finale captures the aura of a smoke-filled club to the percussive beat of a 21st-century dance band. Bairos led a whipcrack traversal of this 15-minute barnburner and the brass and strings had a field day with Connesson’s genre-bursting fusion. The tonal shadings of Kendra Hawley’s oboe solo were gorgeous.

Co-artistic director Sam Hyken’s Hanukkah 5-7-7-6, a holiday addition to the scheduled program, concluded the concert’s first half. Hyken is an imaginative arranger and his compilation of Judaic tunes, both soulful and toe-tapping, was delightful. The rich rubato of Kim’s violin solo took top status among the instrumentalists’ first rate  rendition.

Time for Three took the stage following intermission. Violinists Nicolas Kendall and Charles Yang and double bassist Ranaan Meyer are terrific musicians with top-notch ensemble skills Their brand of crossover mostly manages to avoided the glib superficiality and overt commercialism of other groups. 

Meyer’s Banjo Love is his tribute to banjo master Bela Fleck. Opening with plucked strings by all three players, the highly charged score references country-and-western roots while fueling a formidable display of virtuosity. Lovely string textures backed the spare vocal line of Deanna, voiced by Yang. 

A lengthy, almost improvisatory bass solo by Meyer introduced a conflation of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” the second movement of Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony and The Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony,” carried off by the trio with flair and panache.  Joy, the threesome’s ode to Beethoven, came off as something of an anticlimax–a rather conventional tune lacking in voltage or exceptional melodic grace. Still this group has yards of talent and their best work is rewarding.

At Nu Deco’s first concert in April 2015, the orchestra premiered the first of Hyken’s rock compilations to music of Daft Punk. Hyken dubbed his Daft Punk Symphonic Suite No. 2 “Humans vs. Robots” or “Deconstructing Daft Punk” and indeed he accomplished that. This time Hyken chose to deemphasize the brass and percussion in favor of the French electronic duo’s Baroque influences. 

Right from the opening, strings echoed early music patterns against a strong beat. The burnished mahogany tone of Aaron Merritt’s solo cello and the rhythmic underpinning of pianist Maria Zdralea, percussionists Van Wirt, Matthew Nichols, Andrew Riley and Svet Stoyanov and Aaron Lebos (on electric guitar) and Dale Posey (on electric bass) deserve special kudos.

Nu Deco Ensemble repeats the program 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at The Light Box, 404 NW 26 Street in Miami.


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Fri Dec 15, 2017
at 11:59 am
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