One of the most rewarding musical trends over the past five years or so has been the blossoming of classically trained bands who deploy their abundant technique in more informal, intrepid and improvisational contexts. A pair of groups who fit that description, the string quartet Brooklyn Rider and the kindred, fearlessly adventurous trio 2 Foot Yard, will team up with bamboo flautist and Silk Road Ensemble member Kojiro Umezaki tonight at the Southern Theater as part of the 5th annual Stillwater Music Festival.
Brooklyn Rider’s latest CD, “Dominant Curve,” is deeply indebted to Debussy. The group makes the composer’s lone string quartet (in G Minor, written in 1893), a co-centerpiece alongside a four-movement work by Rider’s Colin Jacobsen entitled “Achille’s Heel” (Debussy was originally named Achille-Claude). There are also pieces by Umezaki and Uzbekistan’s Dmitri Yanov-Yanovski that both re-accentuate and globalize the Debussy vibe — no surprise for a band that utilized Armenian folk songs on its debut disc.
Here is the quartet playing the second movement of the Debussy piece, a good example of their playful meld of hovering swoon and pizzicato prance.
Here they are playing “Ascending Bird,” a Persian folk song rearranged by Jacobsen.
The trio 2 Foot Yard pushes Brooklyn Rider to be even more freewheeling. Violinist Carla Kihlstedt (who also co-founded Tin Hat Trio and a number of other groups) teams with cellist Marika Hughes, who both get bumped off their Suzuki-method stride by multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily. The trio’s performance here in May 2008 was a delightfully unpredictable and combustible engagement that at veered from Hole to the Kronos Quartet in its resemblances.
Recent live performance footage of the group is unfortunately in short supply, but here is the trio in a reflective mood playing “50 Miles” last year.
And here is their MySpace page, where you can check out their rockish side on “Crisis.”
Of special interest this evening is the local premiere of “A Blue Hat Washed Up on Shore,” a work jointly composed by the two groups based on Alan Lightman’s novel, “Einstein’s Dreams.”
Brooklyn Rider, with 2 Foot Yard and Kojiro Umezaki at the Southern Theater, tonight at 7:30 p.m.; tickets are $25.