New Quartet S.F. CD Highlights the Music of Raymond Scott


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August 27 - Quartet San Francisco's 2006 release Latigo, which gave passionate expression to the group's devotion to tango, was honored last December with two Grammy nominations in the Classical Crossover field, including “Best Album."

Their audacious new ViolinJazz Recordings CD Whirled Chamber Music ups the ante, presenting what violinist Jeremy Cohen calls “crossover music in its purest form." Due for release September 25, the new disc draws from a wide variety of indigenous American forms - jazz, funk, rock, tango - that are imaginatively crafted by Cohen for string quartet. The CD's title refers to the walls between genres coming down, with the Quartet offering, you might say, “a new whirled order."

Quartet San Francisco, established in 2001, consists of Cohen and Kayo Miki on violins, Emily Onderdonk (viola), and Joel Cohen (cello). The quartet's contemporary musical sensibilities combined with the sheer physical energy required to play these rich American styles of music provide fertile ground for the ensemble to present their unique version of World Music.

The repertoire on the new CD advances the crossover concept in stunning fashion. Seven of the tracks are by Raymond Scott (1908-1994), the iconoclastic composer, bandleader, inventor, and electronic music pioneer whose music was given its broadest exposure on Warner Bros.' Looney Tunes cartoons in the 1940s and '50s and whose centennial will be celebrated next year. “Scott's whimsical melodies and swinging rhythms are ideally suited to string players with appetites for color and character," notes Cohen.

Also included in the program are compositions by Chick Corea ("Spain"), David Grisman ("Dawg's Bull"), Duke Ellington ("The Mooche"), and Leonard Bernstein ("Gee Officer Krupke," from West Side Story). The Average White Band's “Pick Up the Pieces" is rendered with attitude to spare, as is the CD closer “What Is Hip?" by Tower of Power - a statement of local pride from the Oakland-born-and-bred Cohen brothers.

“We feel passionate about this mixture of American genres," says Cohen, “and we perform each work from within the style in which it was conceived. The tradition of chamber music has taught us to play from our hearts with the highest playing standards we can apply. So when the music says swing, we swing. When the music says groove, we groove."

One thing Cohen has learned in his diverse musical experiences - from studies with Itzhak Perlman to his two years with Forever Tango to recording sessions with Carlos Santana and John Williams - is that “the walls between genres are in our heads. They don't really exist unless we place them there. Quartet San Francisco bridges the gap between the styles that divide us musically."

Like its predecessor Latigo, Whirled Chamber Music was recorded at Skywalker Ranch in Nicasio, CA by Leslie Ann Jones, who received a Grammy nomination for her contributions to Latigo (best engineered classical album).

The work of another American original, Jim Flora, is featured on the CD cover. His pulsating, riotously colorful illustrations adorned the album covers of many jazz and classical releases for Columbia and RCA Victor in the late 1940s and '50s. Flora's exuberant, genre-defying style is its own new whirled order.

This story appears courtesy of Terri Hinte.
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