Quartet San Francisco: Pacific Premieres (2013)
Quartet San Francisco came together in 2001 and quickly made its presence felt, garnering Grammy nominations for the Pan-Latin Látigo (ViolinJazz, 2006), American-minded Whirled Chamber Music (ViolinJazz, 2007), and jazz-leaning QSF Plays Brubeck (ViolinJazz, 2009); Pacific Premieres, which finds Quartet San Francisco working its way through new music from compositional heavyweights like Gordon Goodwin and Vince Mendoza, is likely to garner them some more.
Goodwin, Mendoza, Patrick Wiliams, and the founder of Quartet San Franciscoviolinist Jeremy Cohenall contribute new pieces that are chock full of life. Some numbers immediately click with the ear, mind and body, like "Oakland," the hip- and-spry opening movement of Goodwin's "California Pictures For String Quartet," and Cohen's sly-and-dramatic "Guamba." Others, like the pensive "Contemplation" from Goodwin's "Three Stages For String Quartet" and the charming "Towner" from Mendoza's "String Quartet No. 1: Funky Diversions In Three Parts" are slow burns that reward repeated listening.
Blurred lines abound here, as jazz, funk, classical and Latin influences merge and fuse in different ways in different pieces. Mendoza's work is often more extroverted than one might expect, as demonstrated on his tribute to the Brecker Brothers ("Mike And Randy"), while Goodwin's work often goes the other way, as he avoids the in-your-face elements that have made his Big Phat Band so popular. Both men, however, live up to expectations when it comes to the quality of their respective writing.
It's hard to know whether the ensemble or the music should get top billing here, but both deserve high marks. Few string quartets are operating at this level and few composers write such compelling music for groups like this.
Track Listing: California Pictures For String Quartet-Oakland, Carmel, Venice; String Quartet No. 1: Funky Diversions In Three Parts-Mike And Randy, Towner, Maurice White; The Bay Is Deep Blue; Three Stages For String Quartet-Focus, Contemplation, Resolution; Guamba.
Personnel: Jeremy Cohen: violin; Matthew Szemela: violin; Chad Kaltinger: viola; Kelley Maulbetsch: cello; Larry Epstein: bass (11).
Record Label: ViolinJazz Recordings
Style: Beyond Jazz