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Jazz at the Argentine Consulate in New York City - Marcelo Zarvos and quartet

by Robert Abrams
November 2, 2002
The Argentine Consulate of New York
12 West 56th Street
New York, NY 10019

Jazz at the Argentine Consulate in New York City

Marcelo Zarvos and quartet

Performance: October 23, 2002

Review by Robert Abrams
November 2, 2002

On October 23, 2002, Marcelo Zarvos performed at the "Jazz at the Consulate" series at the Argentine Consulate. This was the fifth annual Jazz Festival presented by the Argentine Consulate in New York City featuring Argentinian and Brazilian performers.

Mr. Zarvos led a quartet consisting of himself on Piano, Dorothy Lawson on Cello, Mauro Refosco on Percussion and Steve Kenyon on Saxophone.

The quartet's music has a full sound. They have rhythmic complexity, but a stable rhythmic complexity. As Mr. Zarvos himself commented, the music he often plays is not strictly jazz. This may or may not be a problem for a pure jazz enthusiast, but from a dance perspective, Mr. Zarvos' music managed to retain some of the elements that make jazz distinctive, while also hewing to a rhythmic order that is danceable. This is a difficult balance to strike, and the quartet was able to strike the balance as well as anyone I have heard. It should be noted that this music is most likely not danceable as social dance, but it has definite potential for choreographed performance.

While this evening's performance was not intended as dance music, and indeed, no one in the audience got up to dance, Mr. Zarvos has plenty of experience collaborating with dancers. He has written a score for the ballet "The Path" which was premiered at the Joyce in 2001. He is currently working on "Divinities" which is a new piece for Cleo Parker Robinson Dance.

Time, the expression of the rhythm, is critical for dancers (except, perhaps, for dance styles that are primarily melodic in nature). The expression of time is no less important for musicians. Sometimes musicians and dancers seem to be different animals. They occupy the same space, but they often have different desires. For instance, some musicians get aroused by upkick, while many dancers dislike upkick because they want a completely consistent rhythmic framework to run through a song from the first to last note. Watching Mr. Zarvos' quartet perform, one could see that instead of being different animals, musicians and dancers represent a continuum of the dominant expression of time. For instance, Ms. Lawson was keeping time in her body while she played, much like a dancer keeps time in her body. Obviously, the expression of time in her body was not as dominant as it would be in a dancer's body. Ms. Lawson, after all, has to direct most of her expression of time into her Cello.

The quartet played a mix of works composed by Mr. Zarvos and works composed by others. The saxophonist played with intensity. The cellist played with joyful passion. The pianist played with cool reserve. The percussionist played with drums and strings of beads made from native plants.

As an example of the rhythmic complexity presented tonight, there was a work that started off with a Viennese Waltz feel. The tempo was kept by the piano. The cello and sax provided a sweeping feel. In the second half, the tempo changed somewhat, but the sweeping feel was the same.

Another one of the works presented sounded a little like Klezmer. I am not sure what one would have danced to it, but it would be worth finding out.

All of the musicians were superb, and they played together very well, but if I were forced to single out one person for praise, it would have to be Ms. Lawson. She consistently put a little extra effort and joy of life into her playing, such that her music was drama worth watching. She also has a sense of style. She was wearing an outfit that formed an ascending color sequence from her cello to her blouse to her hair. Not splashy, just tasteful, and more importantly, consistent with the needs of her instrument and the quartet. If you are looking for a cellist who is a radiant total package, Ms. Lawson appears to be it.

Mr. Zarvos and this quartet have two CDs out which, according to Mr. Zarvos, have the same vibe as the works presented at the Argentine Consulate. These CDs are entitled "Labyrinths" and "Music Journal". They are available on CD NOW, and likely elsewhere as well.

Overall, Mr. Zarvos, Ms. Lawson, Mr. Refosco and Mr. Kenyon presented an evening of music of relatively consistent style, but varied tempi, all of which was very well composed and played. Based upon their live performance this evening, their recorded music is very likely to be well suited to background listening, attentive listening, and if you are a modern dance choreographer, very possibly dance as well. If you get the chance to listen to them live, don't pass the opportunity up.

Credit needs to be extended to the Argentine Consulate for providing New York City with this excellent, and free, cultural resource.

The Argentine Consulate can be contacted at 12 West 56th Street, New York, NY 10019 or by phone at 212-603-0440.

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