(The Quartet is: Jeremy Cohen & Kayo Miki, violins; Emily Onderdonk, viola; Joe Cohen, cello; guest: John Santos, percussion)
Since its concert debut in 2001, Quartet San Francisco has gained acclaim from local to international audiences for its mixture of genre-bending world chamber music. It won an International Tango competition in 2004 and already has two Grammy nominations for this new CD. The quartet likes to perform multiple styles of interesting music, including tango to jazz, classical to Latin, and contemporary to world music. Their sound reminds me of some of the very first Kronos Quartet album – another unique SF-area quartet. But the Quartet San Francisco is closer to popular music elements and therefore more accessible to many listeners.
In 2002 the quartet began a collaboration with tango dancers Sandor and Parissa. Some of the selections come from that, and others from the quartet’s performing in Buenos Aires and their experiences there. Leader/first violin Jeremy Cohen had already spent two years performing with the dance revue Forever Tango, and he shepherded the quartet toward a special emphasis on tango as part of their diverse fare. I find it quite an accomplishment that without the normal tango ensemble’s bandoneons and piano, the four string players can still create so well, in a chamber music atmosphere, the fierce rhythms and passion of tango music.
Only three of the 16 tracks are by Piazzolla – originator of the New Tango. Some are famous standard tangos such as La Cumparsita, one is a rhumba by Chick Corea, one a traditional Brazilian choro, and several are originals written for the quartet. There is even an arrangement of the tune Cool, from Bernstein’s West Side Story. Pontier’s Milongueando en el Cuarenta is a stylized programmatic piece utilizing the látigo – the CD’s title. The word describes the special technique used in music for the tango – a quick glissando by a finger of the left hand on a stringed instrument, simulating the sound of a gaucho’s whip. Another Skywalker Ranch quartet recording, this one benefits from a silent noise floor and precise string timbre without harshness or metallic edge.
TrackList: Cachita, Milongueando en el Cuarenta, Crowdambo, A Los Amigos, Felicia, Felipe, La Cumparsita, Melodia en La menor, Libertango, Armando’s Rhumba, El día qie me Quieras, Taquito Militar, Comme il faut, Gallo ciego, Cool, Nuevo tango.
– John Sunier