by Greg Cutler, Published: 2011-02-20
On Friday, February 18, I had the extreme pleasure of seeing The Borodin Quartet perform at the Santa Monica Woman’s Club. Let me first say that the club is a very good venue for this type of music. The building was built in 1914 and was renovated in 1961 after a fire. When you approach the building from the outside, go up the steps in front, through the big front doors and into the entryway you feel like you have been transported back to a simpler time. There is a big chandelier in the foyer with stairs on either side going up to the second floor and balcony above the main hall. Going through the doors from the foyer to the main hall, you arrive in a room about 100 feet square. The balcony on the second floor runs all the way around the room. Square posts line the edge of balcony and the floor space extends underneath. I got the feeling that many dance nights with big bands playing on stage had taken place in this auditorium. The stage is fairly large. It provided ample space for a grand piano, drum kit, and four other musicians. The acoustics gave it that perfect concert sound, but it was perfectly intimate enough for chamber music.
The Borodin Quartet played several classical compositions concentrating mainly with Russian composers. The quartet played both traditional classical and atonal pieces with the same intensity and virtuosity. The Tchaikovsky and Handel were my favorites. They performed with an effortlessness and intense familiarity with the material that allows them to improvise and lend their own flavor to each piece. It is an intense privilege to be in the presence of musicians who play so well together and also respond to the audience. I felt a real connection between the music and the audience. The venue was not entirely full which surprised me for such a distinguished and well-known quartet, but the audience members were very warm and receptive; a good time had by all.
The next quartet to perform was The Red Quartet. I wasn’t as impressed with them as The Borodin Quartet and felt they need a bit more experience under their belts with the singer, Marissa Steingold being slightly throaty and attempting to give a breathy, jazzy performance but she didn’t bring the music up from her diaphragm as one would expect. Her jazz improvisation with the guitarist was a bit jerky and not very creative I thought. Of the other musicians within The Red Quartet, the guitarist was the most talented.
The next musician to come on stage was a real treat and if you ever have a chance to check out vocalist Dwight Trible in concert, go see him! He comes out on stage in his cool shades and this knit, orange patterned vestment. The musician on the grand piano starts in with the drummer and a cool jazz style fills the room. Dwight Trible has a voice that starts with a funk vibe and ends in an exasperated cry for understanding in a world beset with cruelty. His blues is our blues and his frustration becomes our frustration. His cadence is unique and soulful; thoroughly entertaining!
If art is intended to create discussion, the evening of music at the Santa Monica Women’s Club last Friday evening featuring vocalist Dwight Trible, The Borodin Quartet, and The Red Quartet fulfilled it’s artful mission. My companion and I had plenty to discuss on our way home that evening. Thank you to all of the performers and people who organized this event.