Archive for March, 2014

the band montreal

kevin barnes

of montreal chieftain kevin barnes.

Sometimes the key to unlocking a band’s potential is allowing it to operate fully as a band.

That hasn’t always been the case with veteran indie-pop fave of Montreal. For over 15 years, it has worked as a nom de plume of sorts for Athens, Ga. song stylist Kevin Barnes. Onstage, a company of musicians would journey through myriad pop styles, from party funk to psychedelia to glammed up Brit pop and more. In nearly all other respects, though, of Montreal was a very singular vehicle with Barnes writing and recording nearly all the band’s music on his own.

Now, with a fascination for vintage folk-rock fueling his current songs, Barnes has decided to relinquish some of his command. For his recent Lousy with Sylvianbriar album, he enlisted a new musical team not as a mere foil for live shows but as the basis for a fully functioning band.

“It felt like a new chapter in my career,” Barnes said. “I turned over a lot of people that have been with me for awhile and just moved in this new direction. I’m very excited about it. I think it has breathed new life into the project.”

“The influences this time are mostly from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. I wanted to make a record that was similar to that in a sense, as far as the way we went about recording and how I went about writing and teaching people parts. I liked the idea of getting other

people involved and having it be more communal and collaborative. But I also wanted to work really quickly, as in the course of just a couple of weeks. As a result, we were making all these spontaneous, creative decisions on the fly and just not laboring over it in a way that I have been laboring over the previous records.

“Basically, I just wanted to follow the blueprint of those records that I love – the Bob Dylan records, the Neil Young records, Leonard Cohen records, Grateful Dead records – all the records that were an inspiration for this record.”

Getting into the mindset of that music, however, required some distance – specifically, a pilgrimage to San Francisco, the epicenter of late ‘60s counterculture.

“I really wanted to get out of Athens and be somewhere new, somewhere that was kind of exotic and mysterious,” Barnes said.  “I’ve always been a huge fan of the beat poets and writers and, of course, the hippie scene from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. San Francisco is so interesting and so culturally and ethnically diverse. The architecture is amazing and just the way the city is laid out is really inspiring. I hadn’t spent that much time in San Francisco before, so I didn’t really know exactly what I was going to get out of it. But some sort of voice was calling me there and I just trusted my instincts. I lived for about three weeks in this rented apartment and wandered around and observed people. I read a lot and wrote a lot.”

With the groundwork for Sylvianbriar complete, Barnes was faced with the challenge of allowing his songs to develop with a new of Montreal lineup – vocalist Rebecca Cash, drummer/vocalist Clayton Rychlik, keyboardist Jojo Glidewell, pedal steel guitarist/bassist Bob Parins and guitarist/mandolinist Bennet Lewis – as opposed to by himself in a studio.

“It was difficult at first just because the group of people I had been working with… we were really close. We travelled the world together and had all these ups and downs together. So to basically move on and start a new life without them created a lot of tension and a lot of pain that definitely affected our relationships, which was inevitable. But at the same time, it’s exciting to feel like I’m moving in this new direction and dropping all the baggage of the past to move forward. So it’s kind of a bittersweet situation, I guess.

“For me, it’s all about the present moment and what I hope to accomplish in the future. I don’t really care at all about the things I’ve done in the past. That might seem kind of strange or whatever. But for me, it’s all about not looking back and just thinking, ‘Okay. Now what? Now what can I do?’ So I’m in a good place right now because I’m discarding stuff. Even Sylvianbriar, in a way. I’m just trying to move forward from that into some new area.”

of Montreal and Ortolan perform at 10 p.m. April 1 at Cosmic Charlie’s. 388 Woodland Ave. Tickets are $20. Call (859) 309-9499 or go towww.cosmic-charlies.com.

in performance: ballister

Ballister-3-by-Lasse-Marhaug

ballister: paal nilssen-love, fred lonberg-holm and dave rempis. photo by lasse marhaug.

It began in a state of willful chaos and ended with a beat of golden silence. Everything in between played out last night like a heated family conversation by the free jazz trio Ballister at the University of Kentucky’s John Jacob Niles Center for Traditional Music.

A turbulent ebb and flow fortified the 75 minute set’s three untitled improvisations created by saxophonist Dave Rempis, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love. The first started like a clasp of thunder with the three stepping briskly into a fractured, high volume brawl that placed Rempis’ scorched alto lead at its center. Built around all that was the deconstructed chamber backdrop Lonberg-Holm designed by tapping out notes on the neck of the cello with his left hand while his right simultaneously added more sustained rage with a bow. Subsequent solos would formulate a hint of a sustained melody before Lonberg-Holm let the music mutate with assorted pedal effects.

One had to be a traffic cop to monitor all the changes that followed – like Rempis’ switch to baritone sax and an ensuing, elemental, groove executed on brushes by Nilssen-Love that slowly built itself into a furious boil. Whispery sax/drums dialogue, a percussion solo on cymbals played by mallets, two more sax changes (back to alto and then on to tenor) and a full-tilt trio rampage brought the 35 minute improv to a conclusion that was as unsettled as the opening.

The second improv downshifted the set’s drive, but only slightly. Its introduction returned Nilssen-Love to mallet percussion that faded to a quiet rumble even as bowed cello lines percolated under his playing. Rempis’ baritone sax squall later led into another trio skirmish before a clean swipe on the cello strings by Lonberg-Holm brought the improv to a finish that seemed to surprise and delight his bandmates.

An overall quieter chat dominated the final improv of the evening. A rustle of percussion devices that included a half-empty water bottle and an alto sax solo that beautifully opened into a fully functioning wail highlighted the music’s unusually harmonious flow.  Then everything evaporated into a momentary coda of silence that was as breathtaking as all of the fascinating interplay that preceded it.

in performance: scott miller

scott miller

scott miller.

You had to feel for Scott Miller. His fine acoustic performance last night at Willie’s Locally Known was shifted to an early evening start time to accommodate the late tipoff of the Kentucky/ Louisville NCAA game. But that meant the longtime songsmith, who spent all of his professional career in Knoxville before relocating to his Virginia family farm three years ago, had be onstage as his beloved Tennessee Vols were going down for an Elite Eight placement to Michigan. Miller took it all with a wry wit that was often turned inward, that was until he eulogized his team’s impending loss with a solemn finale of Tennessee Waltz. What a hapless, heartfelt and strangely complimentary pairing it was with Miller earnestly singing the classic county lyrics about losing a sweetheart as his team bowed out for the season.

The rest of the performance was no less absorbing. Miller remains, some 18 years after his Lexington debut with the Knoxville quartet The V-Roys a masterful storyteller – one that weaves words with Dylan-esque rhythm and specificity as his narratives become darkly personal. An exquisite example surfaced last night with How Am I Ever Going to Be Me?, a tune that questioned identity, faith and salvation.

Equally sobering and Dylan-drenched was Lo Siento Spanishburg West Virginia, a tale of rural decay that provided a modest whimsical spin on folk tradition (“old times there are Oxycontin”).

Both are relatively recent tunes for Miller that favored folkish outlines over the rockish template used for many of his V-Roys and early solo career songs. It was a setting nicely enhanced during the 90 minute set by bassist/accompanist Bryn Davies, last seen locally as a band member to Peter Rowan and Tony Rice. Whether supplementing the subtle groove to Sin in Indiana, adding a lovely bowed bass accent to Is There Room on the Cross for Me? or providing playful, percussive slaps to Freedom’s a Stranger, Davies proved a resourceful and often elegant orchestrator for Miller’s music.

As has been the case with several crowded weekend shows at Willie’s, there was an abundance of idle audience chatter that signaled a disconnect (or perhaps disrespect) among some patrons. But when the performance hushed for the Civil War remembrance Highland County Boy at encore time, the only crowd noise was the unprompted shuffling of ensemble feet that simulated the march of war-beaten soldiers as well as the tune’s percussive heartbeat.

having a blast

jeff coffin

jeff coffin.

When reviewing their separate careers, one would suppose Jeff Coffin and Miles Osland were destined to be great friends.

Both are learned saxophonists, as well as artists active in fields of education and performance – although they have each has chosen one of those areas as a favored pursuit.

Coffin leads his own jazz fusion band, the Mu’tet, but has gained national notoriety as an alumnus of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones (with which he won three Grammy Awards) and for his current role as sax man with the Dave Matthews Band. Osland is perhaps Lexington’s most visible jazz personality and the leader of several performance groups. His most enduring musical duty, however, has involved overseeing the jazz studies program at the University of Kentucky.

It was in the latter role that Osland reached out to Coffin, a New England born, Texas educated fellow saxophonist who had relocated to Nashville.

“I just called Jeff up out of the blue one day because I wanted him to come up and play and do some clinics,” Osland said. “And he agreed. Jeff is just one of the most humble, gracious cats that I know. He’s always giving of his time when he can. We’ve had him up here two or three times in the past in different capacities. This time, it’s going to be two days just jam-packed full of Jeff Coffin.”

“This time” is this weekend. Coffin will serve as an auxiliary member of the Osland/Dailey Jazztet, the combo Osland co-leads with pianist and UK faculty mate Raleigh Dailey, Friday at Natasha’s. Then on Saturday, Coffin will be the featured guest at UK’s annual Big Band Blast, a triple bill concert at the Singletary Center for the Arts that will bring together the high school level Jazz All Stars of Central Kentucky, the college level University of Kentucky Jazz Ensemble (which Osland directs) and the community based Bluegrass Area Jazz Ambassadors. Coffin will perform two tunes with each group and offer a free jazz clinic in the afternoon that will be open to the public.

“A lot of the stuff we talk about in clinics deals with life lessons more so even than music lessons,” Coffin said. “I wanted to do clinics because I felt like I had some experience that I could bring to students, that I could talk to them about what they need to do to go out there, perform well and be successful at holding a gig, getting a gig and all the different things that are involved with that.

“It’s like, ‘I’m out here doing this. I know what it takes. You’re trying to get out here where I am.’ So I can talk to them about they need to do, and I really lay it on the line. Being able to play your butt off is a given. That’s where you start. It’s all the other stuff that’s going to get you the gig or not get you the gig. Those are the things we talk about. We kind of unwrap the mystery of it all and get in deep.”

The only trick in luring Coffin back to Lexington this weekend was logistics. Osland approached Coffin about helping out with the Big Band Blast over six months ago, but recording plans with the Dave Matthews Band kept a confirmation for the weekend out of reach until late into the winter.

“Ultimately, we didn’t have to face that conflict,” Osland said. “But it was really up in the air for a long time. I had Plan A. I had a Plan B. But everything worked out.”

Jeff Coffin performs at

+ 8 p.m. March 28 with the Osland/Dailey Jazztet at Natasha’s Bistro, 112 Esplanade. $10 public, $5 students. Call (859) 259-2754 or got to www.beetnik.com.

+ 3 p.m. March 29 for a clinic and discussion at the Singletary Center for the Arts Recital Hall, 405 Rose St. Free and open to the public.

+ 7:30 p.m. March 29 as part of the Big Band Blast at the Singletary Center for the Arts Recital Hall. Free. For more info, go to http://finearts.uky.edu/singletary-center.

burning down the house

ballister 1

ballister: dave rempis, paal nilssen-love, fred lonberg-holm.

At the onset of Smolder, one of the three lengthy improvisations that make up the third Ballister album Mi Casa Es En Fuego, the music begins as three separate entities. Or expressions. Or outbursts.

The saxophone punctuation of Dave Rempis starts with a series of jabs and pops that eventually bounce about with an almost mischievous agitation. Countering that is the cello colors of Fred Lonberg-Holm that sound less like the product of an instrument usually thought of for its chamber-like qualities and more like the scratchy, electric disturbances of guitarist Marc Ribot. Underneath it all is Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, whose playing can reflect frenzied immediacy one minute, brutal deconstruction the next and, in select passages, an icy calm. Throughout Smolder, he reveals all three tendencies to create a mood that lets the tune live up to it name while fanning the flames that inspired the album title.

After all the English translation for Mi Casa Es En Fuego is My House is on Fire.

“On a lot of levels, this band, to me, is kind of like a punk rock, no holds barred kind of thing,” said Rempis, who will perform with Ballister for an WRFL-FM sponsored Outside the Spotlight concert at the University of Kentucky’s John Jacob Niles Gallery. “A lot of it is about energy in many ways. Pall is one of the most propulsive drummers I’ve ever worked with. And Fted just has this great kind of noise thing that he can do with an electronic set up on the cello. So in a lot of ways, it’s just coming from that dive-in-head-first type of energy.”

Though thoroughly improvised – and, at times, quite brutish and fractured – the music of Ballister is far from musical anarchy. There is a noticeable ebb and flow to the playing, an obvious jazz sensibility to the way the three musicians interact and, quite often, a rhythmic undertow that continually changes the tone and temperament of the music.

“There is definitely a lot of rhythmic interaction happening all the time. I’ve described it as ‘the feeling of moving forward while the carpet is being pulled out from under you.’ We’re all moving with these rhythms in a very forward kind of way. But they don’t necessarily all lock in together, so it’s kind of like this overlapping type of thing.”

At the heart of Ballister, which issues its vinyl-only Both Ends album this month, is a strong personal and professional bond. Rempis, Lonberg-Holm and Nilssen-Love have all been regular visitors to Lexington over the past decade for Outside the Spotlight shows by numerous bands that bridge a fruitful Chicago free jazz community with several European factions of like-minded improvisers.

Ballister is hardly the prime performance project for any of the three, either. This spring, Rempis will be balancing a string of Ballister dates with concerts alongside Boston pianist Pandelis Karayorgis, festival dates with three other trios that stretch from San Francisco to Finland as well a Quebec run with Audio One, a new ensemble led by Chicago composer/saxophonist Ken Vandermark (who returns to town for his own Outside the Spotlight concert on April 28). On top of all that, Rempis oversees a music label, Aerophonic Records, that is chronicling the music of his many band projects.

“That’s actually been the most rewarding part of the last year for me – starting this record label. It’s taking up a lot of time, for sure, but it’s been incredibly rewarding.                                                                                   

“I feel like the musicians in this music really need to take responsibility for their careers at this point because there are just not too many people out there, whether it be labels or agents, who are promoting this music anymore. We have the capability to do all this. So far for me, it’s been a huge pleasure to put out music that, artistically, I feel really strong about.”

back home again

scott miller 2

scott miller.

For the better part of a decade, Scott Miller was a performance regular in Lexington clubs. An immensely articulate songsmith, he became an ambassador of sorts for two seemingly unconnected musical camps – a thriving Knoxville musical community and a brand of Americana rock that knew a good time when it saw one, especially when it came to the libations that fueled the fun.

Miller returns to Lexington on Friday after a prolonged absence that has seen separations of sorts from both factions. Three years ago, he departed Knoxville – his home since the days of The V Roys, the rock troupe that introduced Miller to Lexington in 1996 – to his family’s Virginia farm in Staunton. A year before that, he became sober.

While both events happened out of necessity, Miller said he is now seeing the benefits of how they are playing out – personally as well as professionally.

“It’s been weird,” Miller said. “I’ve always thought I could do what I do from anywhere. It’s been a little more difficult than I thought, but I’m finding the balance. Not being near Nashville, because so much of my business is there, is tough. But I’m home. I’m where I belong.

Sobriety, not surprisingly, was no less difficult an adjustment. Up through Miller’s first post-V Roys albums, the boozy charm of his music was fairly innocuous. But during some of his final local shows at Lynagh’s Music Club and The Dame, performance sloppiness ran rampant. Even that wouldn’t have been such a big deal had records like 2003’s Upside Downside and 2006’s Citation not been full of such strong, folk-infused songs.

“Number one, that had to happen,” Miller said of giving up drinking. “If I look back on it through all the years, this was inevitable. Two, it’s always one day at a time. Who knows? I could go out tomorrow and blow everything I’ve just built over almost four years. But, man, I sing better. I play better. I’m much more in tune with what I’m doing. Before, I would just get up there and everything I tried to reach this transcendent state to make my art good…well, it really didn’t work. It just made it bad and out of time.

“The first year that I was sober was really tough. It was different being in front of crowds. It wasn’t stage fright. It was just hard to sort of find a groove. Everybody told me, ‘That will come.’ And it did. It did. I’m back in the pocket now. I enjoy the shows. Everything is better. It doesn’t mean everything is perfect.  But at least I’ve got a fighting shot.”

Adding to Miller’s current state of renewal was the 2013 release of what is arguably his best album, 2013’s Big Big World. The project was a collaborative record with Doug Lancio, long time lieutenant in Patty Griffin’s band who currently doubles as John Hiatt’s chief guitarist. Many of the songs on Big Big World were sculpted out of sound structures and melodies Lancio created that Miller later set lyrics to.

“Doug would start in the mornings and just sort of mess around and lay down different grooves and tracks. Then I would come in and listen to those and see if it inspired something to write about or else I would take some half-finished stuff I had and build to suit. I’d go down the hall and start splicing that stuff together and try to make a three-and-a-half minute song out of this 20 minute stuff we had.

“I didn’t really get to live with these songs before we put them out, so we’ve finally got everything down now. There is just something about going out and playing them every night. You start finding their cracks and stuff like that.”

Scott Miller performs at 7:45 p.m. March 28 at Willie’s Locally Known, 805 N. Broadway. Admission is $10. Call (859) 281-1116 or go to www.willieslex.com.

surf’s up (but in kentucky?)

kentucky surf

riding the bluegrass surf: a scene from the billie joe armstrong/norah jones music video for ‘kentucky.’

We’re all for big imaginations here at The Musical Box, but a new music video referencing our home state is summoning some serious head scratching.

The clip comes to us from the odd couple of Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones and their splendid 2013 Everly Brothers tribute record Foreverly. The song being illustrated is Kentucky, a loving salute that has subsequently been covered by scores of vintage country and bluegrass artists.

Make no mistake, we love Foreverly. Aside from possessing remarkably natural artist chemistry (an attribute underscored by the train wreck performance at the Grammy Awards in February when Armstrong was instead paired for a Phil Everly tribute with a wildly out-of-tune Miranda Lambert), the duo’s treatment is subtle, summery and ultra-respectful of the unforced harmony singing that made the Everlys’ music so distinctive.

So what’s the problem? Well, it’s not a big deal, really. It’s just that the video chose to show a young couple (not Armstrong and Jones, by the way) enjoying an afternoon of outdoor fun that includes – we kid you not – surfing. Yes, indeed. Nothing captures the natural majesty of the Bluegrass like slapping on a wetsuit, grabbing a surfboard and catching a wave. Last time I checked, though, Lake Cumberland was pretty much at permanent low tide.

The video reminded me of a poster that hung in my father’s office. My dad was an ad man for General Electric. The poster was of Leonardo da Vinci pondering an electric toothbrush, as though it were one of his myriad inventions. The caption: “Plug it in where, Leonardo?”

Of course, if the video for Kentucky turns a few more folks on to the exquisite Foreverly, than more power to it. Besides that, it’s sort of refreshing for Kentucky to now be battling a stereotype rooted in the West Coast instead of the rural south.

You can check out the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPgZ0mWMByA.

critic’s pick 330: glenn kotche, ‘adventureland’

glenn kotcheLeave it to a precocious percussive talent like Glenn Kotche to deconstruct and retool two suites into a new hour-long recording titled Adventureland – an album that is, in essence, another suite.

Even by the usual daring but playful standards of the longtime Wilco drummer and University of Kentucky graduate, Adventureland is just that. Though it celebrates Kotche’s compositions for ensembles as much (if not more) than his actual playing, it still beautifully represents one of contemporary music’s most distinctive percussion voices.

Here are the primary inhabitants of Adventureland. First up is a seven movement suite for string quartet and drumkit, Anomaly, which was commissioned by (and presented here as a collaboration with) the famed Kronos Quartet. Then we add The Haunted, a five-movement piece for two pianos and percussionists.

But here is where the scrambling begins. The movements to Anomaly are presented sequentially. The running order of The Haunted is completely reworked (the movements are presented in a sequence of 5-4-1-3-2). Then everything is meshed together with two additional works – one featuring Boston’s Gamelan Galak Tika, the other teaming Kronos with Chicago’s eighth blackbird.

Perhaps such cut-and-paste assembly of the pieces was intended by Kotche as an observational detour so that the music could be appreciated on its own terms rather than as an assemblage of works featuring a variety of musical participants.

But then how would we explain the album-opening Anomaly, Mvt. 1, which takes Kronos out of the equation so electronics can voice the string and percussion parts? Then there is Dance, the finale movement of The Haunted (which, again, is served as the introductory section on Adventureland), which boasts sharp, clipped dialogue between pianists Lisa Kaplan and Yvonne Lam and the mallet-savvy percussion of Matthew Duvall and Doug Perkins. Kotche is listed as playing only “additional percussion,” yet The Haunted’s immensely animated tone is a signature mark of his compositions.

A similar giddiness pervades Gamelan’s gongs and Balinese percussion on the minimalistic The Traveling Turtle. But it’s on Anomaly, Mvt. 4 that Kotche’s instrumental voice is as prominent as his compositional profile. As the Kronos strings build from a playful pizzicato intro into more strident chamber passages, Kotche’s drumming enters and soon works into a rockish lather that wonderfully matches the drama of the strings before reaching a coda of meditative cool.

Don’t let the stylistic variety of the pieces and their shuffled sequencing become a bother. In Adventureland, it’s best to discard the road maps and enjoy the ride.

critic’s picks 329: billy hart quartet, ‘one is the other’ and tord gustavsen quartet, ‘extended circle’

billy hartThree decades and homelands half a world apart separate Billy Hart and Tord Gustavsen. But on two new albums for the ECM label, the two blur the cultural, geographical and even age differences between their visions of modern jazz.

Hart, 73, is a NewJersey/NewYork drummer with a dossier of collaborative credits that range from early fusion with Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock to magnificent post-bop with McCoy Tyner, Wayne Shorter and the all-star quartet Quest.

One is the Other  is the second ECM album (and his third overall recording) with a young, ultra tasteful group featuring pianist Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus, bassist Ben Street and the resourceful tenor saxophonist Mark Turner.

Hearing the band conjure the gliding melody of Teule’s Redemption from the light rumble of a Hart drum intro and some Coltrane-esque rhythmic assembly is indicative of One is the Other’s unhurried but persuasive music. The ways Turner and Iverson delicately compliment Hart’s brush strokes on a lovingly deconstructed Some Enchanted Evening also fit comfortably within the quartet’ s often impressionistic sound.

The album is perhaps not as atmospheric in texture as Hart’s sublime 2012 ECM debut, All Our Reasons. Still, it stands of an evocative American variation on the trusted subtleties, ambience and mystery that have defined much of the label’s non-classical output since the ‘70s.

tord gustavsenWhere Hart’s music reflects the traditions of multiple American jazz generations, Norwegian pianist Gustavsen, 43, embraces history on his sixth ECM album, Extended Circle. Though the recording relies heavily on spacious, slo-mo soundscapes composed by Gustavsen, there are also bits of group-designed improvs within two variations of Entrance, where the hushed tenor sax of Tore Brunborg sounds initially like a distant cry from the wilderness before serving as a subtle but impassioned conversationalist.

Providing balance to the record’s Nordic solemnity are the traditional Norwegian hymn Eg Veit I Himmerik Ei Borg (A Castle in Heaven), where Brunberg’s entrance over Gustavsen’s stately piano shuffle recalls fellow ECM saxophone stylist Jan Garbarek, and the lovely Gustavsen chorale piece Devotion, which is served as a warm, whispery jazz meditation.

Hart’s record possesses a sound as soulful as it is scholarly while the Gustavsen quartet embraces a sound altogether wondrous and wintry. Such is the global jazz terrain ECM presides over today. This is the music of two cultures that, when listened to side by side, sound downright neighborly.

in performance: pink martini and the von trapps

pink martini

thomas lauderdale and china forbes of pink martini.

If you thought squeezing the 15 cumulative members of Pink Martini and The von Trapps onstage at the Lyric Theatre for last night’s sold out WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour taping (along with multiple percussion kits and an upright piano) was a neat trick, imagine the task of sufficiently covering the full stylistic scope of this globetrotting crew within the span of a 60 minute program.

Not surprisingly, the collaborative teams splintered into several subgroups during the evening to cover as many bases as possible. Vocalist China Forbes started the party by leading Pink Martini through the brassy rhumba party piece Amado Mio that highlighted the groove of five percussionists and the effortless piano strolls of group founder Thomas Lauderdale that revealed a hearty classical bloodline.

Die Dorfmusik, on the other hand, whittled the onstage convention down to Lauderdale and Sofia, Melanie, Amanda and August von Trapp, the great grandchildren of the family immortalized in The Sound of Music. If that sounds like a gimmick, guess again. The quartet possessed remarkable clarity and precision in tone as well as a harmony. The resulting tune, heavy on polka-esque dance hall cheer, operated more like a vocal ballet. Similarly, Storm, a stunning original work by 19 year old August von Trapp, was essentially an acapella display (save for minimal percussion) with echoes of ancient choral singing, again with spotless tone and vocal phrasing.

From there, the show offered a brisk trip through Japan for Zundoko-Bushi that placed co-vocalist Timothy Nishimoto in front of an arrangement that referenced surf and soul grooves. Later, a fun mashup of Get Happy and Happy Days Are Here Again teamed Forbes and Nishimoto over a summery ensemble serenade while a likewise variation of Dream a Little Dream (sung with rich but understated poise by Amanda von Trapp) was bookended by quotes from Clair de Lune from Lauderdale.

Wrapping it all up were songs that could be viewed as signature piece for both groups. The von Trapps faced their collective past with the yodel-centric Lonely Goatherd from The Sound of Music before Forbes concluded the celebration with the carnival sunshine of Brazil.

There was a touch of irony to this global party, too. Though held on St. Patrick’s Day, Ireland wound up as one of the few locales it bypassed.

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