in performance: xiomara and axel laugart

Xiomara Laugart.

Near the end of “Añorado Encuentro,” a 10-minute summit of elegiac strings and vocal finesse, Xiomara Laugart let loose with a smile. A huge one, in fact – the kind that registers the joy and victory that only comes from a level of mischievous adventure.

For the vocalist and her pianist/son Axel Laugart, that meant not only taking her singing outside of her native Cuba but also out of the New York clubs that have long become her adopted performance home and setting up shop in the unlikely but very complimentary Lexington environment of Tee Dee’s Bluegrass Progressive Club

At the first of two sold-out performances there last night, which served as the second season opener of the Origins Jazz Series as well as the latest cultural sponsorship of the Green Room Exchange, the concert also strayed from the usual musical tapestry Laugart performs in. Distinguishing these shows were the string arrangements of Jonathan Ragonese. That meant deemphasizing the strong percussive undercurrent of Laugart’s music in favor of tasteful orchestration that highlighted the hushed luster of her singing.

Laugart and Ragonese have worked with these arrangements before in New York, but they are hardly common components of her repertoire, which might explain the obvious joy Laugart registered from the stage, whether it was from the way the strings blossomed half-way through “Por Ti” or how they accented Laughart’s vocal sway during “No Tengo Nada.”

Ultimately, though, the real magic was a result of how the strings mingled with everything – and, more importantly, everyone – else onstage. Aside from mother and son Laugart and Ragonese (who served as onstage conductor and, briefly, saxophonist), the string sextet and jazz combo at work last night were made up of Lexington artists, all of which played with a level of taste and buoyancy that matched the drive established by the out-of-towners.

Of particular note were alto saxophonist Jonathan Barrett, drummer/percussionist Tripp Bratton and bassist Danny Cecil, all of whom bolstered the show’s unimposing rhythms while doubling as creative soloists that balanced the orchestration. All of their work converged beautifully during “No Creo,” the evening’s most radiant blend of vocal grace and instrumental ingenuity.

A footnote: in a pre-show speech, the Origins Jazz Series dropped a huge addition to its already massive season. The Bad Plus has been confirmed for a Dec. 8 concert at the Lexington Children’s Theatre on Short St.



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