Friday November 18, 2005

Nervous City Orchestra

A funny exchange overheard at the show last night: “I wonder if they’re going to come out wearing matching outfits or anything.” “What, you mean like tuxedos?” “Yeah.” “Um, it’s not that kind of show.” “Yeah, but that’s what would make it cool – it would be the unexpected thing.” “I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be that kind of ‘unexpected.’”

You can imagine what kind of jerk that guy (the same guy writing this, by the way) felt like when the Nervous City Orchestra took the stage in only slightly mismatched tuxes. Sharp as they looked, though, the music was sharper. Anyone expecting a loose jam session was in for a surprise – this was music that, for all its spontaneous open-endedness, was decidedly composed. Often whimsical, it was deceptively lean – the musical ideas came one after another, each given just enough time to make itself felt. William Keddell was there, as was Jim DeFede (nodding approvingly from the front row). A little girl next to us danced for half the show, then settled into a nap for one of the quieter moments.

Let’s be clear – this was some weird stuff, with bizarre elements and unexpected juxtapositions at almost every turn. Yet it never lost its groove; it was like equal parts Maria Bauza and John Zorn. Yet it never became difficult. In a sense, it was perfectly balanced music, serving the body, the mind, and the soul in equal portions. Employing rhythms from all over the world (often at once), bizarre call-and-response (drum solo vs. flute?), and shifts in timbre and dynamics, and the occasional visual gag, it left no stones unturned.

Best of all, Nervous City is a pure Miami thing. The music was composed and directed by Brazilian composer Livio Tragtenberg (who also played some bass clarinet), but the orchestra was assembled from South Florida’s local musical community: 15 of our best musicians, representing all the different musical styles found in our community (some quite unexpected), including South American, Caribbean, folk, jazz, classical, and avant-garde. There were no solos per se, yet amazingly, every one of them got a chance to shine. Read all about them on the Tigertail page. If you’re like us, you’re going to spend the next few months trying to catch them with their own regular bands. In the meantime, though, if you care about creative music, don’t let yourself miss this performance.

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