- String Quartet
Brooklyn Rider press reviews
Learning Musician Brooklyn Rider, Passport By Shulamit Kleinerman "From the ensemble's name, you'd never know they're a classical string quartet. It's all part of the boundary-defying venture of these four innovative young players, who in addition to maintaining a claim on the mainstream classical repertoire have worked together on cross-cultural, cross-genre projects such as Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble.
They're hip in a geeky Brooklyn way (suspenders, facial hair). They're passionate and knowledgeable about art: their ensemble's name makes reference to the Blue Rider group in expressionist painting nearly a century ago. They do shows in clubs, galleries, and the occasional Buddhist temple. Everyone but the cellist plays standing up, and when the music calls for it, they dig into their instruments with the exuberance of racehorses let out of the barn. The quartet's repertoire runs to new music with world-music flavors. Passport opens with an arrangement of five Armenian folk songs.
One is broad and muscular, Copland for the South Caucasus; another is an elusive old-world sing-song. The thirteen-minute album centerpiece, second violinist Colin Jacobsen's "Brooklesca," begins with one of the most exhilarating half-minutes of chamber music I've heard. A touch of percussion sharpens the groove that's already there. The highlight of Passport is its last two tracks, by composer and fellow adventurous string player Lev "Ljova" Zhurbin. On "Crosstown," the upper strings ride a slinky plucked cello ostinato into a landscape of almost embarrassingly rich harmonies, vista after vista unfolding. The string quartet is traveling well in the 21st century, and you don't even need a classical-music passport to rock out with this one."
The Big Takeover: Music With Heart Brooklyn Rider—Passport (In a Circle) By Jack Rabid After 20 soundalike indie rock bands (mediocre songwriting, too!), I popped this in and found myself menaced by an aggressive string quartet. Yipe! Now we're talking! This is not mainstream classical music or lite FM muzak. It's grabbing, cunningly confrontational chamber music like a horror movie tragedy score. Its tones evoke danger, pity, fear, and empathy, the violins, viola, and cello sharp as knives twisting and slithering like snakes, or plucking furtively like burglars sneaking past a sleeping dog. This natty Brooklyn quartet will soon tackle Phillip Glass... I liked this a lot, seeing movies in my head everywhere. NPR Invoking Improv: Best Classical CDs of 2008 By Fred Child December 9, 2008 A composer writes the notes; musicians play the notes.
That's the current arrangement in the world of classical music, but it wasn't always so. Bach, Beethoven and Mozart were great composers, but they were also master improvisers. For centuries, it was a given that if you played music well, you improvised well. Improvisation is now making a comeback in certain corners of the classical world. Some who play music from the 17th and 18th centuries have revived the tradition of improvising around what the composer wrote. And some young classical musicians who grew up with jazz, rock and world music feel as comfortable with improv as they do with interpretation. Here are some of the choice 2008 classical CDs that include improvisation — or at least invoke its sound. Artist: Brooklyn Rider Album: Passport A young string quartet from Brooklyn, all classically trained to within an inch of their lives, Brooklyn Rider also tours with Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road project, gathering influences and inspiration from around the world. This wildly eclectic CD reflects its members' omnivorous tastes: haunting Armenian laments, Osvaldo Golijov's arrangement of a lovely ballad by the Mexican art-rock band Cafe Tacuba, and the driving Gypsy-inflected improvisations of Colin Jacobsen's tour de force "Brooklesca." Brooklyn Rider is recreating the 300-year-old form of string quartet as a vital and creative 21st-century ensemble.
Read Article on NPR's Website Lucid Culture Brooklyn Rider—Passport November 4, 2008 Adventurous string quartet Brooklyn Rider have just released one of the year’s finest albums, Silent City (reviewed here recently), with brilliant Iranian composer/kamancheh (spike fiddle) player Kayhan Kalhor. In addition to that cd, this strikingly original, melodically rich and beautifully recorded collection showcases the group playing arrangements of dark Armenian folk songs as well as an original and two brief pieces by noted violist/composer Lev “Ljova” Zhurbin (also very recently reviewed here). It should resonate equally well with rock and world music audiences as well as classical fans: there’s literally something for everyone here. Read Full Article eMusic Brooklyn Rider—Passport By Justin Davidson Those of us who remember when portable music meant a shoulder-mounted boom box might also recall a time when the Kronos Quartet were the only string quartet to play music from territories west of Los Angeles, east of the Volga or south of the Mediterranean.
The machines have shrunk, but string quartets have expanded their territory. Today's young ensembles don't even need to plunge into global internationalism; they've grown out of it. The string quartet Brooklyn Rider came together for Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project, so its interests lie well beyond the borough. Its first recording was Silent City, a bewitching collaboration with the Persian fiddler Kayhan Kalhor. Passport, the group's almost contemporaneous second disc, is just as itinerant and equally seductive. It makes a fairly random assortment of cultural stops, from Yerevan to Mexico City to Forest Hills, Queens, all linked by a distinctive Brooklyn swing. The album opens with a suite of Armenian folk songs transcribed for string quartet by the priestly ethnomusicologist Komitas Vardapet and performed with muscular conviction and fragile wistfulness. It feels like a small hop to "La Muerte Chiquita," a ballad by the Mexican pop band Café Tacuba, which the composer Osvaldo Golijov has transformed through the application of perfumed lyricism and whispering harmonics. The players of Brooklyn Rider are also members of an elastic society of New York-based musicians who treat the world's musical traditions as if they were separated by little more than a couple of subway stops.
Another fellow traveler is Ljova, a violist and composer who specializes in what might be termed Eastern-European avant-folk and who wrote "Crosstown," a lovely nocturne with a plaintive sax-like solo above a bluesy plucked bass. But the disc's keystone work is the 14-minute "Brooklesca" by the group's violinist Colin Jacobsen. It has the feeling of a shape-shifting, key-switching, rhythm-bending jam session, shot through with Persian motifs and Gypsy bravura. The beat is rock & roll-solid, the improvisational style elastic and relaxed, and the inventiveness assured. Jacobsen and his quartet mates play it as if the music were in their blood stream, or at least in the atmosphere of their heterogeneous borough. Strings Magazine Spins of the Week By Greg Cahill August 14, 2008 Reminiscent of the more established but no less adventurous Turtle Island and Kronos quartets, Brooklyn Rider is a gifted string quartet that mixes the classics with the contemporary to create music that is emotionally exhilarating and intellectually stimulating.
The quartet—Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen, violins; Nicholas Cords, viola; Eric Jacobsen, cello—is capable of creating a lush reading of Debussy's String Quartet in G minor one moment and an electrifying chamber-jazz spin on rock en español experimentalists Café Tacuba the next. That latter tune, "La Muerte Chiquita," arranged by contemporary Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov, appears on Passport, one of the year's best chamber-music recordings. It is matched by five scintillating arrangements of Armenian folk songs, a pair of songs by the Russian violist and composer Lev "Ljova" Zhurbin, and a single original composition by Brooklyn Rider violinist Colin Jacobsen. This is some of the most vibrant music I've heard this year, of any genre, and it arrives from a group that's been waiting in the wings for a few years. The notion that Brooklyn Rider has arrived is supported by the simultaneous release of Silent City, their stunning collaboration with Kurdish-Iranian kamancheh, or spike-fiddle, master Kayhan Kalhor. The group's rich timbre and ability to handle the demands of Kahlor's portamento-laden Persian modes and shifting tempos makes this challenging music a real thrill ride. Obviously, the group's longtime association with Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble (they've participated in three Sony Classical recordings with that ensemble) has helped prepare the Brooklyn Rider for this stunning world-music summit meeting. Highly recommended.
Press for Silent City Pitchfork Review of Silent City By Joe Tangari January 23, 2009 Kayhan Kalhor is a Kurdish Iranian master of Persian music and one of the greatest living players of the kamancheh, a four-stringed, upright Persian fiddle that's tuned like a violin but has a darker tone; Brooklyn Rider is a young American string quartet in the tradition of the Kronos and Balanescu Quartets. Together, their repertoire is a mixture of classic string pieces, modern compositions, and originals composed by one of the group's violinists, Colin Jacobsen, and fleshed out by a talented bunch, equally comfortable improvising and playing complex arrangements as they are performing in concert halls and small rock clubs. Kalhor and Brooklyn Rider met as members of Yo-Yo Ma's ambitious Silk Road Ensemble, a project seeking to unite the vast range of musical traditions along the historic trade route in a way that preserves each one but casts it in the context of something broad and modern. They continue in that spirit on Silent City, finding common ground between Persian folk and modern minimalism. The album's two short pieces, "Ascending Bird" and "Parvaz", bridge those genres directly, the former by adapting a piece of folk music, and the latter by retelling the same legend with a new composition by Kalhor.
"Ascending Bird" balances slow and deliberate phrases from the quartet, with Kalhor's warm, searching kamancheh and frenzied santur (Persian hammer dulcimer) from guest Siamak Aghaei. Percussionist Mark Suter and double bassist Jeff Beecher are also on hand to widen the aural palette. Colin Jacobsen's "Beloved, Do Not Let Me Be Discouraged" fuses a passage inspired by the Central-Asian Romeo & Juliet story Layla & Majnun with a 14th-century Italian song, beginning with a long, solemn meditation on the latter before swelling and finally bursting into its rhythmic second half. Engineer Jody Elff has brilliantly captured the detail and dynamic depth of the group, and this is most apparent on the half-hour centerpiece, Kalhor's magnificent composition "Silent City".
It begins nearly inaudible, with a slow improvisation that gradually grows to a heaving, jaw-dropping climax around the 17-minute mark, only to break back down to an aching, kamancheh-led passage. Where the first climax comes with a sudden shift from dissonance to gorgeous consonance, the second is a cathartic, celebratory dance movement, with Suter returning to percussion. Silent City has something for nearly everyone—classical music fans will appreciate the fine quality of the playing, world music aficionados will enjoy the cross-cultural currents, and it's very easy to see kids reared on post-rock and miminalist electronic music feeling at home here (if you've ever liked anything released on Kranky, you're almost certain to enjoy this). Experimentalism is always more rewarding when it leads to resounding emotional depth, and this is as good an example as you'll find of a group of musicians achieving that ideal balance.
Gramophone From Brooklyn to Tehran By Anastacia Tsioulcas November 2008 A US-Iranian collaboration shows the musical riches that both cultures can share. It is an age of overheated political polemics zinging back and forth between the US and Iran. Relief comes, though, in the form of a new collaboration between Kayhan Kalhor, an avowed master of Persian music, and the young and adventurous string quartet known as Brooklyn Rider: violinist Colin Jacobsen and his cellist brother Eric, violinist Jonathan Gandelsman and viola-player Nicholas Cords. Perhaps the artistic distance is not too far to tread. Kalhor plays the upright four-stringed and bowed spiked fiddle called the kamancheh, an instrument with an extremely warm and nearly human voice. Its kinship with modern European string instruments, not to mention older ones like the rebec, is obvious.
But it tkaes gifted and committed collaborators to fully realise that relationship, and these musicians' superbly conceived, organically evolved, and wonderfully rich recent collaboration, an album for the Harmonia Mundi imprint World Village called "Silent City", is proof of both their personal dedication and artistic insights... Read Full Article (PDF: 900KB / 4 pages)