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Saturday, September 21, 2013

MUSICAL DIVERSITY FRONT AND CENTER AT BCCM ALUMNI RECITAL

Clockwise from top: Arf, Down 4 The Count, Karl?, Love4Chello
If there was one thing that could be taken away from last Sunday’s Alumni Recital at the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music is that BCCM and its students cannot and will not be pigeonholed or singly defined as a type. The key words on this on this afternoon were MUSICAL DIVERSITY. On a nearly perfect afternoon at the Daniel Recital Hall on campus, six acts featuring alumni and a few current students strutted their stuff in an electric and eclectic two-hour show.

Indie-rock band Squarefish featuring singer-songwriter-guitarist Maggie Boles kicked off the recital nicely thanks in large part to the able backing of Mike Amico (bass and backup vocals), Lauren Pennington (keyboards) and Anthony Vezirian (drums). The band has an edge, but is not overpowering therefore providing an intimate relationship with the audience. Each musician blends with the other and no one gets overshadowed. Vezirian is a solid and consistent drummer that gives Squarefish a good foundation. Pennington quietly does her thing on the keyboards, providing the band with a sound that is larger than the sum of their four components. Amico is a fine bassist who does that tricky thing of playing bass and providing backup vocals. Every band member got a chance to shine and no one was overshadowed. Nevertheless, the center of attention is Boles, whose vocal style is a cross between Nelly Furtado and Joni Mitchell. This is a very good band. Check them out at www.squarefish.com or at ReverbNation.com. I especially like the songs True Romance and Plan B.

Next to the stage was Love4Cello. Seeing this quartet come on stage and setup their cellos, you would have assumed there would be a little Bach, maybe some Mozart. And, there was. But after opening their set with a beautiful classical piece, the group showed its amazing versatility when as the broke into Coldplay’s Clocks. They continued with the Beatles classics Hey Jude and Let it Be and then closed with a rousing rendition of Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance. Love4Cello showed remarkable musicianship, combining their big, lush sound with the terrific execution of their snappy arrangements. I can see this group performing at weddings or at the Hollywood Bowl. Yes, they are that versatile and yes, they are that good. Love4Cello is Lucia Cahuantzi, Chris McCarthy, Claire Mehm and Ben Coyte. Their website is www.love4cello.com

Long before a cappella became cool (BPP – Before Pitch Perfect), Down 4 The Count was wowing audiences with their smooth and jazzy vocal stylings. And like fine wine, this amazing quintet gets better with age (and that is not to say that they are old. They’ve just been doing their thing for years). Colleen Keene, Penny Watson, Christine Tavares, Jason Lingle and new bassist Gregg Haueter sound better than ever. Their set on Sunday included a swinging arrangement of Don’t Get Around Much Anymore with Tavares providing the lead vocal; the Colleen Keene original Perfect Crime and the hilarious and wonderful Can’t Get Abducted, E.T. Don’t Dig Me Blues featuring Haueter on solo. Watson’s alto and Keene’s soprano blend beautifully with Tavares’ mezzo and are supported by Haueter’s solid bass. Lingle is a superb vocal percussionist and a steady timekeeper. As good as they are as individuals, they are terrific as a group, crescendoing and decrescendoing as one (and I don’t even think those are real words much less proper English, but you get my drift). I love this group and you will too. www.down4thecount.com

Karl? Is a group that defies categorization. But there are three adjectives that I can use to describe this wonderful band. Hard-driving. Explosive. And sickly talented. Even their warm-up tune sounded cool. Consisting of singer-violinist Rebecca Lynn, lead guitarist Daniel Chavez, percussionist-vocalist Alex Mastrovito, drummer Michael Malinowski and bassist Nick Gonzalez, Karl? ripped through their four-song performance that showed aspects of many artists and genres, but sounded completely original. Karl? is probably one of those bands that lose about ten pounds per performance as they put so much energy into it. The vocal back and forth between Lynn and Mastrovito was not only a joy to listen to but a thrill to watch as they seemed to drive each other to new heights. Though the sound is hard, they never lose their musicality. Chavez lead guitar is powerful. Gonzalez keeps the bottom strong with his smooth bass line. Malinowski fine drum work is a perfect complement to Mastrovito on percussion. And then there is Lynn, whose violin work and singing are only surpassed by her wonderful stage presence. I don’t know the names of the songs they played Sunday, but check them out on SoundCloud and Facebook. Listen to the contrast between Grand Old Party and Where I Must Be.

While Karl? can be considered original, Arf featuring Genevieve Artadi can be called innovative. Singer-songwriter Artadi composes original music for Arf among her other projects (most notably with Knower and her collaboration with Louis Cole). I first saw Arf at this year’s Harmony Sweepstakes and it was great to see them perform again. Joined by some fabulous musicians in Alexandra Domingo, Jessica Freedman, Katherine Hoye, Andrea Calderwood and Sean Fitzpatrick, Arf began their set with the electronic sounds of Cupcake5. They then left the electronics behind to sing the beautiful and mesmerizing From 2 Sides (this won Best Original Song at the Harmony Sweeps this year) I think From 2 Sides is one of the coolest a cappella vocals that I have ever heard and Arf performs it so well with Genevieve on lead vocals and Sean providing excellent vocal percussion. Just about as brilliant was their next tune, the incredible Screen Images. There are no words to this composition. Arf does the entire song by humming. I cannot explain it. You just have to hear it. It is simply remarkable. They finished up with hyper-techno You Know A Place Where I Won’t Feel Dead. Check out their Facebook page. They will be playing The Elastic Hour at Curve Line Space on October 24th.
Honey Whiskey Trio closing out BCCM Alumni Recital

Closing the show was Honey Whiskey Trio. After a whirlwind year that saw them win first place and audience favorite at the Harmony Sweepstakes Nationals, HWT returned home to Cal State Long Beach for their first performance at their alma mater. Strutting onstage in their trademark boots, Courtney Gasque, Ann Louise Thaiss and Christina Wilson opened with their arrangement of Bob Dylan’s He’s Been On The Job Too Long. They continued with one of their sweetest songs to date – Courtney’s original composition If You’ll Be The One For Me, with Ann Louise on guitar and Courtney on mandolin. But it was the vocals that made this song stand out, three-part harmonies that are reminiscent of The Wailing Jennys. The toe-tapping Long Hot Summer Day was next, with all of the girls getting a chance to solo. I felt like the audience was ready to clap along with this song, but this crowd made up of mostly students did not want to detract from the performance. So they listened and enjoyed. The trio closed with one of the signature songs, Freight Train Blues. Not only do they sing this song well, but they perform it with so much style and panache that you can’t help but love it. www.honeywhiskeytrio.com

Honey Whiskey Trio encouraged students to seek out others, develop friendships and begin collaborations. All of the acts began at BCCM. There was something for everyone at this alumni recital. Indie-rock, classical, jazz, alternative, techno and folk. And to think, all of this incredible talent began and was cultivated at the music department of California State University Long Beach. Now more music and more talent is being cultivated at what is now known world-wide as the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music.