Assad brothers virtuoso guitar concert a unique experience.
By Sue Langenberg
–The Rockford Coronado Concert Association invited “Sergio & Odair Assad & Friends” to perform Friday evening for its last event of this season.
–The house was nearly full as two guitarists, two vocalists and a percussionist presented a most unique and stirring concert, “De Volta as Raizes,” or “Back to Our Roots.” The program took acoustic guitars far beyond ordinary strums to explore how versatile a few strings can be. Technically, the program might have been summed up in one word; virtuosity.
–The Assad brothers are world class musicians that earned them Grammy Awards and performances with the likes of Yo-Yo Ma and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. They began their journey young in Brazil and studied with Monina Tavora, a disciple of classical artist Andres Segovia. In Friday’s performance, fingers flew, voices jazzed and rhythms emanated with the help of singer/pianist Clarice Assad, singer Christiane Karam and percussionist Jamey Haddad.
–It was the “Roots” part of the program beyond virtuosity that was most intriguing. Farther up in the Brazilian family tree, their immigrant Lebanese grandfather became ill on the boat and got off at Brazil, a happenstance of the 19th century. Fifteen children later, and only one planted the stray musical seed to foster this most famous Brazilian family of artists.
–This program sought the Middle Eastern musical roots and blended with Brazilian regional music, normally a European/African melting pot of rhythms. The musical crosswinds were melodic, emotional and most engaging.
–Thus there were no regular program headliners like Bach or Beethoven in ordinary musical fare, but rather Gismonti, Jobim and C. Guerra-Peixe among others as well as the Assad brothers themselves and composer/vocalist daughter of Odair, Clarice. The keyboard influences, however, are heavily drawn from the Baroque era of Bach, Rameau and Scarlatti in a unique blend of style, folk and jazz.
–Clarice Assad was indeed a most accomplished pianist and vocalist with music degree from Chicago College of the Performing Arts and Masters degree in composition from esteemed University of Michigan. Her “Quebra Queixo” piece was pleasantly frenzied with much syncopation to stir the soul. Her vocals were equally sentimental and especially articulate in jazzy “Baiao de 5.”
–Classical piece “Mourao” was a rambling interplay of piano, two guitars and percussion with the additional rhythms and moods of Jamey Haddad. Considered one of the top four percussionists worldwide, Haddad was yet visually interesting to see his large array of instruments, some of which he has fashioned himself. Some of his percussive passages drew extra applause.
–Vocalist/composer Christiane Karam is a Lebanese transplant to Boston’s Berklee College of Music and New England Conservatory of Music. Her emotional style pulled focus in her journey through each song, especially during a brief interlude with Clarice in “Dunya Bir Dolap.”