is even greater than its parts

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Reviews - ZUM Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter, Feb. 27 — James M. Keller

The world has got­ten so small that ZUM, a quirky quin­tet based in Lon­don, can reach around the sphere in the space of a sin­gle piece. The group’s pro­gram at the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter was smartly con­structed and thor­oughly en­ter­tain­ing, never in the least di­dac­tic or pre­ten­tious. Gypsy fid­dling and Ar­gen­tine “new tango” in­form much of the group’s mu­sic— the name “ZUM” is bor­rowed from the ti­tle of a tune by As­tor Pi­az­zolla— and a few of the num­bers per­formed by the en­sem­ble were rel­a­tively pure ren­der­ings of ex­ist­ing com­po­si­tions, in­clud­ing a splen­did go at Pi­az­zolla’s “Concierto Para Quin­teto.” More of­ten, though, th­ese styles serve as points of de­par­ture for en­tirely orig­i­nal com­po­si­tions. The group’s ar­range­ment of “La Cumpar­sita,” the grand clas­sic of tan­gos, opens with a sym­phony of creaks, groans, and barn­yard grunts be­fore fi­nally yield­ing (for a while) to a lyri­cal ac­cor­dion solo, and then to ut­ter sonic hys­te­ria. In an­other num­ber, we imag­ine Jo­hannes Brahms, with the score of a Hun­gar­ian dance tucked in his pocket, drop­ping in at a bar mitz­vah and who knows where else be­fore run­ning out of gas late at night at a West Texas road­house, where a coun­try-west­ern lament hangs list­lessly in the air. The play­ers are con­sum­mate mu­si­cians of im­pres­sive breadth, some of whom en­joy par­al­lel ca­reers as clas­si­cal soloists and cham­ber mu­si­cians. All de­serve in­di­vid­ual shout-outs: vi­o­lin­ist Adam Sum­mer­hayes (who com­posed sev­eral of the group’s num­bers), pi­anist David Gor­don (flu­ent mas­ter of many styles), cel­list Chris Grist (who dou­bled as the amus­ing mas­ter of cer­e­monies), but­ton ac­cor­dion­ist Ed­die Hes­sian (joined at the hip to tango), and big-per­son­al­ity dou­ble bassist Malcolm Creese (fill­ing in for this tour only, as the bass po­si­tion is cur­rently in flux).

ZUM has been on a tear in the record­ing stu­dio. Its brand­new CD, Zum­mism, fur­nished many of the eclec­tic num­bers that fig­ured in its Santa Fe con­cert: “Rooftop High­way,” the group’s pro­gram opener, which ranges from cool jazz to siz­zling blue­grass; “La Cumpar­sita”; “Blue Dream,” a ten­der fan­tasy on a Fin­nish lul­laby; “Balkan Tril­ogy,” bristling with ir­reg­u­lar but cap­ti­vat­ing me­ters; an “English Tango,” part Ar­gen­tine, part Ja­panese, and part Vaugh­anWil­liams. An all-Pi­az­zolla disc fol­lows later this month, and ad­vance sam­ples sug­gest that afi­ciona­dos of new tango will find it stim­u­lat­ing if un­ortho­dox. If you get just one CD, I’d rec­om­mend Zum­mism for its un­bri­dled di­ver­sity and mad­cap gai­ety. “Mu­sic thieved from the four cor­ners of the earth, and played in in­ap­pro­pri­ate styles,” pro­claims the CD cover. Maybe, but “in­ap­pro­pri­ate” can be oh so fun. If you have trou­ble lo­cat­ing th­ese re­leases through your usual sources, you can ac­quire them di­rectly through ZUM’sWeb site: zum.org.uk.

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