Assad brothers charge up Brazilian faves
TROY Brazilian guitarists Sérgio and Odair Assad brought their intimate wizardry Wednesday night to the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall to open the Troy Chromatics Concerts series.
It was a marvelous evening of guitar playing. The brothers are so equal in technical mastery that they are able to match each other’s pace, inflection, nuance, sensibility and even the speed of their trills and other ornamentation. They even played off each other in hip jazz grooves or pushed and pulled at the syncopated rhythms that are the basis of Brazilian music with an effortless flair. Everything was tasteful and unforced.
Sérgio told the crowd they’ve played and toured together for many years and have also kept a prolific recording schedule. Among their many honors are at least two Grammy Awards. With so much familiarity, it was easy to see why they’re so comfortable with each other’s playing.
The first half began with a late baroque era duo from Ferando Sor that was charming, with fleet and pretty melodies that flowed along. Harmonies were full with an excursion into minor tonality. Sérgio, who also composes a great deal, took six selections from some harpsichord pieces Rameau wrote and arranged them for the duo.
There were some stately dances and some quickly moving sections that the Assads colored with dynamic shifts. The final “Le Rappel des oiseaux,” which had the brothers trading phrases, was especially entertaining.
Villa-Lobos’ “A lenda do Caboclo” was romantic with a catchy harmonic pattern and much atmosphere. His “Choros No. 5,” which Sérgio arranged from a piano piece, began with a romantic, sad melody and a florid accompaniment before it went into a driving, jazzy section before returning to the sad song. It was beautiful and evocative.
Egberto Gismonti’s “Palhaço” was sunny and pretty with flowing melodies and jazzy lines. Piazzolla’s “Zita” was a tango with all his trademark darkness, driving rhythms, hard accents and inner pain.
The second half was devoted to Brazilian composers, from Ernesto Nazareth’s pretty “Batuque” and Jacomino’s “Abyss of Roses,” a traditional tune that the Assads extended with jazz harmonies, to Pernambuco’s “Interrogando,” with its fast, repeated notes, speedy lines and darker harmonies.
The Assads included one of Luiz Bonfa’s tunes from his score for the film “Black Orpheus.” “Manha de Carnaval” had Odair playing the famous lilting melody supported by Sérgio’s ornately filigreed inner lines and harmonies. Anibal Sardinha was considered such a phenomenal player and composer of memorable hits that the Assads did a medley of three of them: “Lamentos do Morro,” “Jorge do Fusca” and “Gente Humilde.” Their harmonic progressions were so fluid and complex that these alone gave color to the pretty songs.
They weren’t done. Sérgio said his father wrote a tune, “Tahia Li Ossoulina,” which is Arabic for “Homage to our Ancestors.” The brothers then arranged it into a free-form, hard-edged, finger-twisting virtuoso piece that included fast strumming and knocking rhythmically on their guitars.
The crowd hooted, whistled and clapped loudly to bring the Assads back to play Antonio Lauro’s Valse No. 3, a traditional, fast, very busy number.