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Jazz Reviews : Story And De Grassi At The Beverly Theater

May 04, 1987|DON HECKMAN

Liz Story and Alex de Grassi, two of the most notable es capees from the Windham Hill New Age stable, arrived at the Beverly Theater Friday night for their first local concert since the release of their new albums on RCA/Novus.

Guitarist De Grassi's addition of keyboards and drums to his more familiar duo with bassist Mark Egan produced louder music, but the energy level continued passive. Occasional provocative moments in pieces like "Altiplano" and, especially, "Digital Interlude" were offset by too many long stretches in which circular harmonies wound around in endless ennui.

Story's short solo piano set, which was dominated by pieces from her new RCA/Novus album, was quite different. Most of her compositions were evocative of their titles: "Toy Soldiers" suspended brass-like themes over a drum pulse base; "Duende" surged with Flamenco strums and bravura rhythms; "Myth America" provided sardonic variations on the original patriotic melody; and "Reconciliation" sang with a few rare moments of musical consonance.

A classically trained and oriented player, Story approaches her instrument with a finger-flying technique and an unrelentingly percussive touch. On pieces like "Teased Hair" and "Things With Wings"--which demanded speed above all--her intense articulation and metronome-perfect rhythms were very impressive, indeed.

More often, one sensed a feeling of restriction--of a richer tapestry of emotions captured within the rigid design of her piano style. Story has the potential to become a genuinely innovative performer, one who can bring real life and meaning to the now nearly-forgotten concept of Third Stream--the creative blending of the principles of popular and classical musics.

But in order to do so, Story will first have to open up the cage bars of her piano, and let the music soar free.

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