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MUSIC REVIEWS : Adventuresome Kronos Quartet at UCLA

November 02, 1987|JOHN HENKEN

Halloween is not a big date on most music calendars. Trust the wonderfully uninhibited, always adventuresome Kronos Quartet, however, to recognize and capitalize on the day's liberating, anything-goes aspect.

Saturday evening, the San Francisco-based new-music ensemble began its local season with a long program in Schoenberg Hall, UCLA.

There seemed to be a greater emphasis on smaller, pop-oriented numbers than on other Kronos programs, in part because Cecil Taylor's scheduled "Corona" has not been completed. Kronos played what there is of it now--a brave, distinctive beginning, but no more.

Filling the void were arrangements from the "Strangers in Paradise" sound track and "Four for Tango" by Piazzolla, promoted, it would seem, from the encore repertory. Kronos delivered them with its wonted panache.

Equally persuasive playing and greater musical substance was heard in a jazz set: "Waltz for Debby" and "Very Early" by Bill Evans, and Miles Davis' "Nardis," all as arranged by Tom Darter. Noted jazz bassist Eddie Gomez joined the ensemble in tight, warm, generously spirited readings.

The impact of the set, however, was compromised by structural repetition and predictability. Each piece began with a straightforward playing of the tune, followed by a bass solo accompanied most unidiomatically, closing with more freewheeling variations invariably relying on Grappelli-esque fiddle work.

Gomez stayed with Kronos for Motohiko Adachi's four movement Concertante, a strong though obsessive, coloristic work heard in its local premiere. Again the performance proved taut and well-directed, with Gomez showing in the finale that he can bow with the best, as well as pluck out those carefully pointed walking--and running--basses.

Chinese composer Ge Gan-Ru's three movement "Dao" and Estonian Arvo Part's "Fratres" also received their first local performances. The former is an atmospheric set of timbrel explorations, while the latter is a melancholic, over-long instrumental motet with drone.

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