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Music Review : Assads Display Their Guitar Virtuosity


It should be enough, you'd think, that the Brazilian Assad family would have produced two prodigious musical brothers. Odair and Sergio, who performed at the Ambassador on Thursday, are dazzling guitarists, together and apart.

But there's yet another guitar-wielding Assad, sister Badi. Her surprise appearance, playing a couple of Brazilian-jazz pieces on the program, both broadened the musical palette and tipped the balance away from classical repertoire. Unfortunately, the change necessitated the sacrifice of Bach's French Suite and one movement of Argentine master Alberto Ginastera's Sonata No. 1.

Bach might have given the program a structural pillar, but the infectious spirit of the evening was hard to argue with. The Assad brothers possess an uncanny sense of cohesion and a technical command, performing guitar music for four hands with an almost unearthly ease and profound musicality.

This was particularly evident when they tackled Latin music, whether Isaac Albeniz's extravagant "Cordoba" or the Ginastera's passion-laced modernism.

Sergio Assad's own "Saga does migrantes" takes a poignant, programmatic tack, tracing the saga of a rural Brazilian migrant's sojourn to the city. Delineations between serious and vernacular touches of jazz and folk music are not so much stitched together as they are melted into an organic whole.

Jorge Morel's duo-specific "Rhapsody for Two Brothers" is a subtly propulsive piece, full of cascading triplets and delicately honed dynamics.

Freshest of all was Roland Dyens' "Cote Nord," in its Los Angeles premiere, which gamely juxtaposes serial techniques with almost wistful themes. Here, the brothers swapped venturesome guitaristic effects--harmonics, percussive touches--like furtive secrets, leading up to an athletic, dexterous finale.

For an encore, the three Assads took the stage to perform a piece by Sergio, with Badi trading her guitar for the berimbau , a one-stringed, two-note percussion instrument from Brazil. In all, the family business left a strong impression.

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