Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Jazz Review

Low-Voltage Sarkis Plays Fusion Flamenco

November 24, 2000|DON HECKMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Diversity was on full display in the performance of Sarkis at Catalina Bar & Grill Wednesday night. The blend of a pair of Armenian guitarists playing nouveau flamenco music with a jazz saxophonist over rhythms that drifted through rumba, bossa nova, flamenco and jazz provided a colorful aural display of global music in action.

Sarkis is both the name of the group and its leader. A former featured soloist with the Armenian Philharmonic and an experienced flamenco artist, Sarkis was at the heart of the action, the central controlling force in the somewhat brief opening set of the evening. Seated in the center of a flamenco-style semicircle, surrounded by second guitarist Stephan Haptunyan, saxophonist-flutist Bruce Babad, bassist Stefano Valdo and percussionists Robert Fernandez and Patric Oliver Heitzenger, he directed the proceedings with quiet assurance. Occasionally starting a piece with a lyrical rubato passage, often signaling with a simple hand gesture, he moved the musical flow from original works such as "Sombra de la Luna" and "En Las Olas" to the classic bossa nova theme "Manha de Carnaval."

Despite his impressive skills, however, Sarkis' relatively passive onstage persona did not do much to energize either the music or the performance. Most of the ensemble sparks were struck during the organized passages in which percussion underscored the other instruments in brisk, explosive accents. And the solo excitement, aside from Sarkis' too-brief flamenco forays, were largely provided by the heated excursions of Babad and Valdo.

Babad was effective on soprano and alto saxophones as well as flute. His alto choruses on "Manha de Carnaval," for example, discovered some of the life and spirit of samba that lie within the song's subtext. And Valdo, playing a fretless bass, added a dark, vocalized undercurrent of sound that brought subversive delights to pieces that otherwise might have emerged as run-of-the-mill nouveau flamenco.

Sarkis is a group with considerable potential, especially in the dynamic presence of Babad and Valdo. But it needs a much higher-voltage contribution from its guitarists and percussionists if it is going to achieve its full musical promise.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|