IN: Reviews

TF3 Swells Rockport’s Sails, Spirits


The pleasantly low-key barn-like gallery of the Rockport Art Association, long-time temporary home of the Rockport Chamber Music Festival, became an unusually apt stage for the amiable antics and aw-shucks musicianship of Time For Three on June 18. The freewheeling multi-cultural repertoire of this spirited “classically trained garage-band” (dueling violins athwart string bass) reflected the myriad styles of painting that silently surrounded it and sent mixed messages to its near-full house: while it honored the wonted instrumentation familiar at Rockport (all strings), it also served as bellwether for winds of change at this venerable 28-year-old festival.

As of 2009, its name has been provocatively shortened to Rockport Music; next season, its venue moves two blocks to a sparkling new waterfront site. Architecturally impressive and sensitively designed, that new— finally permanent—home will permit Rockport Music to embark on longer, more adventuresome journeys, encompassing expansions in capacity (250 to 325), repertoire (casting a net to widened genres), season (into high-summer months) and refreshed audiences.

In a brief introduction, artistic director David Deveau wryly promised us “the ride of your life,” as these genre-defying youths were fast-track “travelers on the fly.”

TF3 lived up to that image: they ran onstage with their instruments and   unleashed a bevy of carefully rehearsed pieces. Graduates of Curtis Institute (class of 2001), TF3 exhibit purebred classic schooling and disciplined ensemble, while its repertoire is tail-wagging mongrel, rich in texture and quick-cut, memorized arrangements.

These were often well-crafted pastiches of American folk (“Amazing Grace”, “Turkey In The Straw”, “Old Gray Goose”) with Celtic reels; harmonics-laden pop chorales (Beatles’ “Blackbird” and Leonard Cohen’s theme for Shrek); western hoedowns, smooth jazz ostinati, and light touches of rock.

The gleeful threesome flitted about in varied musical personas, as well. Tall, slender blond Zach De Pue blithely reeled off glittering cadenzas and technical fireworks with debonair aplomb, while short, feisty Nick Kendall, with his spiky modified Mohawk, sawed away at gritty folk themes and country swing licks. Bassist Ranaan Meyer played the role of leader, composer, and self-important spokesman, as the fiddlers poked fun at him from both sides. Forays into light classics were equally successful, with Bach’s theme from Two-Violin Concerto sporting a raggy gloss (De Pue’s Stephane Grappelly dueling Kendall’s Yehudi Menuhin), gypsy dash applied to Vittorio Monti’s “Czardas” and a double-dollop of schmaltz to Brahms’ Hungarian Rhapsody No. 5.

Giddy patter and self-deprecatory jokes leavened the pleasant evening and further ingratiated a mixed audience of strait-laced classical listeners and impressionable ingénue teenagers.

Rockport Music’s season-closer on July 1 will present another string-oriented ‘cross-over’ act: Esperanza Spalding plays extraordinarily deft acoustic bass, writes jazz/pop songs of charm and merit, and sings them in an unaffected, refreshingly nuanced voice.

Fred Bouchard writes about music for Downbeat Magazine and All About Jazz, and about wine for Beverage Business; he lectures on jazz at Boston University and teaches music journalism and literature at Berklee College of Music.

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