Assessment: The Fusion Chamber Ensemble impresses with live performance at Emory

The Fusion Chamber Ensemble continues to work wonders with its distinctive format even because the spoils of notoriety stay elusive. Their Sunday efficiency on the Emory Performing Arts Studio noticed the ensemble ship its signature mix of jazz and classical music to an viewers of simply over a dozen. 

It’s a acquainted drum beat identified all too properly to untold legions of musicians and music lovers: the progressive and the sensible pressured to languish in obscurity.

An ongoing collaboration between the Gerald Freeman Jazz Ensemble and the Aida Chamber Ensemble, Fusion’s bigger purpose of mixing the customarily disparate worlds of jazz and classical is a noble and progressive one, although plainly their format limits the total exploration of their idea. 

A typical Fusion live performance begins with the respective ensembles taking turns performing works historically related to their respective genres earlier than finally coming collectively to carry out hybridized reimaginings of acquainted works. 

It’s a daring and defiant method and one which shakes up the normal chamber format however now in my third publicity to Fusion I couldn’t assist however marvel if the opening back-and-forth between jazz and classical was solely serving to forestall the venture’s general purpose of stylistic integration.

The Aida Chamber Ensemble element opened with a stirring efficiency of the third motion from American 4 Seasons, Philip Glass’ second violin concerto. Whereas Glass by no means specified which season is represented in every of the actions it’s generally accepted that the third section corresponds to autumn, the third season of the yr. It made for a solemn and brooding introduction to a program devoted completely to varied reflections on the autumnal months but in addition served to re-establish the Aida as a classical ensemble with a fixation on the fashionable and avant-garde.

Later items from the ensemble included the nice addition of Max Richter’s “November.” I’ve all the time regarded Richter because the extra palatable model of Glass’ arpeggios-ad-infinitum model. He lacks the brazen, punkish perspective of defiance that’s obvious in a lot of Glass’ work and as a substitute focuses on creating a relaxing, contemplative ambiance. “November” sat properly among the many afternoon’s hypnotic alternatives. An analogous ambiance emerged within the efficiency of Herman Beeftink’s “Autumn,” a duet between flute and piano. Fusion flutist Aleksandra Tevdoska is all the time a pleasure to listen to together with her tone that leaps playfully to the upper register of her instrument with out ever turning into piercing or upsetting.

The Gerald Freeman Jazz Ensemble appeared reluctant to embrace the avant-garde at first and, as a substitute, opened with conventional jazz within the type of Henry Nemo’s “‘Tis Autumn” adopted up by Harry Warren’s “September within the Rain.” Each works showcased the intimidating technical acumen of Freeman on the piano, albeit on the threat of jarring the meditative temper established by the Fusion’s classical department. Nobody can accuse Freeman of being reserved in his solos and inside that dazzling fury is a transparent respect for the foundations laid down by Scott Joplin and Jellyroll Morton. However within the expanse of the afternoon’s aura it appeared notably out of step.

The jazz facet of Fusion didn’t really start to shine till it merged with the classical for an interesting efficiency of Earth Wind and Hearth’s “September.” It’s in such daring mixtures that the Fusion Ensemble soars and this explicit association felt like listening to Artwork Blakey’s Jazz Messengers underscore the pop classical stylings of the Vitamin String Quartet. 

That sudden awakening of curiosity in what had been a heretofore disjointed afternoon made me conscious that the strongest and most urgent criticism to be levied on the Fusion Chamber Ensemble is the way by which it refrains from embracing its fullest potential save for a number of choose numbers.

The potential was once more realized in performances of the “Autumn” section of Antonio Vivaldi’s The 4 Seasons, Fusion founder Karin R. Banks’ personal “Valse Romantique” and “Autumn Sketch,” and on the finale, a reimagining of the jazz normal “Autumn Leaves.”

These performances could have identified the flaw within the Fusion Chamber Ensemble’s option to have Aida and Freeman’s jazz group commerce off for many of their live shows somewhat than merge right into a single, solidified unit. Embracing their fusion is likely to be the daring and fascinating selection and will give them the clout they should obtain better notoriety in Atlanta’s crowded music scene.


Jordan Owen started writing about music professionally on the age of 16 in Oxford, Mississippi. A 2006 graduate of the Berklee Faculty of Music, he’s an expert guitarist, bandleader and composer. He’s at present the lead guitarist for the jazz group Different Strangers, the facility metallic band Axis of Empires and the melodic dying/thrash metallic band Century Spawn.