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12/30/2016
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Maureen Choi Quartet: Ida Y Vuelta

The phrase, Ida Y Vuelta, literally translates into roundtrip, as in a journey, going somewhere and returning back to point of origin. For violin virtuoso Maureen Choi, her sojourn to Spain in 2012 has turned into an extended residency, as an educator, and applying her musical prowess to expand upon the influence of Spanish music from the Iberian Peninsula to the Caribbean and into South America. Working within the quartet format, she delves into established folkloric currents with inventive compositions while augmenting interpretations of standards with sophisticated improvisations and novel arrangements.

Flamenco is the enduring attraction, and the style that arguably represents Spain in musical terms. So it is no surprise that Choi penned the title track to express the passion and panache that is flamenco. Pianist Daniel Garcia Diego, is innately accomplished in this genre, and his grasp of its dramatic tempos is on full display as he interacts with Choi in flamboyant exchanges. The emotion is tempered on "Vals O Vienes," a sensuous waltz that explores the root of the Spanish danza, in all its ancestral elegance.

The accented clave establishes the rhythm of "Valentia," featuring Cuban pianist Pepe Rivero, who is well versed in his native music, as is drummer Michael Olivera, also from Cuba, a leader of his own band, and a fixture on the burgeoning Spanish jazz scene. Rivero also plays on "Dama De Noche," an intoxicating cha-cha- chá that has Choi melodically dancing on her violin. He returns with a defining piano montuno on the classic "Bilongo," a textbook example of the Cuban largo structure depicting percussive excitement, where Choi again relishes the chance to engage in tropical dance rhythms.

The bolero is the romantic shade of Spanish music, and on "Bolero Del Alba," Choi captures the forgiving, yet restless, spirit required. A trace of flamenco is added to the tango "Elizabeth," as two worlds collide on the dance floor. "Alfonsina Y El Mar," is performed around the Argentine zamba configuration, Choi joined on this track solely by bassist Javier Colina who provides exemplary accompaniment. The principal bassist in the quartet, Mario Carillo, is a native Madrileño, and he shows his dexterity and command on "Negra Presuntuosa," an expressive and elaborate interpretation of the Afro-Peruvian landó rhythm with a modern twist.

Choi reveals her classical roots with "Capriccio Espagnol," composed by illustrious Russian orchestration master Rimsky-Korsakov. This is a complex piece that permits the quartet to rise to the occasion, playing with compulsory intricacy, while allowing for the natural Spanish intent and direction to shine through. "Gracias A La Vida," penned by Chilean Violeta Parra, is rightfully associated with Mercedes Sosa, who made this song her signature tune, and took it around the world. Choi and group close the repertoire with their own profound take on this lamenting farewell, in gratitude to the gifts and wonders bestowed in a life well lived.

Maureen Choi is one of those rare talents that can navigate in a number of musical styles from classical to jazz and everything in between. She landed in Spain at the right space in time when the creative forces are flowing, and let the currents carry her along. She not only is technically proficient on her instrument, but has the uncanny ability to capture the cultural emotions of a music so established and revered as that of Spain. Ida Y Vuelta is a conceptual record, a journey bursting with Spanish inspirations and their far reaching variations; presented with a cerebral attitude by musicians who embrace the possibilities of adventure on a grand scale.