The members of the Sephardic quartet Brio have come together once again to craft a magical collection of reinvented and refreshed ancient folk music in Sol y Luna, the lastest release from Dorian Sono Luminus.
Brio’s performance of Sephardic music is a convergence of elements: its instruments as well as the musical personalities and backgrounds of its performers. There is the Latin spirit of José Lemos, who grew up in Brazil and Uruguay, and whose native languages parallel the Sephardic Ladino, a variant of Spanish. José sings out like a bird whose song issues forth spontaneously. Danny Mallon, percussion meister, who is equally at home with jazz, pop, and classical music, is a one-man band playing the doumbek, an ancient Middle Eastern ceramic hour-glass shaped drum, the Brazilian caxixi (a basket with seeds), castanets, wood block, frame drum, and Egyptian riq. Steve Rosenberg, musical polymath, plays winds and guitars, a magic box of musical wonders. He also brings cohesion and forward motion to the pieces, with an almost vaudevillian instinct for reaching audiences, and an unerring sense of Affekt.
Mary Anne Ballard, the bass line player, brings knowledge of music history and of the parallels between written music of earlier periods and the heritage of oral tradition, along with her years of experience in creating programs, and with childhood memories of Appalachian folk singing, another oral tradition. With her viola da gamba, she grounds the music by improvising plucked, strummed or bowed underpinning for the guitar’s higher-pitched accompaniments.
Moods of sun and moon (Sol Y Luna) hold sway in equal measure in this collection, part bathed in sunlight, part in the mysterious chiaroscuro of the moon. Dark and light emotional tones add poetic spark. There are lyrical words of love and soulful songs of melancholy. In the hands of Brio, the music is vivacious, even in its more plaintive iterations. The melodies speak to the joy of life and song, combining a powerful musical tradition with fresh interpretation.