Nuevo Chamber music by The Musical Art Quintet
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The Musical Art Quintet
Nuevo Chamber
Classical Revolution Records (

Think of the term “jam session” and you’re not likely to get a mental picture of a classical quintet elegantly sawing away on violins, viola and cello. Still, that’s the very sort of situation - music performed largely off the cuff in front of café audiences in San Francisco - that gave birth to The Musical Art Quintet. As the story goes, there was a similarly-named ensemble back in the 1940s, The Musical Art Quartet, who themselves were named for the New York School of Art (later Julliard) and were under the leadership of one Sascha Jacobsen, great grandfather of the Sascha Jacobsen who heads up today’s Musical Art Quintet.

The Musical Art Quintet is by no means a typical classical chamber ensemble. For one thing, they include electronics, percussion, keyboards and guitar along with their bowed string instruments. For another, their pieces are as much about Latin, African and jazz stylings as anything baroque. One is even a tribute to Fela Kuti. Most of the compositions being Jacobsen originals, he sees to it that the Latin flavors have the necessary amount of Sascha-cha-cha, that the classical and global elements are always in service of each other and that the strings, for all their finesse, do have the means to, well, jam. Not that they don’t provide grace and beauty- the lilt they bring to “Life is Beautiful” (the only sung vocal selection) and the waltzing “Ultimo Amor” is enough to make Beethoven not roll over, and when you get down to it, Nuevo Chamber (the album title as well as the band’s name for their niche genre) feels more like an experiment in classical music than world music. But the margin between the two is often seamless enough that aficionados in both camps and more beside will embrace these lovely creations of melody and rhythm. - Tom Orr

Listen to a live performance of Ray Barretto's "Algo Nuevo "

The ensemble's web site has audio samples from the CD

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