The Impromptu Concert organization offered its next-to-last concert of the season on Sunday at San Carlos with PROJECT Trio, a group consisting of the unlikely combination of cello, string bass, and flute. On flute, Greg Pattillo; on cello, Eric Stephenson; on bass, Peter Seymour. Programming of Impromptu concerts this season has been admirably inventive: this group took that tendency to an extreme, and quite successfully. One can get a good sense of the concert simply by noting some of the group’s choices of what to play– choices, incidentally, which were not listed on the program, and so were left up to whatever improvisational impulse might strike the three players at the last minute. And improvisational impulse seemed fundamental to their sense of themselves. They opened with a piece of their own which sounded very much like “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” both in the rhythm and the early parts of the melody. Their second number was constructed on a raga, the kind of scale which the music of India is based on, except that this raga was homegrown, of their own making. They then played a composition of Bach’s, a Bourree, which they announced as being in the style of Jethro Tull. They played a salsa number, and managed to develop a good rhythmic feel even though entirely without the complex percussion lines which makes that music work. They played Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” a jazz tune of which the unusual time signature (2-2-2-3) makes “Take Five” sound like a Sousa march. They offered their own version, played and narrated, of “Peter and the Wolf,” but set, of all places, in Brooklyn. Their choices brought to mind the high parodies of Victor Borge, or those of Peter Schickele with the music of P.D.Q Bach. But in those the parodied original is always close behind the parody: the point is the comic tension between the two. This group simply took off, leaving the original music—of Bach, Brubeck, Prokofiev, Rossini—far behind.

With that instrumentation, a group sound was out of the question. In terms of range, there’s a very long vertical distance between a bass and a flute, and a cello can’t really bridge that. One had the feeling that the members of the group chose one another not for musical reasons, like making beauty by blending the sounds of their instruments, but because they are friends and kindred spirits, sharing an irreverent enthusiasm and sometimes, just for the fun of it, an engaging goofiness.

There were a few aspects of their performance which didn’t really contribute to the presentation. Mr. Seymour had a habit of nodding his head vigorously on the beat to drive home every note he played on his bass, which seemed rather like a rock guitarist playing while jumping up and down. Early in the concert Mr. Pattillo played his flute while bent over at the waist, and his sound in that position had a lot of air in it, while later, when he adopted the approved posture, it was everything one could ask for from a flute. But these were minor faults. Essentially, the concert consisted of three excellent musicians having a very good time, and the audience, which gave them an enthusiastic standing ovation, seemed to love it.

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