That hot trio, Time for Three, closed the Saratoga Chamber Music Festival Sunday afternoon with a rip-roaring, foot-tapping, 90-minute concert that was as varied and versatile as the players themselves.
Violinists Zachary De Pue and Nick Kendall and double bassist Ranaan Meyer were once students at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia when they discovered a common interest in improvisation. Eight years ago, they formed their trio with the intent to write originals and arrange tunes that would cross all boundaries of music. Based on Sunday’s concert, they’ve succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.
The three musicians showed an amazing agility technically and a wonderful instinct in working together. They were very polished and smooth. They also have great sounds and terrific ears. They made everything sound spontaneous, although De Pue has said they work out a general game plan for each tune.
Charm and humor
What made it all work, besides their obvious originality, was their charm. They love to play, to entertain, to use humor both musically and by telling anecdotes between numbers. The minutes flew by and each song was greeted with huge applause.
The trio began with “Wyoming 307” and “Forget about it” by Meyer. Both had hundreds of notes played at lightning speed often around a pleasing melody. The style was sort of Appalachian funk. An arrangement of the Beatles tune “Blackbird,” dedicated to actor Paul Newman, who was recently diagnosed with leukemia and who has been a mentor to the trio, was sweetly sad and very spare.
A “wow” rendition of Brahms’ “Hungarian Rhapsody” was very schmaltzy and they added interest by changing dynamic levels — a rarity in pop acts. “Philly Funk,” “Shenandoah” and “Fox Down” altered styles, moods and degrees of lyricism. Not above a few high jinks, De Pue tried playing with the violin behind his back, Kendall tried playing De Pue’s violin when De Pue was still playing it, and Meyer held his bass on his lap like a guitar to play.
Ragtime to bluegrass
They played a medley, which included “Ragtime Annie” and “Turkey in the Straw,” a lullabye-like “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, and one of Meyer’s funky numbers. “Time for Three Rivers” was the most classical work with interweaving melodies and development. They closed with “Orange Blossom Special” in whiz-bang bluegrass style.
Before the concert, SPAC executive director Marcia White honored series artistic director Chantal Juillet with a huge bouquet of flowers. Juillet, who began the series 18 years ago, said she was nostalgic but would be back next year.