Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Funk Brothers

The Funk Brothers, Motown's once unheralded but now internationally acclaimed house band, kept the hits coming at the Birchmere on Sunday night. "Get Ready," "Heat Wave," "My Girl," "Dancing in the Street," "What's Goin' On?," "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" -- one chart-topper followed another and another until nearly everyone in the packed house was standing and cheering. Folks couldn't resist dancing in the aisles during the final blast of "Shotgun."

Since the release of the 2002 film "Standing in the Shadows of Motown," the Funk Brothers are no longer faceless and unappreciated: Autograph seekers queued up before and after the show. Only three of the surviving six members are currently touring -- bassist Bob Babbitt, guitarist Eddie Willis and drummer Uriel Jones -- but that was enough to spark a 90-minute Motown party. With plenty of help from their seven tour mates, including R&B vets Ray Monette on guitar and Spider Webb on the additional drum kit, the Brothers celebrated their remarkable legacy with a mixture of pride, gratitude and fidelity. Most of the arrangements echoed the original recordings, complete with conga beats, woven guitar and bass lines, and signature drum intros, though Jack Ashford's trademark tambourine was conspicuously absent from the mix.

The challenge of performing songs indelibly stamped by Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross and Martha Reeves, among other giants, fell to Delbert Nelson, Marcia Ware and Donna Curtain. Each responded with enough vocal power and showmanship to thoroughly delight the crowd with an unbroken hit parade.

-- Mike Joyce

'Sounds of Slovenia'

The Capitol Hill Chamber Music Festival gave its second "Sounds of Slovenia" concert Sunday at St. Mark's Church, and the few but stalwart attendees were presented with an epic exploration of music by recent Slovenian composers.

The program offered a wide variety of sounds and styles. Composer Brina Jez was present at the concert, and her work employed technical effects such as using a recording as second player to violinist Branko Brezavscek in "Silence or They Are All So Nice and Handsome."

In contrast, Ivo Petric's Sonata for Flute and Piano, performed by artistic director Jeffrey Cohan and pianist Jeffrey Chappell, reminded one of sonatas by Prokofiev and Shostakovich.

But the crowning work of the evening was a world premiere -- "Four Temperaments," by Igor Dekleva. This set of songs was hauntingly performed by soprano Kate Vetter Cain and Chappell. The final song, "Cholera," memorialized the cholera epidemic of 1998, and mixed in elements of the Catholic requiem chant "Dies Irae" with the Slovenian text in a heart-rending and twisted waltz.

Although hearing several works of eight composers gave a broad overview of styles, it also created a sensory overload. It was such a massive 2 1/2 hours of music that it wasn't easy to process any one part of it. But, perhaps in smaller doses, the music of Slovenia will start to infiltrate the wider classical music world.

-- Claire Marie Blaustein

© 2005 The Washington Post Company