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Modeled after Oscar Peterson's trio with Ray Brown and Herb Ellis, Leonhart's group played with great finesse throughout set, often favoring a smoothly woven brand of swing. Rosenthal's arrangement of "If I Only Had a Brain" was particularly imaginative, with its fresh harmonies and halting rhythms. Also welcomed were a couple tunes by guitarist Cohn's late father, saxophonist Al Cohn. Both melodies were brightened by the trio's casual-sounding yet close-knit interplay.
-- Mike Joyce
Croatian pianist Kemal Gekic played at the Austrian Embassy Thursday in a recital as revelatory as it was thoughtful. Though Beethoven and Chopin wrote music light-years apart in temperament, Gekic's approach highlighted their mutual tendency to carve seemingly simple themes out of a richly variegated harmonic bedrock.
In Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata and 13 Chopin Etudes, Gekic underlined this quality with a patina of sheer tunefulness braced with a telling legato touch and a rare sonic resonance.
And the embassy's Boesendorfer instrument has never sounded more sonorous, with plangent depths lower on the keyboard and crystalline sparkle above. Gekic maintained a refreshingly modest bearing at the piano without the distraction of ultra-heroic gestures.
The pianist sped at a bracing clip from one Chopin etude to the next with only a micro-second between, crowning each with a final sustained pedal that sent infinitely vibrant tones throughout the embassy's spacious atrium (and warding off unwelcome applause until set's end). Gekic gave full vent to the music's knock-'em-dead bravura, tempering Herculean virtuosity with ample plastic tunefulness in the more ornamental passages. This sense of balance also held true for Gekic's version of seven Liszt pieces: three arrangements of Schubert songs, two of the mystical "Legendes" and a pair of Hungarian Rhapsodies. "Erlkoenig," based on a terrifying Schubert-Goethe song, was transported to heights of insane spookiness in Gekic's hands.
-- Cecelia Porter