Performing Arts

Mambo Sauce and the Cypress String Quartet

The Cypress String Quartet presented a new work by Kevin Puts along with quartets by Mendelssohn and Beethoven.
The Cypress String Quartet presented a new work by Kevin Puts along with quartets by Mendelssohn and Beethoven. (By Basil Childers)
Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mambo Sauce

Mambo Sauce has played nearly every music venue, festival and cultural event in the Washington area. The go-go fusion band has a Billboard-charting single in "Welcome to D.C." and an enthusiastic fan base. The one thing it doesn't have just yet? An album.

While some go-go bands go years (or forever) without producing a studio album, Mambo Sauce has been working on one, and the people seem ready to receive it. The band's show at the Leftbank in Adams Morgan on Saturday, as with all its shows lately, only built anticipation for the project.

Mambo Sauce (which, like the chicken-wing condiment it takes its name from, is a mix of many different things -- go-go, hip-hop, R&B, rock) is overflowing with talented musicians and prime original material. Alfred "Black Boo" Duncan is one of the city's best rappers, and new singer Joi "J.C." Carter (who replaced female vocalist Yendy Brown) complements him well. Bassist Khari Pratt, guitarist Drew White and keyboardist Chris Wright elegantly glide over smacks from conga player Jermaine "Pep" Cole and drummer Patricia "Twink" Little.

The band might be known for the hits "Miracles" and "Welcome to D.C.," but its repertoire is much deeper. "Sweet Baby" is a soft ode to single mothers, "We Run This" is several minutes of fiery trash talk about the band's dominance, and "Damn Joe," with its slinky bass line, is an undeniable party anthem.

The group didn't give a street date for its album during the show, but its performance did suggest one thing: When the record does finally drop, it'll crank.

-- Sarah Godfrey

Cypress String Quartet

For a decade now, the San Francisco-based Cypress String Quartet has been commissioning new repertoire under its "Call & Response" project, for which it asks a composer to write a work to fit in on a program of two or more classics that have thematic connections. At the Library of Congress on Friday night, the quartet debuted the latest such effort, "Lento assai" by Kevin Puts of the Peabody Conservatory, flanked by the Beethoven Op. 135 and Mendelssohn Op. 13 quartets.

That was a bit of a misfire, since the Cypress overlooked the far closer links between the Mendelssohn and Beethoven's Op. 95 and 132 quartets. Puts's offering was a direct homage to the Beethoven Op. 135 only, and remained largely in that pool of quiet ecstasy -- a shimmering orison recalling Henryk Górecki and Arvo Pärt. Although not terribly original, and perhaps taking too long to finish up, it featured challenging and effective quartet writing and drew a few cheers from the audience. (Conservative music that is gratifying to both players and listeners is making something of a comeback.)

The Cypress is a passable, though not great, quartet. We are used to forgiving small slips when visiting groups use the Library's wonderful Cremonese instruments after only a few days' acquaintance. But these musicians play with a narrow expressive range, too many intonation problems and an annoying tic of interrupting the musical pulse when there's a sudden drop in the dynamic level.

-- Robert Battey

© 2009 The Washington Post Company