Pianist Haskell Small went from tentative to transcendent Saturday evening at the University of Maryland's Center of Adult Education in a concert that included the American premiere of his "Twenty-Five Preludes." Alternatively earthy and ethereal, Small's preludes are frankly emotional but never sentimental. Particularly memorable moments included powerhouse bluesy jazz; a shimmering, harp-like veil of sound updating Impressionism; and meditative dissonances suggesting space-age hymns, vaguely reminiscent of Charles Ives. The concert began with a competent reading of Haydn's playful Sonata in C Major that sounded almost like a warmup exercise.
Technical prowess became poetry in Schubert's Sonata in B-flat Major, D. 960. Small wove a spell in the late masterpiece by this most lyrical of composers, balancing voicings effortlessly and nurturing a fluid musical line with rare sensitivity. The Andante Sostenuto movement stood out within that profusion of sheer musicality, each note a liquid jewel falling perfectly into place. -- Sunil Freeman The Bongos and Tommy Keene
Both the Bongos and Tommy Keene write intricate, introspective, melodic pop songs replete with chiming guitars and clever chord changes. On record, both acts have created minor pop classics, but live, neither seems completely comfortable with its material.
Friday night at the University of Maryland, the Bongos managed to overcome the grand ballroom's wretched acoustics with a crystal-clear set of their better-known songs. Still, despite their stage leaps and flashing lights, the Bongos remained curiously detached from their music, as if afraid to make an emotional commitment.
Tommy Keene, on the other hand, has evolved into a genuinely passionate performer. But in an unnecessary effort to add intensity to his tension-filled songs, he rushed through them at high volume, depriving them of their inherent subtlety. In the end, both performers compensated for nonexistent weaknesses -- perhaps what they need most is a healthy dose of confidence.
Show opener Eubie Hayve delivered a credible but derivative set of original songs that were long on droning guitars but short on melody.