It is doubtful many people today remember Mager's Spherophone, Martenot's Onde Martenot or Trautwein's Trautonium because, like dozens of other pioneer electric musical instruments, these have passed into oblivion. Hearing Bonnie Mangold play an electric cello at the Charles Sumner School last night, one wonders if this instrument could suffer a similar fate.
It's not that the electric cello lacks charm. In Claude Bolling's Suite for Cello and Jazz Piano Trio, Mangold's lines soared and danced with an elegance closely approximating the instrument's acoustic twin. But why invent something if its only value is imitation? Lower registers sounded mushy, and while the electric cello can project vivid fortes with little effort on the part of the player, detail was oddly lost as Mangold tried to play over her sister, pianist Marilyn Mangold Garst, drummer Paul Edgar and amplified bassist Norman Irvine.
Objections aside, this was a fine performance by talented artists who clearly enjoy the music they were playing and who shifted effortlessly through Bolling's idiomatic changes.
Garst had just as much fun before the intermission in her solo selections by Scott Joplin, Bill Evans and George Gershwin. While her syncopations sometimes sounded strained, her enthusiasm and lyric strengths were captivating.