New age music has proved to be some of today's most all-embracing, blending folk, traditional, classical and jazz. With three conservatory degrees among its members, the Lenox Ensemble seems to feel the pull of classical traditions.
Founder Katherine Hay, a flutist, provided most of the material for Tuesday night's concert at Hand Chapel. Her contributions, some of them based on impressions of nature, demonstrated clever mixology -- she combined three rattles with piano in "And the Rain Came," and varied the textures of guitar, marimba and flute throughout "Chanting Forest."
Diligently expanding on each other's motives (either a melody or a chord progression), the ensemble created a variety of shadings between novelty and cliche. Competence, not conviction, was the guiding light for the improvisers. Most of their influences (African and Indian) seemed remote and over formalized; the music remained tame and untousled.
Following contributions by percussionist Rich O'Meara, the pleasant but aimless riffs of "Hampton Bays" and "Improvisation" offered more edge. Deploying an equal balance of African instruments (thumb piano, balafon) with Steinway and synthesizer, the ensemble ventured into dense and evocative percussive moments.
Filled with references to Brazilian folklore, Jeffrey Meyerricks' "Saudades do Brasil" was certainly the evening's most ambitious effort. Here, the composer and guitarist tapped into some of the rhythm and energy of ritual dance -- thus portraying a larger slice of the human experience than mere contentment.