Sunday, August 13, 2006

MARC MELLITS: ‘TIGHT SWEATER,' ‘AGU,' ‘FRUITY PEBBLES,' ‘DISCIPLES OF GOUDA'
Real Quiet; Cristina Buciu, violinist; Chuck Meyer, cellist; Tom Kolor, percussionist.
Endeavor Classics END 1016; CD.

MINIMALISM is so 1960's. True, the genre came of age in the 70's and 80's. But in its purest form Minimalism was conceived by and for nervous systems attuned to the sinuous unfolding of Indian raga, the roiling ecstasy of a John Coltrane saxophone solo, the dreamy torpor of an improvised Grateful Dead set.

The composer Marc Mellits, born in 1966, freely partakes of stylistic elements from Minimalism: the tumbling arpeggios of Philip Glass , the hypnotic drumming of Steve Reich . But he uses them in tightly concentrated bursts that more accurately reflect an era of short attention spans and text messaging.

Three works on this new disc by Real Quiet — Andrew Russo, pianist; Felix Fan, cellist; David Cossin, percussionist — are collections of colorful, contrasting two- to three-minute miniatures, compiled in a manner not far removed in spirit from the Baroque suite or the solo piano collections of Debussy and Ravel. (The fourth, the eight-minute “Disciples of Gouda,” is a veritable sprawl by comparison.)

Mr. Mellits's penchant for the offbeat is in evidence, in titles like “Trans Fatty Acid's Rein” and “Mechanically Separated Chicken Parts” (from “Tight Sweater”) as well as in winking musical references like those in “4LB” (from “Fruity Pebbles”), a Leonard Bernstein tribute that quotes Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 and the “Brady Bunch” theme.

Mr. Russo, who has issued rewarding discs of music by George Crumb, John Corigliano and John Adams, alternates between elegant restraint and manic intensity in “Agu,” a solo piano suite. Elsewhere he anchors Real Quiet, a trio that offers a surprisingly wide range of timbres seemingly ideal for this music. But “Fruity Pebbles,” scored for a conventional piano trio, demonstrates that Mr. Mellits's idiom is as adaptable as it is congenial.

STEVE SMITH