The Kennedy Center review Mary Lou Williams Jazz festival


Upon introduction, Annette A. Aguilar sat behind her army of congas and began playing fiercely while the seven other members of Stringbean slowly filled in around her. The minute the stage was full, Each one took up a percussive instrument and began a polyrhythmic explosion. That was the recurring theme of Aguilar’s set: they would play two or three pieces from Brazil or Cuba, then return to a purely percussive framework . The results were spectacular, with the show’s midpoint—which Aguilar called “Bean Dip"—as the highlight.

On more melodic pieces, the results were almost as good. The combo of vocals, violin, harp, piano, bass, and drums was exotic and beautiful; Ellen Uryevick Adams’s harp and Nicki Denner’s piano meshed in unexpected ways, and Rob Thomas’s violin frequently went in unison with lead singer Sofia Rei Koutsovitis. But it was probably inevitable that these sounds would often get lost in the warehouse of percussion surrounding them, especially on the Brazilian Bahia tune “Bebe" and Ray Baretto’s salsa “Indestructible" (although Aguilar’s switch to marimbas saved the melodic line on the latter). Still, it was splendid.

Washington CITY PAPER
By Michael J WEST MAY 16th,2009