Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Kronos Quartet

  • Music of Bill Evans [Landmark, 1986] B
  • Pieces of Africa [Elektra/Nonesuch, 1992] Neither
  • Floodplain [Nonesuch, 2009] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Music of Bill Evans [Landmark, 1986]
This ain't jazz, it's chamber music, and where the same not-quite-swinging strings worked up an agreeable tension on Monk Suite, here the compositional mesh is too neat--Evans damn near wrote chamber music to begin with. On the cute tunes there's an endearing novelty effect, but all the impressionistic watercolors gain is a gravity of tone that will challenge the assumptions of nobody interested enough to listen. B

Pieces of Africa [Elektra/Nonesuch, 1992] Neither

Floodplain [Nonesuch, 2009]
Usually this staunchly eclectic string quartet forges alliances with non-Western musicians I'd as soon stand alone or works with Western composers who aren't to my taste. This collection of traditional music, classical music, pop songs, and special commissions from a broadly conceived Middle East is different. Dumb me found out from the notes that it was the two pop songs that always rang my chimes--one from Egypt circa 1940, the other from '70s Iraq. In the wrong mood, some of the others can seem too solemn, histrionic, drawn-out--slow. But there's nothing here that doesn't suit the right mood. There are cathedrals in Sicily that overlay Christian imagery on Islamic design in buildings that can accommodate all comers. This album brought them back. A-