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Christina Pato Quartet Storms Pawling

They Danced at Trinity-Pawling
by Kevin T. McEneaney
Sat Apr 1st, 2017

Christina Pato Quartet: Juan Felipe Mayorga, Victor Prieto, Christina Pato, and Edward Perez

On a rainy Friday night there’s little to do but follow the pied piper, returning in sleet and snow, delirious from having heard the Christina Pato Quartet, which plays Latina-style music infused with Galician rhythms, as well as bluesy jazz twists and bends. The Quartet remains difficult to categorize as Pato dances sexily in stiletto heels while she blasts the Galician bagpipes without missing a note. She was accompanied by fellow Galician Victor Prieto on a jazz accordion that is slapped, stroked, and drummed, as it evokes unique sounds—sometimes even gentle or whimpering—from an accordion that I’ve never heard before.

Drummer Juan Felipe Mayorga from Venezuela possesses neat solo riffs with spontaneous flair. Edward Perez from Texas on double bass has flying magical fingers glued to rhythmic innovations; Perez composes and arranges most of the Quartet’s eclectic synthesis of folk, jazz, blues, and classical elements. These three men are talented, dedicated, and amazingly accomplished musicians, yet Christina Pato has been on stage since she was twelve and she is a whirling dervish nearly in trance mode as she enchants with a soprano voice (echoing among wild sheep-clothed mountains) that runs your spine.

Most of the numbers played came from the 2015 album Latina. For the past twelve years Pato has been a member of Yo-Yo-Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. She is currently teaching in residence at Harvard University, which explains how Trinity-Pawling’s booker Kier Donaldson snagged her. Pato is also a classically trained pianist and she performs interlude insets on the piano.

If you are looking for an edgy mix of the exotic and traditional, then you are at home with this unpredictable quartet. Latina Suite runs in traditional Galician 6/8 time and somewhat resembles the Irish or Scottish reel (4-4 time) in its social dance sensibility, yet its frantic pace induces euphoria. Pato and accomplices are fond of casting and linking traditional local music with an international setting, and so this piece begins as a fandango, morphs to a Sicilian tarantella, then closes as a Galician muiñera, all the while never leaving 6/8 time and permitting funky solo digressions by all performers.

They performed a Peruvian landó. Their heady improvisational approach might be described as medieval music meets John Cage chasing a goat down a mountainside into a tavern where a din of traditional dances and primal screams lets everyone shed any inhibitions. But, yes, it really was music with a flaming, thumping ethereal edge.

For encore, Pato conducted a class lesson in Galician dancing with an elated, standing audience clapping, swaying, and attempting to hop dance with upraised arms to the Galician muiñera in half-time while she comically speeded up to full rhythm as would-be novice dancers could only gawk, laugh, and clap. Yes, they clapped and clapped. And I did, too.