The San Diego chamber ensemble Camarada opened its 29th season Thursday evening at the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park. Artistic Director Beth Ross Buckley assembled a program centered around contemporary music, notably the premiere of Andrés Martín’s “Thelma and Dolores,” and she also gave a nod to the 20th century with Claude Bolling’s 1980 Picnic Suite and the Claude Debussy 1910 Prelude “Les sons et les perfumes tournent dans l’air du soir.”
Of the several compositions by Andrés Martín I have heard, his Double Bass Concerto No. 1 played by the San Diego Symphony in April of 2022 strikes me as his most impressive work. His single-movement “Thelma and Dolores” for flute, guitar, double bass, piano, and drums commissioned by Camarada and premiered Thursday displays the same craft and conservative tonal harmony as his more ambitious Double Bass Concerto. Written as a tribute to the mothers of Beth Ross Buckley and Camarada Associate Artistic Director Dana Burnett, “Thelma and Dolores” aptly displays the two directors’ flute and piano technical prowess. Flashy in its agitated sections and sentimental in its quiet moods, “Thelma and Dolores” was well-received by the Mingei audience.
When the acclaimed French jazz pianist and composer Claude Bolling worked with the French flute virtuoso Jean-Pierre Rampal, Bolling created his own third stream Baroque jazz style, of which his Picnic Suite is a splendid example. Camarada offered four of the Suite’s seven movements: I enjoyed the jovial character of “Gaylanholic,” the bravura piano flourishes of “Fantastique,” the alto flute melancholy in “Tendre,” and the vibrant toccata spirit of “Badine.”
In this third stream mood, Camarada’s two movements of Claire Vazart’s Berbol Suite struck me as an earnest Dave Brubeck homage. Bassist Mackenzie Leighton gave a bracing account of jazz bassist John Clayton’s “Bach to Blues” for solo contrabass. I appreciated pianist Dana Burnett’s deftly atmospheric “Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir” from Claude Debussy’s first book of Preludes. Guitarist Fred Benedetti and Beth Ross Buckley unlocked the playful side of two of Robert Beaser’s “Mountain Songs,” appealing arrangements of traditional American folk songs.
This concert was presented by Camarada at the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park on Thursday, October 26, 2023.