Third Coast Percussion’s Mesmerizing Debut of La Jolla Music Society’s ProtoStar Series

Metamorphosis [photo (c.) Landon Akiyama]

Metamorphosis, Saturday’s electric online performance by Third Coast Percussion and dancers Myles Yachts and Quentin Robinson at the La Jolla Music Society’s Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, opened an exciting new chapter in that august organization’s story.

The four virtuoso percussionists who comprise Third Coast Percussion—Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin, and David Skidmore,—offered a bracing program of music by Philip Glass and others that transcended the minimal of musical minimalism to conjure complex, densely textured waves of music. In works such as Glass’s “Metamorphosis” and “Paradigm” that employed marimba, vibraphone, and glockenspiel, the ringing intensity of these malleted instruments proved nothing short of orchestral in scope.

In “Dissonance” from Jlin’s Perspective, the percussion quartet created equally complex textures using only drums of various sizes, creating a contrasting tapestry of dry, discrete sounds that displayed a spectrum of bright, arresting attacks without the halo of resonance the malleted instruments created. Yet the persuasive, hypnotic effect of such drumming was undeniable. In “Perspective” from Jlin’s Perspective, use of the African thumb piano provided its unique, high-pitched ring to the drumming that conjured that work.

Third Coast Percussion made their own arrangement of Glass’s “Amazon River,” the final movement of his 1999 ballet Águas de Amâzonia, infusing its undulating textures with the dispersed ringing of desk bells and crotales showering over the sustained, bowed pedal tones from the marimba. Tyondai Braxton raised the bar for complex drumming with his “Sunny X,” adding a recorded digital track to the onstage percussion to suggest an otherworldly dimension.

If street dance is the correct category for the style of movement cultivated by Yachts and Robinson, it requires the qualification of a strong sense of command and precise execution that separates their work from mere spontaneous, athletic exuberance on the urban landscape. Either solo or duo, these dancers deftly calibrated their moves to the music’s pulse, from the smallest moves that suggested a child’s action figure, to running in place, to realizing near perfect mirror-image patterns facing each other center stage. Yachts and Robinson revealed a perception of this music that translated its abstractions into parallel physical movements that allowed an equally broad possibility of interpretation by the audience. The sleek stage direction of this performance is the work of Leslie Buxbaum Danzig.

As the first offering of the La Jolla Music Society’s ProtoStar Innovative Series, Third Coast Percussion suggests an exciting new direction to the organization’s artistic vision.


  1. Janice Steinberg on November 10, 2020 at 3:14 pm

    Ken, I’m in awe of the clarity and depth of knowledge with which you describe the music. Bravo! Just want to add that the dance was choreographed by the brilliant artists Lil Buck and Jon Boogz, who work together as Movement Art Is.

    • Ken Herman on November 11, 2020 at 10:06 am

      Thank you, Janice, for this clarification. Do you remember the “luxury” of reviewing when we had printed programs with all the performance information in black and white? Now it flits across the screen, and if you dare look away for a moment, it is gone forever!

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