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The Le Boeuf Brothers concluded a brief four-date Northern California tour on the evening of Nov. 10 in Santa Cruz. Identical twins and composers Remy and Pascal Le Boeuf were on the road in support of Imaginist (Panoramic), their new album with the string-centric JACK Quartet. Fittingly, they ended with a stop at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center.
As wunderkinds reared in the hills of this beachside community, the Le Boeuf brothers frequented the non-profit jazz venue first as students and patrons, then as members of the Kuumbwa Jazz Honor Band and eventually as headliners. So the concert had the communal spirit of a family reunion.
Attendees were coming up to Joanne Reiter, the twins’ mother, to congratulate her throughout the evening. Early on during the first set, alto saxophonist Remy mentioned how he saw many familiar faces in the crowd and looked forward to chatting with them during intermission.
Imaginist was recorded with the adventurous JACK Quartet string ensemble. For their homecoming dates, the Brooklyn- (Remy) and Princeton- (Pascal) based brothers invited along the local Friction Quartet. Those young string players joined the Le Boeuf Brothers working quartet with double bassist Martin Nevin and drummer Peter Kronreif to form an impressively cohesive octet.
The evening began with just the core quartet. Pascal and Remy were at opposite sides of the stage; Nevin and Kronreif were in between and slightly to the back. Empty chairs for violinists Kevin Rogers and Otis Harriel, violist Taija Warbelow and cellist Doug Machiz were at front and center.
Pascal played a striking unaccompanied introduction to the original tune “Mirrors In Your Eyes.” An object placed on the piano strings gave his lines otherworldly overtones.
Before the next number, “Union,” Remy addressed the enthusiastic audience to explain that he’d written it for the wedding of his sister Adria, the third Le Boeuf sibling. She, like her parents, is a biologist and, like her brothers, an improviser (albeit in a Swiss “scientific-entertainment collective” improv group).
The tender composition segued seamlessly into “House Without A Door,” the abstractly grooving title track from the twins’ debut release (Le Boeuf Brothers Music, 2009).
When Pascal took the microphone, he revealed that Imaginist explored the relationship between music and literature. (The middle of the album sets the Franz Kafka short story “A Dream” to music, with narration by actor Paul Whitworth.)
Different genres are merely like different languages or dialects, he posited, and the band was happy to meet his new friends in the similarly open-minded Friction Quartet just over the prior weekend.
The Pascal-penned Imaginist tracks “Prologue” and “Alkaline” closed out the first half of the night. Remy boasted a clear, regal tone on the former while an intricately and dramatically developed solo by Pascal highlighted the latter.
The format for the later set mirrored the first, with the jazz quartet playing two numbers first before being joined by their comrades-in-strings. “Everything And Nothing,” which fell into the former instrumentation, was a showcase for Nevin and his warm pizzicato tone.
The Friction Quartet played the regal introduction to Remy’s “The Happy Pretender” with élan, and “Epilogue” (from Imaginist) gave him another opportunity to blend his alto lines with simpatico strings.
“Wanderlust” provided the opportunity for the two violinists to face off with intensity before exiting. Summoned back to the stage, the eight musicians played a true encore with an abbreviated version of “Alkaline” that generated a cacophonous but ultimately resolved glory.
In the February 2015 issue of DownBeat, Remy recalled that “having been a part of that (Kuumbwa) audience, I would just scream, whether it was Danilo Pérez or Roy Hargrove.”
He also remembered waiting for artists to leave the green room and converse with acquaintances and admirers alike.
The roles were reversed on Nov. 10, as new fans and longtime supporters waited to speak with Pascal and Remy. After the lights were shut off at Kuumbwa, the twins made their way to the neighboring Poet & Patriot Irish Pub for an after-hours hang with longtime frie
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