OGDEN — You’ll forgive the members of the Los Angeles-based ensemble Quarteto Nuevo if they seem particularly excited to be making a trip to little old Ogden, Utah.
They don’t get out much.
Nobody does, really. At least, not since March, when the novel coronavirus pandemic made events like live concerts little more than a distant memory.
Indeed, the group that describes itself as a “world chamber jazz ensemble” was originally scheduled to perform here in Ogden back in April. Then, COVID-19 came along and everything — including the Quarteto Nuevo concert — got canceled or postponed.
But that was then, this is now. Quarteto Nuevo is among the first national artists to begin performing publicly again, and local presenter Onstage Ogden is taking advantage of that fact. It’s bringing the four musicians to town for a pair of socially distanced concerts in early August.
Quarteto Nuevo will perform at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4, at The Monarch, 455 25th St. Tickets are $25 and must be purchased in advance at the box office, 638 26th St., or online at onstageogden.org. For more information, call Onstage Ogden at 801-399-9214.
MAKING MUSIC AGAIN
The group features Damon Zick on soprano saxophone/alto flute, Jacob Szekely on cello, Kenton Youngstrom on guitar and Felipe Fraga on hand percussion. The world chamber jazz ensemble genre in which they work is a “fairly new experience,” according to Zick, and features classical, jazz, pop and much more. They use both highly composed and improvisational works from all over the world to merge Western classical, eastern European folk, Latin and jazz.
After a four-month hiatus from performing together, Zick said it was exhilarating to be able to make music with his three bandmates again.
“It was exciting, first of all,” Zick told the Standard-Examiner in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. “For me, the best part about playing is making music with other people — and for four months it was hard to keep up the inspiration. So just to get together to make music again, that’s the fun part.”
Of course, that’s just been the rehearsals. The foursome hasn’t actually gotten up on a stage in front of people yet, which Zick says is a completely different experience.
“The rehearsal process and the performing aspect tend to be pretty different,” Zick said.
Right now, they’re doing the “dirty work” of putting together a new program, with some newly commissioned music. It’s nothing like playing the finished product in front of an audience.
“It’s like working on a painting right now. You don’t get the full effect until it’s hanging on the wall,” Zick said. “It’s hard to tell what the experience will be when we finally get to share this music.”
‘JAZZ ROAD TOUR’
The Ogden stop is part of a miniature week-long tour in this part of the country, made possible by a “Jazz Road Tour” grant from the Atlanta-based South Arts foundation. In addition to dates at more traditional venues, the Jazz Road Tour places an emphasis on reaching rural, isolated and underserved communities.
In a news release about the concerts, South Arts director of jazz Sara Donnelly said: “Jazz Road Tours enables both lesser-known and mid-career, more established artists to tour the country, accessing areas that were previously out of reach. Artists can plan these small tours knowing they will be compensated equitably for fees and travel, which smaller, less-resourced presenters often find too risky to cover or pay in advance.”
Quarteto Nuevo returns to its 2020 performing schedule with a Sunday, Aug. 2, concert in Casper, Wyoming, before moving on to Ogden on Tuesday. The group will finish up with a concert Aug. 8 in Paonia, Colorado.
“We’re very excited to get back to playing,” Zick said. “We started rehearsing again last week, and it’s exciting to space out and play with your bandmates.”
As part of the Jazz Road Tours, Quarteto Nuevo will premiere a new commission titled “Jazz Road Suite.” The three-movement work, composed by members of the group, will feature sections inspired by each of the three states they’re visiting on this tour — Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. Utah’s movement in “Jazz Road Suite” is called “Arches.”
On Tuesday, Quarteto Nuevo will offer two separate performances of 75 minutes each.
“We were originally scheduled to do an evening show there in Ogden, but now we’ll do two shows, so we can cut down on the number of people in the venue,” Zick said.
Each show will be limited to 100 audience members, and the concerts will not have an intermission, to cut down on audience members mingling as they enter and exit the auditorium. Seating among groups of attendees will be spaced according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, and patrons are “strongly encouraged” to wear face masks. Disposable masks will be available at the door.
In addition to Tuesday’s paid concerts, Quarteto Nuevo will stick around on Wednesday to do a few free pop-up concerts around Ogden. The 15- to 20-minute mini concerts will be presented in places like Ogden’s Union Station, the Ogden Nature Center and the Eccles Dinosaur Park.
Zick and his bandmates hope that through their concerts they’re able to make emotional connections with audience members, if not physical ones.
“One thing I’ve noticed since all this (COVID-19) started, our physical human connection has been so limited for so long,” Zick said.
For example, before the pandemic, when he’d see friends on the street, Zick said they’d often hug one another.
“But for the most part, that’s not happening,” he said. “It’s kind of awkward. Instead, you step back and leave a space.
“But live music can bridge that gap a little bit. Whether you’re playing or listening to it, when someone is putting music out, you’re hearing it in that moment and you’re able to somewhat synthesize that human connection.”