SHUFFLE Concert

SHUFFLE Concert

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"You choose, we play," proclaims the logo of the New York chamber ensemble Shuffle Concert. It doesn't quite work out that way: the group's repertoire is not infinite, although it does represent an impressive variety of classical, popular, and jazz styles. Part of the charm of their concerts must lie in their agility in matching what they can do to the uncircumscribed requests they solicit from their audiences, and in the absolutely random juxatpositions of works that result. This collection, expressly intended as a souvenir for those who have heard the group, commendably captures that random quality even though the program was necessarily planned out in advance. The grim Scherzo from Shostakovich's Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 67, bumps up against popular songs like "When You're Good to Mama," from the musical Chicago. It's not clear how interesting such blank pastiche will be to those who haven't heard the group live, but Shuffle Concert compensates partially by including some really unusual takes on familiar pieces: check out the fascinating chamber arrangement of "Bess, You Is My Woman Now," from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, by Israeli composer Avner Dorman (track 2). Gershwin's music is famous for retaining its shape through nearly anything it's put through, but this rendition is bracingly original. Almost anything can happen, including vocals, although the weakest link here comes when the group ventures into true popular-song terrain. The album gets points for sheer novelty; in the classical field, where the performer leads and the audience follows, it's intriguing to find musicians who turn that system on its head.

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