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Harlem Quartet brings jazz and classical selections to Ent Center for the Arts

April 12, 2018 Updated: April 12, 2018 at 7:49 am
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Harlem Quartet - Ilmar Gavilan, Melissa White, Jaime Amador and Felix Umansky - will perform April 14 in the Chapman Foundations Recital Hall at the UCCS Ent Center for the Arts.

The New York City-based Harlem Quartet, a group of top-notch classical and jazz string musicians, will make its Colorado Springs debut Saturday at the Ent Center for the Arts.

It is Ilmar Gavilan (Cuba) and Melissa White (U.S.) on violin, Jaime Amador (Puerto Rico) on viola and Felix Umansky (U.S.) on cello. When the group started in 2006, the original four members, which included Gavilan and White, were first-prize laureates of the prestigious Sphinx Competition. They have performed in nearly all 50 states plus the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Brazil, Panama, Canada, Venezuela and South Africa. And they have collaborated with distinguished musicians including pianist and composer Chick Corea, violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Paul Katz, clarinetist Anthony McGill and saxophonist, clarinetist and composer Paquito D'Rivera.

Saturday, the group will play Mozart's "The Hunt," "The Girl from Ipanema" by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Guido Gavilan's "Cuarteto en Guaguancó" and Grieg's "String Quartet in G minor, Op. 27."

Gavilan, first violinist, comes from a prominent music family in his native Cuba. His father, Guido Gavilan, whose original work is on the program, is one of Cuba's most celebrated composers. His late mother, Teresita Junco, was an acclaimed pianist, and his younger brother, Aldo, is an accomplished pianist and composer.

Performing his father's composition with the quartet is "personal because it comes from my Cuban roots and uses Cuban rhythms," Gavilan said.

The quartet's goal is to advance diversity in classical music and bring a fresh attitude to it.

"I think rather than just sit back and blame the industry for attracting a certain demographic when it comes to age or even income level, we take it upon ourselves to reach out to all demographics. One of many tools is to diversify the repertoire we present," Gavilan said. "When we perform pieces that are not from the standard repertoire, we treat those pieces with the same rigor" as the classics.

Outreach to elementary schools is part of their mission.

"We learned if you want to keep the kids engaged, you have to present things they could relate to," Gavilan said. "Jazz actually works to get them hooked. We also play Haydn, which is a different type of dance music.

"The fact that we play jazz forces us to be hyper-aware of our phrasing and timing and subtleties, with the same awareness as classical. But we are able to take more chances and can maneuver the material in a much more personal way."

MICHELLE KARAS, THE GAZETTE, 476-1602, MICHELLE.KARAS@GAZETTE.COM

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