Tag Archives: Real Vocal String Quartet

Herding unicorns: Irene Sazer, the Real Vocal String Quartet

Print Friendly

Long-time Berkeleyan Irene Sazer didn’t set out to capture unicorns. But in creating the Real Vocal String Quartet about a decade ago she had to find a particularly rare, almost mythical, species of musician: conservatory-trained string players comfortable with free improvisation and versed in an international array of styles from South America and Appalachia to West Africa and the Balkans. And oh yeah, they also have to possess considerable vocal skills. Despite a penchant for her violists to running off to study composition in graduate school Sazer has managed to maintain an exceptionally versatile cast, and she brings the latest edition of the RVSQ to Freight & Salvage 8 p.m. Thursday.

Joining founding violinists Sazer and Alisa Rose are violist Darcy Rindt and cellist Vanessa Ruotolo, who have taken over for violist Matthias McIntire (now enrolled in a doctoral composition program at the University of Toronto), and cellist Jessica Ivry (who’s busy tending to her baby girl). The new quartet is celebrating the release of Slacker Ridge, a six-song EP featuring the previous line up. Expanding on the band’s 2009 eponymous debut album and 2012 follow up, Four Little Sisters, the new recording is as stylistically unfettered and hard to pin down as ever, with strikingly lapidary arrangements ranging from the Appalachian standard “Cluck Old Hen” and Sazer’s gorgeous pop “I Keep You Safe,” to a bevy of Rose’s luscious instrumental pieces and McIntire’s anxiously kinetic “California Residents Blissful Despite Impending Earthquake” (no wonder he’s in Toronto). … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , ,

Dina Maccabee: A string queen departs

Print Friendly

For East Bay native Dina Maccabee, it’s the end of hometown ubiquity. Since moving back to California in the mid 1990s after studying at the University of Michigan, the violinist, violist and vocalist has played in an array of bands, from the dizzying world-bluegrass of Japonize Elephants to the lush folk pop of her duo with multi-instrumentalist Jesse Olsen, Ramon and Jessica. But graduate school has coaxed her away and she says farewell to the Bay Area with a series of performances over the next week, including a solo set Thursday, Aug. 8, at the Subterranean Arthouse (on a double bill with accordionist, pianist and saw player Dan Cantrell), and Aug. 15 with Real Vocal String Quartet at the UC Botanical Garden’s Concerts in the Redwood Grove series on a double bill with the jazzy roots band Tin Cup Serenade. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Four string sisters find their calling with help from Feist

Real Vocal String Quartet
Print Friendly

The four women of the Real Vocal String Quartet know they have something rare and unusual going, but it wasn’t until they answered a last-minute call to collaborate with the Canadian singer/songwriter Leslie Feist that they fully realized the singular nature of the ensemble.

Launched almost a decade ago by Berkeley violinist Irene Sazer, the RVSQ started as a vehicle for her stylistically expansive tunes and arrangements. But with a bevy of the region’s most versatile musicians as collaborators, the group gradually took on a collective identity.

Featuring violinist Alisa Rose, violinist/violist Dina Maccabee, and cellist Jessica Ivry, the RVSQ celebrates the release of its second album “Four Little Sisters” (Flower Note Records) Saturday at Freight & Salvage.

With a program ranging from Regina Spektor’s “Machine” and Gilberto Gil’s  “Copo Vazio” to David Byrne’s “Knotty Pine” and Duke Pearson’s “Sweet Honey Bee,” the album encompasses an astonishing array of traditions reconfigured by the quartet’s hardy mélange of conservatory chops, roots soul, and sumptuous vocal harmonies, all laced with improvisational brio. … Continue reading »

Tagged , ,

Out in Berkeley: Violinist Irene Sazer’s far-flung sounds

Screen shot 2011-05-04 at 2.49.39 PM
Print Friendly

By Andrew Gilbert

Berkeley violinist Irene Sazer has worked with a mind-boggling array of artists, from Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Ray Charles to Ali Akbar Khan, David Grisman and Bjork. In founding her own band, she wanted a vehicle to explore all the far-flung sounds and styles that pique her interest.

The Real Vocal String Quartet, which performs on Sunday at Freight & Salvage, has turned into an ideal forum for her globetrotting ways. The group brings together some of the Bay Area’s most versatile musicians, including violinist Alisa Rose (Quartet San Francisco), violinist/violist Dina Maccabee (Ramon and Jessica), and cellist Jessica Ivry (Amy X Neuburg and the Cello ChiXtet).

As the name implies, the quartet combines extraordinary string work with gorgeous four-part vocal harmonies, accompanied by foot stomps and percussive bow techniques. Erasing distinctions between old-time and new music, all four women contribute compositions and arrangements, exploring melodies and rhythms from Brazil, East and West Africa, Appalachia and the Balkans. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , ,