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Transatlantic Ensemble Redefines Classical Music at (le) Poisson Rouge

by David Artavia

Transatlantic Ensemble, Feast of Music, le Poisson Rouge

Transatlantic Ensemble’s Friday night performance at (le) Poisson Rouge might have created a new dictionary entry for "classical music." It doesn’t need to be played for white-haired men dragged to the theater by their wives; it can be captivating, artistic, and if done right, reflect the inner emotions of our life.

After the opening act surprised many patrons with a set of new-age music, the crowd was eager to see what Transatlantic Ensemble had to offer. Fortunately, the charm that clarinetist Mariam Adam and pianist Evelyn Ulex brought to the stage proved well worth the wait.  

They started off mellow—(le) Poisson Rouge's warm red lighting adding to the imaginative world they delivered—before transitioning into a poetry slam of sorts with the addition of flautist Valerie Coleman and baritone Tim Cain. Cain read a selection of poems by Langston Hughes, which the ensemble brought to life in short instrumental interludes that portrayed Hughes’ words in vivid tone painting. 

Later in the set composer JP Jofre joined the duo, offering songs inspired by his native Argentina. The powerful sound of his bandoneon enveloped the venue with a unique resonance, and the collaboration proved to be a fantastic treat for the senses. 

When Ulex took a solo turn on piano, she displayed technique that made me rethink the limits of human potential. Her fingers traveled up and down the keys with tremendous ease and intensity that she maintained to the very end, a grand finish that left the audience dumbfounded. Adam proved an excellent match for Ulex, having talent that can only be described as transformative. She made the instrument become an illustration of her soul with a warm tone and heartfelt expression. Together, Ulex and Adam bring the best out of each other—the epitome of a successful collaboration.

Transatlantic Ensemble is redefining classical music, making it accessible and relevant to our times. By adding elements of jazz and Latin music, they create a global sound that everyone can relate to. It’s hard to imagine their unique sound being brought to life by any other players. I have a feeling that everything they are a part of will be another step closer to revolutionizing the classical repertoire.