Arrebato(The) Vanguard is the best of venues. And the worst. It's the best, if you have the obsessive-compulsive, anal-retentive foresight to get there when it opens, to secure a seat, in the narrow front row, of the soon-to-be-crowded upstairs balcony. Or, for the better-heeled, a table, downstairs, for dinner. If you're adopting the pretence of laidback, fashionably late-ish cool, however, you'll pay the price, with nary a view or vantage-point. Unhappily, on this occasion, my partner & I fell into the latter category (I should've known I couldn't pull it off). It's almost unbearably hot 'n' stuffy back there, too; never mind the brisk air on King Street. Still, it's a notch or three up from its main rival, the age-old Basement. And this sort of discomfort usually masquerades as atmosphere, ambience, chic; and the like. Still, good on John Cass, for giving us a venue, any venue, for quality live music, as Greg Alfonzetti, leader, composer and guitarist extraordinaire said, at the outset.

That off-chested, down to the business of the evening: contemporary adaptations of classic(al) flamenco rhythms, figures, motifs, characteristics and idiosyncrasies, that crossover, fluidly and unselfconsciously, into jazz & world.

Arrebato, we're told, translates from rarely-used Spanish as 'a sudden & intense burst of emotion', of which I experienced more than a few, if not a continuous gush, across two blissful sets. Luckily, some weaker beings succumbed, presumably, to the uber-clemency of the loft and left us to crush lesser mortals, in an unseemly scurry toward two thus-emptied bentwood chairs, of considerable hardness. This yielded a front-row, overhanging, full-frontal view, enabling full appreciation and awe for the all-round superlative musicianship in evidence.

Thankfully, too, the disappointing distortion, muddiness and feedback all-too-evident through much of the first set was ironed-out, pretty much, by the second.

Alfonzetti's technique is blindingly good enough to knock the socks off the most demanding and hypercritical afficionado, while stepping beyond even that into his own stylistic realm. Profoundly dramatic, dynamic and, almost incongruously, subtle and sensitive (such is the sublime paradox of flamenco), his compositions span the gamut of Latino emotions; from unbridled lust to aching heartbreak.

It often seems as if nothing can halt, or even dull, the constant hum of inane chatterboxing, from those plainly vain enough to believe their vacuous utterances can surpass renditions from one of the greatest, most virile repertoires the world has ever known. But, by, say, halfway through the second set, even the cabernet Kevins and merlot Marys were enchanted, entreated & seduced, by this most romantic of musics.

'Twas impossible to separate so very many affecting moments of veritable genius.

Damian De Boos-Smith, effectively co-leader of the ensemble, astonishes with his cello; on this occasion, particularly, due to the unwellness of scheduled violinist Maja Pertovski, taking her parts, as well! His oud playing is among the finest & most tasteful that's met my ears; as restrained & inventive as his mandolin. Moreover, the oud is a somewhat surprisingly compatible bedfellow to the Spanish guitar.

It wouldn't be hard to find a more sympathetic percussionist than Lloyd G; it'd be practically bloody impossible.

Dave Ellis is the quintessentially brilliant, if largely unheralded, jazz bassist; eking out some beautiful chords, for one piece, especially.

Andrew Poniris is a similarly neglected saxophonist; taking his moments to the dizzying heights of playful, witty, improvisational virtuosity. He well-deserves more than 15 minutes of fame.

Special guest, Adriana Rodriguez amply embodies all the charm, power, nuance and grace of the contemporary dancer, while Rafael Alcolea sings up a storm, if not a tsunami of pain and passion.

Arrebato fires the imagination, soothes the savage beast & stirs the soul.

with special guest vocalist Rafeal Alcolea

Venue: The Vanguard | 42 King Street, Newtown NSW
Date: Thursday 26 Jun 2008
Time: 7:00pm - 11:45pm

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