Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Eighth Blackbird are the toast of the (Violet) Hour

Posted By on 05.23.12 at 11:02 AM

Eighth Blackbird
  • Eighth Blackbird
It doesn’t get much better than Eighth Blackbird’s benefit program last Monday night. Not only did the group curate a fantastic selection of pieces, but the Violet Hour created cocktails to reflect each individual piece. A champagne cocktail influenced by Philip Glass? I think Eighth Blackbird and Violet Hour mixologist Robby Haynes have discovered a pairing that rivals the Sunday newspaper with coffee.

The benefit began with a 45-minute concert at Heaven Gallery. The first piece on the program is among my favorites in the group’s repertoire, Glass’s Music in Similar Motion. Six voices move in parallel and repeat a 35-cell melody. Much of the joy in seeing Music in Similar Motion performed is the musicians' virtuosic focus—an element that is lost in recordings. The piece was paired with Champagne Cocktail #2, a sparkling, absinthe-soaked sugar cube, lemon twist. It was delicious.

The second piece on the program was Timo Andres’s Crashing Through the Fences. Tim Munro and Matthew Duvall play airy, playful melodies and punctuate them with the resonate thuds of the bass drum. The dissonance reminds me the mysterious underground booms in Wisconsin that Sam Worley wrote about in March. The accompanying cocktail, Slaughter Flowers, was Lady Grey-infused Bombay gin, lemon, house-made tonic, St. Germaine, tangerine bitters. The drink had both a light, floral aspect but a strong gin backbone as well.

Next was the Chicago debut of Nico Muhly’s piece Doublespeak. Muhly wrote the piece for Eighth Blackbird for Philip Glass’s 75th birthday. It was accompanied by an old-fashioned. Lisa Kaplan and Matthew Duvall then performed one of the more fun pieces I’ve seen to date, Mayke Nas’s DiGiT #2. The piece begins with both Kaplan and Duvall collapsing onto their forearms atop the piano. It then becomes a hand game and duet between the two performers. The cocktail, Tick for Tack, was similarly playful with Campari, lemon, yellow chartreuse, and mint.

Finally, the program ended with the new piece from Eighth Blackbird’s first competition winner, Andy Akiho, titled Erase. This piece was paired with Stool Pigeon, Encanto Pisco, lemon, Orgeat, Cnar, Cocchi Americano, and Fig Fenugreek bitters. This final drink, like Akiho’s composition, emerged from a competition among the Violet Hour bartenders.

Of course, after five drink pairings there was no way in hell I was going to open my morning newspaper without a (strong) cup of coffee in hand.

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