(CBS SF) – Sunday is music’s biggest night: the 56th Annual Grammy Awards show will unfold promptly on KPIX 5/CBS at 8:00pm. Among the nominees hoping to be honored with Grammy Gold are two California composers who wrote original compositions for a virtuoso string quartet known as “Quartet San Francisco.”
“This is not your mother’s chamber music. You know we go pretty hardcore on a lot of the stuff we play,” explained violinist and composer-arranger Jeremy Cohen, the Quartet’s founder.
The Quartet has been nominated multiple times for a Grammy and the group excels in multiple, non-classical styles: jazz, tango, pop, bluegrass, gypsy, swing and big-band.
Now, one of the two compositions on “Pacific Premieres,” their latest studio recording, could bring home some Grammy Gold. Both of the pieces are nominated for “Best Instrumental.”
“I should play the lottery,” laughed Cohen. “Because what are the odds of pulling 1 Grammy nomination, it’s phenomenal.”
“I think they’re really, really cool pieces that are very different,” added cello player Kelley Maulbetsch.
One of the nominated works is entitled “California Pictures for a String Quartet” and involves 3 movements. The piece was composed by renowned Big Band Leader Gordon Goodwin.
With it, the Quartet really “swings”
“Right from the beginning, violinist Matt Szemela explained, singing the opening cord, “That’s a big band. That’s a horn section,”
“I have a great affinity for the big-band style,” said Cohen, “and, I think Gordon’s music translate perfectly for a string quartet. I went up to him and asked him to create a piece for us, and then boom – a Grammy nomination!”
The 2 nominated works is by 6 time Grammy winner Vince Mendoza, and it’s equally breathtaking. The composition is called “String Quartet: No.1: Funky Diversions in 3 parts,”
“I get to start the whole piece – with what could be akin to a funk guitar meeting the strings, using a wah pedal,-” explained Szemela
“That piece, the Mendoza in particular, is different from any piece I’ve ever played before,” said Maulbetsch.
“His musical language really speaks to me,” said viola virtuoso Chad Kaltinger. “It’s very modern. It has a modern edge to it, so it’s very complex,”
Only 5 works are nominated in the Best Instrumental Category: with 2 of the 5 coming from “Pacific Premieres”, the odds are in the Quartet’s favor.
But winning a Grammy is not as important as sharing the vibe.
“We really wanted to bring new music from the west coast to the rest of the world,” said Cohen.
And share they have: these musicians have toured China, South Korea, Japan, Turkey and Guam as well as playing nationally.
For a piece of California sunshine, pick up a copy and hear for yourself.