Author Archives: jonsgarelick

About jonsgarelick

Jon Garelick is arts editor of the Boston Phoenix, where he has been on staff since becoming music editor in 1990. Jon writes the column “Giant Steps” – which is mostly about jazz – as well as pieces about TV, art, theater, and other subjects. He has also written for the New York Times and New York Times Book Review, Rolling Stone, Jazziz, the Boston Globe, and other publications. He has won two ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards – in 1993 and 2003 – for his writing about music. You can find recent posts on the Phoenix website by clicking here. Follow Jon on Twitter @jgarelick

Upcoming jazz events

Danilo Pérez plays Scullers February 15 and 16 . Photo by Luke Severn.

Danilo Pérez plays Scullers February 15 and 16 . Photo by Luke Severn.

Plenty of good stuff happening in Boston-area jazz this week. You can find these and other choice arts picks at The Arts Fuse.

Pat Donaher
February 8, 4 p.m.
Lily Pad, Cambridge MA

Alto saxophonist Pat Donaher’s beguiling Who We Are Together lives in that world where jazz crosses over into a kind of classical chamber music.  Or maybe the other way around. With his alternating duo partners, pianists Hwaen Ch’uqi and Camille Barile, Donaher favors spontaneous improvisations, with attractive folk-like melodies and ambiguous harmonies. A Quincy, MA, native, Donaher attended the Eastman School of Music before returning home to complete a master’s degree at New England Conservatory. At the Lily Pad he’ll be joined by fellow Eastman graduate Hwaen Ch’uqi.

Ampersand Concert Series
February 13,  8 p.m.
MIT Bartos Theatre, Cambridge MA

The MIT List Visual Arts Center and WMBR Radio present the seventh in their performance series, this time with the Boston/Amherst jazz group Outnumbered and New Haven bassist and electronic improviser Carl Testa. The Outnumbered features some of the best players in the area: alto saxophonist Jason Robinson, multi-sax guy Charlie Kohlhase, pianist Josh Rosen, bassist Bruno Råberg, and drummer Curt Newton.

Dave Holland’s Prism
February 13-14, 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Regattabar, Cambridge MA

Bassist and composer Dave Holland’s always compelling blend of grooving mixed meters and controlled contrapuntal mayhem this time falls into the hands of a new quartet with a homonymous new album on ECM. The players are guitarist Kevin Eubanks (a longtime Holland foil before jumping to direct the Tonight Show band), pianist Craig Taborn, and drummer Eric Harland. As usual with Holland’s outfits, everyone contributes original tunes, which makes for an especially alert crew.

Kate McGarry and Keith Ganz
February 13, 8 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston

Kate McGarry has long been mixing jazz with a variety of American pop and folk. Tonight she and her husband, the guitarist Keith Ganz, step out of their usual band format to play as the title alter-ego duo from their new album, Genevieve & Ferdinand (Sunnyside), somehow making Paul Simon’s “American Tune,” Todd Rundgen’s “Pretending To Care,” and Iriving Berlin’s “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” all part of the same sound world. You can also expect a couple of McGarry and Ganz’s well-turned originals.

Newport Jazz Festival: NOW 60
February 13, 8 p.m.
Berklee Performance Center, Boston MA

This promotional anniversary tour for the granddaddy of jazz festivals looks on the face of it like a grab-bag of supremely talented, medium-profile all-stars, but the tour producers and bandleader Anat Cohen have declared a specific agenda: to focus not only on music from Newport’s storied history, but also original compositions and arrangements from everyone in the band. And it is a formidable crew. Saxophonist and clarinetist Cohen will be joined by multi-lingual singer Karrin Allyson, trumpeter Randy Brecker, guitarist Mark Whitfield, pianist Peter Martin, bassist Larry Grenadier, and drummer Clarence Penn. This second night of a 21-date tour (a Celebrity Series of Boston event) should be crackling.
Read my Boston Globe piece about the tour here.

“Third Stream Headwaters”
February 13, 7 p.m.
Jordan Hall, Boston MA

Rare offerings at New England Conservatory tonight. The Contemporary Improvisation department goes deep into Third Stream — the term coined by composer and former NEC president Gunther Schuller to describe a blending of classical and jazz musical procedures (and also the original name of the CI department).  Topping the bill are Charles Mingus’s “Half-Mast Inhibition,” the great bassist-composer’s earliest orchestral work (originally recorded in 1960) and the premiere of Schuller’s “From Here to There,” commissioned by NEC. Also on the bill are Darius Milhaud’s “La Création du Monde,” Milton Babbit’s “All Set,” and Frank Zappa’s “Dog Breath Variations.” Charles Peltz conducts

Catherine Russell
February 14, 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston MA

No less an authority than Nat Hentoff has called singer Catherine Russell “the real thing.” With a strong pedigree (daughter of Louis Armstrong orchestra music director Luis Russell and guitarist Carline Ray, of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm), Russell made her early career singing high-profile back-up gigs (Paul Simon, David Bowie, Jackson Browne, Cyndi Lauper, Rosanne Cash) before going solo about 10 years ago and delivering one beautifully assured album after another, focusing on vintage swing and blues, with the occasional oddball and apt contemporary choice (the Grateful Dead’s “New Speedyway Boogie”). She has the kind of voice and diction that lend every song a conversational directness and literate clarity even when she’s hitting the high notes and swinging her hardest. Her latest, Bring It Back (Jazz Village), comes out this Tuesday and it’s another well-designed collection, guided by her own taste and by the skill of music director/guitarist Matt Munisteri.

Danilo Pérez’s “Panama 500”
February 15 [8 p.m. and 10 p.m.] and 16 [4 p.m. and 7 p.m.]
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston MA

The 47-year-old pianist and composer’slatest CD, Panama 500 (Mack Avenue), is his most ambitious achievement yet. Looking again at his native Panama, he offers a portrait that mixes folkloric percussion, chants of the indigenous Guna people, modern-chamber music string writing, and, of course, fleet jazz-piano trio sections. At times, all these languages are layered so that history emerges as a living memory. Pérez brings an ensemble from the album to Scullers: violinist Alex Hargreaves, percussionist Roman Díaz, and his longtime trio mates, bassist Ben Street and drummer Adam Cruz.
Read my Boston Globe review of the CD here.

The art of the adjective

HelenSung_CVR_FINAL_5x5CMYK300

There are all kinds of ways to describe music — some combination of metaphor, technical detail, tempo, instrumentation — but there’s probably nothing more helpful, or more difficult to find, than a precise adjective. As someone who writes about music, I’m always struggling to come up with something more helpful to the reader than “wonderful,” “superb,” “excellent” or hackneyed vernacular like “killer” or “smoking.” Not that I’ve never never used those or wouldn’t use them again. (I think I have, however, been able thus far to avoid “mind-bending.”)

So I was cheered to see this from Nate Chinen’s review of the Helen Sung album in the Times:
“….Helen Sung, who trained as a classical pianist before turning to jazz, and has released a decade’s worth of crisp, conscientious and decorous albums.”

Not fancy words, and not even especially specific. But those generalizing accolades are the hardest, and these are suggestive in just the right way.

Chinen goes on to give other details about the content of the album, including the basics about personnel, songs, and composers. And he offers some dandy adjective-verb combinations in his descriptions of the performances of particular pieces:  “buoyant lyricism,”
“scrambling intensity,” “brisk textural intrigue.”

And there’s the now standard x-meets-y comparison, but done especially well: the song “Brother Thelonious” suggests “a Monkish idyll as envisioned by Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, sometime in the 1980s.” I’m not exactly sure what he means, but I’ve got a pretty good idea. And if you’ve listened to a lot of ´80s Blakey, you probably know exactly what he means. Or maybe just listening to “Brother Thelonious” would do it.

But it was those opening adjectives that caught my eye and made me curious. They raised expectations in a way that “wonderful,” “excellent,” and “superb” might have dampened them.

You might not agree with Chinen’s assessment of the album. But it’s pretty clear at least what he heard.

The Slutcracker: Pasties en pointe

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From the 2011 production of The Slutcracker. Photo by Hans Wendland.

Even as we arrived 20 minutes before curtain for Sunday-evening performance of The Slutcracker at the Somerville Theatre, ushers were urging us to head for balcony — seats in the orchestra for this general-admission production were already almost gone. It was a mixed crowd in all manner of dress, from rock-crowd slobs to night-out gals on the town in their heels and skinny dresses. Say what you will, in its fifth year, this local production is a hit, and as much a seasonal cultural benchmark as the big-time legit original running downtown.

Let me be clear: I’ve never been interested in the “new” burlesque. I never really got the “irony” of women pretending to be old-time strippers — it all seemed like yet another excuse for bad amateur theatrics. That is, until my wife, on impulse (okay, she was still coming down from post-outpatient surgery sedatives), bought us a pair of tickets to The Slutcracker.

Mind you, this is the same weekend in which we saw the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra’s loving take on the Duke Ellington-Billy Strayhorn arrangement of Tchaikovksy’s Nutcracker SuiteBut, from the sublime to the ridiculous. The Slutcracker was worth the trip.

It began with warm-up comedian Mehran Khaghani’s blistering “motherfucker”-laced 10 minutes, during which, among other things, he related some of the sign-language from “deaf night,” with a digression on the clitoris: “If you ask a hockey crowd whether they know where the clitoris is, they’ll ask, ‘The dinosaur or the planet?'”

As for the show itself, as you might guess, the Slutcracker Prince is dildo that comes to life. (Khaghani had referred to the production’s “very thinly veiled” subtext. But, then again, so I suppose is the original’s.) Director/choregrapher Vanessa White has several trained ballet-dancer ringers mixed in with her large cast — a gender-bending mix of men and women of all body types. Costumes were clever as they were attractive. During the “Waltz of the Flowers,” dancers plucked their green-and-yellow petals and green-leaf tails; “The Russian Dance” was three halter-wearing, whip-cracking dominatrixes; the “Chinese Dance” was a nicely choreographed fan dance. Action was well-synched with the music, especially in the opening-act expository party scene. (Clara really needs something Fritz isn’t giving her, and “Auntie” Drosselmeyer knows just what that is.)

What else? There was an impressively acrobatic pole dance (made more challenging, I’d guess, by that wobbly pole), some convincing ballet moves and toe-shoe action (especially by Slutcracker Prince Davide Vittorino and White hersel as the Sugar Dish Fariy), and all manner of simulated group sex (the dildo-nosed, uh, gingerbread children of the Polichnelle). A buff dog in restraints was led around on a leash, but he did get up from all fours occasionally to swing his impressive banana sack.

The Sunday evening show was sold out, as were most of the other performances at the 900-seat Somerville Theatre. But you might be able to get tickets to the remaining Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve performances. And, hey, where else, in the middle of “The Chinese Dance,” as Tchaikovsky’s sublime music plays in the background, will you hear someone yell from the balcony, “Show us your tits!”

Miss Tess and Neha at the Lizard Lounge

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Miss Tess and the Talk Backs. Photo by Mike Spencer.

Okay, so everyone’s heard me blab plenty about Miss Tess — her singing, her songwriting, her band the Talk Backs — but there’s more reason to crow: a new CD, a show tonight at the Lizard Lounge that you should get yourself too, and a promising newcomer who opened for Tess last night. Oh, and Miss Tess and the Talk Backs are also returning to the Lizard for a special New Year’s Day Show.

First things first. The EP-length CD, The Love I Have for You (Signature Sounds) comprises the original title cut and six covers, including Hank WIlliams’s “The Alabama Waltz,” Willie Nelson’s “NIght Life,” and Bonnie Raitt’s “Give It Up or Let It Go.”

At the Lizard, Tess sang all of those, plus the new CD’s opener, “Sorry You’re Sick,” by the late Venice Beach busker Ted Hawkins, with the deathless refrain: “What do you want from the liquor store — something sour, something sweet!” As Tess explained about Hawkins (who released one record on Rounder), “Everybody liked him, but he kept messing up.”

Tess is not messing up. The Talk Backs are lean and swinging, with Tess and Will Graefe on guitars, Larry Cook on bass, and Matt Meyer on drums. This is the line-up she’s had for a while, since she scaled back the more jazzy stylings of her Bon Ton Parade, which at one time featured a full horn section. At the risk of repeating myself (see my earlier post), the band can rock out, swing hard, or play a slinky mambo, and Tess’s singing is right there with them — equal parts vulnerability and confident swagger. She was especially appealing belting out the Raitt hook or the demands on her own “If You Wanna Be My Man” (“Now you’re taking out your little black book/you think you got a fish on a hook”).

Also a treat last night was Neha.

Neha

The young singer was raised in New Jersey by strict Indian family (at the Lizard, she distributed a charming postcard in full sari and traditional jewelry with the caption, “This is me as a child and that is my cousin. These outfits are real”). She got an economics degree at Northwestern, did a stint at Google, and then enrolled in the masters program at New England Conservatory. (The photo here is from a performance at Scullers.) She now lives in Brooklyn (natch).

At the Lizard, Neha was in the deep-jazz vein, singing and playing a string of originals that had the classic sound of the Great American Songbook, with her own cheeky lyrics (“Don’t get all boyfriend-y with me/. . . just give me some affection”). She had a warm, pliant voice, and a sharp band (Bobby Spellman on trumpet, bassist Frank Ajeda, and drummer Connor Baker). I’ll look foward to hearing them again soon.

In the meantime, Tess and the Talk Backs will return to the Lizard tonight, with Michael Tarbox opening this time. Then, on New Year’s Day at the Lizard, they join Girls Guns and Glory for that band’s Hank WIlliams Tribute. Catch them while you can.

Dave Burrell and Garrison Fewell: Slanted and Enchanted

Dave Burrell and Garrison Fewell at Third Life Studio.

Dave Burrell and Garrison Fewell at Third Life Studio.

About an hour and 20 minutes into their event at Third Life Studio in Somerville Sunday night, guitarist Garrison Fewell asked pianist Dave Burrell if he wanted to play “the tango” or a solo. “Let’s do a little bit of the tango,” answered Burrell, “and slant it.”

The event was called “Outside Music, Inside Voices,” after Fewell’s in-progress book project of that name, sub-titled: “Dialogues on Improvisations, Spirituality and Creative Music.” Burrell is one of 25 interview subjects in the book, and the evening was a mix of music and conversation. Though they had talked, Burrell and Fewell had never played together before. Their rehearsal consisted of pre-show conversations and a brief soundcheck.

Burrell came up during the first wave of free jazz (he graduated from Berklee in 1965) and he told us that his indoctrination into the scene included marathon sessions in his Lower East Side New York apartment with the legendary drummer Sunny Murray (fresh from Cecil Taylor’s band) that left his finger’s bleeding.

Fewell came up a generation later at Berklee, and although he had long listened to free music, he was for much of his career an “inside” player. Until, he said, in 2002, he announced to his friend and editor, Ed Hazell, “I’m coming out.” He didn’t mean it in the Gary Burton way. Hazell told Fewell then that there are a lot of ways to play outside. Fewell’s way was lyrical and melodic, and his albums since that time have always framed free improvisations with various organiztional strategies. One Fewell project is called “Variable Density,” and the compositions, as such, move through different predetermined episodes of ensemble textures, with the specific notes, rhythms, and harmonies left up to the individual players.

At the Third Life Studio, the duo began with a minor blues by Burrell called “The Box.” “We’ll pour our all of our emotions in to this minor blues,” Burrell said. It was a lovely blues, grounded by Burrell’s left-hand stride patterns, embellished by melodic flights from both players, and some lucid counterpoint.

Other pieces were less grounded in form — simply the spontaneous sonic response of one player to the other. His one solo piece, “Paradox of Freedom” (based on his research into the freed slaves enlisted to fight in the Civil War) was the most thunderous. But it too was based in a clear meldoy and a boogie-woogie bassline between eruptions.

Fewell’s “Universe” (“Because why leave anything out?,” he said by way of introduction) was the most “out” extended excursion of the evening. It began with the guitarist tapping his strings with a drum stick and his fingers, conjuring African balafon and kalimba with his muted tones. Each player was extremely sensitive to dynamics, fashioning atonal filligree around each other’s gestures, Burrell creating the loudest outbursts with the occasional heavy chord or stabbed single note. But more often than not, his figures drifted with bits of pedal sustain or harp-like arpeggeios. The piece ended with some big major chords from Burrell and some sighing figures from Fewell.

The next, untitled, piece sometimes suggested a bit of Satie in Burrell’s chording, and sometimes a hint of Brahms’s Lullabye in fragments of melody. Fewell played his strings with a violin bow, conjuring a realm where African string music met a European viola da gamba on some polyphonic plane. The tango, though “slanted,” was a return to form.

Between selections the two players talked about improvisation, “free” music, spirituality. Hazell joined them onstage to ask Burrell a couple of questions and Burrell talked about those early days on the Lower East Side, the 1969 Pan-African Festival in Algeria, and his encounter with a moose at his summer home in Sweden. A couple of times during the evening, Burrell and Fewell, talking about spirituality in the music, referred to Henry Threadgill’s comment in “Outside Music, Inside Voices,” was the “spiritual intent” of the music, whatever the personal beliefs of the artist or the audience.  The form of the evening was in that intent.

 

 

Music Diary: Big Freedia at the Sinclair

Big Freedia at the Sinclair Thursday night.

Big Freedia at the Sinclair Thursday night.

When we got to the Sinclair, it was packed — a Droogie from A Clockwork Orange, Max from Where the Wild Things Are, a Pikachu, a Penguin from Batman, men and women in Viking-blonde pigtails, lots of women in black-tight Cat Woman outfits. DJ Nate Bluhm was blasting dancehall reggae. But how the fuck would I know? Fast beats and Jamaican patois. I asked my wife to order me a Red Stripe.

And then Big Freedia — the six-foot-plus transvestite in her Duff Man costume from The Simpsons. Blue tights and orange cape, orange baseball cap with “Duff” on the crown, a utility belt holding cans of Duff beer. Her DJ fired up the bounce beats — super-fast machine-gun popping syncopation with big scattered bass bombs. “I got that gin in my system/somebody gonna be my victim!” Call and response. Most people knew it, and the dancefloor was bouncing. Freedia — “the Queen Diva” — had four dancers, two men and two women. They kept moving, twirls and arm slices, kicks and bounces, and plenty of “original New Orleans twerkin’.” Asses in the air. One female dancer in a bee outfit, with orange wings and black outfit, the other in black-and-white corset and ruffled mini-skirt with orange laces and head ribbon. One of the male dancers was a Ninja, bare-chested and buff in orange headband and sweat pants. The other guy was an alien — two-tone trimmed Afro, galactic insignia, boots.

There weren’t a lot of lyrics. I recognized an old favorite: “ASS everywhere, ASS everywhere, ASS everywhere, ASS everywhere!” Freedia invited volunteers up to the stage for “twerk therapy” and, later, a booty contest. “Y’all gotta go harder than that!” There were more songs. “Go hard or go home!” And the chant of “EAT that pussy! EAT that pussy!” Freedia changed into an orange Big Freedia t-shirt and blue sweat pants, her long hair flowing loose. “That must be jelly/cause jam don’t shake!” The two male dancers squared off and bowed their legs, hopping frenetically — right out of Congo Square 200 years ago. But how the fuck would I know? “Y’all full of muthafuckin’ energy in this muthafuckin’ house tonight!” said Big Freedia with approval.

The chants and music went on — “Rock Around the Clock.” Because, hey, why the fuck not? With more call and response and then: “Rocka rocka rocka rocka rocka rocka!”  And, “Excuse, I don’t mean to be rude/but give me that mike/let me do what I do/Excuse me/I don’t mean to be rude/but give me that mike/let Big Freedia come through…..wobbly wobbly wobbly wobbly wobbly wobbly wobbly.”

Freedia complained that she was hoarse, but she sounded big and unimpaired. She sang about her search for a long dick — an a cappella R&B melody. She thanked everyone for supporting her reality show (on the Fuse network) and the bounce movement. This was the eighth night of the tour, Freedia said, and the first sold-out show. How could it not be — Halloween in Cambridge, Big Freedia and bounce. It was a no-brainer,.

Live review: Madeleine Peyroux at Berklee

Madeleine Peyroux. Photo by Rocky Schenck.

Madeleine Peyroux. Photo by Rocky Schenck.

You know what you’re going to get with Madeleine Peryoux — as she herself said from the stage at Berklee Performance Center in Boston on Sunday: “love songs, blues, and drinking songs.” To which, she added, several of them “written by dirty old men.”

Peyroux was working her latest album, The Blue Room (Decca), which is mostly a tribute to the classic Ray Charles crossover pop-country 1962 hit, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. The album covers some of the songs that Charles covered on that album as well as some choices by Peyroux and producer Larry Klein.

It also includes a string orchestra arranged by Vince Mendoza. At Berklee, the strings were reduced to a quartet, with a core backing band of guitarist (and musical director) Jon Herington, keyboardist Jim Beard, bassist Barak Mori, and drummer Darren Beckett. And even with strings, this band defined the sound: shuffle and swing rhythms, Herington and Mori often playing on the beat, and nothing much faster than medium tempo.

The slow tempos on the whole didn’t hurt the show. People were there to hear Peyroux — her voice and delivery, her offbeat arrangements and particular idiosyncratic take on familiar songs. She sang Felice and Boudleaux Bryant’s “Bye Bye Love” (one of the Charles covers) maybe a little faster than the album, and informed the lyrics with a bit of sarcasm, so that it became a kind of kiss-off, giving a different twist to the closing lyric, “I think I’m gonna die/bye-bye, my love, bye-bye.”

Peyroux’s readings were also full of risks – she sang the first word of “Born To Lose” somewhere in her deepest register, where it almost didn’t sound, then brought it up and bent it, finally landing on “lose,” walking way out on the edge of the key before bringing it back. If her characters were drunk, she reminded you of that with her singing and a bit of mugging, whether it was Randy Newman’s wayward spouse in “Guilty” or Warren Zevon’s desperate character staring into the bottom of a coffee cup on “Desperadoes Under the Eaves” (and yes, those very non-Ray tunes are also on The Blue Room).

There were a few variations, and a few tunes not on the new album. Leonard Cohen’s “Half the Perfect World” (the title track of her 2006 album) was arranged as a bossa nova, which gave Beard a chance to play a fine jazz piano solo on the acoustic grand. There was Serge Gainsbourg’s “La Javanaise” as a waltz (sung in French). And there were some infelicitous moments (I wish that after all this time Peyroux would learn how to use a microphone so that she doesn’t lose words when she backs away). But by the end of the show, Peyroux, the band, and the strings, had created a unified tapestry. Her deep reading of the Zevon put you in that Hollywood Hawaii Hotel along with the protagonist. Herrington’s guitar twanged along sympathetically — like a faithful drinking companion — and, after the last words died on Peyroux’s lips, the strings kept sighing the melody. The effect was downright cinematic, which is surely what Peyroux — and her fans — wanted.

For this review and other pieces about arts and culture, check out The Arts Fuse.

Melissa Aldana (from the Boston Globe)

From my piece on Melissa Aldana in this morning’s Boston Globe.

Melissa Aldana

Master classes by visiting artists are not unusual at Berklee College of Music — this, after all, is a school that boasts a star-studded faculty and scores of distinguished alumni. But there was extra buzz a couple of weeks ago when the 24-year-old tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana returned to her alma mater, offering an afternoon session in the school’s Cafe 939 Red Room. In September, Aldana had won the coveted annual Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition — the first woman to win in an instrumental category — and the master class, combined with an evening show at the venue, had the air of a victory lap.

Aldana graduated from Berklee in 2009, but her connection to the school runs deep. Discovered in her hometown of Santiago, Chile, by Berklee faculty member Danilo Pérez, she has since moved to New York and recorded two CDs on Inner Circle, a label run by one of her former Berklee teachers, Greg Osby. Her prize includes not only a $25,000 scholarship to the Thelonious Monk Institute (based at UCLA) but also a recording contract with the Concord Music Group. To the Berklee crowd, she’s a role model — as well as a potential employer.

At the master class, one student piped up: “What kind of guitar player would you want in your band if you were to hire one?”

“I would want a guitar player who plays better than me,” Aldana answered. “That’s the best way to learn.”

Music Diary: Women of the World

Women of the World

Women of the World

The 10-member Women of the World entered the Regattabar Thursday night as a processional, intoning “Om,” matching the pitch drawn from a temple bowl with a wooden pestle by one of their four lead singers. Taking their place in a line facing the audience, the group continued to sing “Om mani padme hum.” Then the band’s instrumentalists took their place and the vocalists took turns on the second tune, one of whose lines was “I am the Light.”

At this point, you’d be excused if you reached for your adult beverage, but this after all was United Nations Day and the group’s show was in part an event for the United Nations Association of Greater Boston. There was a full house.

And there was no arguing with the ensemble’s impeccable musicianship — their tricky arrangements for those four voices, the perfectly executed harmonies, the engaging minimal bits of choreography (a group arm wave or side-step), the singers’ individual charisma. The group was brought together by Berklee alumnus Ayumi Ueda in 2008 to represent international culture and “create music for peace.” At the Regattabar, the women were dressed elegantly to their own taste or nationality (Annette Philip wore a lovely sari), and the music as well ranged in style and format. They sang a cappella and with their backup players. They sang a Japanese folk song followed by an Italian folk song. They sang in Turkish (with approval from Turkish audience members). Violinist Sue Buzzard played a Celtic fiddle tune. They ended with a Miriam Makeba song. There were a couple of sing-alongs with the audience. So yes, you could be cynical for a while. But when the group asked a schoolgirl to come up and read her own tribute to Malala Yousafzai, resistance was futile.