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    Concert Review: Latin beat mixes well with symphony sound

    By Jon W. Sparks - The Commercial Appeal -

    Opus One’s latest journey took a tour of Latin influences with mesmerizing singer/writer Marcela Pinilla.

    The Colombian chanteuse is the latest in a series of local musicians to collaborate with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra’s conductorless enterprise. Variety has been a hallmark of the pairings, as Opus One has performed with Al Kapone, Amy LaVere, Susan Marshall, Joyce Cobb and Harlan T. Bobo (and will mix it up with Lucero in May).

    Thursday night’s concert at the Rumba Room brought some entirely new sounds, and a few difficulties.

    Opus One always performs in a different venue, and some work better than others for the singular mix of classical and whatever else is on the changing menu.

    The Rumba Room has two stages catty-cornered across the dance floor. Neither was big enough to hold everyone, so the decision was made to put the strings on one stage and the brass and winds on the other. The way the program was divided, that turned out to be sensible and added some nice physical dynamics.

    The brass/winds corner held forth with big band stylings of tunes like “Besame Mucho” and offered especially fine versions of Sam Shoup-arranged “Oye Como Va” and “Suavemente.” Shoup’s original work “Sushi Samba” was a winner.

    Pinilla has such an agreeable voice and presence, perfect for the tunes that dominated the concert. She is solid, whether doing the Arlen/Mercer classic “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” or having great vocal fun with Mario Gomez-Gignes’ “Mi Buenaventura.” The latter tune, as well as Toto la Momposina’s “Yo Me Llamo Cumbia” that closed out the evening got a strong arrangement by Robert G. Patterson, also known as an MSO horn player and composer.

    The main drawback of the concert was that crowd noise and acoustics obliterated a good bit of the string performances. The David Kechley version of “The Funky Chicken” is a terrific little work, but the lower strings couldn’t be heard and the whimsical details were lost to the ear.

    Otherwise, the concert was a pleasurable outing with a fine international flair.

    Another concert is scheduled for tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Rumba room, 303 S. Main. Tickets are $25; call (901) 537-2525 or go to memphissymphony.org/opusone.