Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How sweet the music is

Sweet Plantain returns to perform at the Sun Valley Opera House

Express Staff Writer

The Sun Valley Center for the Arts will present a concert with Sweet Plantain at the Sun Valley Opera House on Friday, March 4. Courtesy photo

Back for an encore performance in the Wood River Valley, the hip and modern string quartet Sweet Plantain will play at the Sun Valley Opera House on Friday, March 4, at 6:30 p.m. Influenced and inspired by Latin American composers, classical training and jazz improvisation, Sweet Plantain fuses Western classical tradition of music education and practice with the hip-hop, jazz improv and Latin rhythms.

Sweet Plantain members are violinist Eddie Venegas, who hails from Venezuela and also plays the trombone; violinist Joe Deninzon, born in St. Petersburg, Russia, and raised in Cleveland; New Jersey--born violist Orlando Wells; and cellist David Gotay, whose life story takes him from the Bronx to Carnegie Hall.

In January, the acoustic string quartet sent sheet music to Rebecca Martin's orchestra group at the Wood River High School to practice pieces. The Sweet Plantain quartet will accompany the Wood River High School orchestra as part of the evening's performance at the Sun Valley Opera House.

"We've never seen so many kids so fired up to discuss music as we saw last year when Sweet Plantain played here as part of our Performing Arts Series," said Kristine Bretall, Sun Valley Center for the Arts' marketing director. "And it's not just about the music. It's about their generosity of spirit. Not every band is willing to invite school kids to join them in a concert setting. It's an amazing opportunity for local youth to play with skilled professional musicians."

The four versatile young musicians who comprise Sweet Plantain have been lauded for their precise and passionate playing. Much of the group's repertoire is rooted in improvisation and makes use of extended percussive techniques that showcase the vitality of Latin music.

Tony Award-winning conductor Stuart Malina called a Sweet Plantain concert "an amazing experience."

"Blending jazz, Latin and classical styles, this virtuoso quartet brings a freshness and inventiveness to every note they play," he said. "I was simply blown away."

Sweet Plantain has impeccable musical credentials and a willingness to break the rules, particularly when it comes to improvisation. The group works to weave the possibilities of improvisation into classical music by arranging existing pieces and writing original compositions that contain improvised sections.

The band members will arrive in the Wood River Valley a few days before the performance to rehearse with the orchestra as well as play for students at schools around the valley. The New York--based group is committed to youth outreach and runs a string program at the St. Ignatius School in the South Bronx, a neighborhood with one of the highest poverty rates in the United States.

Tickets to Sweet Plantain are $20 for Sun Valley Center for the Arts members and $30 for nonmembers. For tickets, call 726-9491, e-mail or visit

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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