27/04/2012 Reno Gazette-Journal

Geralda Miller from the Reno Gazette-Journal reviews the “Viva Brazil” concert, held at the Grand Sierra. // Geralda Miller do Reno Gazette-Journal resenha o concerto “Viva Brazil,” realizado no Grand Sierra.

Yo Yo Ma and company share rich Brazilian music at Grand Sierra

Without a doubt, world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma let everyone who watched his performance Thursday night at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino know how much he loves the rich sounds of Brazilian music.

He performed in the Grand Theatre to a sold-out audience with pianist Kathryn Stott, guitarists Odair and Sergio Assad and percussionist Joseph Gramley. It was the final performance of Artown’s Encore series of concerts.

Ma thanked the Assad bothers for introducing him and Stott, who has collaborated with him for almost 35 years, to Brazil.

“By the way, we’re not Brazilian,” Ma joked.

But if you had closed your eyes and just listened to the music, you might have guessed that they were.

Ma and Stott began the musical journal Cesar Camargo Mariano’s “Cristal,” where they danced perfectly with each other in syncopation. They then slowed it down to a passionate, sultry dance with “Milonga en Re” by Argentina’s tango composer, Astor Piazzolla.

After holding your breath as long as Ma held that last note, he introduced the Assads, joking that he and Stott were the opening act.

Ma and Stott might not have been the opening act, but the Assad’s imprint on the evening’s rich collection of Brazilian music, with all of its cultural influences, was evident. Sergio Assad, a San Francisco resident who is on faculty with the San Francisco Conservancy, arranged the evening’s program.

The Assads joined Stott for Egberto Gismanti’s “Palhaco,” after she introduced them saying, “I’ve been wanting for 15 years to play with the Assad Brothers.”

It was as if they had played together for years.

Ma and Gramley, a mind-blowing percussionist who has performed with the Silk Road Ensemble since inception in 2000, joined the stage to perform three pieces arranged by Sergio Assad before the intermission that flowed from a soft, smooth melody with Heitor Villa-Lobos’ “Melodia sentimental” to the rhythmic dance called the “Baiao de 5” and the jazzy rhythms of Guerra Peixe’s “Mourao.”

The Assads began the second half of the two-hour concert with such precision in Astor Piazzolla’s “Bandoneon” that I kept wondering how it seemed so seamless since they live so far apart. Odair Assad lives in Brussels, where he teaches at Ecole Superieure des Arts.

The other musicians joined the stage, performing several of the expressive, harmonious and popular bossa nova works by Antonio Carlos Jobim.

The audience was reminded of Brazil’s rich cultural diversity with the two final pieces of the evening.

Sergio Assad’s “Tahhiyya Li Ossoulina,” with its rich Middle Eastern influence, showed his Lebanese heritage.

The finale was a suite written by Sergio Assad and his daughter, Clarice, which told the story of his grandfather’s immigration to Brazil from Lebanon in 1895 and their journey to a melodious ending that is the confluence of cultures and traditions. This was expecially evident with Sergio playing the sazuki, which is the cross between a Turkish saz and a Greek bouzouki.

After two encores, Ma left the audience holding on to that very last, lingering note — until the next one.