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Odair Assad: Kenmore, WA Concert Report

This is a guest post from Rich and Evelyn, two active members over at the Delcamp Guitar Forum. They had the opportunity to see Odair Assad in concert.

Odair Assad
Kenmore, WA
22 April 2009

About six weeks ago during a lesson, Kevin Callahan mentioned that Odair Assad had a break in his schedule and would be coming to visit him in Seattle. Shortly thereafter, Odair asked Kevin to see if he could arrange some sort of concert for him. Incredibly, Kevin was able to put the whole thing together in just a few weeks time and a great venue happened to be available– the Bastyr University Chapel, part of a former Seminary just north of Seattle. The Chapel’s acoustics are considered exceptional– numerous local artists, including the Seattle Symphony, have recorded there. This was a very special event, as Odair has given a mere handful of solo concerts over the course of his career.

His program:

Agustin Barrios—Choro da saudade
Antonio Lauro—Tres Valses
Heitor Villa Lobos—Etudes 10 & 12
Astor Piazzolla (arr. S. Assad)—Invierno Porteno
Leo Brouwer—Sonata del Caminante
Egberto Gismonte—Memoria e fado
Sergio Assad—Seis brevidades
Kevin Callahan—The Red Fantasy

Odair is quite a captivating performer. He uses no foot stool, and holds his Humphrey high, with the lower bout sitting on his right thigh. (I noticed what I think was some kind of friction pad on the bout.) He holds the guitar much like a dancer—his right arm around his partner’s back and his left extended to her outstretched hand. This is a good metaphor for how he plays. Much of the program was dance-like, and he moved constantly with the melody. His encore was a short, sweet Brazilian tune called “Sounds of Bells” by Joao Guimaraes, and it looked at any moment like he would stand up and act it out!

What really stood out to me is his total control of tone and volume. I was struck very early by his ability to make quiet passages absolutely clear and emotionally wrenching—like listening to an angel sing. Many times I found myself leaning forward, not because I wanted more volume, but because I wanted to soak in each and every note. And of course the man can play fast and edgy like nobody’s business!

He called Kevin Callahan out for a well deserved round of applause after The Red Fantasy. This is a fascinating piece—with elements of rock, folk, blues, jazz, and numerous South American dance rhythms. Check out Chris’ interview with Kevin for Kevin’s own description of how each section depicts a certain red wine varietal.

Odair is quite an engaging man. At one point he got laughs for asking the audience what he was supposed to play next. He definitely enjoys the banter, though unfortunately it was difficult to hear him clearly, so his conversation was mainly with the first few rows. I would have preferred that he play the Lauro a bit slower (do Venezuelans really waltz that fast?), but that’s a small quibble with what was overall an unforgettable program.

At one point between pieces he told us that he enjoyed playing, but he enjoyed the party after even more. Naturally, there was a reception in the lobby with lots of red wine. Odair was out with us within minutes, glass of shiraz in hand, graciously smiling, laughing, posing for pictures and greeting everyone who came his way.

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