Review: ‘Robert Fripp String Quintet’

One could infer from the self-important label "string quintet"-- and the pre-concert request over the PA that the audience keep its talking down -- that Robert Fripp's concert at the Strand would be High Art.

One could infer from the self-important label “string quintet”– and the pre-concert request over the PA that the audience keep its talking down — that Robert Fripp’s concert at the Strand would be High Art.

On the other hand, this fusion of Fripp’s laser-like electric guitar, Trey Gunn’s Chapman Stick and the acoustic California Guitar Trio also played very much to this particular crowd and region. It made for an often serious, sometimes ecstatic, sometimes funny evening of eclectic music.

Fripp is best known for leading many configurations of the progressive rock band King Crimson from the late ’60s into the mid ’80s, and his collaborations with David Bowie and Andy Summers.

Yet his most influential recordings were those made with Brian Eno, soaring trance music that paralleled the development of minimalism in the classical arena and anticipated the rise of New Age.

There isn’t any doubt that this notoriously demanding musician has an unflappable group of virtuosos in tow. They can and, on a given night, just might be willing to play absolutely anything.

Thus the program wandered wildly, from Fripp’s broad, sustained, symphonically rich, trademark electronic crescendos to rapid-fire minimalist riffs.

Fripp and friends even injected some J.S. Bach transcriptions like the Passacaglia in C Minor into the program.

But then, the guitar trio had the cheek to follow Bach with a rumbling rendition of “Pipeline” and, later, “Walk, Don’t Run.”

The encore routine by this poker-faced, verbally mute quintet was also strange — one exit and entrance after another.

And they topped it off with an offstage appearance in the middle of the room, playing a tinkling Steve Reich-like pattern with their instruments unplugged.

Robert Fripp String Quintet

(The Strand; 500 seats; $ 21.50 top)

Production

Presented by the Strand. Reviewed May 28, 1993.

Cast

Band: Robert Fripp, Trey Gunn, Bert Lams, Paul Richards, Hideyo Moriya.
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