Away from the glare of perfectionist classical music circles, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg’s spry and emotional fiddling finds considerable focus within Sergio Assad’s adaptations of various gypsy music traditions. This collaboration between one of the feistiest personalities of contemporary classical and the Assad brothers on guitars is appropriately refreshing; neither studied nor casual, Assad moves freely between pensive, light-hearted and arid textures in his compositions that the musicians interpret with elan.
Presented in a idyllic setting — Largo’s intimacy has always made it one of the best listening rooms in L.A. — the presentation draws inspiration, to a degree, from that most famous of gypsy guitarists, Django Reinhardt, and Quintet du Hot Club de France.
Yet the pop music and swing melodies that informed Reinhardt’s most important work, his recordings of the 1930s and ’40s, were largely forsaken within this 75-minute program of originals, two Astor Piazolla tangos and Reinhardt’s “Nuages.”
The trio’s rendition of “Nuages” (Clouds) was more drawn out than the original and, hence, more evocative of a nice breezy day than ominous weather.
This project is yet another vehicle to expand Salerno-Sonnenberg’s following beyond classical music circles. Her life was captured in the documentary “Speaking in Strings” that premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival and debuted on HBO in December.
The trio treat gypsy traditions as storyboards and technical starting points. Assad’s compositions are all interpretations drawn from a country of inspiration — Russia, Turkey, Spain, Hungary, Macedonia — and their presentation Tuesday was very much in line with the trio’s just-released album for Nonesuch.
Assad, who has recorded four albums with his brother, has composed only one piece requiring a virtuoso display of Salerno-Sonnenberg and brother Odair, preferring evocation of a mood over string-twisting fireworks.
And with the inclusion of the Piazolla pieces, which are not on the album, the shift in tempos and demand on the players made for a full and rewarding evening.
The trio will tour the United States again Oct. 23 through Nov. 5 with a stop Nov. 4 at UCLA’s Royce Hall.