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Just two years in the making, Avante presents a chic, up-to-the-moment program of jazz-inflected a cappella music. From Dan Forrest's beautiful "Hosanna" and Kurt Weill's classic, "Mack the Knife" (arr. Tom Anderson) to Erika Lloyd's "Cells, Planets," Avante superbly performed selections from an eclectic repertoire. There was something for everyone, to be sure. Adding a touch of youthful exuberance, they featured Durham Academy's XIV Hour.
Avante, a talented group, feature some of their own arrangements. Kevin Badanes (tenor, arranger, founder, and singer) and Bill Adams (bass, composer, arranger, and singer) arranged several of the pieces on their playlist. Avante demonstrated perfect balance on Adams' skillful arrangements of Chopin's Prelude in E minor, Op. 28 and "The Irish Blessing." Mike Meyers, director of XIV Hours and vocal percussionist, joined Avante on Kevin Badanes' delightful composition "What Kind of Band."
High on my list of accolades is Avante's sense of musical ensemble. They blended so perfectly on Erika Lloyd's "Cells, Planets" (arr. Vince Peterson). And with eight members, they create beautiful textures. On their signature piece, Heyman and Young's tender "When I Fall in Love," (arr. Kevin Bandanes) they divide into two choirs. Bob Slentz-Kesler (baritone) and Bill Adams (bass) provide plenty of support at the bottom as the women beautifully subdivide into a splash of color.
They have real chemistry. I noticed lots of eye contact, rhythmic movement, and smiles. And except for a couple of pitch disagreements ("When Sunny Gets Blue"), this is a tight, well-rehearsed ensemble. Moreover, Avante conveys a great sense of joy, a commodity that seems to be in short supply. Generously sharing the stage with their high school counterparts, they invited XIV Hours to perform a set as well as join them on Christopher Tin's "Baba Yetu." These young musicians are loaded with talent and good vibrations. The audience, many of whom were family and friends, rose to their feet in appreciation. It was a wonderful concert.
Avante's Engineer is Carl Taylor.