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Praise

“Virtuosity and deft, precisely timed wit”
-Washington Post

“Commandingly elegant”
-New York Times

“Vibrant…superb”
-Alex Ross, The New Yorker

“An inspirational sense of fun and curiosity”
-Minnesota Star-Tribune

“The group performed with absolute aplomb”
-Boston Globe

“Dynamic”
-Chicago Tribune

“Mysterious, funny, endlessly inventive”
-Boston Classical Review

“Brilliant”
-Independent (UK)

“Technical precision, palpable groove and outstanding sound”
-Time Out New York 

“Hard-grooving”
-New York Times

“Savvy and hyper-talented young percussionists”
-Musical Toronto

“Fluency and zest”
-Andrew Clements, the Guardian (UK)

“Undeniably groovy…masterfully performed”
-Time Out Chicago

“One of the country’s finest new music ensembles”
-Chicago Reader

“The musicality and fierce focus of Third Coast Percussion electrified the room.”
-Sarasota Herald-Tribune 

Reviews and Features

Third Coast Percussion releases a Steve Reich album on Cedille Records

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February 21, 2016

by Stephen Smoliar

Third Coast Percussion is a Chicago-based quartet of percussionists that was formed in 2004 by Anthony Calabrese, Robert Dillon, Jacob Nissly, and David Skidmore. At the time they were both percussionists with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and students at Northwestern University. (The “third coast,” presumably, is that of Lake Michigan.) In the current group Sean Connors and Peter Martin have replaced Calabrese and Nissly. While Chicago is “home,” the group is currently ensemble-in-residence at the University of Notre Dame.

 As might be guessed, the group has an active commissioning effort; and Skidmore is one of the contributing composers. They also collaborate with other Chicago-based groups, including Eighth Blackbird, the International Contemporary Ensemble, and Hubbard Street Dance. They have been recording since 2008 and participated in a project to record the works for percussion by John Cage. This has involved them with labels such as Mode Records, New Focus Recordings, and New Amsterdam Records.

Last month Third Coast Percussion released its debut album with Cedille Records. The album offers four of Steve Reich’s most notable percussion works and was produced as their way of acknowledging that composer’s 80th birthday, which will take place later this year on October 3. In chronological order the works on the new album are “Music for Pieces of Wood” (1973), “Sextet” (1984), “Nagoya Marimbas” (1994), and “Mallet Quartet” (2009).

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ALBUM REVIEW: Third Coast Percussion | Steve Reich

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February 15, 2016

by Maggie Molloy

Minimalist composer Steve Reich is best known for his experiments into “phase music”—that is, music which features two (or more) musicians playing identical lines of music, synchronously at first, but gradually shifting out of unison with one another. As the cycle slowly unfolds, new melodies are created by the ever-changing aural interactions of the two identical lines of music.

But just like his phase music, Reich never repeated the same thing exactly twice—in fact, over the past five decades he has built an extraordinary compositional career by maximizing very minimal melodic content. That’s because his compositions are music ofprocess, and his melodies are created through use of repetitive figures, slow harmonic rhythm and canons, perpetual cycles, and, of course, unwavering originality.

With his explorations into rhythm and articulation, Reich redefined the melodic possibilities of percussion instruments in particular—which is why Third Coast Percussion decided to pay tribute to the minimalist mastermind in their latest album, titled “Steve Reich.”

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Mesmerizing Reich From Third Coast Percussion

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February 12, 2016

by David Hurwitz

Steve Reich’s music for (mostly) mallet percussion will either hold you enthralled or knock you unconscious, but there’s no in-between. One thing is certain: the musical idiom perfectly suits the instrumentation. Even Music for Pieces of Wood, which can sound like the noise your refrigerator makes when the ice maker is on the fritz, offers a fascinatingly musical study in rhythm and–yes–harmony, amazingly produced with only a few fixed pitches. At least, it does that in these superb performances.

This is extremely challenging music to produce effectively. It has to be played with machine-like precision, but at the same time it ought not to sound machine-like. In these performances there is a buoyancy to the perpetually pulsating rhythms in the Mallet Quartet and (above all) the lengthy Sextet that somehow conveys that joy in movement that seems to be what this music is all about–to the extent it’s about anything at all. Those gently but inexorably shifting rhythmic and harmonic patterns spring vividly to life.

That said, I wouldn’t recommend playing through the disc at a sitting, unless of course you’re planning on spending a full hour in a trance or some other meditative state. One thing is certain: the sonics are just perfect–amazingly lifelike, placing the ensemble in an ideal acoustic so that the actual timbres never become fatiguing. We haven’t heard much from Reich lately, on disc at least. Here’s a potent reminder of what an original musical force he was, and still is.

Read the original article here.


AllMusic Review

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February 12, 2016

by James Manheim

Percussion music represents an important strand in the output of minimalist composer Steve Reich, and this release by the ensemble Third Coast Percussion, whose members cheerfully admit they weren’t even born when Reich first came on the scene, shows how the genre has continued to interest him. The works involved span several decades, from Music for Pieces of Wood (1973) to 2009’s Mallet Quartet. It’s notable that Reich’s language, unlike those of his minimalist-pioneer compatriots, hasn’t fundamentally changed during this period. Instead, he explores percussion-defined spaces and processes in different ways. The Nagoya Marimbas (1996) receives a performance that, in the words of the players, “blends the characteristic Reich marimba sound with an expressive, nuanced approach to dynamic shaping”; the upshot seems to be a reading that lands toward the communicative end of the spectrum of Reich performances. Music for Pieces of Wood, one of the original works in which Reich transferred his electronic phase-process discoveries to the realm of live musicians, remains as entrancing as it was 43 years before this album was released. With crack modern players who have new wrinkles to contribute, this is a fine survey of Reich’s percussion music, released in 2016 and a fitting tribute in the composer’s 80th-birthday year.

Read the original article here.


Review: ‘Surface Tension,’ Inspired by the Met’s Percussive Collection

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February 11, 2016

by Vivien Schweitzer

Works for drums can be rich in rhythm and timbre, but are often harmonically less interesting because of the pitch limitations of the instrument. But a new piece by the Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy, given its New York premiere at the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Third Coast Percussion on Wednesday, proved an exception.

Inspired by the museum’s historic collection of percussion instruments and by the techniques used to play the bodhran, a traditional Irish frame drum, Mr. Dennehy’s “Surface Tension” incorporated an unusually wide spectrum of pitches.

Numerous percussion instruments were spread out on the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium stage, with some ensemble members performing from the balcony to generate an enveloping sound. The harmonic range of the tom-toms was expanded by blowing air into tubes attached to the side of the drums, which stretched the drumheads and thus the variety of pitches. The ensemble (whose members are Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin and David Skidmore) learned the technique from the drummer Glenn Kotche.

The most memorable sections of the piece were created when the musicians bowed percussion instruments like the marimba, which created a haunting, mellow drone over which unfolded rhythmic patterns of varying mood and urgency.

The contrasting moods of Steve Reich’s “Sextet” (1984), performed in honor of that composer’s 80th birthday this year, also proved striking. The ensemble was joined by David Friend and Oliver Hagen, who performed the piano and synthesizer parts.

Like most of Mr. Reich’s music, this sextet is notable for its rhythmic complexity, pulsing energy, ecstatic moods and harmonic shifts, here given extra resonance by shifting light patterns. After the more mellow middle movements, the finale, aptly titled “fast,” unfolded with the requisite electric energy.


Q2 Music Album of the Week: Third Coast Percussion Offers Empathetic ‘Steve Reich’

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February 8, 2016
by Doyle Armbrust

Steve Reich and Third Coast Percussion (TCP) are both celebrating birthdays this year, and if the latter’s new album is, in part, a gift to the former, all subsequent presents will likely take on a paler hue. Marking its 10th anniversary, Third Coast is surfing substantial momentum, with a residency at Notre Dame, frequent appearances on the country’s choicest music series, and this new album released by Chicago’s premiere classical label, Cedille.

There is no shortage of Reich’s percussion oeuvre on CD, but TCP comes out swinging with a stunning capture of the now 80-year-old’s Mallet Quartet (2009). Like careening down a Teflon-coated Slip ’n Slide covered in glycerin, the flow of time in movement one, “Fast,” is frictionless, propelling the listener ever forward, unencumbered by bar lines. Movement two, “Slow,” is heartbreaking, with its catch-breath, asymmetrical beat structure and reluctant harmonies played here with absorbing empathy by the quartet.

Listeners that have seen TCP perform will attest to a certain on-stage effervescence, but seizing this element on record is no easy feat, so special mention is due engineer Dan Nichols who across the album musters a lustrous warmth from the marimbas, a lucidity from the pianos, and a detailed profile from planks of wood. Even the album’s one stumbling point, Reich’s Sextet (1985), which compositionally plays like a clumsy Broadway musical backing track, succeeds in its sonic cohesion and balance of such timbrally disparate instruments as electric organ, piano, marimba, vibes, bass drum and crotales.

As on their 2013 album, “Resounding Earth,” Third Coast’s ability to gently manipulate time here translates to a listening experience that is both buoyant and penetrating (just listen to the centrifugal force at play in the turnarounds throughout track 9, Nagoya Marimbas). Perhaps the primary achievement of “Steve Reich,” though, is that these recordings are immediately recognizable as Third Coast Percussion.

Read the original article here.


Review

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by Rob Barnett

… along comes this disc in Reich’s eightieth birthday year with four works scattered across four decades. It’s an encouraging chance to catch up. All the usual attractions are on show. The most succulent of these is Mallet Quartet proving that minimalism can offer juice as well as a mind-tingling rhythmic lucidity. There are surprises too – even disappointments although not in the execution by these six players – including two pianists in Sextet. The gloomy metallic thudding bass-emphatic realms of the central three movements of Sextet are not where I would start anyone new to Reich; for that the large-scale works Desert Music and Variations should not be missed. The outer movements (of five) of Sextet offer contrasting recompense with some ruthless piano figuration alongside the marimbas and vibraphones. Nagoya Marimbas returns us to that open oxygen-rich ringing percussion sound. Here – and in the drier five-movement Music for Pieces of Wood – we are again captivated by Third Coast Percussion’s attentive ears, wrists and musculature. That essential dynamic tickle, thud and rhythmic absorption is there and the audio-engineers deserve as much praise as the four musicians of Third Coast Percussion and the two pianists in Sextet: David Friend and Oliver Hagen.

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Third Coast expands percussion’s meaning

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January 28, 2016

by Jackie Walton

The four musicians who comprise Third Coast Percussion have repeatedly taken on fearsome repertoire over the years. The ensemble specializes in material that’s out of reach to most percussion groups.

The quartet will tackle yet another series of demanding challenges in a pairing of works by Donnacha Dennehy and Steve Reich on Saturday at the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, where the quartet has been the ensemble-in-residence since 2013.

Both compositions require the performers to handle a heavy workload, sometimes involving highly unusual extended techniques.

The concert begins with the world premiere of Dennehy’s “Surface Tension.” It was co-commissioned by DeBartolo and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Third Coast will repeat this program at the Met in New York City in February.

“Surface Tension” features a phenomenon rarely heard in percussion music: melodies.

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The Best Things To Do In Chicago This Month: Classical, New Music, Opera

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January 28, 2016

By Graham Meyer and Matt Pollock

UCHICAGO PRESENTS

2/5 AT 7:30 Third Coast Percussion bangs out a crowd-pleasing program that includes Thierry De Mey’s rhythmic Table Music, the Chicago premiere of Donnacha Dennehy’s drumming piece Surface Tension, and the minimalist master Steve Reich’s Sextet. $5–$25. International House, U. of C., 1414 E. 59th.

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REICH: Works for Percussion

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January 27, 2016

by Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim

By the time the members of this impressive percussion ensemble joined forces in 2005, the composer Steve Reich was already a grandfather figure in the American new-music scene. So as the percussionist Robert Dillon writes in the liner notes to this beguiling CD, his group’s responsibility is ‘not to document this repertoire — it no longer needs basic preservation — but rather, to put our own stamp on it.’ It’s above all a sensual approach to tone color that comes through in Third Coast’s take on classic works, whether it’s the relaxed warmth of the Mallet Quartet or the glistening brightness of ‘Music for Pieces of Wood.’ Joined by the pianists David Friend and Oliver Hagen, the ensemble also finds full-blooded drama in the Sextet, which contains within its five movements a world of expressions from impish charm to almost oppressive darkness.

Read the original article here.