Like the Kronos Quartet, Neo Camerata is a Bay Area- based chamber music ensemble ("small group," in rock lingo). And like Kronos, NC presents itself not in formal duds, but as a well-dressed hipster one might see on a Saturday night on Mission Street. There, the resemblance ends -- Kronos is a string quartet (two violins, viola, and cello) dedicated to works by 20th- and 21st-century composers, while Neo C is the same four strings plus piano as well as violist and principal composer Mark Lanson. Lanson, who has a rock background, aims for a more "user-friendly" (i.e., reaching music fans nonconversant with classical music) sound, and therein is the rub. While Neo C has both impressive technique and a cordial approach, Lanson's "Vokante Heroa," while very attractive, is pretty much warmed-over Brahms. The title piece is more inspired, with its judicious use of turbulent, insistent rhythms, mild dissonance, and overcast, plaintive moods reverberating with hints of gospel melodies and other Americana. Newcomers to the world of notated composition... More >>>