Byron Mark Septet | ODYSSEY album launch
June 18, 2022, Surry Hills
There was an air of noisy excitement as the anticipating crowd waited for their hero to come onto the stage for this sell-out concert. Byron Mark had been preparing for this moment for four years, as Covid had interrupted his and all our plans. His journey, beginning with the Septet Project, translated into his new album (on vinyl) aptly named ODYSSEY, combining piano, string quartet, tabla and cajon in a collection of exciting compositions using rhythms inspired by flamenco and Latin cultures.
There were cheers when the Byron Mark Septet entered the stage. Byron talked about his journey and introduced the rest of the ensemble: Maharshi Raval from India on tabla; Giorgio Rojas from Peru on cajon; Anna Murakawa from Brazil and Australian Bronwyn Harrowsmith on violins; Phoebe Gilbert from Australia/Canada on viola; and Damian de Boos-Smith from Italy/Australia on cello.
They began the first number, Blossom, with hypnotic piano arpeggios over sustained string chords with occasional “whoops” and pitch bends from the tabla. This drifted into a more jazzy sound, which was enthusiastically embraced by all. Byron then talked about the film clip they had produced of the next piece, Burbujas, and the challenges they had with the piano on the beach during a spell of frequent rain. The live performance was irresistibly toe-tapping! Professional and more artistic toe-tapping occurred during Omens, when flamenco dancer Lauren Majarres appeared on stage with a baston (Spanish walking stick) that she also tapped on the floor in conversation with her footwork, while Byron tapped the Hangs (handpan) and Maharshi the tabla – it definitely had rhythm! More flamenco dancers (Roshanne Wijeyeratne and Chachy Penalver) in their majestic bata de cola flamenco dresses accompanied Byron on percussive, yet lyrical, piano in Lago Verde. YiaYia saw the return of the string quartet to join the piano for a piece dedicated to his Greek grandmother.
Byron then welcomed his special guest from Jerez, Spain: flamenco guitarist, Paco Lara. With Indian Maharshi Raval on tabla and bol (vocalised Indian percussion syllables), they performed a multicultural explosion of rhythms in Tres Qua. Paco Lara then performed Sendero, which he composed with his brother, Santiago.
It was wonderful to hear those flamenco rhythms emerge from such expert fingers on his pale ochre coloured guitar!
Giorgio Rojas then featured on the cajon in the next percussive piece Cajablonga, together with Byron and Maharshi. They were accompanied by the three flamenco dancers, Lauren Majarres, Roshanne Wijeyeratne and Chachy Penalver, who added their own exhilarating percussion and choreography with explosive footwork to respond to the drums in a visual delight of whirling dark blue and red.
Byroven is a merger of Byron and Beethoven, who share birthdays (Dec.16). Byron told us of his classical training and his love of a particular passage from Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in F. He developed this musically with the string quartet and the music evolved into a warm collection of soaring melodies and passionate rhythms.
Piano Dance, from his first album, AMALGAMATION, featured the beautiful Chachy Penalver and Kat Hoyos dancing to the Septet. They gracefully weaved between the rhythmic piano, energetic cello with portamento and flamenco-like guitar strumming, and a cajon solo. It was aurally and visually stunning!
After Comet Dust, which premiered at the Pearl Beach Festival in 2019, we again experienced the dizzying excitement of watching the three flamenco dancers move to the music of Buleria Buzzard. Their exuberance was infectious!
The crowd cheered and clapped and cried “encore” as the assembled performers took their bows. But after nearly two hours of solid playing, they deserved a rest. Byron thanked everybody and everybody thanked Byron with their continuing applause. It was a sensational night in the true spirit of the word!
The album is out now – buy here