By Robert Johnson Jr.
Arts & Features Editor
Vocalist Zoë Krohne, bassist Doug Rich, and alto saxophonist Willie Sordillo did not have to go far from their native Framingham to visit the University for a Midday Performance to an audience of 27 people.
Only pianist/vocalist Marlene del Rosario – a native of the Philippines – is not a Framingham native.
The quartet is influenced by many musical stylings, including jazz, R&B, gospel, and Filipino folk traditions, making themselves a rather versatile group.
Four Corners invited the audience to “wade in the water,” as they opened the show with a soulful and jazzy rendition of the 1901 Negro spiritual of the same name.
Their interpretation of it, while disjointed in some places due to everyone doing their own thing, featured many call-and-response interactions among members of the band – mainly between Sordillo and Krohne. By the end, what started out as calm and smooth became something loud and moving, indicated by the increase in intensity in Krohne’s singing.
What followed the opening was a composition by Rich, one that will be used for an upcoming animated series about weather preparedness – “Ready for the Storm.”
The piece was a mellow yet funky take on a harsh and threatening issue, with Krohne’s crooning providing reassuring messages and themes of hope in her vocal delivery. Sordillo’s solo was another high point in the song, with del Rosario and Rich doing their part to back Sordillo’s virtuosic efforts.
Rich was not the only one with a composition of his own – del Rosario and Sordillo jumped in on the fun with their pieces, “Shoes for a Soul” and “Unexceptional.”
“Shoes” tells the story of a man named Eugene whom del Rosario encountered on the corner of Newbury Street and Massachusetts Avenue while she did her studies at the Berklee College of Music.
“He was a shoeman, you know? He would repair or shine shoes and he was a fixture – he was there every day,” del Rosario said. “He was a very friendly guy – nice to watch.”
“Unexceptional” focuses on no particular person, but, rather, centers on the concept that every person is both unique and unexceptional. Despite the gentle opening measures, each band member had two opportunities for solos, bringing great excitement to the song’s later moments.
After that display of imagination, Four Corners pulled out another cover – this time, one of Herbie Hancock’s 1974 song, “Butterfly.”
The jazz-like characteristics were maintained in the band’s interpretation, making brilliant use of musical pauses to keep the audience on their toes, while Sordillo lived up to the solo-driven nature of the original.
Krohne’s singing was impossible to ignore, for it, along with Rich’s bass guitar backing, played an integral part in keeping the slow, funky vibe.
Instrumental music fans were in for a treat with a piece called “Lie,” one that attempted to “make a statement,” in the words of Sordillo.
“There’s actually two ‘lies’ in this song: the first is the lie of white supremacy, and the second lie is the lie that we have overcome racism,” Sordillo said of the title.
The composition itself starts out as a mellow, low-tempo melody, one that prompted the audience to think about the overwhelming power of white supremacy in America. This veil is quickly destroyed as the piece transforms into a fast, chaotic jam session with no structure, which was very accurate, considering the theme.
This chaos becomes order again, as the band closes out the tune in a calm fashion.
Closing out the lengthy, 12-song concert, the band performed a cover of Gregory Porter’s 2016 song, “Fan the Flames,” featuring fast-paced vocals by Krohne and swing-like bass playing by Rich.
The most surprising contribution to the melody was del Rosario’s use of scat singing, which made for a rather unique addition to a great performance.
The Midday Performance series will return Feb. 10, 2020 with Sawaari in the McCarthy Center Forum.