Genre-bending band Quarteto Nuevo merges Western classical, European folk, Latin and Jazz

Quarteto Nuevo members Damon Zick (soprano saxophone, woodwinds), Kenton Youngstrom (acoustic guitar), Jacob Szekely (cello) and Felipe Fraga (percussion). (Photo courtesy of Quarteto Nuevo)

Last year, the New Yorker wrote an article titled “Genre is Disappearing. What Comes Next?” This existential question is what a lot of music artists are figuring out today. “Does my music belong to one genre?” One band in particular, Quarteto Nuevo, is a prime example of genre-bending. The four-piece band merges Western classical, Eastern European folk, Latin and jazz into their songs. They recently released a new album, “Quarteto Nuevo 2,” this past July. The band is performing at the Strand Theatre at Marietta Square on Nov. 5. Before they hit the stage, one of the members, Damon Zick, the soprano saxophonist and alto flautist of the band, joined “City Lights” producer Summer Evans via Zoom to talk about the band and their kaleidoscopic new album.

Interview highlights:

A self-selecting group of musically encyclopedic virtuosos:

“We really enjoy playing all these styles of music — classical chamber music, jazz and improvising and world music. And even in a large music scene like Los Angeles, when you put those parameters in place, it really actually limits the pool of who can actually do that music,” said Zick. “In a sense, we sort of found each other just naturally. When we’re looking to do this kind of music, the options aren’t as large as you might think and then once we found each other and started playing together, we really came up with a sort of synergy and said, ‘Hey, this is something that really works well.'”

“Everyone kind of has a similar thing where, in a typical week doing freelance music in Los Angeles, one day we’ll be doing a rock recording session and then a film scoring session and then playing string quartets at someone’s wedding, and everything in between. And so it’s this real love of all these diverse styles and everyone in the group can really navigate them at a really high level, which is what I love about the group.”

International adventures in style and language:

“[‘Dizer o Que?’] was actually … a composition by our guitarist, Kenton Youngstrom, and Kenton wrote this piece a few years back, and when he wrote it, he was playing it for a friend of his and the friend said, ‘Oh, that really sounds like a Chick Corea composition,’ and it definitely has it,” recalled Zick. “The friend said, ‘Well, you should call it Portugal,’ because Chick Corea has a famous composition called ‘Spain.’ And Kenton originally titled it ‘Say What?,’ which is okay, but when Felipe [Fraga] joined in and said, ‘Well, you know what, it sounds a lot better in Portuguese,’ and so ‘Dizer o Que?’ is Portuguese for ‘Say what?'”

“A couple years ago, we were having a talk for the band that most of our music, when we were doing world music, was definitely out of the country. So we were doing South American music and Eastern European and all these kind of things, and Jacob [Szekely] and I were talking and said ‘We need to focus a little bit, too, more on the regional differences of America,’ and so he brought in [‘Appalachian Waltz,’] which is one of his favorites. Marc O’Connor is a fiddling legend,” said Zick. “It’s definitely a sort of classical approach to it, but … you definitely hear these fiddling tradition undertones, and part of that is there’s a huge fiddling tradition in Irish or Celtic music as well, so you definitely hear that come into play. I love the version that Jacob put together.”

Not your typical stuffy classical concert:

“The things we always hear about the ensemble that people get very excited about is, number one, visually how much fun we look like we’re having. And we are. This is our passion project, and we all leave our freelance careers in L.A. to go on the road and do these tours because this is what we really, really enjoy doing,” Zick said. “That sort of joy in playing really comes across from the stage. You’ll see it’s not a stuffy chamber music concert by any means. You’ll see us having fun and smiling and laughing, and we love interacting with the audience.”

The band Quarteto Nuevo performs at Marietta’s Strand Theatre and the Aurora Theatre on Nov. 5. Tickets and more information are available at Quarteto Nuevo’s tour schedule can be found at