Composer Kurt Bestor describes his music as "audio snapshots - pictures of emotion."
Monday night's "Airus" concert featuring Bestor, Sam Cardon and Michael Dowdle provided the audience with a rich and vibrant musical portrait of emotions - particularly of the power of friendship.The three Utah showmen shared the stage for two hours, alternating between the role of soloist and back-up musician, beautifully blending their talents to showcase each composer's strengths.
For instance, when Cardon was at the piano playing the opening number, his composition from his new album "Impulse," Bestor operated the keyboard and conducted the orchestra while Dowdle accompanied on his acoustical guitar.
While these three "Airus" recording artists, who have individually released recent albums, are obviously comfortable performing together, they each could have filled a two-hour concert with their own compositions. But the combination of these three distinct - yet complementary styles - resulted in an entertaining performance filled with variety and cohesiveness.
The performance offered the best in light contemporary jazz.
Bestor's style is as he describes - visual. You can see the scene that inspired him to write a piece as he plays. His composition "Summer Portrait" from his new release "Seasons" captured the lazy-day feeling of summer. As Bestor played his harmonica, it was natural to imagine yourself lying down in an open field underneath the noon day sun on a bright summer day. It was easy to forget the snowy roads and cold outside Symphony Hall.
Explaining that one of the reasons he lives in Utah is for the skiing, Bestor shared with the audience his love for the sport. Skiing through fresh powder near his home five minutes away from Sundance Ski Resort inspired Bestor to write "Sundance." As you hear the composition, you provide your own mental pictures of skiing down white slopes of new snow - even if you've never skied before. That's how vivid Bestor's music is; he succeeds in capturing the emotions and visions of the four seasons.
A highlight of the concert was Bestor's version of the soul of the deep South, captured in the piece "Revival." Bestor sang with a quintet of "gospel singers" singing such catchy lyrics as "Doo-doo-bop!" to his toe-tappin' song. It offered a fun diversion as Bestor loosened up the "reverent Utah audience."
Drawing from the popularity of his release last year, "Airus Christmas," Bestor wisely featured a few favorite Christmas songs in the concert. His arrangements of "Angels We Have Heard on High" and "Silent Night" show off his extraordinary talent.
Cardon, who is Bestor's long-time friend and collaborator, said it was his job to "work the audience into a frenzy." Just as the title to his album "Impulse" suggests, Cardon's music is bursting with action. Cardon's friend Ray Smith played a stunning saxophone solo in "Wishing Well."
Cardon also played a tender tribute to his wife in his song "Tammy's Theme." Like Bestor, Cardon masterfully used the symphony to enrich the dynamics and depth of his compositions.
"Fire on Ice," from the album "Impulse," received enthusiastic applause from the audience. Bestor and Cardon composed this original score, which won an Emmy, for the coverage of the 1988 Winter Olympics.
Dowdle, who played the guitar on four tracks from Bestor's "Christmas" album and eight tracks on Cardon's "Impulse," proved his songwriting talents as he played from his release "Touch."
The guitarist/songwriter signed with Airus Records as a solo artist in late 1989. He has written material earlier in his career and believes this is the right time to debut his composing talents.
The audience responded warmly to his compositions and talent, giving the trio standing ovations.
"It feels good to write music people appreciate," said Bestor at the conclusion of a successful, inspiring concert.