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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

THE AQUARIAN QUARTET (article first published : 2003-01-30)

Running at the Catalina Theatre on Wilson’s Wharf until Sunday is The Aquarian Quartet, a group of some of South Africa’s finest acoustic guitarists seen performing together all too seldom.

Tony Cox and Steve Newman appear regularly as a duo, particularly lately as they have been promoting their new album and were seen at The Royal Hotel fairly recently. Syd Kitchen is also much in the limelight in KZN but we don’t get to see Greg Georgiades very often.

Put all four together and the result can only be a seriously combustible musical happening. Somewhere along the line in forming a foursome of musicians that identified with the same kind of music, they discovered that they were all born under the sign of Aquarius. Hence the title - The Aquarian Group.

What is an Aquarian? Browsing around in various reference books, I came up with the fact that it’s an air sign which means that those born under it are mentally active, rational and communicative. Aquarius represents true humanitarianism, steadfastness and a deep social conscience. Its members are also highly self-controlled so that while their natures are emotional and complex, they are able to appear cool and detached.

They share the same birth sign with such luminaries as the poets Burns and Byron, actors John Hurt and Paul Newman, actress Vanessa Redgrave and the controversial American painter Jackson Pollock. Aquarian composers include Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Frans Schubert. Others making a major contribution to “who” and “what” we are today were naturalist Charles Darwin and Thomas Edison who patented the first electric light.

Considering all of the above, the members of the Aquarian Quartet – to their audiences, at least – appear to stay true to form. Their work is fascinating, highly skilled and inventive without any showy presentation hype. Sometimes you can’t even hear their intros. It’s almost a case, of “Here’s the music, guys. Pull in if you feel like it but we’re going to play and make our kind of music, anyway.”

Opening with a number that is highly suitable for Catalina - Waters Edge, the show starts almost on the intake of a breath of a sigh, gradually building into intensity as one by one the guitarists take the theme and cruise off down another path. The show continues with various combos – solos, duos and the whole group – to present a highly enjoyable evening of guitar music, filled with humour, innovation and exploration such as Your Name on a Grain of Rice, Bicycle, Oud if You Could and the Cox/Newman highlight Duelling Zorbas.

“We like to leave some tunes wide open,” says Tony Cox. The foursome proceeds to wander aimlessly and casually down musical paths – like a stroll through an old city or sleepy village encountering different elements along the way but eventually experiencing a soul-enhancing whole.

Bookings on 031 305 6889. Some of the items played at Catalina can be found on the group’s CD which is on sale in the foyer. At a cost of R100, it’s money well spent to hear this group which performs all too seldom. – Caroline Smart




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