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A Musical Feast with David Taylor in Artvoice

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Deep Slide Trombone by Jan Jezioro 

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Virtuoso bass trombonist David Taylor comes back to A Musical Feast

Can it really be five years since bass trombone virtuoso David Taylor last performed in the Musical Feast chamber music series, back in its former home in the Kavinoky Theatre? When Taylor makes his welcome return to the series on Friday, April 12 at 8pm, it will be at the ultra-modern Tower Auditorium of the Burchfield Penney Art Center.

The only bass trombonist to win the National Academy of Recording Arts and Science’s Most Valued Player Award, Taylor has done so a total of five times, the most times that it can be awarded to any musician. He has been on numerous Grammy award-winning recordings, having recorded with artists as diverse as Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, YoYo Ma, and the Rolling Stones, in addition to recording seven solo CD’s.

Schubert’s Die Nebensonnen inspired Taylor to write Song and Dance for bass trombone and piano in a 12-bar blues form. “In Song, says pianist Michael McNeil, “the traditional harmonic progression of the blues is sometimes in the foreground, but through much of the piece it’s in the background, obscured or refracted by chromatic harmony, but still audible, while Dance, to me, recalls Stravinsky, Ives, and the marching-band and ragtime roots of jazz—it’s very propulsive and rhythmic.”

David Taylor composed his instrumental version of Schubert’s Der Doppelgänger, taken from the Schwanengesang song cycle, as an encore piece, to be used after his performance of a concerto in the famed Musikverein in Vienna. Taylor arranged it for low string orchestra, and he says, “I was frightened to present it to the group, Schubert being Vienna’s hometown boy. The first time the orchestra ran through it, I saw some snickers, but when they heard where I took the piece, they insisted on my performing it at all the performances, encore needed or not. Since then I’ve performed it often, and with different configurations. The piece has a repeating bass line, and for the most part a very low open harmony. To express the deep words and vocal quality I choose to use a plunger mute.”

Hearing a radio broadcast in the wake of the disastrous 2011 Japanese tsunami describing the early 17th-century painting Waves at Matsushima by Japanese artist Tawaraya Sotatsu, which depicts a tumultuous sea battering a submerged coastline, inspired John Bacon to compose his work for marimba solo, Waves at Matsushima. Bacon says, “Each of the three sections opens with a monophonic chant and then elaborates improvisationally on the material, while the final coda is a brittle chorale. I hasten to describe the music in programmatic terms but the imagery of the waves is unmistakable in the cresting of the musical gestures both sonically and visually on the manuscript.”

German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, one of the seminal figures in post-World War II music, originally composed Signs of the Zodiac as part of a theater piece for children. The 12 melodies are character pieces, each representing one of the signs of the zodiac, and notable for their striking simplicity, they can be played by any suitable instruments. This performance features arrangements of five movements from the work for piano, marimba, vibes, bass trombone, and cello, by David Taylor, John Bacon, and Jonathan Golove.

About his arrangements of the Aquarius and Aries movements, Bacon says, “I’m always interested in timbral variety and exploration and the simplicity of Stockhausen’s original score allows these timbral shifts to take a prominent role.”

“Leo struck me as a sunny, bold piece, and I was looking for bright and direct sounds to express those qualities,” Golove says. “As the melody is to be repeated several times, I decided upon an alternation of melodic instruments—theremin, cello, and bass trombone—with the clear ringing tones of the vibraphone and piano to accompany, and just of touch of summer haze in the marimba.”