8 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, February 18, 2005
Concert Band plays,
By Lloyd Cargo
Daily Arts Writer
It's difficult to explain how spontaneously pro-
duced music can be beautiful. On its Winter 2005
Tour, the University's School of Music's Creative
Arts Orchestra tapped into some sort of transcen-
dent improvisatory force - and there's no other
way to explain the quality of the music that trans-
The music world isn't all that different from
the academic world - there are all kinds of rules
restricting creativity. In such a rigid system, a perfor-
mance group like this defies musical dogma. CAO is
not only one of the few improvisatory ensembles in
academics - they're also one of the few such groups
in the world.
"We play free because we want to live free," trum-
peter Ross Huff explained. For 15 musicians to play
together without a predetermined musical structure
and still create cohesive compositions time after
time is nearly unbelievable.
Though CAO is made up of musicians with vastly
different personalities, backgrounds and influences,
they are able to reach their musical nirvana because
the group makes this creative journey as one. Feel-
ing the energy the band taps into as they commu-
nicate non-verbally during performances is in itself
galvanizing. That players with such varying life
By Jessica Koch
For the Daily
The School of Music's Concert
Band presented its first performance
of 2005 Wednesday evening at Hill
ensemble showed Concert Band
that they haven't
lost a beat since Wednesday, Feb.
their last concert 16 at 8 p.m.
in December. At Hill Auditorium
incorporated a lively, engaging assort-
ment of pieces that appealed to a vari-
ety of musical preferences.
The band's conductor, Associate
Director of Bands and Conducting Prof.
Stephen Davis, described the evening's
program as containing "a wide variety
of pieces, some very contemporary and
others more traditional."
He went on to explain that this
concert's repertoire features "a mix-
ing of styles that depict all of the
The brass section of the Concert
Band began the performance with
Fanfare from "Le Peri." The Paul
Durkas fanfare commanded listeners'
attention with full, resonant chords.
This piece also prepared audience
members for a musical journey that,
according to Davis, "challenges lis-
teners to grow as an audience."
Gunther Schuller's On Winged
Flight was the featured piece of the
evening. "The piece is exception-
ally difficult," explained Davis. "It
is a 20th century piece and therefore
contains a wide range of contempo-
Each of the five movements of
this modern piece created a different
atmosphere and environment.
From the delicate, sylvan sounds
of bird calls in the Pastorale move-
ment to the dark, sinister fear created
by the ominous Nocturne, Schuller's
composition is constantly evolv-
ing in mood. "(Schuller) is a truly
unique person, a great performer and
composer," Davis said. The Parody
finale completed the piece on a large
boisterous note, with fast melodic
lines and loud obtrusive sounds char-
acteristic of big city traffic.
The variety continued into the
second half with the small ensemble
piece, Old Wine in New Bottles. The
Gordon Jacob piece, directed by
graduate conductor Brian K. Doyle,
created a lightness that balanced
well against the previous, more
heavily orchestrated pieces. With
lovely woodwind melodies, the small
ensemble illustrated the carefree
and adventurous spirit felt by sailors
before embarking on a voyage.
The band ended their performance
with Tchaikovsky's jovial and tra-
ditional Dance of the Jesters. The
piece's energetic, foot tapping mel-
ody was the perfect conclusion to
the evening's performance and sent
audience members back out into the
cold with warm sentiments.
Courtesy of Lloyd Cargo
Bassist Brad Townsend, saxophonist Joey Dosik and violinist Leena Gilbert improvise during a
performance at Carnegie Mellon University.
experiences - from a Viennese master's student
to a freshman from Los Angeles - can share the
same musical vision so effortlessly is frighteningly
Equally impressive was the momentum the group
built up over the course of their five-day, five-show
jaunt. It all began at Duquesne University in Pitts-
burgh, where CAO's version of a demented film
score caused one audience member to remark, "This
is the coolest thing that's happened to me all year."
The next afternoon's show at Carnegie Mellon
University was also well received, even if it did
shock some of the more conservative audience
members at Carnegie Mellon's music school. One
of the show's many highlights was the small group
performance by bassist Brad Townsend, violinist
Leena Gilbert and saxophonist Joey Dosik. Gil-
bert and Townsend wove together intricate melo-
dies over which Dosik blew lines reminiscent of
Albert Ayler. Juxtaposing the previous trio's bal-
ladry were the Zappa-esque grooves of drummer
Nick Zielinski, the fierce attack of soprano sax-
ophone player Andrea Steves and the hurricane
blowing of tenor saxophonist Dan Puccio.
The good vibes continued at the next after-
noon's show at Yale University's school of music
in New Haven, Conn. As a sort of homecoming
for tuba doctoral student Mike Nickens, CAO
held an impromptu lesson on improvised music
that turned into an all-inclusive jam session. In
attendance was jazz visionary Willie Ruff, who
has played on records by Miles Davis, the late
Jimmy Smith and Oscar Peterson, among others.
Impressed by CAO's performance, Ruff admon-
ished the group to "go wherever people will hear
you - jails, insane asylums, churches, nursery
schools . .."
Nowhere was there a more receptive audience
in attendance than at Columbia University. As
listeners in uptown Manhattan discovered, CAO
sounds the most powerful when you close your
eyes and give in to the music. People at the Colum-
bia show shook, danced and screamed without
regard for how odd or ridiculous they appeared.
There was no better soundtrack to that moment
than the New Orleans funk-stomp the ensemble
But the best performance was yet to come, as
the performance at The Bowery Poetry Club in
New York City with alto saxophone legend Oliver
Lake still loomed.
The Bowery show proved to be the apex of the
tour, blowing past the proverbial "middle zone"
and reaching a radical place where improvisa-
tion meets innovation, a state of being frequently
preached about by group leader Prof. Ed Sarath.
Having already played a show with CAO in Ann
Arbor, Lake - while fully aware of the ensem-
ble's capabilities - was still amazed by the qual-
ity of the group.
Before Lake joined the ensemble on stage, they
proved that they were capable of wowing listen-
ers on their own. The spoken-word piece spit
by Nickens was especially memorable. Perhaps
inspired by his surroundings, Nickens's words felt
fittingly potent to be performed in the esteemed
The climax of this concert was Lake's com-
position "Round 2000." The group's leaders,
trumpeter Mark Kirschenmann and Ed Sarath on
flugelhorn, blew respective solos that shimmied
and wailed as the rest of the ensemble provided
a complementary sonic backdrop. The piece was
shot into orbit by Lake's solo and brought home
when the entire group started on their lowest note
and ascended, lifting Lake up to infinity.
CAO accomplished everything they set out for
and more on their Winter Tour. The group man-
aged to demonstrate the endless possibilities of
collaborative music, playing melodies that have
never been heard before and will never be heard
again. This instrumental militia distilled their
talents down to musical "truth," exploding expec-
tations wherever they went. CAO proved that in
the right hands, improvisation and innovation can
create heavenly results.
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Courtesy of Lloyd Cargo
Mike Nickens directs CAO at Yale University.
plenty of powder, and a happening, Victorian town