Funk-fusion trio Eclectica hits Carbondale Mountain Fair
CARBONDALE -Poor Mr. and Mrs. Silverman. Just when their boy, Tracy, looked like he was going to start putting all that classical violin training to good use, he goes and gets himself mixed up with a bunch of guys dressing all crazy, and playing that rock and funk music. And excuse me mister, did we send you to Juilliard to learn how to play proper music just so you could go and “jam” on some “grooves” without even looking at those written scores you spent years learning how to read?Actually, the Silvermans profess a liking for Eclectica – an idea that Tracy Silverman finds slightly worrisome and strange, given that his parents have tended to prefer the concertos and chamber music he has played not infrequently in his career. Eclectica, which makes its valley debut with an appearance at 7 p.m. Friday at Carbondale Mountain Fair, features drummer Roy “Future Man” Wooten, best known for his membership in Bla Fleck & the Flecktones; bassist Steve Forrest, who plays in a group with Wooten and Wooten’s brothers; and Silverman. The group was born out of a rushed-together gig at Nashville’s Frist Center for the Visual Arts, and a single-day recording session at Nashville’s Ocean Way Studios, which yielded all the basic tracks for an album, “Streaming Video Soul,” released last year.The trio has done its best to maintain the improvised, play-don’t-plan quality that surrounded it from the beginning. “The idea was, we really wanted to preserve the sense of spontaneity, creativity – the thing that happens best when people play in the moment,” the 50-year-old Silverman said from his home in Nashville, speaking of the session for “Streaming Video Soul.” “We very loosely sketched ideas and tried not to define it too much. We let ourselves just ramble in the studio – and then it was my large task to put it all together.”Silverman was speaking about the recording session, but the approach applies equally, if not more so, to the stage. “One of the rules is, you’ve got to be a good improviser,” he said of the band. “We can go from playing a movement from one of my concertos to a tune that is funky, almost with rap stuff in it. We let the tunes take off however we’re feeling, so that one night it’s James Brown, the next night, it’s Stravinsky. That’s the idea – to have freedom.”••••Silverman was raised to play a more straight-laced style. A native of New York but raised in Wisconsin, he returned to Manhattan at the age of 8 to attend Juilliard’s pre-college division – “kind of doing the child prodigy thing,” he said. Silverman was modest in saying this, but it was the truth: He made his professional debut at the age of 13, playing Saint-Sans’ Violin Concerto with the Chicago Symphony. At 16, he entered Juilliard’s regular program, studying with Ivan Galamian.But Silverman quickly became more interested in things outside of the standard classical violin realm. He wanted to compose, and sing, and play jazz and pop music. And he wanted to construct a six-string violin that had the range of an electric guitar. “I thought it would take a year or two to become a rock star on the violin,” he said.Silverman spent 10 years playing in and fronting rock bands, without ever becoming the violin equivalent of Ian Anderson, the flute-playing leader of rock band Jethro Tull. But he did earn plenty of respect as a musician, and was drafted to play first violin in the innovative jazz combo, the Turtle Island String Quartet. He spent time in Brazil playing with South American musicians, wrote a concerto for electric violin, and collaborated frequently with composer Terry Riley on projects that were inspired by Indian raga music.About a decade ago, Silverman caught the ear of composer John Adams, who invited him to play some incidental violin for a project Adams was creating for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. As the piece developed, the violin component grew more and more prominent until it became a work for solo electric violin and orchestra, titled “The Dharma at Big Sur.” The project was, said Adams, “the closest thing to a genuine collaboration I’ve ever done with a performer.”The Adams collaboration, while hardly the only classical project Silverman has undertaken, is the most prominent; he is scheduled for seven orchestra engagements to play “The Dharma at Big Sur.” “Which is satisfying, because my parents gave me hell for playing the rock ‘n’ roll,” he said. The Silvermans are, no doubt, doubly satisfied that, in 2012, Silverman is also going to premiere a new Terry Riley composition, commissioned by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, and that the piece is also set for a Carnegie Hall date.Future Man – known to friends as “Futch” – has given Silverman not only a reason to rock out again, but to check out Nashville. A decade ago, Futch was putting together a performance – “a cool gig, as Futch does, one of his extravaganzas with all these improvising musicians from all over the country,” Silverman said. Silverman, who was living in the San Francisco Bay area at the time, was among the invited, although he still doesn’t know what caused Futch to include him. Playing alongside such adventurous musicians as bassoonist Paul Hanson, violinist Mark Feldman and the Flecktones saxophonist Jeff Coffin, he saw a side of Nashville he didn’t know existed.”I thought, Wow, Nashville’s a really cool place. It gave me a very positive first reaction. I was expecting pointed boots and cowboy hats. But there’s a lot more to Nashville than that,” Silverman said. Within a few months, he had moved to Nashville.Among the things that Nashville had was the Wootens: Victor, the bassist for the Flecktones; oldest brother Regi, a guitarist; keyboardist Joseph; and saxophonist Rudy, who died earlier this month. Not least among them is Roy, the drummer who took on the futuristic persona of Future Man after he invented the synthax drumitar, a percussion synthesizer held like a guitar, but with electric pads instead of strings. Despite the surface gimmickry of the instrument, Futch is considered a first-rate musician.”I remember thinking, this is one of the most musical cats I’d known. He just lives and breaths music,” Silverman said. “Now I know, that’s a trademark of the Wooten brothers. Reggie – he is the muse. He is music itself.”After the gig with Future Man, Silverman found himself wishing for an extended life for the collaboration. When Silverman was booked to do a show for the Frist Center, he called on Future Man. With little time to rehearse, they improvised a show out of basic grooves.When it came time to make an album, the two brought in Kyle Whalum to play bass. Whalum has since joined a touring country band, and Steve Forrest, bassist for the Wooten Brothers Band’s weekly gig at Nashville’s 3rd & Lindsley club.In Eclectica, Future Man sticks to the ordinary drum set. But Silverman notes that he does extraordinary things with it.”He’s amazing on acoustic drums, a very dynamic player,” Silverman said. “He can play super light and jazzy, and then just slam it and funk it. He’s a cross between orchestral percussionist and someone who’s familiar with Steve Reich, and the funkiest, bad-ass drummer you’ve ever heard.”If Mr. and Mrs. Silverman are in the crowd tonight, no doubt they’ll be looking for that first side of Future Man, and of Eclectica. But they should also keep in mind that, if not for their son’s rock and funk sides, Tracy Silverman might not be lined up to play a bunch of classical concerts ahead.”The irony is not lost on me that it was because of my unusual history that John Adams wanted to work with me,” he said. “I had taken this very different journey through rock and pop and songwriting and ethnic music that appealed to John,” he said. “He has access to any violinist he could possibly want, but he specifically wanted someone who played different than that.”firstname.lastname@example.org
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