Ying and Yang: Classic rock, classical music
ASPEN Bobby Yang’s years of studying classical violin, including three summers in the mid-’90s at the Aspen Music School, are the subject of a love-hate relationship. Though sometimes it’s hard to find the love in that tangled web.”I hated it,” said the 31-year-old Yang. “I’d already started the loathing for orchestra playing in college. I’d slump in my chair. I’ve said I’d rather have been a prison guard.””No. 1 Tribute,” Yang’s 2005 debut CD, practically screams out where Yang’s musical preferences lie. The album opens with a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” and runs through more of rock’s classic tunes – “Roxanne,” “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” “With or Without You” – plus more recent additions to the rock canon – Coldplay’s “Clocks,” Stone Temple Pilots’ “Plush,” Radiohead’s “Creep.” Yang places an exclamation point on “No. 1 Tribute” with a take on “I Love Rock N Roll.”In November, Yang followed “No. 1 Tribute” with “Yang It! Live at Eddie’s Attic,” which he recorded at the noted club in Athens, Ga. The repertoire expands in the expected direction, with stretched-out versions of “War Pigs,” “Good Times Bad Times” and “Welcome to the Jungle.”
Yang, who now lives in Atlanta after a stretch in Aspen, says song selection has a lot to do with expedience. “No. 1. Tribute” was recorded in two days.”It was more instinct: ‘What can we play that is easiest to get down?'” he said. But those instincts, Yang added, indicate “where my heart is.” When Yang appears at Belly Up Aspen on Wednesday, with his band, the Unrivaled Players – a quartet with Benjamin Reich on upright bass, Daniel Luthjohn on acoustic guitar and Mark Cobb on drums – the set won’t veer an inch from the style of the two albums.Take a step back from the rock riffs, however, and the appreciation Yang has for his classical training can be faintly heard. Yang, on stage and on the albums, plays acoustic violin, not the electrified version.”I’m always dissing electronic violin,” Yang said. “I think they’re the worst invention. I’ve tried them all.”
Aside from the acoustic tones, Yang is most grateful for the technique his years in the conservatory taught him.”Playing rock music on violin is brutal. I’ve bled,” said Yang, whom Kevin Costner’s band featured in a private gig last summer at Belly Up. “We play two-hour shows, and the sounds I’m creating are so beautifully harsh, it takes a lot of technique. But it’s because of my teachers, that endurance. I don’t have carpal tunnel or tendenitis, because I’ve trained my muscles. I go to schools telling them they don’t want that.”I wouldn’t be able to do this without my training. I’d be a hack and look stupid. Even my posture would be awful, that posture that rock violinists have.”Yang said his live album is titled “Yang It” after his motto: “Yanging it is the opposite of winging it,” he said. “It’s to study and train, and do something the best you can.”
Yang had an opportunity recently to have his classical credentials assessed by musicians who would know proper technique. Two weeks ago, the Atlanta Pops Orchestra backed Yang & His Unrivaled Players at the Theatre Dublin in Dublin, Ga., where Yang wrote all the arrangements for the concert. The show went over well, he said, but it could have been better.”It was billed as the Atlanta Pops with Bobby Yang. Next time it will be Bobby Yang with the Atlanta Pops,” he said.Beyond that, Yang has an even bigger plan for meshing styles.”I want my career to be 50 percent classical, 50 percent rock,” he said. “Red Rocks one night, and the next night with the Denver Symphony.”Tickets to Bobby Yang are $12. Y O U opens at 10 p.m. at the club, located at 450 S. Galena St.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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