Outside The Bachs

Published on Thursday, 23 January 2014 21:53 - Written by By Stewart Smith ssmith@tylerpaper.com

Bach to the Future may be a silly, tongue-in-cheek name, but it’s a remarkably apt descriptor, both for the aims of the jazz quartet it represents and their attitude toward their craft.

Pianist Michael Silverman, drummer/percussionist Rob Silverman, bassist Matt Bollinger and violinist Andrew Driscoll comprise the classical/jazz fusion group that sprung up from what was initially little more than a fun exercise done on a whim that eventually took on a life of its own. Now the quartet takes compositions by the likes of Bach and Beethoven and puts their own modern spin on them.

The name came about after the group came up with their own jazzed-up (literally) version of Bach’s first “invention” (short piano compositions) during a recording session for a jazz album. The cut went on the record and soon they found themselves booking events to play only that song.

“You’re right, (the name) was a little bit of a joke. But we really enjoyed playing (the song) and people responded to it,” Michael Silverman said in a telephone interview with the Tyler Morning Telegraph. “People just enjoy the idea of having fun with music that some consider old fashioned, perhaps.”

There was actually some concern, Silverman said, that they would be considered heretics of a sort for daring to take something “sacred” like classical music and modernizing it.

“The funny thing is, growing up knowing so many classical musicians, classical music always seemed sacred and off limits. So we never thought about playing it as a group at all. It was the last thing on our minds, even though we had combined every other style in the past,” Silverman said. “It’s funny, because people occasionally do have a problem but mostly people are excited that we are making it accessible and fun to a younger generation.”

However, untraditional and even unusual as the combination of classical and jazz may be, Silverman said he’s come to realize that classical music isn’t somehow separate from other styles of music.

“When we started playing with the harmony and the melodies in classical music, it didn’t take us long at all to realize it’s really the same stuff. It’s made of the same things and it is easily adapted to improvisation, and can be arranged with modern jazz harmony and still sounds great,” he said. “Jazz musicians are always looking for a great melody to improvise on, and there are no greater melodies than Bach, Beethoven and Mozart. There is no music that has stood the test of time than the music of the great composers.”

Music is music, Silverman said, and there should perhaps be a shift in attitude regarding the way popular culture regards classical composers and their work.

“We look at those composers like they’re George Washington, like they’re figures in history instead of the way we look at Michael Jackson, but we really shouldn’t. They were rock stars,” he said. “Music is music and the response we’ve gotten has taught us that there’s nothing off-limits and the more you push the limits, the more people like it. … It’s all music, it’s pretty universal.”

Silverman said that we often think of classical music as being untouchable and unchangeable due to the fact that all we have of the original compositions is sheet music with no existing recordings. But classical music is much more open to improvisation and experimentation than some suspect, he said.

“Jazz was born the second that there were recordings,” Silverman said. “As soon as people heard there were two or three different ways that a song could be played, we called that a new style of music. … You can take a classical piece and you can make a jazz lead sheet or a jazz chord chart out of a classical piece, and try it a variety of different ways and it works exactly the same as any other style.”

More than anything, Silverman said the group just wants to give its audience a fun time and perhaps change their perspective about classical music in the process.

“We just wanted to come up with the funnest way it could be heard. For instance, we play Hungarian Rhapsody, which most people seem to know as a piece of Bugs Bunny music. And they love it when they hear it,” he said. “The guiding principle is ‘What would be the most interesting, fun way to hear the music.’ We want it to be mind-expanding and accessible as possible. If we can make music that people think of as inaccessible as accessible music they can tap their foot to, then we’ve done something.”

Bach to the Future will perform at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 14 at Caldwell Auditorium in Tyler. The concert is part of Tyler Community Concert Association’s Live On Stage series. For more information or to reserve tickets, call 903-592-6266 or visit www.tcca.biz .