Always innovative, Open Classical just raised the bar. Headed by violinist and composer, Mark Landson, Open Classical has produced over 125 classical events in the last three years. Their latest endeavor is its new series, Classically Jazzed. The premiere performance was on Friday, March 20 in Richardson’s Eisemann Center. Inspired by the music of classically trained jazz artist Eddie South, Classically Jazzed takes traditional pieces and reinvents them in the modern genre.
The works chosen are familiar: Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor, Für Elise, Mozart’s Symphony in G Minor and more. Mark Landson “wanted to create these in a way which stayed true to the motivic development that the composer wrote instead of just using the basic melodies and then doing improv.” To the untrained ear, it will sound reminiscent of French gypsy jazz of the mid-twentieth century (Think Django Reinhardt). Trained musicians will have much respect as they hear rhythms altered, chords modified and seemingly improbable components joined.
They started with a piece every student violinist learns in the first lessons: Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in A Minor. The musicians showed how far students can build on the original after many years of perfecting craft.
Jazz tenor, Damon Clark, joined the group. Of particular note was Clark’s jazzy version of Debussy’s Beau Soir. Sung and scatted in French, his pronunciation was on point.
Sharing the stage in the second half was Polish artist, Grazyna Auguscik. Visiting from her home in Chicago, she mixed Polish classical music with jazz. It’s the same concept, but remarkably different. Auguscik’s music is hard to describe. Her style is kind of hypnotic-drone-progressive-free-folk-improvisational with hints of rock and Chopin. Got it?
Her calmingly breathy voice had a mesmerizing effect on Matulu, a Polish folk tune. Chopin’s Prelude in C Minor had a progressive vibe. A particularly remarkable piece was “There’s a Reason and a Thousand Ways” composed by her bassist, Matt Ulery. The simple melody was surprisingly complex.
I had high expectations of Open Classical. They far exceeded those expectations.
Don’t be upset if you missed the first concert of Classically Jazzed. This is the first in what will be an ongoing series. Check the group’s website for upcoming events. Plans are in the works for an album release later this summer. When it comes out, do yourself a favor – BUY IT. It will become the favorite weekend music at your tony BYO Sauvignon Blanc supper parties.