A Project of Oberlin's Practicing the Art of Music Journalism Class
Author: Curtis Bird
Hailing from the Twin Cities area in Minnesota, Curtis has been playing the double bass for about 11 years and electric bass for nearly as long. Also proficient on guitar, keyboard, and drums, he enjoys listening to and performing everything from classical and jazz to rock and electronica. Curtis is currently attending Oberlin College and Conservatory in Oberlin, Ohio, working towards a B.M. in classical double bass performance and a B.A. in environmental studies. He also hosts a weekly radio show on the college’s local station WOBC 91.5 FM. Besides his musical interests, Curtis enjoys plenty of outdoor activities year-round including disc golfing and snowboarding.
Any modern working musician would agree with bassist Derek Zadinsky, who said in a recent phone call that “in professional life, you never say no to opportunity, at least when you’re getting started.” A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music and a member of The Cleveland Orchestra, he has made the most of his musical opportunities and shows a passion for them. Not only is Zadinsky a member of one of the most prestigious orchestras in the world, he also teaches at multiple highly-acclaimed music schools in Northeast Ohio.
Zadinsky talks about his teaching career as the result of being in the right place at the right times and having connections with other bassists, like his colleagues in The Cleveland Orchestra. “I joined the Orchestra in February of 2012 and started teaching at Cleveland State University in the fall. The next year Max Dimoff called me and asked if I wanted to join the Cleveland Institute of Music faculty, and I said ‘Sure, of course!’ The following year, after Tom Sperl left the Oberlin faculty, Scott Dixon asked if I would also be interested in teaching there.” Currently Zadinsky has several students between both CIM and Oberlin as well as leading a couple of classes like double bass repertoire. “I’m honestly still not sure how to manage it all, but I’ve always had a nice balance of students between schools. It’s a great honor to have students who want to work with you.”
Three letters have been repeatedly popping up in the arts and entertainment section of the news recently: N, F, and T. Everyone seems to be talking about them, but what do they mean, and why might they be the future of music collecting?
Listening to double bassist Edgar Meyer talk about his illustrious career in music during a recent phone interview was not unlike having a relaxing conversation while sitting out on the porch on a cool, summer evening. The MacArthur “Genius” and Avery Fisher Career Grant awards recipient was humble and down to earth.
Presented by Tuesday Musical on April 20th at 7:30 PM, Meyer will be performing a concert of Bach’s first cello suite and some of his own solo works. The concert will be presented to a live, socially distanced audience at E.J. Thomas Hall in Akron. A limited number of tickets are available for advance purchase — click here for details — and free student tickets in the balcony can be secured the evening of the performance. The box office will open at 6:30 pm.
Regarding the evening’s program, Meyer said “I can tell you very safely there will be the Bach and then primarily my original music after that.”
“I think the greatest thing about being an improviser is that you get to be a professional B.S. artist,” saxophonist Steve Kortyka said during a recent phone call. Also a composer and educator, Kortyka is renowned for his improvisatory skills, having graced the stages of many famous New York jazz clubs and making several major TV appearances in his career.
Kortyka’s artistry will be on display during his Latin Explosion Livestream on Saturday, April 10th at 8 PM, hosted by the Bop Stop and featuring Jackie Warren on piano and Sammy DeLeon on drums. The event will be free, but donations are encouraged.
Although the set list has yet to be finalized, Kortyka sounded confident and excited about performing with the others. “Outside of the melodies, most of the music you hear will be improvised and we will all be playing off each other, which is why I’m not worried about not rehearsing before.” This is also not the first time the combo has performed together — their latest event was this past August.
For most artists whose last release was thirteen years ago, fans would likely not want to wait around that long in anticipation of anything worthwhile. Genghis Tron is not that artist. After a lengthy hiatus, the four-piece experimental electronic metal band returned with a captivating new album released on Friday, March 26th. Compared to their previous releases, Genghis Tron’s Dream Weapon showcases a refreshing, atmospheric sound, while still maintaining their defining characteristics.
The album opens with “Exit Perfect Mind”, a short and simple ambient synth piece setting the tone of all that follows. Both “Pyrocene” and “Dream Weapon” feature a thick and heavy drum beat and instrumentals inspired by pop and psychedelic rock traditions. The latter especially drives home the pensive feel central to the work as a whole.
“Soaring Strings” was the riveting title of the Minnesota Orchestra’s live streamed performance on March 5th. The concert featured two guest artists, conductor Juraj Valčuha and violinist James Ehnes, presenting works new and old. Although not necessarily soaring beyond expectations, Valčuha and the Orchestra crafted a variety of string performances worth listening to.
The concert opened with not one, but two works by Jessie Montgomery. Her Voodoo Dolls for string quintet was inspired by West African drumming patterns, blues, and jazz. The rhythmic low end and expressive slides in the upper strings elevated the performance beyond notes on a page. Violinists Helen Chang Haertzen and Sophia Mockler, violist Gareth Zehngut, cellist Erik Wheeler, and bassist David Williamson displayed fantastic visual energy, matching the tone of the music, and were well coordinated and dynamically balanced.
Nils Frahm, a classically-trained pianist turned contemporary electronic artist and producer, is no stranger to the power of several keyboards and tape players. His latest live album, Tripping with Nils Frahm, recorded in December of 2018 at Funkhaus Berlin and released on December 3, 2020, captures the best of his character in a mesmerizing work digestible in just over an hour.
Opening with a drone on a keyboard, “Enters” grows slowly, with layers of other textures on top to create long, simple, but powerful chords. Similarly, the following track, “Sunson” begins with an ambient and acoustic sound, but gradually builds with a rhythmic sawtooth-edged synth fading in and taking over. Frahm draws his audience in closer with every tap of a key or switch.