Classical Meets Jazz with Victor Wooten and the BPO.

Known best for their Classical music performances, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra also features concerts with musicians from a variety of musical genres.

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Such was the case on October 21 and 22 when Jazz musician and electric bass virtuoso Victor Wooten joined the BPO to perform an original composition.

The Contata in three movements was composed by violinist Connie Ellisor and Wooten. Wooten noted that when Ellisor first approached him about the piece, he was reluctant to agree because as Wooten put it he, “wasn’t ready.”

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As a Jazz musician, Wooten spends most of his time on stage improvising; whereas, Classical compositions are not improvised, but played the same way every time.

Wooten finally agreed to the piece, but as a collaboration. As a result, the piece bridges the gap between Classical and Jazz by offering Wooten some time to spread his wings and let go.

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Wooten is the youngest of five boys. Older brothers had formed a band with guitar, keyboards, tenor saxophone, and drums. So as Wooten put it, when he came along all that was left was the bass and at age five he joined the band.

But in high school he played the cello. The experience left Wooten loving the sound of the instrument and searching for a way to recreate the sound. The result is a custom made one of a kind bass that allows him to play the bass like a cello – including the bowing and make it sound like the cello.

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Wooten used both his custom made bass and a traditional bass on “The Bass Whisperer”. The Contemporary avant garde piece allowed Wooten to show of his skills as the traditional bass player helping to hold down the rhythm and to shine as a Jazz player. Using the entire guitar as he played, at time Wooten’s fingers flew up and down the fret board in a performance that left the audience in awe.

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The BPO opened the concert with a performance of the Polovtzian Dances by Alexander Borodin – a piece taken from Borodin’s unfinished Opera “Prince Igor”.

After the intermission the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus joined the BPO for the Sergei Prokofiev composition “Alexander Nevsky”.

A composition in seven movements, the Chorus sang the piece in the original Russian. The piece was taken from the soundtrack to the film by the same name. A Russian propaganda film released in 1938, Prokofiev composed the film score, writing the soundtrack over night after seeing the day’s filming.

photos by Sherrill Fulghum


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