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Skilled style mixing for music lovers

Bang on a Can All-Stars
Friday, Feb. 1
7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Wieden and Kennedy Atrium
224 N.W. 13th
$18/PICA members
$20/general admission
call PICA, 242-1419, for more info

Some people like one style of music, say rock. Others like two or three tops, like rock, punk and gangster rap. It’s rare to find someone who enjoys many different styles. Such a person may listen to gamelan, drum and bass, crust, neo-soul and twee. People who like multiple styles, or at least make an attempt at appreciating them, are true lovers of music and/or musicians themselves.

Tomorrow a group called Bang on a Can All-Stars will perform. They aren’t, as the name suggests, a group, a-la Stomp, that bangs on cans in an organized fashion.

They are group of musicians who mix classical, rock, jazz and other hybrid styles that exist today. Their instrumentation is unique: cello, bass, piano, percussion, electric guitar and reeds.

Since its inception in 1987, the Bang on a Can festival has been discovering and presenting performers who have committed their lives to music. Over the last decade, Bang on a Can has found a number of these musicians – performers who are adventurous, virtuosic, dynamic and intense, who are equally at home with the diverse styles that exist within music today.

Six talented players who were down with the music of “today” kept coming back. With these six players the festival created the Bang on a Can All-Stars.

The Bang on a Can All-Stars’ first major collaboration as an ensemble came in 1989. By 1991 collaborations among these players had become a regular feature of the Bang on a Can Festival. In 1992 Bang on a Can created a separate series of performances for the Bang on a Can All-Stars.

The 1993-94 season marked their debut at Lincoln Center with two concerts on the Great Performers Series, which has continued to present the Bang on a Can All-Stars for the past five seasons.

In 1998 the group continued to grow. They managed to book an extensive tour schedule throughout the U.S. and Europe, an evening-length collaboration and tour with choreographer Susan Marshall on the Next Wave Festival, and a new CD release on Point Music featuring an arrangement for live instruments of Brian Eno’s ambient electronic classic Music for Airports. Both the CD and the ensuing tour featuring first-ever live performances of this landmark piece received tremendous coverage, and the group performed to capacity audiences all year long including sold-out concerts at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, Royal Festival Hall in London, in Amsterdam and first-time visits to many cities.

The Bang on a Can All-Stars also performed to packed houses in Vilnius, Lithuania and Bratislava, Slovakia. Additional highlights from 1998 were featured appearances on CNN, MTV and NPR’s “All Things Considered”.

Not bad for a “fusion” band. But they are obviously so much more, and in a league of their own.

Many “fusion” groups have fused jazz and rock with very annoying results. Bands like Limp Bizkit fuse hard rock and hip-hop with equally annoying results. Then there’s rock bands that do a little reggae outro, or a jazzy “joke song.” They don’t count as successful style mixers.

Bang on a Can All-Stars are excellent professional musicians from varied backgrounds, which should eliminate any embarrassing style “biting.” One doesn’t want to be a style biter. An example may be the emo boys who drop tough ghetto fabulous rhymes in between songs. String quartets can do Metallica covers, but when a jazz group tries to “rock out” it can be embarrassing.

They likely won’t “jam” either. They will perform very intricate, energetic compositions. Their performance will likely be different than anything you’ve seen before, unless you’ve spent time patronizing the fine arts in New York or San Francisco.

The show is put on by PICA, which means it should be pretty good. If you’re a type three music fan (one that likes or appreciates many different styles of music, or a musician) you should enjoy this performance.

Seating is limited to 300 for each performance. Tickets are $18. for PICA members, $20. general admission and are available at the PICA box office, 219 N.W. 12th, by calling PICA 503-242-1419, Clinton Street Video, Jackpot Records or POVA Ticket Central.