that baroque beat: Savion Glover.
Mae G. Banner
Egg, Dec. 29
takes a raft of verbs to describe Savion Glover’s performance
in Classical Savion, two hours of improv tapping to a pantheon
of composers from Vivaldi to Bartok. The man would slide,
scrape, hit, pivot (clockwise and counterclockwise), jitter,
shiver, skip, and strut. He would slam the downbeat of every
phrase and snap off the end.
Or, like Mohammed Ali, he would float like a butterfly, sting
like a bee. And, with all this, he showed supreme respect
for the music, stepping to the side of his miked maple floor
or even leaping backwards off the floor to give a musical
passage the center of attention. As always, Glover showed
respect for his fellow musicians as well, giving the classical
ensemble of four violins, two violas, and two cellos their
full due as soloists, and later, bridging them with his jazz
quartet for a final amazing number in which he and the instruments
breathed as one.
But, in Classical Savion, it’s not the verbs that matter.
Rather, it was the over-arching, almost spiritual quality
of the concert as a whole that made it memorable. This was
a new experience for the audience and, tellingly, for the
classical musicians themselves.
Eight young virtuosi who probably never imagined you could
tap to Mendelssohn (the big, orchestral-sounding Octet
for Strings in E Flat Major), much less to Bach’s Air
on the G String, responded to the lure of Glover, who
egged them on to tweak the conventional tempos. You could
see on their faces how happy they were with the power and
joy of making these classical standards their own.
Glover did well by starting with sections from Vivaldi’s The
Four Seasons, because we know all baroque music is made
for dance. He let the music propel him into a beautiful improv
that was perfectly in sync, sometimes dancing in call and
response to the violins, sometimes skating backwards to let
the music take over.
With the finale of Dvorak’s “American” String Quartet, he
set a choppy rhythm and danced like a Halloween skeleton who
has discovered jazz.
A pair of flutes made Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2 in
B minor sound Middle Eastern and exotic. Here, Glover
introduced a thematic move, kicking his right leg hugely out
to the side and letting it hover in the air. Spellbinding,
and very much his own groove.
I loved Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances for their mad
tunes and broken rhythms. Glover let the fiddles’ dissonance
take him into realms of quietness that ended with a sudden
thrilling leap. This and the Shostakovich were exhilarating.
After this thorough exploration of the classical canon, Glover
went into a transcendent mode. Setting up a four-note ground-beat
by jazz bassist Andrew McCloud, he proceeded to introduce
every string player in turn, giving each one the widest latitude
for an improvised solo. Some bowed, some plucked. Some played
the blues, some let in a touch of bluegrass. It was clear
these ensemble players rarely got a chance to shine solo,
and clear, too, that they were all trying to surprise each
other, to knock each other out.
This section was very long, almost trance-like with that recurring
four-note bass line, but the audience, a rare full house,
stayed with it every bit of the way.
Then, topping off the top-off, Glover’s own quartet came on
for an extended reading of his composition, Stars &
Stripes Forever 4 Now. In a way, this jazz work washed
away the classical improv that had gone before. But, Glover,
moving eye to eye with Patience Higgins on sax; Jared Crawford,
drums; McCloud, bass; and Kurt Faussette, piano brought the
whole experience full circle and proved that all music is
it sounds good, it is good.”