Yo Yo Ma is perhaps foremost a renowned classical cellist, but he’s also a well-known popular performer (who doesn’t have at least some idea of who he is?). Years ago he put together his Silk Road Ensemble to bring together ancient and modern, musical traditions from east and west, and fashion for one heck of an evening’s performance for audiences around the world. And picked up a Grammy nomination or two along the way.
Tuesday Musical, a Knight arts grantee, as executive director Barbara Feld rightly says, always presents “the best of the best to its Northeast Ohio audience,” brought the Silk Road Ensemble to the area for the first time in 2004. Now it’s coming back, and sounds as strong as ever.
The Silk Road Project, the umbrella organization, is made up of 60 or so international performers who work collectively to develop and present repertoire to its audience. For Akron and Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, Ma will bring 15 musicians from eight different countries. Akron is the first stop on its tour this year.
According to Feld, the performance in Akron features musicians from India, Japan, Israel, Spain, Iran, Switzerland, the U.S. and China. Among the artists are Kayhan Kalhor, who has been described as a master of the “kamancheh” (a Persian bowed instrument along the lines of a violin); Cristina Pato, an acknowledged virtuoso on the “gaita” (a Galician bagpipe) and a pianist; and Sandeep Das, who is considered one of the leading players of the “tabla” (a percussion instrument something like bongos).
Also on the program, it seems, will be contemporary compositions that feature music inspired by the traditions of Persia and Japan that have been created by Silk Road Ensemble performing members Colin Jacobsen on violin, Kojiro Umezaki on shakuhachi (a Japanese end-blown flute).
According to Feld, members have also arranged a suite of short pieces by American composer John Zorn, who is a contemporary avant-garde composer and musician. The company will be interpreting an experiment in Jewish musical styles from a variety of cultural perspectives.
Another highlight, it is said, will be “Playlist for an Extreme Occasion” by jazz pianist and composer Vijay Iver, a New York City-based jazz pianist and composer. Honoring the qualities of both live and recorded music, this jazz-infused piece offers many opportunities for improvisation for Western strings, percussion, and the less familiar “tabla,” “sheng” (an ancient Chinese mouth-blown reed instrument) and the “gaita.”
Tuesday Musical performances have a solid base audience. According to Feld, tickets are still available (while they last) in the Grand Tier and Balcony of E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall.
Tuesday Musical will present Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 14 in E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall, 198 Hill St., Akron; 330-792-7595; www.ejthomashall.com. Tickets are $55-$65.