Pinning a label on Eugene Friesen's music is as slippery as trying to define from what country a drum beat originates.
Or where a melody was first born.His music is not "New Age."
It's not jazz or classical.
"World Music" is what the cellist calls his style.
Knocking down boundaries through diversity in sound is what Friesen's music is all about.
The crowd at Kingsbury Hall Thursday night enthusiastically applauded Friesen's musicianship - his ability to incorporate rhythms from many cultures to communicate a connection with the world.
The multicultural theme was particularly appropriate for the concert to benefit villagers in drought-stricken Ouelessebougou in Mali, northwest Africa. Salt Lake City shares a sister-city relationship with this impoverished country located halfway across the world. The money raised from the concert will be used to build clean wells, improve agriculture and provide basic health care for those living in the world's third poorest country.
"There is a tangible and infectious feeling of stewardship for our neighbors of the Earth here tonight," Friesen told the audience. "Music brings an opportunity to bring different cultures together."
The names of some of the pieces performed Thursday convey the vast background Friesen's music spans: "Tallgrass Suite" (inspired by Kansas vistas), "Nuns in Cuba," "Alleluia From Canticles of the Earth," and the Spanish-flavored "Sevilla."
Not only does his music fuse the tones and melodies of Eastern and Western cultures, but Friesen breaks new ground defining the role of the cello. Friesen takes his instrument beyond the boundary of a hardworking orchestral chamber instrument to a spectacular solo performer.
His compositions ranged from tender, melodic love ballads to fiery, explosive celebrations - played with such energy and fervor that the strings on his bow broke.
Percussionist Glen Velez astounded the audience with the exotic textures he created on various frame drums - the Irish bodhran, the North African tar, and middle Eastern tambourines.
Walking down the aisle of Kingsbury Hall, playing his large hand-held bow drum, Velez created a haunting sound resembling the moan of a wounded animal and the hum of a flying saucer from another galaxy - intriguing sounds that seemed to captivate the audience. Velez com
CONCERT bined the vibrating hum of his drum with an Eastern chant, like a prayer.
The blending of the echoing of ancient drums with the distinctive flavors of instruments from Africa, Egypt, Israel and Spain provided an extraordinary listening experience. Taking traditions from frame drums from across the world, Velez has forged a new approach to percussion.
Phil Markowitz proved equally talented on the piano. His improvisations were particularly bright and technically flawless.
Three other musicians who contributed their time and talents to the success of the concert were Jim Stout on bass, Jay Lawrence on drums, and Vincent Bates on the French horn.
To thank Friesen for his donated performance, the Ouelessebougou Alliance will give him a trip to Mali, where he plans to study the rhythms of primitive African music.