At 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 10 Stone Church Arts hosts local cellist Eugene Friesen and pianist Tim Ray to Immanuel Episcopal Church at 20 Church Street in Bellows Falls for a special evening of music from North and South America played by these modern masters of classical, jazz, world and folk music celbrating their new CD release, Colorful Transitions.
The duo plays music by Jobim, Miles Davis, Egberto Gismonti, Thelonius Monk, Maurice Ravel Richard Rodgers as well as their own compositions.
Friesen, who lives in Brattleboro with his wife Wendy and four children, is an extremely active musician and composer, with a diverse range of musical interests and projects. A graduate of the Yale School of Music, he was contacted by Paul Winter right out of school in 1978 to play with Winter's famed Consort, and has won three Grammy awards with the group over the past 30-plus years. Friesen still performs with Winter, who is now 70, several times a year, though in the past it was not unusual for the Consort to perform 100 to 150 dates a year.
In addition to his work as a composer, with Ray in the Cello/Piano Project, and with the Paul Winter Consort, Friesen is also full time on the faulty at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, performs with Trio Globo, is an artist-in-residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, conducts the Berklee Jazz/World String Orchestra, performs in schools as CelloMan and is the Music Director of Stone Church Arts.
Ray, who has played on over 60 albums and worked with dozens of legendary performers, traveled as pianist with Lyle Lovett for many years, and Friesen says that he brings that playfulness to the work of the duo.
Ray has performed in concert with an extensive list of pop music icons, notably Bonnie Raitt, Aretha Franklin, Lou Reed, Rickie Lee Jones, Willie Nelson, kd lang and Soul Asylum. He regularly performs with leading figures in the jazz world, among them Gary Burton, Scott Hamilton, Eddie Daniels, Bucky Pizzarelli, Lewis Nash and Rufus Reid, and his classical credits include solo performances and concerts with Gunther Schuller, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and the Boston Classical Orchestra.
Winter, originally from California, lives in a book, art and music filled home in Brattleboro. In addition to all of his other pursuits, he and his wife have also created their own production company, Fiddletalk Music, and Colorful Transitions is their CD release.
The album has already signed a contract for distribution in South America, and one for Europe is in the works.
Friesen said that the entire CD was recorded in just a couple of sessions at Berklee with engineer producer Stephen Webber using a studio grant. Friesen edited the CD at his home.
When asked about his wide variety of musical pursuits, Friesen said it was one of the great joys of his musical career to be involved with so many different kinds of music.
"Those of us who take on music as a lifetime pursuit," he said, "spend a lifetime working in your craft. I'm just trying to express myself through my music."
He noted that one of the great advantages of his classical training, often with 12 hours of practice daily, is that "classical training musicians learn to play their instruments really, really well. But, if you pick up your instrument without sheet music in front of you, what do you have to say? How do you tell your story?
"A gift from 1960s rock was this idea of just getting together and playing. It's way more fun and the audience can feel that."
Friesen has brought that improvisational spirit to his jazz and even classical work, and regularly holds workshops devoted to the idea. That kind of versatility is extremely important for anyone who wants to make a living in music today. He noted that his very talented students at Berklee include cellists who play Bluegrass, Texas Swing, Celtic, folk, World, classical, jazz and rock music.
"Any player today is very fortunate to get a position in an orchestra," he said. "And the orchestras themselves are struggling for funding. If you can improvise and play in different styles, you can have a much richer career."
He sees that with the future of chamber music, which has begun including more improvisation, world music and even versions of rock and metal songs.
Friesen, though he is 58 and has been playing for decades, still says he has to practice regularly, especially when he is actively touring and performing several times a week.
What has he enjoyed most in his career that has taken him to the furthest corners of the globe? He pauses for several seconds before answering.
"What I enjoy most," he said, "is what we're doing in Bellows Falls this weekend. The music, the storytelling. It's a performance. It's what the cello does best - move people. It's world, folk, jazz and classical music. It's the full expression of my life in music."
Admission to the Stone Church Arts Concert is $15 for adults in advance ($18 at the door), $10 for seniors and children in advance ($12 at the door). Tickets are available at Village Square Booksellers (Bellows Falls), Brattleboro Books, Misty Valley Books (Chester), Toadstool Bookshop Music Dept., and at www.brattleborotix.com or at the door.
For more information call 463-3100 or visit www.immanuelepiscopal.org.