ian anderson jethro tull.
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This Saturday night, Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson takes the stage together with the Ra'anana Symphonette Orchestra for an evening of classic Tull and solo Anderson tunes. The experiment in orchestration marks Anderson's fourth appearance in Israel (his first without Jethro Tull) - part of a project in the making since the beginning of the flautist's career.
George Martin and Paul McCartney's string arrangement for "She's Leaving Home" changed all the rules for rock instrumentation in 1967. In 1968, before Jethro Tull was considered classic rock, the band collaborated with a chamber orchestra on an experimental B-side. The following year, Deep Purple and The Royal Philharmonic released a live album called Concerto for Group and Orchestra, a grandiose five-part suite that drew harsh reviews.
"There's nothing more dreadful than the attempts of rock bands to play with an orchestra," a waffling Anderson recently told The Jerusalem Post's David Brinn. "It's far too loud, and the shrill cacophony of the guitars and drums overpowers the orchestral instruments."
Nevertheless, by the Seventies guitar rock and orchestration had become thoroughly intertwined, and many of Tull's most popular hits used string arrangements and other orchestral flourishes.
This connection has not been lost on today's music marketers. There are at least four albums of symphonic Pink Floyd available, as well as one for Jethro Tull's prog-rock peers Yes, one for Fleetwood Mack and many other classic rock bands.
Following the contemporary repackaging trend, a German orchestra that had prepared an evening of classic Jethro Tull symphonic reconfigurations asked Anderson to play along, and he consented. "I worked with the arrangers, and the benefit of that is we came away with a suitcase full of sheet music, so we had the core," he says.
Last year Anderson and the Frankfurt Philharmonic released Ian Anderson Plays the Orchestral Jethro Tull, both a CD and DVD. Taken from a Mannheim, Germany, concert in late 2004, the release sold reasonably well, ultimately spawning Anderson's current tour. Over the course of the fall, Anderson will play three gigs across Germany, one in Ra'anana and many more across North America - each with a different local orchestra. The format makes for an interesting set of obstacles for the local ensembles and Anderson's touring band (a keyboard player, a bassist and a drummer) to overcome.
"It takes about six hours of rehearsal to prepare for a two-hour show - that's assuming the musicians are members of unions that have set breaks," says Anderson. "Ultimately, it's like the world's biggest blind date. We have to learn about each other and our musical skills - not only the musical way to have sex onstage, but the psychology about that particular group of people."
Looking back on his own instrumentation choices over the years, Anderson tells The Jerusalem Post, "I'm probably the only guy to persevere with the flute in rock through four decades, and strangely there are no contenders for the crown. Why, in all these years, hasn't there been another hotshot flute player?"
Ian Anderson, the Ra'anana Symphonette and Chinese-American bluegrass fiddler Ann Marie Calhoun are scheduled to take the stage at the Ra'anana Amphitheater on Saturday night at 8:30. Tickets are available at www.hadran.co.il or by calling (03) 521-5200.
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