Sergio Assad in Oberlin
This week, we had Sergio Assad, of the famed Assad Duo, join us in Oberlin. For three days, he taught private lessons, master classes and coached ensembles, then, at the residency's conclusion, we put on a concert of works he'd written.
This event was co-sponsored by the Guitar Association and the PI Department. PI (Performance and Improvisation) is a unique program at Oberlin, run by Prof. of Advanced Improvisation and Percussion, Jamey Haddad, and Jazz Arranging Prof., Jay Ashby. PI invites students across the disciplines to form ensembles together, in whatever combinations current enrollment suggests, and explore improvising in a variety of world-music influenced styles. Their work often includes collaboration with visiting guests. (Recently, the class went on an extended trip to Brazil).
Jamey and I had long talked about doing something together with the Assads. Jamey had been recording, performing and touring with them for nearly twenty years. I've long been a fan of Sergio's music and wanted to have my students experience playing this unique repertoire for the composer, and so this event was created.
Sergio came (without Odair), and gave coachings to the three current PI Ensembles, each which had prepared one of Sergio's pieces. They'd received the scores a couple of weeks ahead, and had made arrangements as best suited their respective groups. Then they used the material as a springboard for improvisation. In the guitar area, he gave a master class dedicated either to teaching his own works, or pieces indelibly associated with the Assad Duo. He also gave several guitar students private lessons. Delightfully, during the master class, he played a solo, accompanied by Jamey-- a piece of Sergio's they later presented in the final concert.
Here are some images from the residency. The full concert program is at the end of the post. Many, many thanks to Jamey and to Jay for their help and enthusiasm in co-presenting Sergio, and to Julie Baker, Jazz Department Administrative Assistant, who helped with the many behind-the-scenes tasks necessary to make it work.
Brian King played Sergio's Fantasia Carioca:
A quartet comprised of, from left, Brian King, Stephen Fazio, Mohit Dubey and Aidan Wiley Lippke, played a quartet Sergio had just sent us, his Alvorada Tropical:
Stephen Fazio played Sergio's Valseana, from Aquarelle:
Julia Humphrey and Aidan Wiley Lippke played the Minuetto Pomposa from Rodrigo's Tonadilla:
Jamey chimed in, offering to add percussion to help get the groove. Rebecca Klein looks on.
Rodrigo was starting to find his groove.
Spirits were pretty high so this led, inevitably, to a bit of jamming by the maestros. This was a rare treat!
Finally, Brian King and Mohit Dubey played Deciso, from Piazzola's Tango Suite:
This was a great class.
We concluded with a performance that featured the guitarists AND the PI ensembles. We played in a venue often used by the jazz department, but which was a first for classical guitar: the Cat In The Cream coffeehouse.
At this point in the concert, things tilted jazz, and the performers used Sergio's material to improvise over, with increasing intensity and abandon as the program unfolded. The students demonstrated a fine capacity to play new material together as if long-rehearsed. Their improvising was impressive, and the sonic experiences presented by each group unique. The last one even tilted Sergio's music towards southern Asia, as the tabla played added an indelible color to the proceedings. In all, Sergio was delighted to listen to the evening dedicated to his music.
Unfortunately, by the time the concert was winding down, we were in the midst of a white-out level snowstorm, forcing me to go right home and so miss the post-concert hang, easy for those who lived in town (I drive an hour to get there; it took me two to get home).
Thanks so much to Sergio Assad, for his lifetime of musical contributions, both in concert and on record, and, perhaps most importantly, in print, as his compositions increasingly enter the indispensable repertoire of guitarists everywhere.