Pro wrestling fans are familiar with the swerve. Typically, it is where a good guy, or babyface, unexpectedly blasts his “best friend” from behind with a steel chair, and therefore turns into a heel (bad guy). The Hilbert Circle Theatre in downtown Indy may have witnessed its first swerve this past weekend – it hit me like a low blow from Nature Boy Ric Flair. While there was little physicality inside the historic show palace, the swerve came from three guys who looked as if they were playing for sammiches at Potbelly’s rather than sharing the stage with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
Their website says Time For Three, two dudes with violins and a third with a double bass, have been playing together since their days at the Curtis Institute For Music, which isn’t well-known outside Philadelphia other than their football team’s win over the IU Hoosiers three years ago (Kidding…maybe). They currently serve as the “Artists In Residence” with the ISO – must be some serious reverb when you get to sleep in the choir loft next to the pipe organ. This past Friday and Saturday, Time For Three and the ISO turned the TF3 temporary tent into the most fun place in downtown Indianapolis, thanks in part to a guy who is twice the age of the Dynamic Trio.
William Bolcom is an acclaimed composer, but to the uneducated jabroni (that would be me), he may as well have been Wella Balsam. Last week, when ISO CEO Gary Ginstler sliced and diced his way through an interview with me about the orchestra’s upcoming concert featuring the music of George Gershwin, he made mention of the opening piece on the program – a work that was commissioned by the ISO specifically for Time For Three. He probably tried to describe to me and the WIBC audience the uniqueness of the Bolcom piece. But I am a Gershwin geek – I am purposely losing my hair in the same manner in which George’s hairline receded – so my attention span during the TF3 mention might as well have been that of a dog listening to its master drone on while focusing on the Scooby Snack in his hand. “Blah blah blah blah Bolcom, blah blah blah blah blah Time For blah blah Three blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah.” I am positive I purposely steered The Ginsu back to Gershwin because, after all, who in the blue heck knew about Mr. Balsam and Three Times Four, or whoever they were? Boy, did I ever get kicked in the musical cojones.
Trying to describe Bolcom’s “Games And Challenges; Something Wonderful Right Away” and doing the performance justice is impossible. There is no way to accurately describe the orchestra’s sneaking on to the stage, TF3’s wrestling-like run-in to start the piece, or the comical attempt at a mimed baseball pitch from The Doctor, orchestra Maestro Krzysztof Urbanski (come on, he belongs on Doctor Who, doesn’t he?). It is impossible to tell you how the three guys who could just as easily have been playing for spare change in the soon-to-be Ballardization Ban zone downtown blended with orchestra members who were a top hat away from Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. But whether they were improvising during a hoedown – which is legal, as opposed to a ho-down – or whether the musicians were engaging in a chromatic-scale measuring contest that is always (and unfairly) won by the lone piccolo player, Bolcom’s piece and the performance of it by TF3 and the ISO were the Stone Cold Stunner that classical music needs if it is to thrive in Indy.
Taking nothing away the ISO’s other work, the musical world could use more Time For Three’s,if for no other reason than to avoid the inevitable question posed by my 10-year-old daughter before the Saturday night show began, “Dad, why are there only old people here?” While my daughter exaggerated, in her mind she didn’t – it took me a minute to find someone remotely close to her age at the show. I don’t know any kid who wouldn’t have enjoyed the Bolcom piece or, my guess, anything Time For Three got their bows on. The next generation should know that the music played by the ISO is hip (or tight, badarse, burgerburger or whatever serves as the contemporary synonym for ‘cool’). The generation after mine should be able to know that liking contemporary artists doesn’t mean you have to fork out 50 bucks or more to go watch underage people get snockered while Brad Paisely or Buttmonkey play at the local outdoor concert venue. TF3 is cool, just like another guest of the ISO this past weekend, pianist Awadagin Pratt. The man who brilliantly played the Rhapsody In Blue piano solo is a little older than TF3, but he has a collection of shirts that I plan on stealing out of what must be the hippest closet east of the Mississippi. Positive musical role models are sometimes difficult to find, but not for the kids who saw Mr. Pratt and TF3. At least I didn’t have to hear how cute they were – that isn’t my daughter’s thing yet (though if my five-year-old had been there, she would’ve probably married them all by now. Kindergartener polygamy is so cute).
Hindsight is 20/20, even though I’m not sure how one sees something out their arse, but I wish I had asked The Ginsu to dice me up some more Time For Three when we spoke on the radio last week. Luckily, they have another show with the ISO coming soon, so with any luck I will slap them in the cross-face chicken wing and hold them over a hot microphone, pressuring them to deliver their musical secrets to the entire world, or at least to the dozen or so listeners to my show. Their performance and Mr. Bolcom’s piece were beyond fantastic, and I am not ashamed to say that I got swerved, and that TF3 gave me a wake-up musical whooping.