Howard Levy (1994)
By Ralph Burnett
What do you get when you cross a Grammy award winning cellist, a piano playing harmonica virtuoso, and a world-renowned percussionist? A sacred-classical ho-down in 7/16 time . . . . Actually, you get an energetically laid-back new band with an original bent on world music called Trio Globo. Eugene Friesen, Howard Levy and Glen Velez make up the "trio" and the music is well described as "globo" since the players intersect from different worlds musically. Their self-titled debut (Silver Wave SD 806), definitely stretches these players from their traditional roles in a fresh new direction. Paralleling the band to a painter, Howard describes the band as "a limitless pallet," stating that "everybody in this group is very open toward the expression of all different forms while being very expressive. It's a very soulful thing. Eugene has this incredible ability to just come up with gorgeous melodies off the top of his head that sound like they're composed. And Glen's knowledge of rhythms is very deep as well as very sophisticated. His time feels extremely rooted and it allows you to feel very free when you play."
Dave Brubeck describes the band as "magnificent players with distinct musical voices. Together they have a wonderful, inventive new sound and offer a unique vision of the world of music." Paul Winter adds, "These are true musical citizens of the world. Amidst the pulsing energy and virtuosity of this album, a refreshing and soaring lyricism stands out as perhaps Trio Globo's signature quality."
Schooled as a classical cellist, Eugene attributes using the cello to play jazz as "a manifestation of my subconscious." Although none of his piers at Yale School of Music encouraged this, he claims that "now there are some younger players who are exploring some of the frontiers of music on cello. Certainly, the cello has been the last of the strings to join the jazz parade." Eugene is probably best known through his many years as a member with the Paul Winter Consort and his own solo projects.
Howard Levy, widely known from his work with Belá Fleck and the Flecktones, can do things with the harmonica that make orthodontists and dentists nervous. A superb pianist, Howard's most astonishing music is made on the harmonica. "Playing the harmonica and the piano at the same time is a great thrill and challenge for me. Also the fact that the group has no bass player, frees up the improvisatory harmonic framework because the bass role is shared between the piano, the cello and the frame drums." Howard can also be seen on tour with Kenny Loggins, earning wild ovations whenever he is featured.
Being a collector as much as a master of exotic percussion instruments, Glen Velez could probably awe you with only kitchen utensils, pots and pans. Throughout his Grammy award winning career, Glen has contributed greatly in opening up the geographical boarders of many musical and percussion instruments. An internationally recognized expert on tambourine history, Glen is also known for his work with the Paul Winter Consort and his own recordings. Whatever the tools, Glen continues to forge original new territory and Trio Globo provides him with a platform to explore in many new directions.
Unlike many one-time efforts of other groups comprised of this caliber of individual musicianship, Trio Globo plans to record and perform as a unit for a long time to come. "We want this to be a functioning, touring organism," says Friesen. "We get a lot from each other, from playing. I feel very stimulated. Every time I play with Glen and Howard I'm going to graduate school -- I'm very challenged by them. I think we all feel really gratified, not only from 'the hang', but from the music we make together and the juice we get from our audiences."