There’s a Duke Ellington quote that gets tossed around a lot: “There are only two kinds of music,” the great composer reportedly said. “Good music, and the other kind.”
It wasn’t surprising to hear Mary Javian evoke that line in relation to LiveConnections. The organization was founded to bring together musicians from different genres to create new sounds that bridge their stylistic divides. It’s especially appropriate for this Friday’s program, which, like Ellington, draws on both jazz and classical music.
“I’d rather focus on the similarities than the differences,” Javian says, “I’m always looking for artists and ensembles that want to expand their horizons musically and want a new challenge.”
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Friday’s concert at World Café Live pairs Philadelphia jazz singer Joanna Pascale with Curtis Institute of Music’s new music ensemble, Curtis 20/21. The ensemble will perform two early 20th-century classical pieces influenced by jazz: Darius Milhaud’s “La Création du Monde” and a unique chamber arrangement of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” Pascale will join for a selection of film composer Michel Legrand’s songs and the world premiere of Gabriella Smith’s new piece “Forgotten Lullabies.”
“We’re closer related than maybe people realize,” Pascale says of the jazz and classical worlds. “The things I’m most attracted to in music is lyrics and story. That’s really the heart of everything I do, and I hope people can take away the magnitude of these lyrics combined with the vehicle of these melodies, and that they’re touched.”
A gifted singer with a captivating voice and a love for burrowing deep inside the story of a song, Pascale welcomes the opportunity to break away from her usual settings — typically a small jazz group or a raucous big band — and place herself in a new context. “In jazz you have a lot of room for freedom and a lot of space for improvisation,” she says. “It’s been fun to play with color and pulse. I feel like it’s pulling out a different way of singing for me.”
That’s exactly the type of reaction Javian hopes the LiveConnections experience has on musicians and audiences alike. This season will continue with concerts pairing cello with percussion quartet and a fusion of Western classical and Arab music. “I feel like we leave two imprints on the musical culture of Philadelphia and hopefully beyond,” Javian says. “We’re creating new repertoire, but we’re also creating relationships between artists.”
If you go:
LiveConnections Presents Joanna Pascale & Curtis 20/21
Jan. 22, 8 p.m.
3025 Walnut St.