Thorsen Quartet Swings Sponge Bob Squarepants

KSDS Jazz Live brought bassist Rob Thorsen's Quartet into the Saville Theatre last night for a concert and demonstration of a program he put together to expose elementary school kids to live, improvised music, titled Jazz: An American Art Form.

Partnering with the radio station and the non-profit organization Young Audiences, Thorsen has done this presentation for over 7,000 youngsters since January.

Over the first 45 minutes, emcee Vince Outlaw posed leading questions that Thorsen's group answered with musical examples.

A brief history of jazz emerged with a somber reading of "When The Saints Go Marching In", segueing into the early swing groove of Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean A Thing."

As each historical example was played, the group began to stretch out and improvise more. By the time they hit the composition illustrating be-bop, it was more of a concert than an educational experience. The group threw down on a blistering take of Charlie Parker's "Segment", yielding concise solo statements from guitarist Bob Boss, trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos and Thorsen.

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Thorsen constructed a blues from scratch, starting with a groove drummer Brett Sanders created on the spot. One by one each instrumentalist created their own part, and to the audiences' delight invented something out of nothing.

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Thorsen also noted that the kids never failed to respond to their adaptation of the "Sponge Bob Squarepants" theme song. Apparently this extended to the capacity crowd who added their vocals in the appropriate spots during this "interactive" phase.

Castellanos was an inspired choice for this situation, because he has such an encyclopedic command of the history of the trumpet. He gave several examples of extended trumpet techniques, growling, humming and gurgling at will. He also demonstrated the effects possible with Harmon, cup and plunger mutes.

Brett Sanders powered the group along with his relaxed, loose-limbed drive. He's got the whole dynamics thing down--using multiple levels of volume to serve the music best.

Guitarist Boss filters all of the material through his clean-toned, blues based approach. He's got an exciting mix of single note flurries orbiting around lush clouds of chord melody.

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Thorsen began Thelonious Monk's "Evidence" alone, with an elliptical bass solo that rolled over and into the dark, sputtering theme.

It was a quick 90 minutes...

all photos by Thomas Westerlin


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