But Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson has gone them one better. Hes ditched Tull for the moment in favor of a more flexible rock band that works within a symphony orchestra, performing a set of Tull and Anderson solo favorites, along with a smattering of classical tunes. Anderson hasnt quit Tull by any means, but relishes the chance to do something different.
Its part of the luxury I can afford, said Anderson of this tour, which finds
him and his hand-picked group perform-ing alongside the Traverse Symphony Orchestra at Interlochen on Wednesday July 19. I can dabble at this, dabble
Whether you call it dabbling or not, theres no doubt that its not exactly what fans who grew up on Aqualung, Locomotive Breath or Thick As A Brick would expect. Andersons flute playing was always a focal point of the Tull concerts, but here it takes center stage. Yes, hell still sing a song or two, and strum his acoustic guitar, but the show is billed as rocks foremost flute player performing with a symphony orchestra.
Anderson said for him the performance feels quite natural.
My background is as an acoustic musician, Anderson says. I was never deeply infatuated with loud electric guitar. Acoustic blues, jazz, classical thats what I really preferred. Flute and rock are very unseemly bedmates.
The orchestra is a bunch of unplugged guys like me. We try to find a common musical denominator with the band. It (the band) is not the Tull guys but other musicians, guys from jazz or classical background who maybe have a different approach.
That different approach allows Anderson the freedom to re-arrange tunes like Bouree, Thick As A Brick, Songs From The Wood, and yes, even Aqualung. The set list changes slightly from performance to performance, as Anderson and his band rehearse with a different orchestra for most every show. Its like doing two or three shows, says Anderson of the four to six hour rehearsals prior to the concerts. We hope to squeeze everything into the rehearsal, he says.
Anderson says such rehearsals are necessary for orchestral players who generally arent used to playing rock music, as well as for him and his band to adapt to the styles and abilities of the various symphonies. Im asking them to make such a big crossover step. Its hard.
On the other hand, Anderson owns up to the fact that while he appreciates it, he doesnt cant play classical music the way its written. For me, its impossible. I couldnt do a Mozart flute concerto. I dont read music. I wish I could be anywhere half as good as them.
Its a mutual respect. Theres mutual support and mutual cynicism, he said with a laugh.
BEVY OF STYLES
In the nearly 40 years since Jethro Tull came on the musical scene, the band has incorporated a bevy of styles into its performance. Originally an offshoot of the John Evan Big Band, it mixed jazz with blues and folk on its 1968 debut, This Was. By the time of the bands breakout Aqualung in 1968, Anderson had seized control. With the help of guitarist Martin Barre and keyboardist Evan, Tull became one of the biggest bands of the 70s, with sold-out tours, hit songs like Living in the Past and Bungle in the Jungle and concept albums like Thick as a Brick and A Passion Play wowing critics and crowds alike.
As art rock fell from favor in the 80s, Tull sharpened its licks, even earning a Grammy for Best Heavy Metal Performance for Crest of a Knave in 1987. Meanwhile Anderson was also working on his solo career, first with A in 1980, which became a Tull album, then for real with Walk Into Light in 1983. He also dabbled (theres that word again) at fish-farming in Scotland, but decided music was his true calling.
Tickets for the show are available by calling the Interlochen Box Office at