By Kristi Kates
Gabe Bolkosky, Derek Snyder, John Holkeboer, Alex Trajano, Tad Weed,
Julien Labro, and sometimes Peter Soave make up the unique jazz/classical
group known as The Oblivion Project, whose music may be somewhat oblivious
to those not familiar with the singular artist Astor Piazzolla.
Piazzolla, known for his unique take on tango music, infused classical and
jazz sounds into the tango base, effectively creating a genre called
nuevo tango, or new tango. No slouch as a performer, Piazzolla was also
a master on the bandoneon (an instrument similar to the concertina, which
some may misidentify as an accordian) and performed often live.
For musicians as skilled as The Oblivion Projects, its no wonder that
emulating Piazzollas work was a welcome challenge. But why focus an
entire group around it?
PLENTY OF MUSIC
(Cellist) Derek Snyder approached me about Piazzollas music out of the
pure love of it, violinist Gabe Bolkosky explains. He heard a famous
cellist, Rotropovich, perform it and immediately fell in love with it. I
have a nonprofit, The Phoenix Ensemble, and we are dedicated to helping
individual artists create projects; we helped Derek get the band going by
supporting the first several concerts, and the band took off from there.
Since Piazzolla has written thousands of works, Bolkosky explains, the
group figures the range of available performance material will keep the
band going for a long time, especially given the fact that they give each
piece their own distinctive Oblivion Project stamp.
The arrangements that we have, some directly from Piazzolla and some put
together by band members, are usually stretched by the members of the
band, Bolkosky says, they become somewhat like jazz charts. Tad (Weed)
and Alex (Trajano) create a musical atmosphere in my opinion that keeps
the passion of the music and adds a unique sound.
Also unique is the bands name, which conjures up any number of images,
from modern art to science fiction. But according to the band members,
its basically yet another homage to Piazzolla himself.
The name of the group is simple, Derek Snyder explains, it came from
one of Piazzollas works, Oblivion, which he wrote for a film score. I
picked it because we needed a name, and that particular tune is super
nice; we play it at every concert.
Interestingly, Snyder explains, Piazzolla doesnt seem to have ever
recorded the piece, even though it is one of his most-performed works now.
He cranked out music so quickly, once writing a complete movie score in
one night, that he never spent much time with that particular piece,
Also, the orchestration of our group - bandoneon, violin, cello, piano,
bass and percussion - is one that Piazzolla used during his career,
Snyder continues, he most often chose to use either violin or cello in
his ensemble depending on his mood. We are using both instruments in our
group. Piazzolla would arrange his music for whatever ensemble he
preferred at the time.
Piazzollas music is indeed a mix of instruments and an amalgam of many
different cultures, as Bolkosky calls tango. For Bolkosky as a violinist,
he appreciates the opportunity that the genre gives him to stretch his
talents past what is usually expected of his particular instrument.
It gives me a chance to explore the depth of the violin sound while also
having a chance to touch other nonclassical worlds of music, he says.
And as for the whole Oblivion Project, theyre visiting plenty of other
worlds of music through their live shows, which will hopefully include
some larger events and more wide-ranging projects soon.
Were hoping to play in Detroit for the Jazz Festival, Bolkosky says,
and were hoping to create recordings of our own, too.
The Oblivion Project will be performing at the Crooked Tree Arts Center in
Petoskey at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 26, funded in part by the Michigan
Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs and the Michigan Humanities
Council. For tix and more info, please visit www.crookedtree.org or