Jan 3, 2011
The term “master” gets bandied about too often today. However, it would not be exagerating to call Glen Velez a master percussionist. He is perhaps the greatest frame drummer in the world, and certainly one of the most in demand. His recording credits show him working in modern classical music with Steve Reich, jazz with Pat Metheny and the Paul Winter Consort, pop with Suzanne Vega, and world music with many more. He has four Grammy awards to his credit. There seems little Glen Velez cannot do. His latest group. Trio Globo (pictured above), reunites Velez (left) with long-time friend and collaborator Eugne Friesen (left) and Howard Levy (center) for Steering From the Stars, a new CD.
So what’s a “frame drum” you ask? A frame drum is a drum that has a drumhead width greater than its depth. Usually the single drumhead is made of rawhide or man-made materials. Shells are traditionally constructed of bent wood (rosewood, oak, ash etc.) scarf jointed together; plywood and man-made materials are also used. Some frame drums have mechanical tuning and on many the drumhead is stretched and tacked in place. It is the earliest skin drum known to have existed. Examples are found in many places and cultures. In fact, frame drums are one of the most ancient types of musical instrumentsand are often played mainly by men in spiritual rituals. Click here for the Youtube Video of Velez discussing the frame drum.
I spoke with Velez in anticipation of the release of his new Trio Globo CD, as he prepared to make a rare appearance with both the trio and the Glen Velez TA KA DI MI Project at Symphony Space in New York. Click here to listen to Podcast 201 which features that conversation, along with musical selections from his vast catalogue including:
Paul Winter Consort - “Music for a Sunday Night in Salamanca” from Spanish Angel. A live recording made in Spain during a 1992 tour, this track was co-written by Velez. This edition of the Consort was Velez (percussion), (cello), Paul Winter (soprano sax), (flute), (bass) and (keyboard).
Trio Globo – Title track from Steering from the Stars. Long-time collaborator Eugene Friesen joined Velez and pianist and master harmonica player Howard Levy for this latest release and tour.
Glen Velez – “Lunar Tides“ from Breathing Rhythms. This 2000 recording challenged listeners to “allow for a physical and spiritual experience via the forces allowed by the controlled breathing, overtone singing, and rhythms of the music set “. The musicians were Damian on pan flute, Eugene Friesen on cello and vocals and Velez playing Riq, Pandero, Clapping, Voice, Kanjira, Pods, Tar, Low Cardboard Box, High Cardboard Box, Bodhran, Bells, Caxixi, Deer Rattles, Bendir, and Maraca.
Pat Metheny Group – “The Heat of the Day” from Imaginary Day. Velez met Metheny thorugh their mutual collaborator, Steve Reich. Wanting something different for his re-united Group, Metheny invited Don Alias, David Samuels and Velez to join drummer Paul Wertico for a denser, more tribal sound. The rest of this edition of the PMG is Metheny on guitar and synthesizers, Lyle Mays on keyboards, Steve Rodby on bass, Mark Ledford on horns, and David Blamires on a myriad of string instruments, plus the mellophone, recorded and vocals.
Glen Velez and Lori Cotler – “Submerged (excerpt)” from Glen Velez Solo. The TA KA DI MI Project is comprised of Velez and rhythm voice master Lori Cotler in original compositions derived from music of the Mid-East, Central Asia and the Mediterranean region. A frequent collaborator, Ms. Cotler has a unique approach to combining Jazz scat and melismatic improvisations, including the rare vocal art form known as Konnakol, a highly sophisticated South Indian drum language.
Glen Velez TA KA DI MI Project and TRIO GLOBO will appear Friday, January 7, 2011, 8:00PM at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space (2537 Broadway at 95th Street). Tickets are $30/$20 Students and Seniors. To purchase tickets, contact Symphony Space 212.864.5400 or visit http://www.symphonyspace.org.