Lecturer of Music Bill Carrothers is widely known for putting on phenomenal performances. The first faculty recital I remember attending was a recital of Miles Davis’ seminal “Kind of Blue” record. All of his recitals that I have attended were nothing short of excellent. This past Wednesday, Carrothers put on another recital, titled “Beyond the Blue Horizon.” As usual, it was wildly different from any other concert I’ve been to. The band for that evening was Carrothers on piano, his wife, Peg on vocals and Instructor of Music Matt Turner on the cello.
The concert started with Carrothers playing inside the piano, which refers to plucking the strings themselves instead of hitting the keys, while Turner created high pitched sounds on the cello. When Peg Carrothers sang the first words of “Beyond the Blue Horizon,” the room was filled with sound. Her voice was soft and sweet, singing of the beautiful day that awaited beyond the horizon. While it sounded sad, the group’s playing made the song seem partially hopeful as well. Bill Carrothers took a solo that effortlessly transitioned into the group’s next number, one that for me was extremely unexpected, the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.” Yet it sounded nothing like the Stones’ 1968 version; rather, it wouldn’t have sounded out of place at a late-night jazz club.
The next number was “Sweet and Lovely,” another 1930s standard, recorded by many different prominent jazz artists, such as Thelonius Monk, Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald. Turner doubled the melody at parts and took a beautiful and melodic solo after Peg Carrothers finished singing. Like the previous two songs, there wasn’t a lot of extended improvisation; instead there were quick solos that led right back into the melody. After “Sweet and Lovely,” the group played the most surprising selection of the night: “Right Where It Belongs” by Nine Inch Nails. Nine Inch Nails is often known for their dark rock intensity, and this choice was no exception. Turner’s swells and Carrothers’ building piano made this tune beautiful and intense. Peg Carrothers’ airy voice soared in this number as she hit some bluesy notes at the end. The final chorus of the song ended with Bill whistling in unison to Peg’s singing.
The next selection was a short version of the 1929 hit, “Happy Days are Here Again,” made famous by Barbara Streisand. Turner started the tune with a ghostly drone on the cello. This was another quiet and hopeful ballad, with Peg Carrothers’ voice adding a content whisper above the piano and cello. “Young and Foolish,” from the musical Plain and Fancy, sounded as wistful as ever, with Carrothers and Turner playing a groove over it. Carrother’s pulsing arpeggios on the piano added more of an upbeat quality to this number, with his solo sounding like classical piano. In contrast, Turner’s solo contained a bluesy wail.
The final song for the evening was almost as surprising as the Nine Inch Nails’ song. When I heard Peg Carrothers’ voice singing the melody to “Dream On” by Aerosmith, I laughed out loud. Why? Because it was just plain awesome. Again, her soft voice whispered out high notes while Bill Carrothers and Turner responded to the melody of the tune. What I loved most about this concert was its twists and turns; the program had some standards and Broadway tunes, but it also contained three classic rock songs redone in jazz ballad fashion. I think it’s safe for me to say that this group would be the only one to make it work as well as they did. All three members had great chemistry which built around Peg Carrothers’ voice. I don’t know if I’ll ever hear “Dream On” the same way again.