Visiting horn player dispells a few myths -rws -jcr -dlh

Kat Deas

This past Monday, a cozy group of about 50 Lawrentians and Appleton residents packed on-stage for an intimate concert with a musician with an unlikely specialty *****– jazz French horn. Arkady Shilkloper visited Lawrence for one day, giving an unusual masterclass that began with a Swiss alphorn and an even more unusual recital later that evening. The alphorn began flying through the air to play to the eight or so people sitting in the balcony.
The unusual thing about Shilkloper’s music isn’t his bizarre style ********– although he is definitely eccentric. What ***is*** bizarre is the instruments he chose to master, and that he mastered them so shockingly well. The following quote, from a 1998 issue of ***Horncall***, may give you an idea. Says Joseph Agrell:
“Shilkloper and his bass player swing like nobody’s business. He rips and riffs and goes places that horn players aren’t supposed to go without a net, map, seat belt, crash helmet, overhead air support, and a note from their mothers. And he does so with extraordinary ease and musicality. I think maybe nobody ever told him ‘Jazz playing on horn is very difficult, and probably not natural’ or perhaps the phrase does not translate into Russian. I’d walk a camel a mile to hear this guy.”
Granted, that review is twenty years old, from Shilkloper’s first trip to the United States, but the man has suffered no loss of stage charm. Whether it was the way he lit up his instruments ******– French horn, alphorn, and flugelhorn *******– or his thick accent, he kept the audience captivated and in a slight forward lean. They wondered the same questions: “How on the green face of Earth did he come up with that, and why does his accent keep changing between Russian, French, and German?”
His communication skills were immediately redeemed the moment he picked up a horn. Shilkloper played compositions with influences from India, Russia, Portugal, and Switzerland as he stood in a small circle of electronic studio equipment. When he got to his own compositions, Shilkloper put a microphone on his bell, and pushed some of the electronic pedals on the floor, oftentimes in the middle of a song, giving an explosively rich demonstration of experimentation in music, be it jazz or otherwise.
Some of his electronic, post-modern compositions redefined what it is to sound ethereal and otherworldly, while others explored turbulent indecision, elation, and romance. In one song, he recorded himself live, then dubbed over himself, over and over again, until it sounded like there were six horn players jamming on this dark jazz piece he had created. Towards the end of the concert, he signaled for his bassist, Lawrence professor Mark Urness, and played to earn a standing ovation.
Perhaps, then, it wasn’t that Shilkloper missed the memo that horn players can’t play jazz, but that too many musicians, horns or otherwise, have been misled into believing they couldn’t be successful improvisers. Obviously, as Shilkloper’s virtuosity suggests, that belief is a gross lie ********– it just takes a little more practice.