Trio Globo performs globally-influenced music at Campus Center

Sam Lewin

The Trio Globo concert last Saturday in the Esch-Hurvis room was easily one of the best oncampus performances all year. The trio – consisting of Eugene Friesen on cello, Howard Levy on piano, harmonica and bamboo flute, and Glen Velez on an assortment of frame drums, shakers and other percussion instruments – played two equally impressive sets. These three musicians put on a technically impressive show, but their virtuosity took a back seat to their emotion, groove and soul.
Friesen, Levy and Velez each come from different musical backgrounds, and their various influences culminate in Trio Globo’s distinct fusion of jazz, classical and world music.
Friesen comes from a classical background, but his interest in improvisation led him to create an array of new cello techniques. Levy is best known for his collaborations with banjo player Béla Fleck and for being one of a small number of well-known jazz harmonica players.
Levy also created the “overblow” and “overdraw” techniques for harmonica, which combined allow harmonica players to play diatonic harmonicas chromatically – in other words, to play the harmonica’s “missing notes.”
Velez initially played jazz drum set but has since become a leading percussionist and frame drum specialist. He has familiarized himself with the ancient history of the frame drum and is well versed in numerous types of world music. The mixture of these diverse influences was evident from the start of Trio Globo’s
first set.
The trio began the set with a few songs from their most recent album “Steering by the Stars.” They interacted much like a jazz trio, but did so while playing complex world rhythms. Most of their songs were based on these global rhythms, and each instrument contributed to the rhythmic background. The trio members were outstanding improvisers and expanded on these backgrounds through their solos.
However, the highlights of the first set were the unaccompanied cello and tambourine solos. After the trio finished the slow and dreamy composition “Ghost in My Heart,” Friesen immediately launched into an unbelievable unaccompanied solo. He explored the cello’s full dynamic potential, at times making sounds reminiscent of an electric guitar.
And while Friesen showcased his technical expertise, his solo captured the spirit and groove of a funk band. The audience responded enthusiastically, rising in an immediate standing ovation at the end of the solo.
In the midst of this applause, Velez rose from his drum throne, held up his blue tambourine, and introduced his solo by jokingly saying, “So this is a tambourine.” What followed was an incredible solo, which Velez played entirely on the tambourine. Velez incorporated a variety of rhythms in his solo and conveyed his complex ideas without the use of any other instruments.
The trio concluded their first set with a rendition of jazz legend John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” a standard piece notorious for challenging jazz students. The trio, however, effortlessly played Howard Levy’s re-harmonization of the tune over an Iraqi jurjina rhythm in 10/16 time.
Only Levy initially returned for the second set, and he began by modestly explaining his contribution to contemporary harmonica playing. He then took an impressive solo of his own, which channeled the blues and simultaneously displayed his mastery of the instrument.
Afterwards, Velez and Friesen returned to the stage and the trio played a few more original compositions. Towards the end of the concert, they played Woodie Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” which was refreshing to hear, especially after their fusion of such complex global musical ideas.
Trio Globo’s concert was as musical as it was virtuosic. Through their incorporation of diverse musical influences and their unusual instrumentation, the trio has truly created a unique sound for themselves, and last Saturday’s audience fully appreciated the group’s uniqueness.