September 15-16, 2006

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Read Ian Anderson's pre-visit interview

Would anybody guess that Ian Anderson, the unique performer when exposed to the public view, turns into a dry and stern Englishman when away from the outsider’s eyes? Well, “dry” isn’t the right word to describe the rock scene veteran who played to the multitude of his Israeli fans on September 16th in quite unwonted way…

But no, Anderson looked rather usual – dark trousers, motley vest, black head kerchief; what was strange was that he graced the Ra’anana Amphipark stage without JETHRO TULL, a band Ian’s been leading for almost 40 years. This time he was accompanied by The Ra’anana Symphonette Orchestra. Music was unusual as well, a little strange even to those who’ve heard the recording of a similar show issued some months before, all because of a young violin player Ann Marie Calhoun who’s appearance alongside old rocker changed the tour’s repertoire.

Everything went smoothly, the fact that the English lad and the American lady have met only two days before and have played together only once notwithstanding. Previously, Ms Calhoun and Mr Anderson had been in touch over the phone and through e-mail. It was this way, as a file, that Ian received the recording of Ann Marie-composed piece called “Runty”, which the charming player in the both classical and country field dedicated to her cat – and the TULL man adores the feline creatures – and the Israeli fans were the first to hear. Without Calhoun, very disciplined musician as suits the one who teaches teenagers, there’d be a different sound to “Mo’z Art”, a Mozart variations extravaganza, and “King Henry’s Madrigal” that Ian’s band recorded 30 years ago, and of course, the rollicking “Blue Grass In The Backwoods”.

As for the orchestra, the collective’s coordinator, Arie Kaufman – also a violinist – said that swing which The Ra’anana Symphonette had to pull off in “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, that Anderson described as ‘Count Basie meets Tom and Jerry’, wasn’t so comfortable for classical musicians yet for the ones who’ve played with Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles it wasn’t too hard. And if “America” from “West Side Story” – done in Ian’s friend Keith Emerson’s arrangements – unites classical music and jazz, the delicate elegiac motif of the “Aqualung” central part turning into the mighty riff gives the most famous JETHRO TULL tune another, previously hidden dimension. Not that this new form confused the audience in the least. But there are many TULL fans in Israel and there were so many of them wearing T-shirts with its commander on, so the instantaneous recognition of such classics as “Living In The Past” or “Life Is A Long Song” didn’t come as a surprise.

Anyway, it was amazing that the punters started shouting “Budapest” when the first chords of this, not golden period JETHRO TULL song filled the hot air, even though there was less rapture than when the acoustic ring of “Cheap Day Return” and “Mother Goose” started sending shivers down the spine. For these pieces, Anderson invited oboe and bass clarinet to the fore that nicely complemented the sound of his mini-guitar. But Ian didn’t flirt with the public – he’s the same off-stage. Immensely concentrated during the intense six-hour rehearsal which took place the day before, on the way to the venue he entertained Ann Marie with jolly rock ‘n’ roll tales. She seemed to be not that familiar with the TULL story, so the re-telling of the rabbit-suit accident known to most of the fans was met gladly. But who wouldn’t be glad to listen to it from Anderson himself?

Not that many people have heard from him a real tango: this piece the Englishman took from the Turkish flute player Sefika Kutluer and, it seems, played in Ra-anana for the first time. The orchestral tango is something to savor! To find a contact between the orchestra, the rocker and his band was something that pianist and conductor John O’Hara played an important role in. The band, by the way, features, among others, a drummer called James Duncan who is… well just look at his picture to figure out who he looks like and who he really is. As to who he can be, there seems to be a good chance for James to join TULL who went on acoustic path following Ian’s solo trek. That’s another unwonted way. And if the veteran called for everybody to be living in the past, he lives in the future. Sure – cause it’s the old day now.

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