Review: Yanni presents enchanting performance
As one who has tended to think of "world music" as fancy music, I was prepared to not like Yanni.
The Greek-born musician/composer and his orchestra performed in concert Thursday evening for an enthusiastic and appreciative audience at the Ford Center.
I found it hard to resist this engaging performer, his group of talented musicians and the "One World, One People" philosophy that has been the hallmark of Yanni's career.
The artist's 13th album, "Ethnicity," which is also the name of his 2004 concert tour, includes such exotic instruments as the Australian didgeridoo, the Armenian duduk, Celtic violin and India's tabla.
In person, the enigmatic, ever-smiling Yanni looks far younger than his 49 years and is an adept pianist and keyboardist. The ethnically diverse members of his orchestra are very talented, and, in performance, Yanni functions as part-musician, part-cheerleader and part-proud father presiding over a precocious brood.
Yanni seemed to be aware of this latter role, telling the audience after a virtuoso dueling duet between violinist Karen Briggs and saxophonist Pedro Eustache: "Sometimes when these two get going, I lose myself and forget I'm part of the show."
While I didn't know the titles of any of the musical pieces performed last week, it was obvious many in the audience did. The few songs that Yanni announced from the stage were wonderful and certainly merit a mention.
"If I Could Tell You" was dramatic. Yanni said he wrote the song during a difficult time in his life, and the creative piece started with a simple, almost wailing, refrain on the keyboards, lifted to a sigh and, as other players joined in, slowly seemed to build past the musical equivalent of the drying of tears to a hopeful greeting of a new phase of existence.
One of the most beautiful songs of the evening was "Nightingale," and "The Promise" and "Nostalgia" were terrific numbers.
A high point was the unusual stomping, sound duel between David Hudson on the Australian didgeridoo and percussionist Walter Rodriguez. Another blast came courtesy of drummer Charlie Adams and his one-man tour de force on the skins.
Other standout performers included vocalists Alfreda Jones and Michelle Amato, violinist Samvel "Sambo" Yervinyan, trumpeter Ramon Flores, keyboardist Ming Freeman, harpist Victor Espinola and Dan Landrum on hammer dulcimer.
If you've been a Yanni holdout like me, try to catch his concert the next time he's in town. I'll be there, too.
-- Karen Klinka