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David Barrett

Michael Bisio

Todd Reynolds

Ed Mann

photos by Rudy Lu & Andrzej (Andre) Pilarczyk

The Sanctuary fo Independent Media
Troy, NY
February 28, 2009

by Jeff Waggoner
Not to be too extravagant, but some of the people in the audience last night at The Sanctuary for Independent Media knew they were witnessing the birth of something special with the “Spatto Festival Chorus.”

The Chorus is the brain child of radio host Paul Rapp, of the Berkshire’s WBCR-LP 97.7 FM.  It was Rapp’s idea to bring together four of the most different kinds of musicians possible.

The group is made up of the classical violinist and composer, Todd Reynolds; the rock percussionist, Ed Mann, the free-jazz bassist extraordinaire Michael Bisio and avant-garde saxophonist Dave Barrett.

“Strength through diversity,” is what Bisio calls the improbable team.

That said, it is unfair to put any chorus member in a pigeon hole. For a reviewer, it is guilt by convenience.

While at the top of Reynold’s resume is his work with Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project and Bang on the Can.

For Mann, it is his Frank Zappa collaboration.

For Bisio, it’s his canon of work with Joe McPhee.  And, for, Barrett it his leadership in hyper inventive West Coast groups.

But, each as individuals, is a moveable feast of eclecticism.

It is a new group, and it showed. Each piece seemed like an accident on its way to happening.  But like expert pilots, they managed to pull it out of a tailspin, making audience members think they were being had.

They knew they were in control the whole time. They were just having us on.  

The fear and intensity that we thought we could see in Bisio or Mann’s eyes was just engagement in the moment.  Maybe it was something about Barrett’s smile that was the tip off, and, then, when all four were locked into the music, we ALL knew, not just he musicians, that something special was happening.

What is the chemistry here?  It involves more than just the sheer talent of these four.  It is their humility, their openness. There is nothing secret about their alchemy. They invite anyone into the process.

This is a group that can’t be missed. And it is local.  All, but Troy-native Bisio live in Berkshire County. The geographical center of the Splatto Festival Chorus is probably someplace close to New Lebanon, New York.

That is where their launching pad is, and for us locals – we are very fortunate witnesses, indeed.

Jeff Waggoner has written book, CD and concert reviews for publications such as Down Beat, Jazz Times, Blues Access and The New York Times.