Expect New Things

May 30th, 2019

A preview of Bobby McFerrin, performing at the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival on the Flynn MainStage Friday, May 31 at 8 pm. Tickets and information are available at www.flynntix.org. 

I can say from personal experience that it is nearly impossible to shy away from becoming a lifelong lover of the arts when growing up in a musical household. 

For jazz vocalist and conductor Bobby McFerrin, whose parents met in church choir, the constant exposure to a worldwide array of music influences in his youth instilled qualities reminiscent of a true Renaissance man. Most notably recognized for his vocal techniques, McFerrin transcends music into a polyphonic medley accompanied by percussive effects, often produced by his own voice and body. 

McFerrin’s formal musical schooling began with classes in eurythmics at Julliard at the age of six. That’s right, six. Additionally, his piano playing was heavily influenced by Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, to the point where McFerrin’s parents decided to unplug the record player. This took no toll on McFerrin, who spent years crafting his unique vocal style before releasing his self-titled debut album, Bobby McFerrin, in 1982. 

McFerrin’s career skyrocketed with his 1988 a capella hit Don’t Worry, Be Happy, which became the first a capella song to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100. Locking in three of McFerrin’s 10 Grammys, Don’t Worry, Be Happy sparked McFerrin’s shift to a serious study of conducting. McFerrin spent a large portion of the ‘90s as a guest conductor for various orchestras, where he was known to end concerts by conducting the orchestra in a capella renditions of classical pieces. 

Now back to performing. McFerrin blends his love for a capella improvisation with his conducting skills to lead audiences in converting the concert hall to a playground. 

Charleston-based quintet Ranky Tanky will join McFerrin to take the stage at 8 pm on Friday after performing two concerts together in Philadelphia. A likely blend of Gullah, Americana, blues, jazz, and who knows what else, the show is guaranteed to display McFerrin’s extensive appreciation for all kinds of music, specifically the nuances of audience improvisation. Get ready to wrap yourself up in scat singing, call and response, and anything else this industry rebel may choose to conquer. 

“My songs are like my children. Some you want around and some you want to send off to college as soon as possible. I just don’t like doing the same thing over and over again. Picasso wouldn’t keep painting blue paintings just because people like them. He got himself caught up in something else. Well, that’s me. I get restless easily,” McFerrin says on his website.

“Expect new things, new experiences whether its jazz stuff or classical stuff or whatever."

Filed in: Music 

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