On my way home tonight, I stopped by the Tea Lounge in Park Slope for the debut of Tom Swafford's String Power: a pickup band of eleven young string players, most from the Mannes School in Manhattan. The played an eclectic mix: everything from Praetorius, to Charles Mingus, to some of Swafford's own compositions. Some of it was a bit uneven - in unison, they sometimes sounded like a Suzuki class rehearsal - but mostly they were tight and energetic. Not to mention in your face: at one point, I almost got poked in the eye by the cellist's bow.
Swafford - who did all the arrangements and led the group - is a recent transplant from Seattle. "There are just so many great musicians here," he told me at the break. "I met some of these guys in school at Berkeley, but you really have to come here to find this many players willing to try this sort of thing." He was charmingly awkward onstage, apologizing at the outset to all the glow-faced patrons trying to surf the 'net. "We won't be more than a couple of hours," he said.
On his website, Swafford speaks about his approach to music, which isn't all that different from your's truly:
"In high school I played keyboard in a rock band, piano in the school jazz band and violin in the orchestra... Recently, the contrasts have become even more extreme. One night I play with a punk band in a dingy bar where the audience throws beer to show their appreciation, the next night I play string quartets in a church sanctuary. I do not believe in the supremacy of any one genre of music any more than I believe one type of person is better than another."
No word on String Power's next performance, but we'll be keeping an eye out.