3Q: Bobby Previte


By Britt Robson

class=img_thumbleft>Drummer/composer Bobby Previte smudges genres with gleeful impunity. His latest CD, Coalition of the Willing, variously sounds like Sonny Sharrock, Sly Stone, and the Strawberry Alarm Clock, and yet is most appropriately filed under jazz. The Walker Art Center recently commissioned Previte, in collaboration with theater artist Andrea Kleine, to compose The Separation, a "choral mass in nine movements" featuring Previte's jazz trio and the choral group the Rose Ensemble. We talked to Previte by phone from his home in New York two weeks before The Separation's world premiere at the Walker this Friday and Saturday.

City Pages: How did this come together?

Bobby Previte: I was originally interested in the music of [15th-Century composer Guillaume] Dufay in college, and I somehow bumped into it again while reading the Federalist Papers. I wasn't writing to do Dufay, I wanted a hybrid, this kind of metal thing, because what is heavy metal but the other side of sacred music? It is very gothic and huge and gestural. I wouldn't call The Separation metal; it has a metal tinge and then with the choir and everything converging. There's not much new under the sun, you just take a fresh look at things and put them together in novel ways.

CP: How, specifically, did Kleine change things?

BP: She felt my [non-musical] ideas were good on paper but would be pretty boring. There wasn't enough drama there, and telling a story is something she is particularly good at. Almost all the story and staging is hers. It is a true collaboration; this is not a theater piece with music behind it. The music is integral. It is a concert, wall-to-wall music, and what Andrea has done quite brilliantly is retain the music as paramount but also tell a story that has the music as one huge character in the story.

CP: Does the story still deal with the separation, or lack of separation, between church and state?

BP: In a way. But in a much more elegant and powerful fashion than I would have made it. I wrote this really huge, wide, gothic, incredible music score and the easy thing for Andrea would be to do the same thing. But instead, she wrote this beautiful, seemingly intimate story. At the end of the day it goes beyond the music, without shouting. It is so much more than "church and state" or any pedantic notion I had. It goes into issues about what constitutes belief. What is considered crazy to believe and what does our society say is okay? Which myths are considered objective and which are considered insane?

Bobby Previte and Andrea Kleine present The Separation at the Walker Art Center. $20-$25, 8:00 p.m. Previte will also host a free lecture and demonstration on Saturday at 2:00 p.m.; reservation required. 1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.375.7600. Also Saturday