Skilled musician blends jazz with classical music
"That's a prank," said Alexander Pershounin after his cell phone began ringing out the opening riff of AC/DC's "Back in Black" during our interview. Kristina, the teenage daughter of the Minnesota State University Moorhead assistant professor of ...
"That's a prank," said Alexander Pershounin after his cell phone began ringing out the opening riff of AC/DC's "Back in Black" during our interview.
Kristina, the teenage daughter of the Minnesota State University Moorhead assistant professor of music, gets a kick out of changing the ringtones on her dad's phone. Funny stuff. But maybe a little rock music isn't as out-of-place with this musician as one might think.
After all, the Soviet-born bassist - and that means both the double bass and the bass guitar - is certainly no buttoned-up, classical-only academic in his approach to the instrument, in particular, or music, in general.
During our interview he could be heard laying snappy licks over the top of electronically looped funk. Sure, he plays in the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra, but he's just as much a jazz man, having performed with the likes of Doc Severinsen and Bob Berg. As such, Pershounin's repertoire is an intriguing mix of the rather static form of classical music and the
oft-improvised form of jazz.
It's rare to find a musician with a foot in the worlds of both jazz and classical music who performs at the level that Pershounin does, says Larry Panella, director of jazz studies at the University of Southern Mississippi where Pershounin studied and taught.
The classical solo works written for bass are "extremely demanding," Panella says. Because of the relatively large size of the bass as compared to other stringed instruments, the stretch of the hands is larger, the travel of the bow is longer and the distance of the strings from the fingerboard is greater. And that ups the difficulty of the classical bass genre.
And, Panella says "classical bass players don't always make great jazz bass players because many of them don't understand the nuances of playing over the beat."
But Pershounin is "very good" with those rhythmic hiccups, Penella says.
Pershounin, who just finished his first year teaching at MSUM, doesn't approach the bass as a background voice. He sees its potential to be an integral part of the music, and even a solo instrument.
"Because Alex is such a technically gifted player, he can treat the bass more like a lead instrument," Penella says. It's an approach that is becoming more common.
And while many have played the bass as a one-note-at-a-time instrument, in some contexts, Pershounin creates three- or even four-note chords.
"Why limit yourself? Why be stuck in a rut?" Pershounin says.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734