On October 6, 2018, I was fortunate to attend a day of xylophone at NYU hosted by Jonathan Haas and Jon Singer. The day was called Xylophone Now! and featured performances and clinics by Xylofolks, Shaun Tilburg, Ian Finkel, James Saporito, NYU Percussion Ensemble, SUNY Purchase Percussion Ensemble, and the Rutgers Youth Percussion Ensemble. The performances were absolutely amazing and I was so glad to finally have the opportunity to hear these great performers perform in a live setting.
This video features virtuoso xylophone soloist Bob Becker and NEXUS performing Valse Brillante (by George Hamilton Green/arr.Bob Becker) at a performance at the Sejong Culture Center in Seoul, Korea on May 19, 1984 as part of a NEXUS world tour. (The performers include Russell Hartenberger, Robin Engelman, Bill Cahn, John Wyre). Pay close attention to phrasing.
In the United States, and in Western cultures in particular, when we talk about solo xylophone, ragtime music is most likely to be one of the first things that come to mind. There are two important xylophone traditions that come from Africa: Balafon and Gyil. Both are incredible and worth spending exploring. Below is a video of Bassidi and Khalifa Koné from Mali. I have also included a link to a documentary they recorded with their father. Spend some time this week and check these out!
Last week, I featured Michel the tap dancing xylophonist. This week, I wanted to share the Teddy Brown video. He was an American entertainer who spent the latter part of his life performing in Britain. He was born Abraham Himmelbrand in 1900, and first played in the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, but moved to the field of popular music in the 1920s. Be sure to read the “more info” on the YouTube page for more information.
This video features “Michel, America’s most famous Dancing Xylophonist (1931). According to the YouTube description, this video is “various shots of Michel, playing the xylophone while he tap dances to the tune of ‘The One I Love.’ He also turns a cartwheel along the length of his xylophone. Michael then plays “Goodnight Sweetheart’ while tapping, finishing with a back flip.”
For more historic films, all searchable on YouTube, click here.