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McFerrin Gives Audience a Chance to Explore Music

February 28, 1995|ZAN STEWART | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Bobby McFerrin is entrancing. On Sunday at Marsee Auditorium in Torrance, the singer used his voice and body as instruments to discover the universal power of music.

McFerrin, appearing with his quartet, Hard Choral, continually drew the audience in, making it an essential part of the performance. He employed sing-a-longs (one number had 50 fans on stage, singing), encouraging listeners to explore their own musicality, and with this basically improvisatory performance, showed them music can be made from something as simple as a name or a group of numbers.

The concert by McFerrin and his colleagues--Rhiannon, Kirsten Falke and Dave Worm--ran the gamut from classical and free-form to funk and be-bop, including Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," the pop ballad "Since I Fell for You" and "Angry," an original song from the "Medicine Man" album.

Much of what was heard was built not around songs per se, but on-the-spot creations. Some of these were composed of words, such as the gospel-ish "Woe on the Man That Makes an Unjust Law"; many were composed of non-word, syllabic scat-singing, potential nonsense, such as the "name game," that had an amazing pull because it was so artfully done. Here, McFerrin and his cohorts sat on the edge of the stage and used the names of audience members--"Judy," "Jessica"--to concoct multilayered numbers.

McFerrin climaxed the show with a number that spotlighted a slithering-then-animated appearance by modern jazz dancer Tandy Beal, who has collaborated with the leader for 15 years and who performs with her company at Marsee on Friday. This was followed by his re-creation of "The Wizard of Oz."

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