Side A/Side B ensemble brings old and new to UCSD

    In today’s musical arena, which is heavily sedated with pop, rock and the like, it is a rarity to come across truly original music that manages to combine the familiar and the unexpected. Side A/Side B, a large ensemble group led by composer, musician and UCSD graduate student Alan Lechusza, has indeed proven to be such a rare treat.

    An ongoing ensemble project funded by Black Phone Records that began in 1999, Side A/Side B performed for its fourth-consecutive year on Feb. 1 at Erickson Hall in the Mandeville Music Center. Within two hours, Lechusza and the ensemble project performed music that reminds us, in the carefully chosen words of Edwin Prevost, that “”no sound is innocent.””

    The music, a mix of quite untraditional jazz infused with funk, rock, hip-hop and classical sounds, is composed by Lechusza. However, about half of the actual performance deviates from notation and consists of improvisations from the musicians. Conductor Christopher Adler has the discretion of interpreting the music and deciding the extent of the improvs. The music itself is engaging and dynamic, an eclectic mix of sound that is paradoxically discordant and well-blended at the same time.

    Although Lechusza does the composing, he admits feeling incredibly humbled by the opportunity to perform with his ensemble group.

    “”These are some of the best, if not the best, musicians in the world,”” he said. “”All of these guys are acclaimed performers in their own right.””

    The two parts of the concert are appropriately called “”Side A”” and “”Side B,”” with a “”pause”” (intermission) in between. The two “”sides”” are different in sound, although there is one piece that blended from one side to the other.

    “”I really try to balance it where one side is more rocky and kind of groovy, and the other side is more … artistic, classical, avant,”” Lechusza said.

    The percussionists, who had drum work that would amaze any contemporary band, started off each side by introducing heavy beats that had an uncanny way of making members of the audience bob their heads and tap their feet. The other musicians, playing instruments ranging from the saxophone to the trombone to the electric guitar, each brought something unique that contributed to the ensemble as a whole. Each musician performed solo improvs that defied common perceptions about the limitations of their instruments and allowed their own personalities and perspectives to shine through.

    Dannie Hoffman, who plays the tenor saxophone, says that through his music, he hopes to help achieve “”world peace and justice”” because he feels that “”more cultural awareness will lead to less war and violence.””

    Overall, Side A/Side B integrates different musical personalities into a performance that resonates within the audience; it is a reminder that music has no boundaries.

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