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Classical Zeppelin


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Sat, Jan 16, 2010 at 8:00 PM

Clearwater - REH



Brent Havens, conductor

Randy Jackson, vocalist

Listen to an interview with Randy Jackson, courtesy of 107.3 The Eagle.

After their success this past season in the symphonic Pink Floyd concert, conductor and arranger Brent Havens and rock vocalist Randy Jackson will join The Florida Orchestra for a sonic salute to Led Zeppelin.

Source: St. Petersburg Times

Published: January 14, 2010

By: John FlemingLed Zeppelin tribute band, Florida Orchestra will rock at Ruth Eckerd Hall on Saturday

Brent Havens remembers well the first time he put togetherthe music of Led Zeppelin with a symphony orchestra. It was 1995 and hetried out the concept with the Virginia Symphony.

"We had no idea how it would do, so we put the concert ina 1,000-seat theater,'' says Havens, an arranger and conductor wholives in Virginia Beach. "It sold out in one day. And we went — oh,hello, that was pretty interesting.''

Thus was spawned a lucrative cottage industry that marriesrock and classical music and brings sizable new audiences to symphonyorchestras. Havens and his Zeppelin show are featured with the FloridaOrchestra at Ruth Eckerd Hall on Saturday.

There's nothing new about joining rock and classicalmusic. In the glory days of prog-rock in the 1960s and '70s, crossovergiants walked the Earth: Procol Harum, the Moody Blues, Yes, Genesis,Emerson, Lake & Palmer and others flirted with symphony orchestras.

And there have been lots of sweeping strings set to rock,from the Beatles' The Long and Winding Road to the brilliant pairing ofMetallica and the San Francisco Symphony on the album S&M.

Led Zeppelin got the treatment by the London Philharmonicin Kashmir: The Symphonic Led Zeppelin, but that 1997 album was moresymphonic than Zep, with no vocals, guitar, drums or bass. In Havens'show, the orchestra basically serves as the backup band to fiverockers, including Randy Jackson (lead singer of the band Zebra) makinglike Robert Plant.

"There's full rock lighting with fog and the mirror balland the whole deal,'' Havens says. "The entire orchestra is miked. Soit's not a pops type of concert. It's an out and out rock show.''

Havens, 53, is founder of Windborne Music, which has fivedifferent classic rock shows for which he writes the orchestraarrangements and conducts. Along with Zeppelin there are shows for PinkFloyd, the Eagles, the Doors and the newest one, Queen.

A year ago, the Florida Orchestra did the Pink Floyd showat Mahaffey Theater, and attendance was a robust 1,781, more than 90percent of capacity. "Not only was it a full house, but it was a newaudience for the orchestra,'' says Sherry Powell, marketing andcommunications director. "It's so nice to be able to do somethingrelevant to people who don't normally come to orchestra concerts.''

However, there isn't much evidence that the orchestra'sforays into the likes of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin and other specialshows build the audience for mainstream classical fare. "A couple ofyears ago we did the Lord of the Rings Symphony, and they were wellattended,'' says Henry Adams, associate director of marketing andcommunications. "Very few people who bought those tickets came to otherconcerts.''

Havens has arrangements for 30 Led Zeppelin songs, andSaturday's concert will feature about 18 of them, no doubt includingsuch favorites as Black Dog, Going to California and, yes, Stairway toHeaven. He essentially transcribes the rock band parts, because that'swhat fans expect to hear.

"It's astounding how well these people know this music,''Havens says. "They know lick for lick on the guitar, every nuance ofthe phrasing of the lyrics. That's why we try to keep it close to theoriginal. I think I'd be disappointed if I went to a concert and heardsomebody's interpretation of Zeppelin.''

So does that mean guitarist George Cintron can match the great Jimmy Page?

"He has the style down,'' Havens says. "Most of the solosare note for note. The Heartbreaker solo, where it's all guitar, hesteps out and does a five-, six-minute piece all by himself. It'scertainly in the vein.''

And drummer Powell Randolph does the big Moby Dick solothat John Bonham did, though not for the 20 minutes that Bonzo usuallytook up. "I don't let Powell go on that long. But it is an amazingsolo,'' Havens says.

Havens was originally drawn to Led Zeppelin because one ofthe group's greatest hits, Kashmir, already featured strings and brass.His challenge in writing orchestration for the songs was to keep thecharts interesting.

"That was really the critical thing, that it didn't comeout cheesy or cheap sounding,'' he says. "I wanted to give it theelegance that it deserved.''

Havens didn't want the orchestra just playing whole notesbehind the band. "Avoiding the footballs (whole notes) is always one ofmy big concerns,'' he says. "But for a couple of tunes you almost needthat. Like in Going to California I have lush strings behind it. Forthe majority of the tunes I'll have counterpoint melodies and lots ofrich harmonic structures in the orchestra.''

Even after years of labor on arrangements of Zeppelin'smusic, Havens remains a fan of the heavy metal legends. "The rhythmicand harmonic complexities they were using — the open tunings in guitarsand the chords on top of chords — are still intriguing to me. I had amuch greater respect for them after I transcribed all the music than Idid going into it.''



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CF- I am going to see Randy's Acoustic Show Feb 6th in Norcross! I followed Zebra all over New Orleans in the 80's! I posted a few great video's on Zebra and Randy on a thread a few months ago.

Cool, I'm just listening to the interview, I'll check out your vids

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