Classical Jazz Quartet finds niche in fusing musical styles

The Classical Jazz Quartet

By Terry Perkins, Special to the Jewish Light

The Classical Jazz Quartet creates an eclectic, exciting and entertaining sound that weaves elements of jazz and contemporary musical styles seamlessly into familiar classical works by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy and other legendary composers.

It’s an approach that has had amazing success. Collectively, the band has released 11 albums that have reached No.1 on Internet sales charts… with Internet downloads of more than three million songs. On Sunday, the Quartet will perform at “All For Fun-and Fun For All,” a fundraiser for Five Acres Animal Shelter at the Landings at Spirit Golf Course, 180 N. Eatherton Road in Chesterfield.

“I am so happy to be a part of this benefit,” says keyboard player Michael Silverman. “Five Acres is a no-kill shelter. It’s incredibly important to help animals that have no say in their own fate, and give them the opportunity to be happy, adopted pets.”

According to Silverman, co-founder of the band along with brother Rob Silverman on percussion, a foundation of classical music has been a given in their lives since childhood. Both brothers are natives of University City, and they grew up with classical musicians as parents.

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“Our father played with the St. Louis Symphony as a cellist for more than 40 years,” explained Michael Silverman during a recent interview. “And our mother was a piano teacher for many years-and played cello as well. That’s actually how my folks met. They were both studying cello with the same teacher.”

The Silverman brothers grew up with eclectic musical tastes that moved beyond their classical heritage to include jazz, rock and world music. But according to Michael, a particular style of music-one deeply entwined in Jewish culture-has had a major influence on the musical development of the Quartet.

“Rob and I have played jazz and quite a few other styles of music,” said Silverman. “But I’m sure there are Jewish Light readers who may recognize Rob, myself and Andrew Driscoll, our violinist in the Quartet, as members of David Markowitz’s band. We’ve played klezmer music in David’s band for many Jewish events since the early nineties. In fact, Rob and I actually met Andrew in David’s group.”

When the Silvermans shared the stage with Driscoll, they all found a kindred spirit in Klezmer music that encompassed both their Jewish heritage-and their eclectic musical interests.

“Andrew was such a versatile violinist,” says Michael Silverman. “He was able to perform Klezmer, jazz, classical, and folk fiddle interchangeably, and we found it was a great joy to play with him. In fact, playing blazing-fast Klezmer music really was some of the most challenging music all of us ever encountered. It really did help us to build our musical chops as well as our endurance to play the high energy pieces we play these days.”

In case the name Classical Jazz Quartet doesn’t click immediately, there’s a reason. The Silverman brothers, violinist Driscoll and bassist Matt Bollinger were known for several years as “Bach to the Future” before the group decided to change it’s name earlier this year.

According to Michael Silverman, there were two primary reasons for the name change. One had to do with the expanding repertoire of the Quartet. The other? Let’s just call it a witty play on words that lost its impact.

“When we first started the band six years ago,” said Silverman, “we were taking Bach pieces and rearranging them with a contemporary musical perspective. So the wordplay of using a group name to piggyback on the popularity of the ‘Back to The Future’ movies worked. Now, we do arrangements of pieces by many more classical composers-and we’re doing a lot more original music too. So it was time to broaden the musical perspective.”

That musical perspective has broadened from recording to producing festivals to starting a recording label. The Silverman brothers were key figures in putting together the first University City Jazz Festival in late September, which featured performances by vocalist Jeanne Trevor, Latin group Clave Sol, an all-star band of young music students, a tribute to jazz legend John Coltrane-and a performance by the Classical Jazz Quartet.

“We were so thrilled with the way the Festival day unfolded,” recalls Silverman. “The turnout was incredible. I can hardly put into words my feelings about growing up in U. City, and now founding this annual festival. The musicians were incredible, the crowd enthusiastic, and as the sun went down and the stage lights came on, I was overwhelmed with a feeling that we had created something special.”

Five Acres Animal Shelter Fundraiser

WHO: The Classical Jazz Quartet will perform during a fundraiser for Five Acres Animal Shelter.

WHEN: 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6

WHERE: The Landings at Spirit Golf Course, 180 N. Eatherton Road in Chesterfield, at Spirit of St. Louis Airport.

HOW MUCH: $20 adults, $10 children under 13, free for children under 5. Admission includes gourmet appetizers and non-alcoholic beverages. Cash bar, more than 35 silent auction items.

MORE INFO: Tickets are available at Five Acres; D-Zine Hair & Art Studio, 6679 Delmar Boulevard; Sherstoff Dental, 2 West Dr. Suite 110 and at the door. For more info, go to the Five Acres Animal Shelter Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=152257851537756).