“Our audience is going to love them,” said Sandra Whitworth, president of the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage board of directors.
“I first saw Jaron Freeman-Fox and the Opposite of Everything at Folk Music Ontario. Eric Pietersma and Tony McCadden (on the board) also had the opportunity to see him. I knew we really had to get him to the Stage.”
On Saturday, January 30, at 7 p.m., Freeman-Fox with his four member band, the Opposite of Everything, will be at the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage, at Upper Canada Playhouse, Morrisburg, to put on a concert that is guaranteed to amaze and thrill the audience. He and the band have been prominently placed on numerous “best album” lists by music media and critics world wide, and in 2013 their self-titled album won three Canadian Folk Music Awards.
The Ottawa International Jazz Festival wrote that Jaron Freeman-Fox is the “Jimi Hendrix of the violin. With the chops of a classical virtuoso and the soul of a wide-eyed punk, he plays world music in the truest sense of the word…”
January 30 isn’t gonna be “your mama’s music.”
When I talked to Freeman-Fox, I asked him about his life long love affair with the violin.
“Calling it a love affair with the violin is actually very generous,” he laughed. “I think I’d call it a life long dysfunctional love/hate affair. Still it certainly keeps things interesting.”
A native of British Columbia, he began playing the violin at a very early age (“my first violin was about the size of a shoe box.”). From his teen years, he was a musical nomad, moving from festival to festival, busking, performing wherever and whenever he could.
At age 14 he began an apprenticeship with fiddler/composer Oliver Schroer, which was deeply influential in Freeman-Fox’s career. (Shroer passed away in 2008).
At the age of 17, Jaron went to music school in Vancouver where he studied jazz, composition and classical performance under renowned classical violinist Marc Destrube.
But Jaron Freeman-Fox refuses to fit neatly into some specific musical category.
He has studied intensely with some of India’s top violinists: he has experimented with blues and jazz, classical and Celtic, acoustic and electronic influences, on his five-string fiddle. These diverse and exciting styles and approaches meld and blend into the unique sound that is the Opposite of Everything.
“From the start, I had a deep interest in music from all over the world. My concept of music constantly changes. I deliberately try to soak up the musical traditions of each country we tour.”
Freeman-Fox is also an artist who wants to explore all the possibilities in the fiddle itself.
“I’ve always experimented,” he explained, “making all the sounds on a violin you are not supposed to make. I create ‘kicks and tricks’ that are common to other instruments, but not always to mine. What I want to get are the sounds from ‘upstairs’ out into the real world. The process is sometimes frustrating, but it’s a challenge that I love, although it drives me a little crazy at times.”
The violin is his voice, (although Freeman-Fox is also a singer!). “I have found that the violin, or some kind of violin substitute, exists in every culture. For me, my violin could become a chameleon, and ultimately my passport to other worlds of music.”
He is supported by an extraordinary group of musicians: clarinetist John Williams, electro-pop klezmer accordionist Robbie Grunwald, jazz bassist Charles James and drummer Dan Stadnicki will all be with him at the Morrisburg concert.
“When we are creating music for this band, we actually go through a specific process,” Freeman-Fox said. “I find our music in little fragments of melodies that I begin humming to myself, often when I’m off alone walking. I think that when you are outside alone, you have an unencumbered freedom that ultimately translates into melodies. When the band comes together, we sing these melodies together before we work out how they will translate to our instruments. We want to maintain the human elements of the music. Our music is for everyone.
And we respond well to each other. What brought us all together was that we wanted to make our favourite music. Sometimes it’s hard to actually know just what that ‘favourite’ music is going to be. Maybe,” he added with a laugh, “it could be a Mongolian African beat.”
Although the musicians have been deep into developing a new album (as yet untitled), which should be out this summer (“It’s taking a lot of my brain power these days!”), touring remains one of the joys of Freeman-Fox’s career. The band has performed in Australia, North America and Europe, with plans to travel to China in the fall.
“One thing I’ve learned playing all over the world, is that all audiences react differently to the music. Australian audiences can be wildly rambunctious, other audiences are so reserved that you don’t know if they are actually enjoying your music at all until the end when they come up to you with praises. By the way,” he added, tongue in cheek, “I do want the Morrisburg audience to know that they can feel free to clap throughout our show.”
And what can the audience anticipate at the Jaron Freeman-Fox & the Opposite of Everything concert at 7 p.m. on January 30 at the Stage?
“We’ll be running the whole gamut of performance,” Freeman-Fox said. “Soft lyrical music, some kind of crazy music, some New Orleans style.” (Perhaps some Tom Waits influences too.) “We’ve been away from performing for a bit, working on the album, so we are really looking forward to this concert in Morrisburg.”
Tickets for the show are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. Tickets are available at Strung Out Guitars, the Basket Case in Morrisburg and on line at www.st-lawrencestage.com