Matt Haimovitz played a blues club the last time he was in Baton Rouge.
He doesn’t remember the club’s name, but he does remember having a good time. And he remembers the audience having a good time, too.
Which says a lot about Haimovitz’s performance, because he’s not the kind of musician you’d usually find playing a blues club.
No, he’s the kind that would usually be found in, say, the LSU School of Music Recital Hall, which is where he’ll join pianist Christopher O’Riley in a concert on Tuesday, Oct. 30.
O’Riley and Haimovitz recorded a CD in 2011, titling it Shuffle.Play.Listen. They will be performing selections from the recording during their performance at LSU, where O’Riley is in his third and final year as the LSU School of Music’s James M. Syler Distinguished Visiting Artist.
O’Riley also is host of the National Public Radio program, From the Top, and has even recorded one episode from LSU’s Claude L. Shaver Theatre.
Now he will join Haimovitz on the LSU stage.
Which, again, will be a different setting for Haimovitz on his second visit to Baton Rouge. Haimovitz began studying cello at age 7, caught the ear of Itzhak Perlman at a music camp at age 12, studied at the Juilliard School in New York and has since played the most prestigious music halls throughout the world.
But Haimovitz began seeking out a different path. He wanted to do something different, something that would introduce his music to audiences in different settings.
Settings that usually wouldn’t spotlight a classical musician.
“I wanted to take the Bach cello suites out of the concert halls and into the clubs,” Haimovitz said.
“At first, people thought I had gone off the deep end, but I stuck with it.”
Haimovitz also began exploring a non-standard and non-classical repertoire for his American nightclub tour. That was in 2002, a year that marked the last time he was in Baton Rouge.
“The audiences at these clubs embraced classical music,” Haimovitz said.
And it was this nontraditional tour that captured O’Riley’s attention. O’Riley is a classical pianist who is known for arranging the music of Radiohead and other art-rock groups for solo piano. O’Riley contacted Haimovitz almost two years ago about a collaboration project. The two met up in Billings, Mont., and took three days to work out a program.
“Everything seemed unlikely,” Haimovitz said.
“Chris is Irish-American, and I’m Israeli-American, and we were meeting in Billings. But when we met up, we felt as if we’d known each other for years.”
The duo spent three days working in a 100-year-old, 2,500-seat movie palace, which was inspirational in itself.
“It was a magical experience,” Haimovitz said. “And we were really working together — there were no egos involved.”
O’Riley also sent Haimovitz songs, and Haimovitz chose selections with which both could work.
He found unusual voices to be the most interesting, because he had to come up with cello techniques to emulate the vocal quality.
The result is Shuffle.Play.Listen, released by Oxingale, a label founded by Haimovitz in 2000.
And when he’s not recording or performing, Haimovitz teaches at the Schulich School of Music of McGill University in Montreal, as well as the Domaine Forget academy for the arts in rural Quebec.
“My students are fantastic,” he said. “I take them on the road with me. I took them to New Orleans once, where we played at a jazz club, then we ended up at another jazz club in Austin, Texas.”
Back to that New Orleans visit, Haimovitz remembers loving it.
“It’s a great city,” he said.
And he looks forward to his return to Baton Rouge.
True, he doesn’t remember the name of the blues club from his last visit, but he does remember having fun in Baton Rouge.
And that’s what matters.
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