By Rick Bird
The Cincinnati Post, 2/10/06
Classic rocker Peter Frampton says he has often wondered what it would be like if his music got a really classic treatment performed with a symphonic orchestra.
"It has been something I've wanted to do for quite a few years," Frampton said this week from his Indian Hill Home. "I've seen other (rockers) augmenting with orchestra."
It wasn't until he moved to Cincinnati five years ago, to be near the family of his wife, Tina Elfers of Reading, that the seeds would be planted for his orchestral debut.
And it took Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Director Paavo Jarvi to persuade Frampton he could do it. Frampton says the two met at a dinner in 2002. They were the prize in a contest that offered a fan a night out with the duo from the classic rock and classical music world. Frampton said he instantly bonded with Jarvi.
"By the end of the evening, he said, 'Why don't you write me a 25-minute guitar piece, and I'll work with you and arrange it, and come and play it with me,' " Frampton said, admitting the idea both thrilled and scared him.
"I had always been a little nervous about the orchestral stuff. It got my feet wet by talking to him - 'Yeah, you can do it.' "
Jarvi was certainly aware of Frampton's work. Growing up as a teenager in Estonia in the '70s, Jarvi was a drummer in a band heavily influenced by the British metal blues rockers from Led Zeppelin to Frampton.
Frampton admits he still hasn't written that piece for Jarvi, realizing meshing his electric guitar style with a symphony composition requires "baby steps." Frampton takes the first ones June 24 when he will play with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra at Riverbend. Frampton's first-ever collaboration with an orchestra will feature a short original composition and several of his classic rock hits from "Frampton Comes Alive," the biggest-selling live album of all time.
Frampton, 55, will team with Pops arranger Steve Reineke, 35, already a veteran of more than 100 arrangements for orchestra, to work on his original piece. And he's looking forward to finally finding out how some of his own rock classics will work with an orchestra.
"I don't know how it will sound, until Steve and I get together. That's the beauty of music and bringing two different types together. I think it will be very exciting, very eye-opening for me. A song like 'Lines on My Face,' with the strings and French horns or whatever would be phenomenal."
Frampton hopes his Riverbend Pops debut will lay the groundwork for a tour this fall with other orchestras around the country.
"The idea is to take Steve with me and, depending who wants us, do 10 or so symphonies around the country. Maybe we can go to Boston, the Hollywood Bowl. The mind boggles. It'll be lovely. Completely different. It's lovely to have a new challenge."
Frampton said his patented voice box - which lets him essentially sing though his guitar - will be used with the Pops. "Maybe we'll have some flutes or tubas playing along with it," he said.
Meanwhile, Frampton is close to finishing work on a new album he's recording at his home studio. It will be his first-ever all-instrumental work.
"Steam is coming out of the basement," he said with a laugh. "We're starting to mix some of the tracks. The all -instrumental thing ties in with the orchestral business, too. It's totally an anti-commercial effort. Even if I sing I don't get on the radio."
He was referring to his last CD of new material, "Now," released two years ago to decent reviews. But it got almost no airplay as rock radio is content to hammer his '70s classic rock anthems.
Frampton says he would still like to deliver that 25-minute guitar piece to Jarvi some day and counts himself a major fan of CSO concerts.
"I always go, 'My God, that's the real thing. It just blows me away."