Music » Music Stories & Interviews

That flute flow

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Greg Pattillo and Project
; 3 p.m. Friday, April 24
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Stetson University, DeLand
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386-822-7100
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free

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When flutist Greg Pattillo and his New York City–based trio, Project, hit town next week for the Daytona Beach International Festival, it will be with their usual genre-bending style – and at least as much energy as Pattillo brings to the keynote style that made him a YouTube star: the beatbox flute.

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"We'll be extremely busy the whole time we're in Daytona Beach," says Pattillo before a performance in his hometown, Seattle. "We'll be at a variety of different venues – outdoor and indoor – as well as hanging out with the London Symphony Orchestra.

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"We aren't performing with them, but we are looking forward to spending time with them," he says. "And we hope we can spend time with kids. We like to work with young audiences." (In addition to the DBIF show at Stetson University, Pattillo and Project perform 9 p.m. Saturday, April 25, at the Bank & Blues Club in Daytona Beach; call 386-872-2330 for tickets, $20.)

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Pattillo, 31, and Project's members are all classically trained and met as students at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Pattillo went on to earn a master's degree, taught music and was principal flute in the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra before realizing that orchestral playing wasn't for him.

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To find a voice of his own, he turned to hip-hop and blended the style with his classical training, weaving in new strands of jazz and improvisation along the way. Finally, with an established and unique musical form, that now-famous beatboxing flute, he made the big move to New York.

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There, Pattillo built his cred so successfully on subway platforms that in 2007 he was one of 21 winners of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Music Under New York program. Along the way, thanks to the Internet, Pattillo amassed unexpected fame. Clips of him performing elegant spoofs like "Super Mario Brothers," "Sesame Street," "Flight of the Bumblebee" and – most remarkable, with more than 17 million hits – "Inspector Gadget" made him a Web 2.0 phenomenon.

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But what truly interested Pattillo were the city's ad hoc, vanguard jazz groups. In Brooklyn, he reconnected with cellist Eric Stephenson and bassist Peter Seymour, forming Project. Gigs followed, then tours, workshops and their debut CD, Winter in June.

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Pattillo, talking in his staccato, breakneck yet thoughtful way, says he enjoys the anonymous worldwide response, but that his focus is on the work itself. "If I have my way, this sound will be in the vernacular. It responds to people; they respond to it – people are inherently musical.

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"And, you know, we latch onto sounds and instruments that use the human breath. The flute breathes," says Pattillo.

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He's come a long way from listening to grunge, from conservatory, from playing in a Chinese orchestra or on the IRT platform. Along the way, Pattillo evolved a style that brought it all together – salsa, hip-hop, the classical lessons he called "phenomenal" for teaching him how to listen.

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"All I have going for me are the skills from a lifetime in music, and my flute."

; music@orlandoweekly.com

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