Lenny Solomon has a diverse musical resume. The classically trained violinist has performed as a soloist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and other ensembles. He fronted his own jazz trio and won a Juno Award as half of the Canadian folk-pop duo Myles and Lenny. He also played strings on Led Zeppelin hits when he toured backing Robert Plant and Jimmy Page on their late '90s "Unledded" tour.
All of those musical influences - and a few more - come together in Bowfire, which performs Saturday at Powers Auditorium.
"Early on in my career, I thought it would be a great idea to learn as many different styles as I could," Solomon said during a telephone interview. "That enabled me to do a pile of different styles and jobs. One day I'd be playing in a orchestra, then one day I'd be playing bluegrass and one day in a rock 'n' roll band."
Photos by West Vita Photography
Bowfire brings together violin and fiddle players trained in genres ranging from classical to Celtic for a hybrid of musical styles presented in concert. The Canadian group performs Saturday at Powers Auditorium.
Bowfire gives him a chance to explore all of those elements.
In 2000, Solomon said he decided to "collect my favorite players, lock them in a room and see what came out."
The result can be heard on its four CDs, its PBS special and on tour, including a concert Saturday at Powers Auditorium.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Powers Auditorium, 260 W. Federal St., Youngstown
HOW MUCH: Tickets range from $35 to $49.
Bowfire's concerts include a mix of classical, Celtic, jazz, bluegrass and rock, often within the same song. One of its best known originals is "Fiddler in the Hood," which weaves Celtic melodies over hip hop rhythms.
"That's what we're all about," Solomon said.
Finding musicians who can do that requires special talents.
"One is that in their particular skill set they have to be great," he said. "And two is their openness to blend with other styles. Someone who is very rigidly in one style or another and not willing to share won't work. Musical flexibility is very important to the group. I've collected a group of super talented people with a wonderfully progressive outlook to playing music in a bunch of different styles."
Joining Solomon in Bowfire is Linsey Beckett, fiddle; Bill Bridges, guitar; Shane Cook, fiddle; Lew Mele, bass; Bernie Senensky, piano; Wendy Solomon, cello; Roger Travassos, drums / percussion; Stephanie Cadman, fiddle and stepdancer; Yi-Jia Susanne Hou, classical violin: Miranda Mulholland, fiddle, stepdancer and singer; Linae Dufresne, fiddle and singer; and Julie Fitzgerald, fiddle and stepdancer.
Finding musicians to execute the concept was one challenge. Another was trying to market a show that features Brahms, Zeppelin and stepdancing all in the same performance. Solomon said Houston was one of the first markets to embrace the concept. A promoter booked them in one of the city's larger venues, the show sold well and other promoters took notice.
Even though the group is based in Canada, Bowfire is best known in the United States, thanks to frequent airings of its concert special on PBS stations and through a busy touring schedule. Canadian audiences haven't ignored the concept; it's just a case that touring in Canada is difficult because its population centers are so spread out.
"Our show has expensive production values," Solomon said. "It's not that economical for us to tour. It's not like can all pile in a van and go from town to town."
The current tour does conclude with 10 dates in Canada, although Solomon joked that they are looking forward to "going south for the winter" with multiple dates in Ohio.
Saturday's concert will feature some music from Bowfire's latest CD, "New Flame," which was released last month. While Solomon is responsible for many of the arrangements, the recordings and song selection are a group effort.
"I collaborate with everybody," he said. "Everybody is a soloist in their own right, and they have great material in their own shows (when not performing with Bowfire). I tell them, 'Give me the best five minutes in their show,' so it becomes a night of showstoppers."
One song that gets mentioned in most reviews of Bowfire is the group's arrangement of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir." Performing with Page-Plant and seeing the reaction to that song helped inspire the creation of Bowfire.
"That's one of the most exciting gigs I ever did. That's what planted the seed for this group. When you go into the first seconds of that riff, people react so strongly. It's such fun to play, but they (the strings) have been in the background. It's so cool to show people how important strings are in pop music. It's a whole night of fabulous music and a great night of entertainment."