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Jethro Tull Leader Feels Comfortable With Orchestras

Of the Oakland Press

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Ian Anderson knows that his Orchestral Jethro Tull shows present the long-lived British rock band’s music in a way it’s never been heard before. But he thinks the seeds for it certainly have been sown in the band’s music over the years.

“I’m an acoustic musician who plays in a rock band,” says Anderson, 58, who’s been directing Tull’s affairs since forming the band in 1967 in Blackpool, England. “The instruments I play — the concert fl ute, acoustic guitar, mandolin, bouzouki — tend to make noise even when you don’t plug them into a wall.

“I began playing acoustic blues, but when I started (Jethro Tull) there was a lot of pressure to be competing in the rock band sweepstakes. But we’ve always maintained an acoustic part of Jethro Tull’s music, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve enjoyed exploring the nuances of that, and working with orchestral instrumentation and arrangements are a natural evolution to me.”

Noting that Tull’s orchestra collaborations even date back to 1968’s “A Christmas Song,” Anderson fi lls his symphonic shows with Tull material that hews in that direction, such as “Life is a Long Song” and “Wondering Aloud,” as well as more radically re-arranged versions of electric group favorites such as “Aqualung,” “Locomotive Breath” and “My God.”

Anderson says there will be some new material, too, some of which could wind up on Tull’s next album, which the group plans to start working on later this year.

“The songs sort of declare themselves,” he explains, “whether they’ll feature electric instruments or whether they won’t. Sometimes you fool around with them a little while to see which way they’re going to work. But it’s nice to play them with the orchestras, too; that helps give me some idea of what kind of scope they have.”

Ian Anderson’s Orchestral Jethro Tull concert takes place at 8 p.m. Friday (July 28th) at Meadow Brook Music Festival on the campus of Oakland University, Rochester Hills. Tickets are $46.50 pavilion, $20 lawn. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit

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