Review: Tom Teasley and Seth Kibel present Tiny Planet at Strathmore

Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn – T.S. Eliot

Tom Teasley (percussionist) and Seth Kibel (woodwind player) are poets of music. In the words of T.S. Eliot, they’re the good poets. Recently, they performed selections from their new duet album, Tiny Planet, in the Mansion at Strathmore.

Tom Teasley and Seth Kibel. Photo courtesy of Strathmore.

Within the first fifteen minutes of their live performance, it becomes unmistakably clear why they named their album Tiny Planet. They fuse rhythms, instruments and playing styles from around the world together to create an incredibly singular musical experience. Kibel’s melodic woodwind stylings whistle through the air in soothing patterns while Teasley mixes modern percussion with ancient music traditions. Each note seeps deeply into the audience’s senses, stimulating our imagination and expanding our perception of possibility. At times, I felt like I was riding on Aladdin’s magical carpet across space and time to places both foreign and familiar – South India to Switzerland, Italy to Iraq, the Americas to Africa and beyond – catching glimpses of their distinct cultures as I traveled the sound waves of Kibel and Teasley’s unique musical blends.

The festive décor of the Strathmore Mansion infused me with nostalgia and holiday cheer while Kibel and Teasley energized the audience with familiar tunes, such as “Feliz Navidad,” “Jingle Rock,” “Winter Wonderland” and the classic “What a Wonderful World.”  

The program was to be announced from the stage, but they departed from a set playlist. Instead, their performance was mostly improvised, which mesmerized the audience even more. The duo played for their own enjoyment as much as they did for ours. Their body language and facial expressions revealed that each note came from within them yet was shaped by the decades they spent honing their craft and being molded by different musical and cultural influences. Each melody they played inspired the next and as these sounds washed over the audience the reality of our interconnectedness felt increasingly more tangible.

The evening was enchanting, as was Kibel and Teasley’s on-stage chemistry. Both are world music instrumentalists, composers, and educators with more than 30 Washington Area Music Awards to their credit. With this pedigree, it wasn’t surprising to see them switch between instruments with the grace and ease that they did.

I was surprised to learn that their musical collaboration almost never happened. Kibel and Teasley had been cordial acquaintances, mostly seeing each other in passing, for years. It wasn’t until the spring of 2016 that they would join forces. The Washington Jewish Music Festival asked Mr. Kibel to perform and create something new for the concert. Thankfully, he approached Mr. Teasley to collaborate and the rest is history. What they have created with Tiny Planet is something truly unique, inspired and soulful. T.S. Eliot would be proud.     

Running Time: 60 minutes, with no intermission.

Tom Teasley and Seth Kibel’s Tiny Planet played one night only on December 20, 2017, at Strathmore. For tickets to upcoming Music in the Mansion performances at Strathmore, call the box office at (301) 581-5100 or purchase them online.

Tiny Planet plays next on February 23, 2018, for the 28th Annual Bonita Lestina Performance Series at Old Town Hall – 3999 University Drive Fairfax, VA. There are no booked tickets or assigned seating for this event. For more information click here