Blog / Formidable Musicians, Idiosyncratic Styles

Formidable Musicians, Idiosyncratic Styles

Posted on 2 Sep 2015 by Leo Messias

The New York Times called Olli Mustonen a musician of “formidable technique and idiosyncratic style.”

Indeed, on top of being one of the most versatile composer-pianists of our time, this Finnish polymath’s highly original physical approach to playing the piano brings freshness and excitement to his interpretations of enduring classics.

So we thought “what other artists have formidable technique and idiosyncratic style to match Olli’s?” A quick email around the office and we got these gems to share with you.

What formidable musician with idiosyncratic style is in your top 10 list?

In arguably one of the most iconic moments in the history of rock ‘n’ roll, Jimi Hendrix turned up the heat on what it means to play the guitar. He also famously ‘killed’ Eric Clapton and soloed with his teeth and with the guitar on his back.

DJs have been looping instrumental drum beats since Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash ‘created hip hop’ in the 1970s. But few have matched the style and technique of the late Roc Raida. Skip to minute 3:30 for a full acrobatic display of his style –  the man had a nose for beats!

American jazz multi-instrumentalist, Roland Kirk, played tenor saxophone, flute and many other instruments – all of which he liked to play simultaneously, often employing the technique of circular breathing.

Herbert von Karajan is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential conductors, yet he conducted without making eye contact with his orchestra.

Hermeto Pascoal is a highly influential Brazilian composer and multi-instrumentalist who Miles Davis once described as “the most impressive musician in the world.” He is inspired by nature in many of his compositions, and often makes music with unconventional objects such as teapots, children’s toys and animals.

Though lacking in traditional vocal virtuosity, Billie Holiday remains one of most recognizable and adored voices in the history of the 20th century music. She had unique phrasing, timing and ‘soul’ which she got from listening to Louis Armstrong’s horn playing and borrowing from singer Bessie Smith’s bluesy interpretations.

Art Blakey was one of the most influential drummers of all time, and his group The Jazz Messengers served as an incubator for countless musicians who would later become jazz stars in their own right (Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, Keith Jarrett, Wynton Marsalis and many more). Blakey had a distinctive, thunderous style of drumming and was a polyrhythmic ace.

Swedish clarinetist and ACO collaborator Martin Fröst loves dancing while playing (with flawless technique) – an activity not often associated with classical music today.

If Sly and the Family Stone bassist Larry Graham pioneered the percussive slap funk technique, Stanley Clarke adopted it to complex jazz harmonies played at frightening speed. But he was the first musician to ‘pop’ over chord changes. While most well-known for playing the electric bass, he spares no tenderness for the its upright acoustic counterpart.

…and of course the Australian Chamber Orchestra musicians! They are energetic virtuosos who are equally at home on stage as they are playing ‘in a cupboard’. 


#ACO15: Olli Mustonen, Bach & Shostakovich
12-20 September

Conductor. Pianist. Composer. This September discover Finland’s ultimate musical triple threat with the ACO’s firebrand virtuosos.

JS BACH Concerto for Keyboard in D major, BWV1054
HINDEMITH The Four Temperaments
OLLI MUSTONEN Sonata for Cello & Orchestra (World Premiere)
SHOSTAKOVICH (arr. for string orchestra) String Quartet No.9

BOOK NOW: ACO.COM.AU/OLLI