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Peter Frampton has never stayed in the same stylistic place for very long. From his earliest days as the blues-rock guitar hotshot with Humble Pie and Frampton’s Camel, right on through his mega-platinum, mid-‘70s phase as the king of AM and FM radio, and as a daring featured player on David Bowie’s Glass Spider Tour and throughout the vicissitudes of his ongoing, remarkably diverse and durable solo career, the six-string legend has thrived on exploring new avenues and challenges.
His newest curve ball, Hummingbird In A Box, an exhilarating mini-album of all-original music inspired by the Cincinnati Ballet, might be his most surprising move yet. Frampton sat down with MusicRadar recently to talk about his work with the celebrated dance troupe and how he approached the new record, as well as his summer touring plans, which includes the return of Peter Frampton’s Guitar Circus.
You started Hummingbird In A Box after the ballet company first used some of your music. What did they use?
“That’s right. Cincy Ballet had asked me to if they could use some of my music from my album Fingerprints along with one track the Now record, a song called Not Forgotten. So it was three instrumentals and one vocal. They had done a pas de deux, a two-person male and female dance duet, as it were, and that’s what they used the music for. I wasn’t able to see it live because I was on the road, but somebody sent me a DVD of the performance, and I was just floored. I was so honored that they’d done this beautiful dance to my music. It was incredible.
“Long story short, within the next 18 months I hooked up with Victoria Morgan, the Artistic Director and CEO of the Cincinnati Ballet, and she asked me if I would do a live show with them – three 20-minute segments on stage with the ballet. I said that would be great – it was so different.
“We talked about how to approach it material-wise. At first she had suggested using existing music for three sections, but I thought about it and said, ‘How about we do two sections with old music, and I’ll write 25 minutes of new music that could be used for the centerpiece or wherever you want it to be?’ They were floored that I would contemplate writing new music for it. That’s how this all happened.
“This time last year, we performed it with the ballet live in Cincinnati for three shows. After that, within the last year, I turned it into a studio record. What’s also happened is that, for the Cincinnati Ballet’s 50th anniversary, they were invited by the Joyce Theatre in New York to do three pieces, one of which was Hummingbird In A Box. I went up and introduced them, and they did it live. This time it was without us playing, though – it was just the music.”