In Shakespeare's "As You Like It," Rosalind notes, "Time travels in diverse paces with diverse persons."
For Americans, time travels like the crack of a rim shot. Syncopation, or "time," is our cultural contribution to the world of music.
As practiced in jazz and popular music, it reflected the pace, high spirits and jagged optimism of America at the turn of the century.
On Friday night, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, with guest conductor Michael Krajewski and special guests the Manhattan Rhythm Kings, demonstrated that American music has always "aimed the beat at the feet."
The concert was billed as a "Night on the Town." A singing, dancing trio, the Rhythm Kings explored this century's early decades, when Tin Pan Alley songwriters like Irving Berlin produced brash music that combined the minor scales of central Europe with African rhythms.
Jazz chords have their origins in Bach and 16th harmony; strong melodic configurations grow out of 19th-century impressionism; but the syncopated music that drives American tap, from the Lindy Hop and every dance craze from the Charleston to hip-hop, is pure Americana.
Krajewski and the BPO opened their half of the TGIF program with European-inspired pieces that relied on rhythms. They included a John Philip Sousa march, "Sailor's Hornpipe" and selections from Franz Lehar's "The Merry Widow."
A Scott Joplin rag and Berlin's "Alexander's Ragtime Band" hinted at the rhythm lesson the Kings would be teaching.
They incorporated Gershwin's "Slap That Bass" from "Girl Crazy" into their signature song, "The Rhythm King," and quickly dove -- tap shoes first -- into a Roaring '20s medley that featured "Yes Sir, That's My Baby," "Bye, Bye Blues" and "Has Anybody Seen My Gal."
The audience loved the retro sound, zippy patter and Mills Brothers harmonies.
The highlight of the too-brief set was a medley from "Girl Crazy," which included such Gershwin favorites as "Nice Work If You Can Get it," "Biding My Time" and "Embraceable You."
But it was Gershwin's "I've Got Rhythm" that best captured the spirit of the night, the Manhattan Rhythm Kings and the fascinating rhythm of American music.
"Night on the Town"
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, with guest conductor Michael Krajewski and special guests the Manhattan Rhythm Kings
Friday evening in Kleinhans Music Hall