Weekly Magazine

THIS WEEK

JOE ORTIZ, Capitola playwright, introduces his new CIRCUS: Knife, Blood & Fire at Kuumbwa this Thursday. KRONOS QUARTET joins a ‘thoughtful’ multi-media event at Henry Miller in Big Sur. ROCKER DAVE MASON “feelin’ alright” with Richie Furay at the Rio in Santa Cruz. JULIAN LAGE TRIO investigates American music at Kuumbwa. A TRIBUTE TO PAULETTE LYNCH celebrates the retiring executive director of the Arts Council for Monterey County this Sunday at 5pm in Carmel. For links to these and dozens of other live performance events click on our CALENDAR 

CORRECTION: Last week’s cover photo misidentified percussion virtuoso Evelyn Glennie. Sorry.

NEXT GENERATION JAZZ ORCHESTRA

21-MEMBER ENSEMBLE (pictured above) launched Monterey Jazz Festival 62 with a free Concert on the Lawn, Thursday from 11 to noon. Paul Contos conducted for the benefit of middle and high school students bused in from around the Monterey Peninsula. Pianist Esteban Castro from Bergen County Academies, New Jersey, won a place in the band. Vocalist Zion Dyson (left) from The Bishop’s School, San Diego, sang “Almost Like Being in Love” and “The Best Things in Life are Free.” The orchestra delivered a blistering 15-minute account of John Coltrane’s hugely challenging Giant Steps.  

AHMAD JAMAL, MASTER OF COOL JAZZ

HE WAS HONORED AT 2017 GRAMMYS, but was a no-show, probably because he was busy making music in France where he had finished this in-studio recording, just released. Now 89, Jamal’s style and ballades go together, hand in glove, the cool side of be-bop, a fellow traveler with Bill Evans and admired by the likes of Dizzy and Bird. For this album, Jamal is joined in three numbers by bassist James Cammack, and reprises music from his recent PIAS recording “Marseille.” The second of ten tracks, Because I Love You, was composed and recorded here simultaneously. The fourth track, Poinciana, has long since served as a Jamal signature. The ninth track, Spring is Here—Laurenz Hart’s saddest collaboration with Richard Rodgers—echoes the version by Evans himself, while Mandel & Mercer’s Emily rounds out the set. Cool on a warm day, Jamal can still warm up a cool one. SM  

ANOTHER SHOCKING DEATH

JESSYE NORMAN, American dramatic opera and recital soprano, dies at 74. She inspired generations of opera singers and left an enormous legacy of outstanding performances and recordings. Click HERE  

 

CLASSICAL MUSIC DEAD AGAIN?

NOT SO FAST says Aubrey Bergauer, the turnaround queen with the Midas touch. Click HERE 

THEN WHY IS IT STILL SO WHITE?

IT’S HAD PLENTY of opportunities to diversify, yet with little lasting effect. Joseph Horowitz updates the debate for NPR. Click HERE 

WHY MAKE ART IN TIMES OF HIGH ANXIETY?

PULITZER-WINNING NOVELIST Michael Chabon questions his own efforts during the present decade he has spent at the MacDowell Colony. “Perhaps the time to abandon hope for the redemptive power of art is long overdue.” Yet it’s the same challenge, the same agonizing distress, that tormented Matthias Grünewald, painter of the famous Isenheim Altarpiece during the Peasant Revolt of 1524-25, and that inspired Paul Hindemith’s opera Mathis der Maler during the rise of the Nazis in the 1930s. Click HERE   

THE HYPERTRAGIC NOTCH

THE LARK QUARTET disbanded last spring, after the 2018-19 season, their 34th. The all-female Lark tradition came to an end when violinists Deborah Buck and Basia Danilow, violist Kathryn Lockwood and cellist Caroline Stinson put paid to an outstanding legacy that will live on to attract new fans and stimulate more new music. For the occasion, the founding members, violinists Kay Stern and Robin Mayforth, violist Anna Kruger and cellist Laura Sewell joined to form an octet for commissioned Ce morceau de tissu by Andrew Waggoner. Not just the vibrant and vivid playing by these fine musicians, but their dedication to new music promises to keep opening doors to talented composers whose names are not yet well known. An exception to that point is John Harbison, whose String Quartet No 6 of 2016 opens the program. Harbison, now 80, has composed in every genre and won major prizes (including the Pulitzer in 1987 for his short cantata The Flight into Egypt.) His opera, The Great Gatsby, was premiered at the Met. His 19-minute Sixth Quartet is laid out in four concise classical movements, Lontano (from a distance), Canto sospeso (suspended song), Soggetti cavati (suggestion taken out), Conclusioni provvisorie (temporary conclusion). The piece finds original ideas among familiar procedures. Nigerian composer Kenji Bunch’s Megalopolis (2017) adds Yousif Sheronick’s Afro percussion to the strings, in playful adventures that gracefully take the Western string instruments off their familiar turf sure to arouse smiles. The pulsing percussion moves between atmospheric background and center stage. Anna Weesner’s Eight Lost Songs of Orlando Underground (2018) adds clarinetist Romie de Guise-Langlois to these eight brief pieces (25 minutes in total) that should surely make their way into the quartet (plus one) literature. Weesner’s program note is deliberately obscure, a wise move since it concentrates the listener’s attention on the music itself, a thoughtful, beguiling journey by an obviously well-qualified guide. Weesner’s collaborations read like a who’s who of contemporary classical music. The last movement, “Oh, to live in a world symphonic” is the longest and most ambitious of the set. The title of Waggoner’s octet, commissioned for Lark’s 30th anniversary and completed in 2016, comes from Le harem politique, “a visionary work by the great Moroccan feminist and sociologist Fatima Mernissi, who writes, “Every debate on democracy centers on the question of women, and on that small, ridiculous piece of fabric, often in very fine muslin, which fundamentalists today claim to be the very essence of Muslim identity.” This 16-minute piece flares with anger; recorded in live performance its unflagging intensity will be challenging to the first-time listener. A second or third audition is recommended to fulfill its expressive depths. This rich cultural, musical background gives Waggoner and the musicians a field day of opportunities, exploited equally in kind. In sum overall, this is one of those collections of new music that upon repeated hearings soon makes itself indispensible. SM    

THIS AMERICAN LIFE

AN INTERVIEW WITH IRA GLASS. Click HERE  

LEFT ALONE

JEANNE LEE sings Gene Lees, with Ran Blake

 

FRESH REVIEWS

SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE in Carmel. MAMMA MIA! in Ben Lomond. Click HERE

NEXT WEEK

SANTA CRUZ SYMPHONY’S “ASCENDANCE,” featuring pianist Jon Nakamatsu. PIANIST OLGA KERN opens Carmel Music Society season. FRANKENSTEIN opens at Monterey Peninsula College. OUR TOWN by Thornton Wilder outdoors at Jewell Park in Pacific Grove. THIRD COAST PERCUSSION plays Glass & Elfman in Big Sur.

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Scott MacClelland, editor; Rebecca CR Brooks, associate editor