Weekly Update, Sep 17, 2013

Talent descends

This past Sunday, Dave Douglas and colleagues played at Gardener Ranch in Carmel Valley to celebrate a Big Sur Land Trust anniversary. Monday night, they were welcomed at Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz. Tomorrow (Wednesday) they play twice in support of the BSLT at its Glen Deven Ranch on the ridgetop between Garrapata and Palo Colorado canyons. And this weekend he’s 20Dave Douglas_5_2008_(c)JimmyKatz13 Showcase Artist at the Monterey Jazz Festival. “I’m super excited to be here,” he declares during a recent phone chat, “to hang out for whole week.”

Douglas, who turned 50 last March, is a widely respected trumpeter, composer and recording artist. While he may not yet be a headliner at the MJF, he brings that rock-solid foundation of traditional jazz to the party. But he doesn’t stop there, as his many recordings, both as band leader and sideman, attest.

Now that he’s of an age to consider his own legacy he is primed to reflect on the next generation. “I avoided that for a long time because I didn’t understand my own process,” he says. “It took me a long time to figure out how to even talk about it.” But leading workshops opened that door. “When I’m around young musicians I find it’s more about sharing.” Asking them what they like is the key, he adds. During those encounters, he now seeks to “open them up to what they have to say.”

In the 1980s, Douglas got huge opportunities to play with two major piano talents, John Esposito and Horace Silver, who welcomed him into their bands. For Douglas, it was education by watching and listening. “Learning how to be a musician in a band is learning how to be a good citizen,” he says. Esposito “recognized my strengths” and “and how to hold up my end of the bargain.” Douglas toured with Silver, who originally hired him in 1987 and gave him international exposure. “Horace taught me about voice-leading and being hip, how us young cats didn’t know how to do that.” Silver played Song for My Father on every set, Douglas recalls, “and came up with new stuff each time.” That was an inspiration, he declares.  

You can see and hear Douglas in action with vocalist Aoife O’Donovan in Douglas’ own arrangement of the old Lutheran hymn Be Still My Soul with the Finlandia hymn tune; click here or find the link on our Links of Interest page.

Tanya Gabrielian, who has made several appearances in Monterey County, will open the Distinguished Artists series in Santa Cruz this coming Saturday at First Congregational Church. She won the Carmel Music Society 2010 piano competition, returned the following season to perform her award recital, then came back in 2012 to play the Khatchaturian PiGabrielianano Concerto in three performances with the Monterey Symphony.

Her Distinguished Artists program is designed to call attention to those who suffer from challenging emotional and mental disorders and includes works by composers who themselves were beset with such obstacles. A Liszt arrangement of a Handel chaconne opens the recital, with works by Stanchinsky, Rachmaninoff and Cardelús, and Beethoven’s final piano sonata, Op. 111. Alexei Stanchinsky, who died at age 26 in 1914, an apparent suicide, was acknowledged for his brilliance as a pianist and suffered from severe hallucinations. Arturo Cardelús, born 1981, is an award winning composer and pianist who has gained fame for both concert works and film scores. His Demian Sonata, on Gabrielian’s program, was inspired by the eponymous Hermann Hesse novel in which the author explores his own coming of age anxieties when Jungian psychology as in its ascendency. For Distinguished Artists, Gabrielian will play the new Yamaha CFX concert grand.

Gabrielian’s career has grown in leaps and bounds since her appearances in the region, including engagements throughout North America, and in Europe, Britain (where she completed her postgraduate studies), Asia and Australia. This season includes her participation in the Washington International Piano Festival and Chicago’s International Beethoven Project, among others. She collaborates with the National Alliance on Mental Illness to promote mental health awareness.

Links to the above presenters and other performance events this week on our Calendar page.

Fresh critiques appear on The Imaginary Invalid at PacRep (see our Theater Reviews page) and Don Giovanni at Hidden Valley (see our Music Reviews page.)

Scott MacClelland, editor; Dave Douglas photo by Ken Fallin