Showing posts from August, 2017

Mark Guiliana, the last word in jazz drumming, points to his roots in 'Jersey'

Mark Guiliana, a thinking man's drummer. A new star will make a stop nearby at the Midwest's premier jazz festival on Labor Day weekend. Mark Guiliana is a jazz drummer with a remarkable sensitivity to sound and loads of restraint when it comes to displaying his technique. He will bring his quartet to the Detroit Jazz Festival Sunday evening. That may be as close as you can get anytime soon to the Guiliana magic, though it is likely to draw back from some of the electronic extensions of his recent activity and focus on material from "Jersey" ( Motema ). The disc's largely original material, acoustically vivid, is capped by a tribute to his quondam employer, David Bowie, in the form of Bowie's "Where Are We Now?"  The distribution of the material is nearly unique to each track. His colleagues are saxophonist Jason Rigby, pianist Fabian Almazan, and bassist Chris Morrssey.  The title track is perhaps the most conventional — a ballad that seems

Acing the course: Prof. Dave Stryker notches more than academic success in 'Strykin' Ahead'

Guitarist Dave Stryker has a date at the Jazz Kitchen. I've noted in another post my preference for reading books and listening to recordings in the order the artist/producers have decided. No shuffling for me! I think I get the sense of how I'm supposed to take in new creative art when I follow the order the product lays out for me. There must be a reason for that order, mustn't there? Accordingly, I found "Strykin' Ahead," the new Strikezone CD by Dave Stryker supplementing his organ trio (Jared Gold, McClenty Hunter) with vibraphonist Steve Nelson to be at its most persuasive with the nine tracks listened to a couple of times in order. Among Stryker's many credentials is the post he holds as adjunct professor of jazz guitar at Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music. In the middle, the quartet offers a fleet original: the title tune. The disc starts with another original, an unconventional blues that allows for an abstract approach to

Casey Ross' 'Gallery' trilogy, each part having premiered at IndyFringe Featival, is mounted and framed with 'Canvas'

Triangulated: "Canvas"'s Afton Shepard, Davey Pelsue, and Dave Ruark   The unveiling of a work of art climaxes "Canvas" after practically everything else about a small knot of friends, kin, and lovers has been unraveled. Casey Ross' scarifying drama in the 2017 Fringe Festival rounds out a trilogy whose predecessors — "Gallery" and "Portraits"— premiered at the 2007 and 2014 festivals, respectively. Synopses of the new play's companion pieces are helpfully available in the program for "Canvas." Having not seen "Gallery" and "Portraits," my discombobulation during the first few scenes of "Canvas" was only temporary. Canvas is the traditional surface on which paintings are made, and, significantly, also what covers the floor of a boxing ring. "Canvas" is a knockdown, drag-out fight, an unruly strongman competition centered in a stifling corner of the art world. Everybody's

Two top wind instrumentalists take on a pianist to form a new trio, painting "Portraits" on CD

Their careers displaying great range as soloists, chamber musicians, and orchestral players, the McGill brothers have issued Demarre McGill (from left), Michael McHale, and Anthony McGill. their debut flute-clarinet-piano trio recording, "Portraits," on Cedille Records . Necessarily, Anthony and Demarre McGill, in joining forces with the Irish pianist Michael McHale, specialize in music of our time, with transcriptions for this unusual combination tucked in for contrast. Best-known on this CD in that category is Rachmaninoff's "Vocalise," deftly arranged by McHale. As a tasteful arranger, McHale is also behind the disc's finale, an Irish traditional tune called "The Lark in the Clear Air." The lyrical emphasis of these transcriptions is well-suited to the fully supported lyricism of each brother — Demarre on flute, Anthony on clarinet.  But it is never absent from the new works, either. Valerie Coleman's "Portraits" uses th

Day Four of IndyFringe festival: Four shows on characteristically American struggles, lightened by ballet at the end

 [Post interrupted by attempt to view the eclipse: my apologies to early readers!] An inadvertent commentary on what made the late Dick Gregory special came through in the one-man IndyFringe festival show "Black in the Box," which I saw at the Phoenix Underground Sunday afternoon. Gregory pioneered direct talk about race in stand-up comedy, departing from the expectation that black funnymen would for the most part keep it light and well away from racial troubles. In this disturbing, captivating show, Marlon Andrew Burnley devotes part of his overview of the African-American experience to the need to keep post-Emancipation troubles at arm's length. The genesis of black entertainment — at first a matter of hard-won temporary relief from oppression, later formatted into minstrelsy to amuse whites — was just one of "Black in the Box"'s memorable episodes. The ghettoizing of the black man as entertainer was among the confinements that Gregory burst throug

IndyFringe Festival: A comedian and some magic highlight my Day 3

Krish Mohan has matured as a standup comic. Two years ago I took in Krish Mohan's debut as an Indy Fringe performer . I found him funny but unfocused and more than a little squeamish about identity issues. The son of immigrants from India, brought to the US as a child, the slender Pittsburgh-based comedian dazzles in a new show (thankfully!) on the stage of ComedySportz. He's still talking and thinking fast, and the 2017 Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival monologue ("Approaching Happiness") starts with reminders of adjustment difficulties for a foreign-born kid.  Mohan's 2015 observation that, for a nation of foreigners, the USA doesn't seem to like them very much rings even truer today than it did then. He moves on from his youthful alienation from American sports in the current show to more complex issues, like mental health, shifting views of normality, problems we all have handling our emotions, and striking this year's theme from arresting a

Black Moon: Revisiting "Blue Moon" for our troubled times, gloomilly heralding Monday's solar eclipse

Avuncular art: Amiable fellows with an edge — Woody Guthrie and Kurt Vonnegut — highlighted my FringeFest Day #2

People with large book collections have to endure mysterious losses over the years. The one I regret most is my autographed paperback copy of "Mother Night." With a crinkly smile, Kurt Vonnegut signed my purchase at an Ann Arbor bookstore in 1968 or early 1969. It was the only prose writer's autograph I've ever owned, having since focused on poets.  Anyway, the author-inscribed novel is long gone from my bookshelves. Not among the Indianapolis master's greatest fans (I can claim only to have read several of his books), I still nourish a pang over the disappearance of my "Mother Night." So there was a touch of nostalgia to my Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival visit Friday night to Phoenix Theatre 's Basile (or Underground) Stage for Tom Horan's adaptation of Vonnegut's tangled story of personal identity and deception centered on Howard W. Campbell Jr., who fit into German society a little too well in the late 1930s and was tapped up

Fringe Plunge: 'Divos' and 'The Gab' made TOTS' main stage the place to be opening night

After last year's "Divas," it was the turn of male pop stars to get choreographic treatment in Dance Kaleidoscope 's seventh engagement at the Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival . So, of course, "Divos" debuted Thursday night as one of several shows to kick off the 13th annual festival. At Theatre on the Square, seven members of the contemporary-dance company presented premieres of works choreographed to songs by celebrity male performers of the past few decades. Oneiric fantasy: Missy Thompson's "Dream On" (Photo by Chris Crawl) The songs' rhythmic drive and musical phrasing naturally generate much of the choreography, but the choreographers also have in common an intense interest in how lyrics can guide dance expression. This is clear from each choreographer's spoken introduction to his or her creation — statements that provide the audience with insights into the personal sources and motivations behind the program. In ot

Fringe preview night presents a panoply digest of short-form entertainment over the next 11 days

The applause that greeted a line in Mayor Joe Hogsett' s short speech to the IndyFringe Festival's Preview Night audience seemed to have topical resonance. Mayor Joe Hogsett put an official seal of approval on FringeFest. In any given year, his words would have been applicable to what the festival is all about. But in 2017, after the mayor had extolled "the performances and talent it attracts," he praised the annual performing-arts bash for "the diversity and inclusion it welcomes and lifts up." Yes! To mark the start of the festival with two-minute pitches by 50 acts, Hogsett then read excerpts from the mayoral proclamation designating Aug. 16, 2017, as Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival Day in Indianapolis. Certainly a large crowd gathered in the Athenaeum Theatre knew that the honor is rooted in the open-ended mission of the Fringe, which enters its 13th annual season today, continuing through Aug. 27 on eight stages on and around Massachuse

13th annual IndyFringe Festival opens soon with late night additions and short runs for out-of-town artists

Thanks to a successful expansion of its home base, which enabled year-round scheduling, IndyFringe's annual theater festival rests on a firm foundation as it is poised to enter its 13th year this week. Inspired by the Edinburgh, Scotland, Fringe and by so many subsequent staged bashes in North America, the well-established IndyFringe Live Theatre Festival runs from Thursday through Aug. 27 at eight sites in and around Massachusetts Avenue. The evening scene along Mass Ave. five years ago during the festival. Two of them are at IndyFringe headquarters at 719 E. St. Clair St. Besides, there are two each at Phoenix Theatre, 749 N. Park Ave., and Theatre on the Square, 627 Mass Ave., and one each at ComedySportz, 721 Mass Ave., and Firefighters Union Hall, 748 Mass Ave. Seventy-four shows will have had more than 400 performances by the end of the 11-day festival. Despite director Pauline Moffat's disappointment with increased obstacles to foreign performers getting acces

Comes Pence, Nothing Can Be Done!

Difficulties come to mind about opposition to current Executive Branch leadership when the possible downfall of the Chief Executive is contemplated. Does the No. 2 man present any vulnerabilities? As with love, perhaps nothing can be done.

Sammy Miller and the Congregation: Everyone's invited to the party, but the interactivity is carefully managed

One of my favorite LPs in my early, pinch-penny years as a collector, was Duke Ellington's "Jazz Party." I played it over and Sam Crittenden plays trombone with Sammy Miller and the Congregation. over again, from the first track with a bunch of guest percussionists right through a rollicking, all-stops-out blues featuring Jimmy Rushing. In between came bursts of applause by the small studio audience; the record buyer felt in on the party, even as a distant, eager eavesdropper. A jazz party is what a Sammy Miller and the Congregation show is all about. In this case, there wasn't anything like the cameo appearances (notably Dizzy Gillespie's) in the studio that individuated this particular recording in the Ellington discography. At the Jazz Kitchen Tuesday night, there was just the touring band itself, a sextet now more "theatrical" (trombonist Sam Crittenden's phrase) than in its first appearance locally at Birdy's, and the paying audienc

"Carmel Roundabout Blues": Blues master Robert Johnson may have met the devil at the crossroads, but at the roundabouts, Old Scratch is way ahead of me

Aaron Parks, an APA Cole Porter Fellow with a solid career, issues a new CD

"Find the Way" is an apt title (after an Ian Bernard song influenced, in the performance here, by Shirley Horn) for Aaron Parks ' new trio recording. It's got an exploratory feel, with ample confirmation that the exploration has yielded genuine satisfaction. Aaron Parks has delivered on the promise that marked his Cole Porter Fellowship. Parks, a Seattle-raised pianist who first came to national attention as a precocious teenager via an NPR feature, will be familiar to Indianapolis jazz fans as the 2001 Cole Porter Fellow of the American Pianists Association. Among his accomplishments since then, he was a Terence Blanchard sideman for several years, contributing much to the trumpeter's band through his composing and keyboard skills. On "Find the Way" ( ECM ), he works with bassist Ben Street and drummer Billy Hart, recorded in Pernes-les-Fontaines, France,  in October 2015. The mood is relaxed and thoughtful, but avoids dawdling, dayd

Tributes to a couple of entertainers with indelible auras: Dance Kaleidoscope's "Frere Jacques" and "Piaf: A Celebration"

Marie Kuhns, Stuart Coleman, and Missy Thompson in "Piaf Plus." The expressive range of Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel in their songs makes responding in another art form to the words as well as to the music a particular challenge. In a brief run at the Tarkington (Carmel's Center for the Performing Arts), Dance Kaleidoscope revives a couple of artistic director David Hochoy's most compact, mercurial recent pieces. Seen on Saturday night, "Piaf Plus" suited well a company with an intriguing blend of veteran expertise and continued receptivity toward new talent. In "Piaf: A Celebration," which I first saw in 2011 when DK was dipping its skilled feet into the Indy Fringe Festival pool, what was especially remarkable was the masterly flow Hochoy imparted to a succession of songs associated with Piaf. The order of the songs served the choreography particularly well. The blend of humor, sentimentality, violence and panache seemed to hang improbab

The joy of hunger artistry: The film 'Dunkirk' and a jazz duo's account of 'Left Alone'

"Metaphors for art as an activity tend to center upon a particular place, where a heightened sense of presence can manifest itself."      — Harold Bloom, "A Map of Misreading" "Shepp's is a precarious style; his balance of elements is fragile."       — John Litweiler, "The Freedom Principle" All eyes on peril: British soldiers watch the  skies while awaiting evacuation. " one could produce first-hand evidence that the fast had really been rigorous and continuous; only the artist himself could know that; he was therefore bound to be the sole completely satisfied spectator of his own fast."         — Franz Kafka, "The Hunger Artist" Within two days this week, unplanned encounters with two works of art got me wondering how we take them in when the process feels similar to how we might describe a mesmerizing speaker: that we were "hanging on his [her] every word"  — that uncanny absorption of cumu

Go Down, Jeff Sessions! A song of pathos, or maybe just a pathetic song, to go along with the Trump Admiinstration's fight against anti-white bias