Showing posts from May, 2019

A journey toward healing: 'Violet' is the 2019 Eclipse production

In its third year of production as an outgrowth of Summer Stock Stage, Eclipse has mounted the musical "Violet," running through June 15 at Phoenix Theatre. Violet (left front) and other travelers sing "On My Way" (with young Violet in background) This is a thoroughly professional-looking show to represent the organization's self-described "emerging artists program." Ten of this show's dozen actors are alumni of Summer Stock Stage, a program for high-school theater talent. As seen in preview Thursday night, "Violet" gave me some problems with its early imbalance of music and dialogue and with aspects of its story. But the production values seem to represent "Violet" well, and the team headed by producer-director Emily Ristine Holloway has provided a good showcase for the burgeoning professionals who perform with unrelenting gusto and verisimilitude. The creation of Jeanine Tesori (music) and Brian Crawley (lyrics and bo

Drummer Matt Slocum heads an understated trio outing

Taking individual contributions to a higher level than usual is the approach Matt Slocum champions in a subtle trio album called "Sanctuary" (SunnySide ). Full-length portrait: Matt Slocum (center) with bandmates Clayton and Grenadier. Scheduled for release tomorrow, this is not the kind of piano-bass-drums music that privileges the piano, through which the main line of this appealing subgenre runs. Nor does it give matching vigor and prominence to all three in the muscular manner of the old Bad Plus. At the other end of the spectrum, the equality that the leader distributes so effectively here is of the soft-spoken kind. That seems unusual for a drummer-led group, but the foregrounding of pianist Gerald Clayton and bassist Larry Grenadier is a hallmark of "Sanctuary." Whenever one instrument takes the lead, the others tend to insinuate themselves, not in a conventional attitude of "support," but as front-line companions. You get that feeling im

Will I ever be able to improve the performance level of my endless series of song parodies? Maybe

Up for adoption: Twenty-three fresh-faced, spunky aspirants for the Oval Office, waiting for Daddy Warbucks' rescue

Democratic Candidates’ Lament It’s a hard-knock life for us It’s a hard-knock life for us! Now it’s 23 skiddoo! Everybody’s in — aren’t you? It’s a hard-knock life. They put the knock on Democrats; On the ship of state, we’re rats. But if the ship sinks, we’ll swim; If anyone drowns, we hope it’s him! It’s a hard-knock life. Don’t it feel the media’s scowlin’ And there’s thunder on the right? And on Twitter Trump keeps growlin’ And too many Dems up for a fight Presidential dreams at night get creepy Every day polls grow or shrink Keeping up with data makes us sleepy Who will drop out first? Who will blink? Fire in the belly life Nerves turn to jelly life Beg, steal or borrow life Can I still run tomorrow life? Enough voters can we get? Enough money, too? Don’t bet! Will sufficient donors give? We’re collecting tears in a sieve! It’s a hard-knock life. Fox News trolls! Russian bots! Mainstream media Watches the horse race! Stay on message! Interview lots! Does socialism freak

Time Flies (when you're having fun): Monika Herzig's quartet message at the Jazz Kitchen

Cover of the new CD by the new band, the Time Flies. On a CD tour with her new quartet Time Flies, keyboardist-composer Monika Herzig stopped by the Jazz Kitchen Friday night. Husband Peter Kienle 's guitar provided a glittering revival of the German-born couple's adaptation of jazz-rock fusion, which burst out more than 20 years ago after they moved to the USA and formed an American version of a band called Beeble Brox. Expressing joy in her new Casio 3000 keyboard, Herzig moved from grand piano to the new instrument in the course of a sparkling first set. The touring version of the band, with only the keyboard-guitar couple continuing, is fully up to demands of the Time Flies' idiomatic variety. The other members are a bass guitarist well-known in central Indiana, Scott Pazera of Lafayette, and a New York drummer of phenomenal versatility and depth of groove, Karina Colis. The quartet got off to a blistering start with a Herzig original, "Plugged In."

Melissa Aldana's 'Visions': Transmuting an art icon into jazz

Frida Kahlo has come to stand for more than her tortured life and painfully evolved personal style as a visual artist. The Mexican symbol of individualized feminism in art has lately been taken up by a rising star of the tenor saxophone, the Chilean-born Melissa Aldana . Melilssa Aldana pays tribute to Frida Kahlo in "Visions." In "Visions" ( Motema ) she leads a quartet (expanded to a quintet for all but three of the 11 pieces) to honor Kahlo, whose life and art have generated extensive film, opera, and biographical treatment. A key element of Aldana's approach to this ensemble tribute is that fifth player, vibraphonist Joel Ross, with whom she often plays in unison. (Ross was hailed as the new voice of the vibraphone by Nate Chinen yesterday on NPR's "Morning Edition".) As exemplified by "El Castillo de Velenje," the longest track on "Visions," Ross's tone has a watery shimmer that still avoids blurring his articulat

Two durable arts organizations cap their current seasons with 'See the Music, Hear the Dance'

The makings of a spectacular (to revive a TV-associated noun from the '50s) could be predicted with the advance publicity of the collaboration last weekend between Dance Kaleidoscope and the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra (with American Pianists Association in a supporting role). "Rhapsody in Blue" enchanted the senses together in a DK-ICO collaboration. The track record of the participants established a reason to believe a spectacular would certainly be delivered. Max Liebman, eat your heart out! And so it was, at least on the evidence of Sunday's final performance of "See the Music, Hear the Dance." The provocative title alludes to the interplay of the two art forms so well blended in the concert. It's got a psychological corollary in the phenomenon known as synesthesia , which ranges from involuntary and lifelong in some people to a matter of choice, often esthetic, that may find it fruitful to assert beneficial cross-talk between the sense

'Indy! The Musical' celebrates the Race and the triumph of true love

The timing of a musical comedy revealingly subtitled "A Hoosier Fantasy" could hardly be better. The month of May here, out of which legends have been made for more than a century, is the focus in the run-up to the Indianapolis 500.  The collaboration by Louis Chenette (music) and Tom Roberts (book and lyrics) opened and closed over the weekend at Phoenix Theatre . A Roberts father-son team created the production, marketed as a benefit for WFYI public radio. "Indy! The Musical" locks into the annual buzz of the internationally celebrated motorsports extravaganza that's essential to the Indianapolis brand. But more than that, according to Chenette's program note, the show is a metaphor for the importance of home, where events of significance beyond the ordinary make hometowns special. Ingenuous dance teacher and racy mechanic celebrate their bond in song. So "Indy! The Musical" comes across as boosterism, carried mainly by the ensembles that

ISO concert: Fast-rising piano star Trifonov plays the Schumann concerto; Urbanski advances his Brahms cycle

Daniil Trifonov seems to be joining the history of Russian pianists who quickly attained legendary status. In the Daniil Trifonov, who actually does know the right way to address the keyboard. confining days of the Soviet Union, there was an element of Cold War advocacy when the West first became exposed to Sviatoslav Richter, Emil Gilels, Lazar Berman, and Vladimir Feltsman. Nowadays the two-nation rivalry is less ideologically pitched, but the fascination with Russian pianists carries over whenever a new talent and personality from that motherland seem to stand out. On Friday night, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra audience got to hear Trifonov interpret Robert Schumann's Piano Concerto with rapture and a sense of mission. The stamp Trifonov put on the work — fully in accord with music director Krzysztof Urbanski's management of the orchestra — emphasized the composer's dreamy, pensive side, to which in 1831 he gave an identity as Eusebius, over the more as

Wagner, Bruckner, Berg: ISO concert probes the roots of classical music's evolution into the modern world

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra this weekend drew back the curtain on the shifts that overcame classical German composer-conductor Matthias Pintscher music as it changed irrevocably. The program, fashioned shrewdly upon the foundation of late Romanticism, was certain to excite devotees of the cultural ferment out of which came modernism, yet also presumably to reassure the traditionally minded. The music of Alban Berg and Anton Bruckner, both indebted to the trailblazing of Richard Wagner, shares features with much of the mainstream out of which symphony concerts draw sustenance today. Saturday's concert comprised all three composers, under the astute guidance of guest conductor Matthias Pintscher. After this concert in Hilbert Circle Theatre, classical programming for the rest of the season largely re-emphasizes two composers who were in some sense throwbacks: Brahms and Rachmaninoff. Much of what still succeeds with audiences in the 21st century resonates to the hea

Sean Imboden Large Ensemble again provides intriguing music at the Jazz Kitchen

Sean Imboden solos in a ballad feature. With its shifting personnel resting on a foundation of continuing band members, the Sean Imboden Large Ensemble once again displayed its deep-delving take on contemporary new music for big band at the Jazz Kitchen Friday night. The performance by this minimally rehearsable band came close to realizing all of the leader's considerable demands. If the opportunity ever arose for the ensemble to get settled within these tricky scores, its reputation would spread far and wide. Heard in the first of two sets, the 17-piece band once again used the leader's arrangement of Joe Henderson's "Inner Urge" as a kind of firm collective punctuation at the end. This time the dueling sax solos— one short phrase following the next in compatible dialogue — were capably delivered by LaMont Webb and Matt Pivec. John Raymond took his second scintillating trumpet solo of the set here,  helping no doubt to build eager anticipation of the set

'Newsies' displays pizazz and collective focus of Civic Theatre at the Tarkington

Pumping fists and coordinated jumps are a powerful presence throughout "Newsies." "Les Miserables" helped make it safe for a hit musical to blare forth a message of agitation by have-nots against society's haves. "Billy Elliot" was a successor in a more up-to-date setting. But before that saga of English coal miners' struggle in the context of a lad's dance dreams came "Newsies," also a show that started life as a movie and later proved to have stage legs. The real-life origin of the 1992 film (adapted for theatrical presentation in 2011) was the 1899 labor struggle of a niche underclass of newspaper boys hawking the product on the streets of New York. Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre' s production is now in its second weekend at its home theater, the Tarkington at Carmel's Center for the Performing Arts, and makes the search for betterment through collective action a cause only a nasty person could oppose. Putting a pre

Venerable string quartet helps Ensemble Music Society observe 75 years of bringing top international chamber ensembles here

Russia must be indelibly associated with mystery, even the accidental kind. Lawrence Dutton (from left), Paul Watkins, Philip Setzer, and Eugene Drucker are the Emerson Quartet. One of the three "Razumovsky" quartets by Beethoven was listed on the main page of Wednesday night's Ensemble Music Society program book, but the program note was about another of the set. The latter was correct, and also indicated by the advance publicity for the Emerson String Quartet 's fifth engagement here: The String Quartet in E minor, op. 59, no. 2 was the crowning work on a well-attended program in the Grand Hall at Indiana Landmarks Center.  Named after one of the composer's loyal patrons, the "Razumovsky" compositions make the tribute explicit in two of the three quartets with the use of a Russian folk song. The E minor quartet places the tribute in the expansive Allegretto third movement. As performed by the Emerson, this lovingly treated interruption fitted

Take a Chance on Mayor Pete! A fight song repurposing the anthemic "Dancing in the Street"