Showing posts from July, 2019

Tucker Brothers celebrate release of their third recording, 'Two Parts'

In concentrating on music from "Two Parts," their quartet's third recording, Joel and Nick Tucker showed two sizable Jazz Kitchen audiences how their music continues to advance. As heard in its second set Saturday night, the Tucker Brothers made clear that an expanded sound palette — keyed to Joel's guitar — is a vital ingredient in this musical growth. The disc's title track amounted to a climax of the set. It lives up to its binary suggestion in stating a reflective theme at first; with the launch of a blazing guitar solo it moved onto a plateau of intensity. The tension was resolved by a sort of anthemic ensemble at the end. The band is Sean Imboden, Nick Tucker, Joel Tucker, and Brian Yarde. The set's one standard, Hoagy Carmichael's "Skylark," followed immediately. I haven't quite resolved what the onset of this piece was working to establish. I first caught the melody from Sean Imboden's tenor sax coming in at the bridge. T

Multidimensional tragedy 'Hamlet' marks a new venue for Indianapolis Shakespeare Company

Hamlet (Lorenzo Roberts) peruses the skull of the court jester Yorick. No character in the brisk two-hour rendition of "Hamlet" in the Indianapolis Shakespeare Company production (at Riverside Park through next weekend) is allowed to go on too long. Rarely has Polonius' sententious "brevity is the soul of wit" been so much the watchword. Judicious cutting, some of it inevitably regrettable, has taken considerable amplitude out of Shakespeare's longest play. Yet, as seen Friday night in its second performance, the show is clear-cut and well articulated. The production never generates puzzles of its own making. If we would pluck out the heart of its mystery, we probably fail even when we ponder the original text. There is no finality when it comes to "Hamlet" interpretation on page or stage. Ryan Artzberger directs a version in which one scene nearly treads on the heels of the next. (Dear me! The review is barely under way and already two

A protest song: I'll have no truck with any Honkie Trump Women!

Cincinnati Opera's 'Porgy and Bess' underlines its operatic stature with conviction

Opera companies in recent years have broadened their reach across the range of musical theater, so that In the title roles, Morris Robinson and Talise Tevigne displayed  threatened ardor. "Sweeney Todd" and "Oklahoma!" have entered their schedules largely without objection. "Porgy and Bess" was a pioneer in this outreach, and its struggles in the first few decades of its existence are especially revealing of the cultural need to erect boundaries. In the case of this 1935 masterpiece, the effort caused compromises in how it was presented and questions about its legitimacy. Its music came from the pen of a popular songwriter, after all, and its songs held sway over other values in its early history. Cincinnati Opera has joined the widening company of operatic organizations to respect George Gershwin's score, complete with its complex accompaniments, vocal recitatives and thorough linking of material. (Its track record over a 99-year history incl

Cedille's 'Silenced Voices' highlights chamber music by Holocaust victims

The muse that visited the composers in this well-founded anthology of string trios was a restive one, looking over her shoulder. Black Oak Ensemble in a "Silenced Voices" performance And no wonder: Each of the creators represented in Black Oak Ensemble 's "Silenced Voices" ( Cedille ) was among millions bedeviled by the Nazi program of Jewish extermination. Only one of them escaped with his life; the other five died in the camps. For them, anxiety in music could hardly be a matter of aesthetic choice alone. Of course, the stylistic variety of 20th-century music has to account for much of the individuality evident in these compositions. The fate of the European Jewish community, however, understandably looms over this program and how Black Oak Ensemble's excellent performances are likely to be received today. In support of the recording, the trio is performing "Silenced Voices" in concert around Europe, climaxed by a performance next month a

'Viva Vivaldi IV': 2019 Indianapolis Early Music Festival reaches peak of the Italian High Baroque

To paraphrase the slogan in a series of local hospital ads, Antonio Vivaldi is more than his "Four Seasons." Han Xie, festival guest soloist That set of four violin  concertos, long subject to industrious redundancy on recordings, is just a picturesque fraction of the Italian master's huge output. Why  should those concertos be entirely overlooked in a concert built on Vivaldi's popularity, which largely rests on them with the music-loving public? Unthinkable! So the Indianapolis Early Music Festival' s "Viva Vivaldi IV: Motets, Arias, and Concerti" on Sunday featured the "Summer" concerto, with soloist Han Xie and the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra, to bring the tribute concert up to intermission at the Indiana History Center. A native of China, Xie joined the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra in 2017. His training at the Peabody Conservatory took in a burgeoning acquaintance with the baroque violin. In this guest appearance, his appro

Early Music Festival heads into final weekend honoring Leonardo da Vinci

"The World of Leonardo" extends to our world in surprising ways, such as the record-setting sale of his painting "Salvator Mundi" at auction for $4.5 million a year ago November. Leonardo Da Vinci's high-priced painting "Salvator Mundi." The work was among the screen images that enhanced a concert featuring a host of musicians, including members of the locally based Alchymy Viols and Echoing Air, and two dancers. The program was conceived and directed by Mark Cudek, artistic director of the presenting Indianapolis Early Music Festival, and Phil Spray, who guides Alchemy Viols. The program was focused on Leonardo's enduring genius, a legacy also represented by two other images much imitated and admired: "The Last Supper" and "Mona Lisa (La Gioconda)." But painting was only a small part of his multifaceted genius. His inventions, many taken by their creator only to the design stage, were far-reaching, anticipating techno

A power trio with no keyboard needed: Blake-Oh-Potter's 'Trion'

Drummer Johnathan Blake is the leader of this two-disc trio outing Oh, Blake, and Potter take care of business at the Jazz Gallery. recorded in early 2018 at New York's Jazz Gallery, and I had little reason at first to believe it would be consistently enthralling. There's no "chordal instrument," as the publicity for "Trion" makes clear, and thus the harmonic component — while apt to be hinted at by tenor saxophone, bass, and even the drum set —would be muted or absent. My familiarity on record with the three players, especially Chris Potter, raised my expectations somewhat. But two hours of tenor-bass-drums music? Knowing that the work is supported by the nonprofit Giant Step Arts, produced by Jimmy Katz, which is designed specifically to give public exposure to commercially doubtful but artistically worthy projects in jazz, seemed encouraging. It turns out the "wow" factor is pretty consistent on "Trion." "Trion" exp

I'm Counting On You (The Census Citizenship Question Song)

Jory Vinikour states the case for the modern harpsichord concerto

Much admired for his recorded contributions to the core harpsichord repertoire, Jory Vinikour in a new Cedille release displays the viability of the major 18th-century keyboard instrument in a mainstream modernist context. Jory Vinikour is a prolific recording and concert artist. "20th-Century Harpsichord Concertos" puts the Chicago native in front of the Chicago Philharmonic under the direction of Scott Speck for four such works. The well-recorded program includes the premiere recording of  Ned Rorem's Concertino da Camera, an early composition (1946) by one of the outstanding living American composers, who's now 95. The Concertino is a frisky piece, starting with a Poulenc-like outburst of urbane nonchalance. The first movement boasts many tempo shifts and becomes almost theatrical in its pixieish variety, with winds predominating. The flute leads the ensemble in a sostenuto texture for the slow movement, with a delayed harpsichord entrance introducing a s