Showing posts from September, 2019

Indianapolis Ballet opens its second full season with a program of Balanchine

George Balanchine had such an affinity for music that he often thought of composers as his collaborators in an almost mystical sense. He spoke of how a work might suddenly come together after rehearsal and production travails. "All of a sudden everything looks wonderful. That's his doing," he told his biographer Bernard Taper, who then adds the choreographer's explanation: "He points to the heavens, 'Tchaikovsky's.'" George Balanchine, revered father of American ballet. The anecdote might allude to the wholeness the Russian-born choreographer lent to the Russian composer's failed third piano concerto, which in Balanchine's hands became "Allegro Brillante."  The work opened Indianapolis Ballet' s "Evening of Balanchine" Friday night in the Tobias Theater at Newfields. Even lacking the common ground of the same homeland, Balanchine probably found that Gershwin spoke to him as well from beyond the grave. In f

Pretending to be a gun nut, I adapt a Jerome Kern evergreen to contemporary 2nd Amendment absolutism

Throwing off preconceptions: Earprint (a pianoless quartet) has 'Easy Listening' coming up

The frontiers of cutting-edge jazz can be a larky playground in the post-modernist landscape. Members of Earprint ponder a contraption foreign to their music. For Earprint, a quartet whose very name reconciles nature and technology, its claim to a place on that terrain rests on sometimes laconic original tunes, whimsically titled, that are displayed in an all-acoustic format. The album title (a forthcoming release credited to Endectomorph Music ) is a thumb in the eye to a whole genre of music marketed to our parents and grandparents as soothing background. That's because any music worth paying attention to does not fall into that category as commonly understood. On Earprint's terms, "Easy Listening" in part means a quartet concept in which the  two horns don't attempt to fill in harmonies in the manner of pianoless groups of the past mid-century. Instead, trumpeter Tree Palmedo and reedman Kevin Sun set out rigorous melodic parallelism, with bassist S

Music for strings brings two early-music ensembles together at the Propylaeum

Philip Spray, emcee and violone player Under the auspices of Bloomington Early Music , a collaboration of two ensembles on Sunday afternoon played the second of two performances of its "Time's Up...Stop Fretting" program in the charming, historical setting of the Carriage House at Indianapolis Propylaeum . The first was in the organization's hometown the day before. By Indianapolis standards, the setting was ancient. Its original function was served from 1890 on until the triumph of the automobile (a history memorably traced in fictional form here by Booth Tarkington's "The Magnificent Ambersons"). The music reached back much further. The concert title, an inspiration of the program's pun-loving director, Philip Spray, alludes to the interplay of string instruments with fretted fingerboards and those without frets (strips across the fingerboard) that triumphed in concert music eventually. The guitar is the best-known fretted instrument today,

Dystopian for the MAGA crowd, including the one at the top: Here's Subterranean Impeachment Blues

Subterranean Impeachment Blues Donnie’s in his bedroom, looking for some head room, There’s homeless on the pavement thinkin’ ‘bout the government President gloats about next year’s votes He’s taking frantic notes, can he nail Dan Coats? Muttering about Sleepy Joe Biden Gaffe prone, all alone, what’s he hidin’? No norms, no forms, Trump follows no laws What he does is free of flaws. Let him explain to the president of Ukraine See if he can help with the next campaign Get loose, got the juice, tweet about fake news Don’t need a guitar to make up some new blues. Look out Trump, your polling’s in a slump God knows when, but you’re doing it again. Oh, get sick, get well, does impeachment ring a bell? Keep your base in place, hope the Wall is gonna sell. Get Barr, go far, set sail, don’t fail E-mails, Dem wails, Adam Schiff is on your tail. Look out Trump, you’re gonna get dumped By losers, voters, Constitution users

Farewell to the 2019 Indy Jazz Fest: The Block Party

Amanda Gardier and her group buoyed up the schedule The party atmosphere at the annual Indy Jazz Fest finale rolls like a tsunami over the southeast corner of 54th and College as the day wanes. I skipped away from the wave earlier than I had expected, beaten down a bit from an intense self-imposed schedule over the last few days. The Block Party is a good way to end such a festival for those up to sticking it out for a wealth of music (a dozen bands on two stages), with plenty of opportunity for food and drink along the way. Yats, the Cajun-style restaurant that's long been the Jazz Kitchen' s next-door neighbor, was on hand with some of its offerings supplementing the Jazz Kitchen buffet, while the club's bar attracted a crowd shifting almost as adroitly as a band playing "Giant Steps." Thinking that my best bet was to hit the ground running at 4 o'clock, I took in the tight modern acoustic quartet led by Rich Cohen and Chris Rutkowski. This powerful

ISO's Mendelssohn and Mussorgsky/Ravel: What's wrong with a warhorse (if it's still got noble fighting spirit left in it)?

Most frequently played works for orchestra justify that frequency by dint of a number of durable qualities. The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra opened its Classical Series Friday night with three of them. Krzysztof Urbanski, music director of the ISO in his next-to-last season, has shown insights into oft-heard pieces many times in his nine-year tenure. I remember how much Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings benefited from his conscientiousness many seasons ago. ISO guest soloist Julian Rachlin also has extensive experience on the podium. It showed up again in what he managed to do at Hilbert Circle Theatre with Modest Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" in the familiar orchestration by Maurice Ravel. It animated his suave presentation, sporting some excellent solos, of Jacques Offenbach's Overture to "Orpheus in the Underworld." And it took place as a result of a superb meeting of the minds with soloist Julian Rachlin in Felix Mendelssohn

In an Indy Jazz Fest spectacular, Arturo Sandoval displays his outsized personality at the Schrott Center

The entertainment aspect of jazz has been subject to considerable scorn for many years, so I'm reluctant to add to the chorus of disdain for the flamboyance and sense of fun that's typical of Arturo Sandoval , whose trumpet In his main claim to fame, Arturo Sandoval can pin your ears back. predecessors include such fun-loving legends as Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie. But what the Cuban native offered for Indy Jazz Fest at Schrott Center for the Arts Thursday evening needs to be put in context. It may not be dismissive to label it a kind of jazz vaudeville. There was comedy, comic banter, a serious speech, and head-spinning stylistic variety. And you never had to wait long for the music to change course. The showmanship was pervasive, maybe a little too insistent. Musically, it was summed up early by the whole band in a whirlwind tour through "Cherokee," although the "head" may have been one of a wealth of its contrafacts (tunes built on the sa

APA Cole Porter Fellow Emmet Cohen shows his staying power at the Jazz Kitchen

Emmet Cohen brings loads of personality and chops to the keyboard. The winning ways of Emmet Cohen , as linked to his local trio buddies (bassist Nick Tucker and drummer Kenny Phelps), were in full cry Wednesday night at the Jazz Kitchen . Cohen has a big reputation here not just for the quality of his performances, but for his persistence in pursuing the American Pianists Association' s Cole Porter Fellowship in Jazz, which he won last April. He had made two previous attempts that put him in the finalist position. "The young man has a vast expressive range and seems to be able to put to use every technique remotely suitable to jazz pianism," I wrote about Cohen's daytime solo gig at Eskenazi Health several years ago, when he was vying for the big award a second time. That remains true, and he has added the Hammond B3 organ to his arsenal. The instrument was placed at a right angle to the piano Wednesday night for this Indy Jazz Fest event, and provided a c

A pillar of modern jazz guitar: Bill Frisell plays a solo gig for Indy Jazz Fest at the Jazz Kitchen

Not many jazz musicians can carry off a concert unaccompanied. Success alone is more likely to come to players Bill Frisell gets down to business on the bandstand. of a harmony instrument, chiefly the piano. But the guitar has a long history of more than one line at a time, and the advent of sophisticated electronics over the past half-century has given this "people's instrument" legitimate currency in jazz soloing among adventurous players. Perhaps no one has expanded the guitar's vocabulary more persistently and with more variety than Bill Frisell. With a solid-body electric guitar on one side, supplemented by a row of foot pedals and finger-operated switches in front of him, and an acoustic instrument to his left, Frisell offered ample proof of his range in two Indy Jazz Fest sets Tuesday evening at the Jazz Kitchen . I attended the second set, also played to a full room.  Starting out, Frisell seemed to be exploring new harmonies on a couple of standards

ISO's gala opening-night guest raises the "child prodigy" designation to a whole new level

Her media profile has been impressive on its own terms in print and broadcast, and helps account for the household-name sort of Alma at home, from one of the latest media features (New York Times, June) reception Alma Deutscher got Saturday night as the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra presented its annual gala opening concert. Cheers, whoops, repeated standing ovations, and a few lusty shouts on the order of "We love you, Alma!" punctuated the atmosphere. But the 14-year-old musician has a well-grounded reason for being subject to the kind of exposure, vastly expanded in the digital age, that has accompanied extraordinarily gifted artists from the 18th-century birth of public concerts up to the present. Music director Krzysztof Urbanski is among many eminent musicians who have expressed open astonishment at Deutscher's violin and piano playing and the facility and charm she displays in her compositions, which include a full-length opera. Urbanski engaged in so

Indy Jazz Fest 2019 opens with a salute to a specialty genre — the bossa nova

The tributary of bossa nova, an import from Brazil, contributed some much-needed fresh water to the jazz mainstream about six decades ago. This year's Indy Jazz Fest got off to an ingratiating start Thursday night at the University of Indianapolis with a salute to the popular genre. Bossa nova highlight: Julie Houston and Rebecca Rafla sang together with the band a couple of times. Overlaying jazz phrasing on samba rhythms, bossa nova (Portuguese for "new wave") enjoyed a vogue as the turbulent 1960s plowed their course through American culture. The originators of the genre — songwriters, guitarists, and singers — became known here, and tenor saxophonist Stan Getz enjoyed a significant boost to his stature as an American bop and post-bop master through his creative association with them. The blend of silk and strength in his tone and his natural lyricism flourished under the bossa nova sway. Rob Dixon, a saxophonist with stature all his own and a ubiquitous p

Weatherwise, you can depend upon it: Whatever the true path of the next hurricane, there will be another Tweet Wave...and another, and...

'Twelve Angry Men' kicks off Indiana Repertory Theatre's 48th season

The jury gathers under a guard's watchful eye to begin deliberations. Part of the satisfaction in detective fiction is that matters not obvious from the apparent facts of a crime will become glaringly clear, thanks to clever sleuthing. When putting together the puzzle is a collective matter sanctioned by the rule of law, anyone taking in the story gets a double satisfaction: the revelations amount to a happy resolution plus our faith in the judicial system gets reinvigorated. When ratiocinative justice meets official justice, what could be better for our civic health? Our emotions are put into balance with our reasoning, and the result becomes part of the civilized legacy we profess to admire. In "Twelve Angry Men," Reginald Rose takes us into a jury room to reveal how one of a dozen seated jurors turns around his peers, all strangers to him and to each other, from a guilty to a not-guilty verdict in the trial of a 16-year-old teen from an unspecified racial/ethni

Ortwein Jazztet and guests: Father-son, New Orleans-Indianapolis blend at the Jazz Kitchen

Mark Ortwein with his regular axe. A defining duo from Maid of Orleans stepped in to fill out the bandstand for a gig hosted by Mark Ortwein and representatives of his Jazztet, drawing an enthusastic midweek crowd to the Jazz Kitchen . The saxophonist-bassoonist was joined by his Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra colleague Craig Hetrick on drums and guitarist John Fell — both Jazztet regulars. The guests were his son, electric bassist Olas Ortwein and his duo partner, hornist-vocalist Amber Renee Mouton, Maid of Orleans bandmates up from the Crescent City. They had played a duo gig in Cincinnati on Tuesday, preceding the father-son musical reunion at Indianapolis' storied northside club, enjoying continued success in its silver-anniversary year. The blend was predictably compatible, even though the musical range encompassed genres not usually heard in the same set: retro-inspired originals with forward-thinking aspects as well as jazz and popular standards. The French horn i

Minnesota Orchestra puts a recorded Mahler One in the top rank

By happenstance, Krista Tippett rebroadcast a conversation with Gordon Hempton, an acoustic ecologist, as I was wrapping up my impressions of the Minnesota Orchestra 's new recording of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 1 in D major ( BIS ). Music director Osmo Vänskä adds to a fine discography with the Minnesota Orchestra. I heard the "On Being" i nterview, which I don't think I caught on its original broadcast in 2012,  Sunday morning on WFYI-FM. I had been looking for some way to capture the marvels I found in how Osmo Vänskä shaped the first movement. The performance, beautifully recorded, struck me as closer to the reality of untrammeled nature than others I could recall. Hempton says such things as "each habitat has a characteristic sense of space" and "a quiet place is the think tank of the soul." Lots of composers, particularly in the 19th century, paid tribute to the natural world. It was so much easier to experience directly then.