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Showing posts from February, 2020

'Primary Colors': A trumpet-keyboard duo recording that stretches into sonic experimentation

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Sometimes cleaning out a basement yields more than junk or sentimental knickknacks. John Vanore , whose career as trumpeter also rests on the little big band he directed called Abstract Truth, dug out some cassette tapes he made with keyboardist Ron Thomas in the mid-1980s. John Vanore revived duo sessions Digitizing  these sessions and making them public has yielded "Primary Colors" , three-quarters of an hour's worth of stimulating dialogues between Thomas and Vanore. The live studio recording is subject to some overlays and occasional expansion of the natural resonance of the acoustic instruments; recording and mixing credit goes to Terry Hoffman. At the forefront are Vanore's horns — the trumpet and its mellow-voiced cousin, the flugelhorn — with most of the keyboard variety enabled by synthesizer and studio legerdemain, like the cymbals that decorate the opening track, Thomas' "Final Dawn." The moody, restless accompaniment complements Vano

Carmel Symphony Orchestra, Actors Theatre of Indiana join forces in Sondheim's 'dark operetta'

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If you have a good feeling about Valentine's Day, you might well think of it as having its own season — a small Sweeney Todd (Don Farrell) sings in praise of his "friends," the razors of his trade. one, of course, and not for the sake of florists, candy sellers, and greeting-card makers, but all for love. So maybe Friday night, a week after February 14, I was still basking in its glow, oddly enough, to take in "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" as a love story. Love thwarted and violated, love enduring in distorted form, love misapplied and criminally directed. Love, the companion of lies and madness. Love emerging somehow from dire threats, triumphing against all odds. What Stephen Sondheim called his "dark operetta" enjoys a semi-staged production, whose second and final performance will be tonight at the Palladium, with Actors Theatre of Indiana in collaboration with the Carmel Symphony Orchestra . Coincidentally, the performa

Bass player Max Gerl, heading quartet, salutes Georgian capital in 'Tbilisi'

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The Georgian capital is spelled two different ways on the jacket for this Bass is the place: Max Gerl shows mastery of plugged-in and unplugged kinds. disc ( Dolfin Records ), and I chose to go with Tbilisi, which online occurred more than "Tblisi." The three I's have it.  That's the only conspicuous error in this release on a Dallas-based label. The music inside is engaging. Max Gerl is a bassist of great facility and expressive range, especially on the electric instrument.  "Tbilisi" as a title tune on this short disc shows off his colleague on tenor sax, Aaron Shaw, in busy dialogue with drummer Mike Mitchell. When it's time for the leader to take the spotlight, his drive and wealth of fast-paced ideas are immediately evident. Gerl's acoustic bass states the tune of "It Happened to Me" and the piano sits out for a while while the trio fills the room edge to edge a la Ornette Coleman. Paul Cornish makes up for lost time once th

The system in a closed car: Monument Theatre Company presents 'Dutchman'

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Lula (Dani Gibbs) feeds Clay (Jamaal McCray) the forbidden fruit in America's lost Eden. Traveling by myself, I once toured George Washington's estate, Mount Vernon, on a warm day when the grounds were streaming with visitors. You could have private moments outside or join a crowd lining up to go through the living quarters and other buildings. I was standing looking at the slave burial ground, and about thirty feet away a solitary black man, surveying the same scene, was musing wearily aloud: "Buried without their names — they didn't even leave them with their names ." Wanting to say something  sympathetic, I halted because it would sound like a lecture. It would have come across as "white-splaining" for me to say something about the system that worked those departed against their will and beyond their control, then buried them unidentified. It would have sounded insensitive to ask the rhetorical question: how could the owners of these people hav

ISO Film Series: Reveling in Max Steiner's score for 'Casablanca'

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Filling the Hilbert Circle Theatre to the rafters, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra presented its first film accompaniment of the New Year Friday night to a showing of the classic "Casablanca." Max Steiner conducting a studio orchestra in one of his scores. Some people put the 1942 movie near the top of their  favorites. It must also be near the summit of any list, if anyone has bothered to count, of widely known lines and phrases from the script. It's a love story nuanced and genuine enough  to suit Valentine's weekend (there's another showing tonight) and also pertinent today as the free world largely dreads a shift toward totalitarianism. Jack Everly conducts the ISO's performance of the movie's music, featuring one of the prolific Max Steiner's most memorable scores. A native of Austria, thoroughly trained and lauded in music from his youth, the immigrant Steiner pioneered symphonic scoring for motion pictures shortly after the Silent E

Dance Kaleidoscope celebrates love of country and those other kinds, too

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"American Valentine" is how the holiday weekend is being celebrated by Dance Kaleidoscope on the main stage at Indiana Repertory Theatre. The title encapsulates the balance of the program's two acts between the "Our America" celebration by the company's dancers in pieces designed for last year's Indy Fringe Festival and diverse DK repertoire dances by artistic director David Hochoy and two guest choreographers under the title "Facets of Love." Jillian Godwin's "A Home for All" exemplifies the choreographer's distrust of barriers. We are accustomed to thinking of "anthology" as a designation for a collection of literary pieces. However enthralling such volumes can be, they are a product of selections marketed around an attractive theme. "American Love" is an anthology that returns us to the word's roots, from the Greek meaning a gathering of flowers. The organic imagery is important, because thi

Crimes of Greed and Passion: A visionary warning of the dread many feel about still more Trump

Zaniness rules in Civic Theatre's 'Much Ado About Nothing'

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The director's note in the "Much Ado About Nothing" program book gets directly to the historic significance of the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre 's current production. It's the first full-length Shakespeare production ever for the company that began life 105 years ago as Indianapolis Civic Theatre, Emily Rogge Tzucker notes. The second performance I saw Saturday night revealed a production approach that spoke to Civic's broad appeal to its loyal public: Go deep on occasion, but bring instantly communicable theater values to the fore. When it comes to comedy, underline it and maximize its connection with ordinary feelings. Give it a look that's strong on style: With scenic and lighting design by Ryan Koharchik, this production basks in Southern California sunlight, with a curvy stucco house front in Mission Revival and topiaries artfully placed around the yard — the home of media mogul Leonato (the play's governor of Messina). The action has been u

Stature over statuettes: ISO guest conductor generates a mighty 'Symphonie fantastique,' rising soprano is illuminating

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How far in advance a Classical Series program dominated by Berlioz's "Symphonie fantastique" was scheduled on Oscar weekend isn't known to me, but it was a masterstroke on the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra season. The work carries a scenario of cinematic breadth and intensity. It's a landmark in the repertoire, an amazing composer debut in the symphony form, which Hector Berlioz shattered here and subsequently. In the same decade Berlioz departed this life, another norm-busting French composer entered it: Claude Debussy once said there was no excuse for the symphony after Beethoven's Ninth. At the tender age of 27, Berlioz anticipated that sentiment, embodying it uniquely in "Symphonie fantastique." The imaginative transformation of a love affair suffused with idealism (and eventually to result in a disappointing marriage), the Fantastic Symphony set the stage for a host of "symphonic poems" and more formally conventional works that

Ensemble Music series: Polish string quartet works with Canadian pianist for sublime Dvorak

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A string quartet of four young Polish musicians with a French name honors the traditional role of the Greek god Apollo as inspirer of the muses. Stravinsky's 1928 ballet, "Apollon Musag├Ęte," was later given a simpler title, "Apollo." Through his jealous championship of the lyre, the god has been celebrated as the divine force behind all music for strings. Apollon Musag├Ęte reaches beyond the core repertoire, including work with Tori Amos. The ensemble has extended the aura of that association, building an international reputation since its founding in Vienna in 2008. Wednesday evening the quartet played a program of Dvorak, Suk, and Schubert under the auspices of the Ensemble Music Society at the Glick Indiana History Center. The high point involved a collaboration with Canadian pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin, who distinguished himself in the quartet's homeland as silver-prize winner  at the 2015 International Chopin Competition in Warsaw. An expans

Indianapolis Quartet offers Beethoven, Debussy, and a sneak preview of a Felice recording

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A shrewdly assembled program, combined with a wholly committed performance of it, made for a satisfying outing by the Indianapolis Quartet as it moves into the new decade. Butler University  presented the concert in its Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall Tuesday evening. To start with, honor was paid to Ludwig van Beethoven in his quarter-millennial year — an obligation hardly any classical musician or organization will dare overlook in 2020. By now, this ensemble, formed at the University of Indianapolis in  2016, has settled into a high level of internal rapport; confidence at both the macro and the micro levels tends to result. The players are violinists Zachary Depue and Joana Genova, violist Michael Strauss, and cellist Austin Huntington. To choose No. 5 (A major) of Beethoven's Opus 18 placed the concert on an inviting plane, because the work unfolds in an uncomplicated manner, sufficiently inventive — especially in the Andante cantabile movement, a theme-and-variations — whi

'Can You Imagine?' is John Bailey's tribute to modern trumpet pioneer Dizzy Gillespie

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John Bailey has his band musically canvassing for DG. The half-serious run that Dizzy Gillespie made for the U.S. presidency many decades ago gets a memorial tribute as John Bailey tosses the Dizzy beret into the 2020 ring with "Can You Imagine?" (Freedom Road Records). The rhetorical question in the title asks the listener to fantasize about the the affable bebop pioneer in the Oval Office. Bailey, a veteran trumpeter with a host of eminent collaborations in his c.v., composed the centerpiece tribute, "President Gillespie Suite." Bailey is outstanding  both muted in the first section, "The Humanitarian Candidate," and with the open horn he turns to later. Trombonist Earl McIntyre, employing the plunger mute, sits in during the second movement, "Road to the Blues House," which is typical of the set's nifty arrangements and the way they always give extra polish to the solos. The band, with a rock-solid rhythm section of Eddie Gomez,

At Clowes, Louisville Ballet offers program of high contrast, high achievement

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As part of the JCA Signature Series, in which visiting artists' educational side is combined with public performance,  Butler University Friday night welcomed the Louisville Ballet to Clowes Hall for a program of three of the company's works. The opening piece, "Models," stood out for me, though each of its companions had distinctive charms. Freedom or other-directed mastery?: A scene from "Models" Somewhat put off by Cornelius' music though I was, Tim Harbour's choreography built upon its variety of hard-driving electronic sounds to achieve a perfect, yet often surprising, blend of how it all looked and how the dancers moved. Alexandra Ludwig's costume designs offered a unisex version, with matching scarfs and caps, of the Australian Boy Scout uniforms the choreographer recalled from his youth. The closely measured duet in "Models." Daniel Perez's lighting sometimes "grayed out" forms and colors of the unifo