Showing posts from September, 2020

Rudresh Mahanthappa helms the Hero Trio in his first recording of others' works

 With his Indian heritage having guided much of his original music, Rudresh Mahanthappa is thoroughly steeped in the music he heard in his youth growing up in Boulder, Colo. There he acquainted himself with the American musical mainstream, later refining his jazz chops at Berklee College in Boston and emerging in his own right as an educator directing jazz studies at Princeton University. The facetiously named (and costumed) Hero Trio is serious about applying heroic bravado to pieces by Charlie Parker, Ornette Coleman (the leader's alto-sax messiahs) and others on "Hero Trio" ( Whirlwind Recordings ). The Coleman piece, "Sadness," is taken out of tempo throughout, and represents how firmly Mahanthappa and his mates (bassist Franḉois Moutin and drummer Rudy Royston) can hang together while still projecting individuality.  As an arranger, Mahanthappa is unusually creative. The old standard beloved of our grandparents, "I Can't Get Started," is treat

Mark Masters Ensemble pays tribute to a songwriter's songwriter, Alec Wilder

Admired for  understated elegance and seductive pathos, the songs of Alec Wilder can be treated imaginatively without a sung word. That's what "Night Talk: The Alec Wilder Songbook" ( Capri Records ) exemplifies, thanks to the responsive arrangements for jazz octet by Mark Masters and the showcase solos of baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan. The Mark Masters Ensemble also includes Don Shelton and Jerry Pinter, reeds; Bob Summers, trumpet; Dave Woodley, trombone; Ed Czach, piano; Putter Smith, bass, and Kendall Kay, drums. The set of nine tunes ends with Wilder's best-known song, "I'll Be Around." Setting this love ballad at a fast tempo makes clear Masters' declaration of independence from convention. The smooth integration of Smulyan's agile, deep-toned instrument  and the ensemble is immediately sealed on the opening track, "You're Free." Masters never fails to give both the band and the featured soloist essential material to indic

A different view of late Billie Holiday: Blake and Correa revisit "Lady in Satin"

For a novel, probing look at what is often considered the pathetic swan song of a great jazz singer, Ran Blake and Christine Correa, a piano-voice duo of uncommon mutual sympathy and daring, revisit Billie Holiday's "Lady in Satin," an LP the tortured diva made with strings in 1958. It's an attempt to take a frankly oblique examination of material that, for most fans, deserved better than "Lady in Satin" in any fantasy vision they may have had of Lady Day growing gracefully into the late middle age she wasn't destined to have.  "When Soft Rains Fall" ( Red Piano Records ) contains a dozen songs associated with the singer in her decline and earlier, plus a solo piano version of Bernstein's "Big Stuff, " a vocal solo on Herbie Nichols' "Lady Sings the Blues," and Blake's composition to Correa's recitation of a Frank O'Hara poem, "The Day Lady Died." The reigning question is: Can you make art out o

Butler University launches a survey, under many hands, of the Beethoven piano sonatas in toto

In a live stream Sunday night from the Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall on campus, Butler University got its survey of the 32 Beethoven piano sonatas under way "Beethoven @Butler"   has some market zing in these troubled times because of the title's fortuitous alliteration of school and composer, whose 250th birth anniversary is taking a place in a year that can't end too soon for many of us. It's gratifying to herald this series as among the few local new presentations of classical music, pinned to a significant historical milestone, under an official aegis during the pandemic. Here's a response to Sept. 13's performances that, despite some reservations, I intend to be an encouragement to anyone who reads this blog to virtually attend the rest of the series. In the first flush of his boom times in Vienna, where the young German had relocated from his hometown Bonn, Beethoven's early piano sonatas came in a relative rush. The "Waldstein" Sonata,

Dover Quartet sets forth initial contribution to the interrupted Beethoven celebrations with 2-disc set of op. 18

Some well-seasoned music lovers have expressed something like relief at one silver-lining  development out of the Covid-19 disaster: we were spared an excess of an already overprogrammed master composer. Yes, you've surely noticed that the pandemic has wiped out special celebrations of Ludwig van Beethoven on the 250th anniversary of his birth. Anniversary-prone symphony orchestras in particular had this thematic element obliterated from their schedules, along with everything else they had planned.  I, for one, have regretted not getting a chance to attend a "Missa Solemnis" performance in June, which would have been among the twlight landmarks of Krzysztof Urbanski's tenure as music director of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Recordings, especially of chamber music, can be dropped into the market no matter what, of course.  And among the benefits during these pinched times is putting on disc contemporary interpretations of the sixteen Beethoven string quartets.

Sexual politics and the fledgling IndyShakes production of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'

In this time of artistic privation, many of us can be grateful for the Indianapolis Shakespeare 'A Midzoomer Night's Gream" is this year's stand-in for a post-pandemic production. Company' s placeholding virtual production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," converted technologically as an appetizer for the 2021 season into a tasty "A Midzoomer Night's Dream." An hourlong version of the Bard's most magical comedy can be accessed through the company's website through Sept. 12. Directed by Lauren Morris, assisted by Ryan Artzberger, the Zoom version necessarily is heavily cut and requires some stitching together to draw in the skeins of the zany plot. Bottom the Weaver is the presiding spirit of this "Dream" in more ways than one. Most stage productions of this play strike me as posing the most athletic challenges Shakespearean actors face. The cavorting and confusion involving the four young lovers in the forest near

IndyBaroque launches its season with music roughly contemporary with European settlement here

A special anthology in my decades-old LP collection is the Smithsonian's "Music from the Age of Jefferson." I had just played the record again a few days before attending the opening of IndyBaroque 's 2020-21 season Friday night at the IndyFringe Pocket Park. IndyBaroque Chamber Players launch a season at Indy Fringe. The link is an intriguing one in these troubled times, and one must walk a tightrope sometimes defending the establishment and persistence of European culture in the New World. I have no problem with acknowledging that in moral terms: the civilization I most identify with has deep-seated problems. Sure,  I listened without apology or private embarrassment, and read the extensive notes to this recording from the 1970s, but it inevitably springs to mind that the Age of Jefferson, specifically as embodied in the man himself, was sustained in large degree by chattel slavery. There's no mention of that in the text accompanying the Smithsonian col

'Hug,' the Matt Wilson Quartet advises — throw caution to the winds

Working closely together for many years, drummer Matt Wilson' s quartet has earned the right to Matt Wilson shows personal style in how he dresses and how he plays. thumb its nose in these socially distanced times with "Hug" ( Palmetto ). In the midst of pandemic constraints, you can wrap your arms around this one, though it rewards sitting-up-straight attention as well. This is a companionable set of originals and well-curated borrowings from the jazz repertoire, including Charlie Haden's "In the Moment" and Dewey Redman's "Joie de Vivre."  There's also a trip into a comfortable pop hit of yore, Roger Miller's "King of the Road." And there's a bit of satire in the choice of Sun Ra's "Interplanetary Music" grafted onto some Donald Trump riffing titled "Space Force March." It all sounds natural, not reaching out for the lovably eccentric. And it makes for a good musical riposte to one of the

Intricate poem based on "person, woman, man, camera, TV"

Acing the Test: A Poem on Those Five Words (after   “Canzone” by W.H. Auden) And when we move to re-elect this person Who made his reputation on TV By being boss of each “Apprentice” person Whom otherwise you might ignore in person But seemed so special to us when on camera, Almost enough to be an unfailed person Maintaining his integrity as person Though having to project the idea of “man” While subject to “You’re fired!” from host-man (It’s sure he lacks rapport with any person): A man known for his hostile view of woman And tendency to grossly grab a woman. Accessibility is crucial to each woman From the vantage point of what defines this person, Hallmark of what to him sums up a woman So that he roars obtusely, “Woman! Give life beyond my ratings on TV. I must inform you now as man to woman Despite the RNC’s emphasis on woman That I will rate your status as a person Somewhat lower than alm