Showing posts from March, 2021

Tales out of school: IU Jazz Faculty teaches and preaches in rare club gig

Led by a grateful John Raymond, a septet of Bloomington-based jazz musicians stoked the fires of post-pandemic hopefulness with a scintillating show Friday at the Jazz Kitchen. IU jazz faculty ensemble lets itself go at the Jazz Kitchen. The trumpeter mentioned to the first-set audience that altered teaching has been virtually the Indiana University jazz faculty 's sole outlet for about a year as gigs dried up with the sudden decline of public music-making a year ago.  The ensemble, every one of whose members is an adept soloist as well, delivered a program in which energy and cohesiveness proved thoroughly compatible. A plethora of original charts helped present an impressive profile of the IU program, and the delivery was close to impeccable.  I liked the leader's "North," with its suggestion of hard-working idealism that gathered intensity in Greg Ward's alto solo. That set up ensemble vigor that may have become  overloaded when Raymond moved into the spotlight

No asterisk called for: Minnesota Orchestra's Mahler Tenth feels complete, authentic

 Many years ago, in the palmy days of American magazines, a large, heavy edition of Esquire would arrive at our house once a month. My dad's name was on the address label, but I was always welcome to read each issue. Fascinating photos, features, books reviewed by Dorothy Parker, movies by Dwight Macdonald (he rarely liked anything). Sometimes, jauntily risque features and cartoons. Tom Wicker's "Kennedy Without Tears" was the most gripping memorial piece on JFK I ever read.  The special issue on The Golden Age of Jazz I still own, with its monumental photo of a bunch of jazz immortals in a group portrait in front of a Harlem brownstone. Sometimes, there were jauntily risque features and cartoons. There was male fashion wisdom of a degree I have always fallen short of realizing. All in all, despite Hugh Hefner's pretensions, Playboy seemed sophomorically louche and irredeemably frat-boy in comparison. And Arnold Gingrich, a devoted amateur violinist and the magazi

Laureate Series brings back to town two distinguished IVCI participants for a duo recital

 A new work gives special distinction to this week's concert appearance by Bella Hristova and Juliette Kang right away. But after the bracing "Miasma" by Nokuthula Ngwenyama opens their duo recital, there is plenty to revel in for pure charm and comfort. An audience of about 90 at Indiana Landmarks Center got the direct effect with the "live" presentation on March 23. The concert, part of the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis ' Laureate Series, can be accessed online at through April 9. The young composer was on hand to supplement from the stage the challenging program notes she wrote for patrons.  "Miasma" is an in-depth response to Covid-19, based on musical interpretation of the virus' genetic protein sequences. That way of working makes the piece of extraordinary interest during the pandemic.  But when we emerge from this global health crisis, "Miasma" may also deserve currency as a worthy success

'Dreams of a New Day': A baritone's intense, subtle survey of songs by black composers deserves attention

Finale: Baritone sings and plays "Birmingham Sunday."  "I, too, sing America," begins a famous poem by Langston Hughes, supplementing the archetypal proclamation of Walt Whitman. A setting of the Hughes poem by Margaret Bonds is the centerpiece of "Dreams of a New Day: Songs by Black Composers" ( Cedille) , a recital in which  Will Liverman 's overwhelming belief in the music is linked to a well-nuanced technique and means of expression. Paul Sanchez adds vivid accompaniment at the piano through most of the program. Liverman commands a voice of operatic heft (which is borne out by his professional resume), yet the contrasting charm of his tender, intimate manner is authentic. A few songs, such as Henry Burleigh's "Till I Wake" in its final measures, display his  smoothly linked falsetto range. Bonds is perhaps the best-known of black women to have composed art songs. "Three Dream Portraits" is a triptych using Hughes' poetry

In "No. 6," IRT presents a family drama in which an outsider brings social unrest home

The continuing drama of American racial tension, brought to a head several times in recent years  through fatal encounters between police officers and black people, comes to the stage of Indiana Repertory Theatre . The old movie-poster hype of "ripped from today's headlines!" has never been more apt. Felicia listens intently to the assertive matriarch Ella. The audience the new show deserves will miss the highly charged communal effect of a play cryptically titled "No. 6" because of the need to watch it at home (live-streamed through April 4). The performance wrings the heart authentically and with difficulty underlines Americans' need to understand one another across our continuing racial divides.  We stand on common ground already, but it seems to be crumbling under our feet in different ways. This riveting drama propounds the lesson for blacks and whites to learn empathy as the key to social justice and peace. The most explosive triggering event, the deat

Returning to the concert stage, Pacifica Quartet offers Shostakovich and Fanny Mendelssohn for Ensemble Music Society

 Familiar visitors  to Indianapolis, the Pacifica Quartet on Wednesday helped revive the local concert Austin Hartman, Mark Holloway, Simin Ganatra, and Brandon Vamos scene under the auspices of the Ensemble Music Society . Implicitly saluting Women's History Month, a little-known work by Fanny Mendelssohn opened the program, followed by one of the more important pieces among Dmitri Shostakovich's 15 string quartets. The Pacifica, resting on a quarter-century foundation, continues its residency at Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music. The personnel with which it made its reputation in the last decade has changed; since 2017, violist Mark Holloway and second violinist Austin Hartman have upheld the ensemble's reputation alongside two of the original members, first violinist Simin Ganatra and cellist Brandon Vamos. Out of an abundance of pandemic caution, I caught the performance via live stream. A small audience was present in the concert hall at Indiana History