Showing posts from July, 2021

A master of funk drumming comes to town with two adepts on alto sax and organ

Mike Clark, Donald Harrison and Kendall Carter at the JK. Mike Clark perfected a style of drumming that went hand-in-glove with the new idiom Herbie Hancock was exploring in the 1970s. It drew upon demotic black music without succumbing to "fusion" inanities. Now on the threshold of three-quarters of a century on the planet, Clark  has maintained eminence in his field, and has drawn extra attention hereabouts in recent recorded work with local tenor-sax maestro Rob Dixon.  His decades of experience include holding down the percussion chair in organ trios. That's the kind of group Clark brought to the Jazz Kitchen Sunday night with alto saxophonist Donald Harrison and organist Kendall Keyz Carter. Clark's style has been called "linear funk," a term he's somewhat uneasy about, though he acknowledges it contains an accurate description of how he blends elements of the idiom over the drum set's different instruments rather than emphasizing the distinct

'Of imagination all compact': Indy Shakes helps inaugurate a refurbished park site with a splendid 'Midsummer Night's Dream'

Scene of enchantment: The full cast of "Dream" in an unforgettable setting The professionalism long characteristic of the Indianapolis Shakespeare Company makes the most of new room to romp in as it inaugurates the refurbished Taggart Memorial Amphitheater at Riverside Park . The 2021 production to mark the company's  renewed activity in a new place is "A Midsummer Night's Dream," a comedy of special stature as far as Shakespeare's poetry, comic insight, and dramatic elan are concerned. There are many ways for stagings of this magical play to succeed, and Indy Shakes seems to have accessed all of them. The new production, which has three more performances next weekend, is designed with such imagination and evident zest that everything the audience sees throughout its two-hour span is worthy of the occasion. Furthermore, the concepts embodied in this show meet the play's embrace of risk and change on its own terms. And then, the performance itself (as

Cincinnati Opera takes outdoors its fascination with 'Tosca,' this time with COVID constraints

  It's a signal of Cincinnati Opera' s resourcefulness and unstoppable focus on essentials that it can present Giacomo Puccini's "Tosca" in an uninterrupted 90-minute span, with a large audience socially distanced outdoors at a site some 16 miles distant from its traditional downtown stomping grounds. Cavaradossi as portrait painter. The l ast time the company presented the work , a production conventionally presented indoors reveled in splendor and detail relevant to the history-saturated story. At Summit Park, however, the action had to be shoehorned downstage in front of the orchestra, with cameras focused on its main points so that the visual basics could be concentrated on the singers and shared on stage-side screens, on which the libretto text in English translation could be readily followed. Lighting design and a severe assortment of properties have to create much of the illusion, with costuming completing the task. In a context of admiration for the techni

The penultimate weekend of the Indianapolis Early Music Festival features two different pairings of string instrument and harpsichord

Patrick Merrill (left) and Wade Davis performing at Indiana History Center. The next-to-last weekend of the Indianapolis Early Music Festival was a scaled-down affair, bringing to live-streamed audiences (with the addition of two in-person concerts Sunday) a couple of Baroque duos. Both instrumental programs paid tribute to the prominence of vocal music in the 17th and 18th centuries. Sunday's concert, with cellist Wade Davis and harpsichordist Patrick Merrill performing under the ensemble name of S'amusant, reached back further in that category. It opened with their arrangement of the hymn "O ignee Spiritus" by Hildegard of Bingen, a 12-century German visionary regarded as the foremother of all female composers in the Western art tradition. The arrangement was tasteful and not excessively gussied up. The players, in adding to the monodic line of the original, stayed true to the mood of highly focused reverence for the Holy Spirit. In the main repertoire the Baltimore

Cut off in mid-career, Roy Hargrove and Mulgrew Miller romp on common ground on 'In Harmony'

  Thanks to Zev Feldman and his collaborators, a new two-disc treat from Resonance Records enhances claims on jazz immortality that can be made on behalf of Roy Hargrove and Mulgrew Miller. The title "In Harmony" is an understatement, but a necessary one for the sake of brevity. I say that because what the trumpeter and pianist were captured playing on two concert dates in 2006 and 2007 illustrated more than harmony in its formal sense. It also revealed complete rapport between two musicians capable of inspiring each other and shedding new light on a host of popular and jazz standards. Hargrove and Miller offered their gifts generously at the Kaufman Music Center in New York City in January 2008 and at Lafayette College (Easton, Pa.) in November 2007. Each man, after a wealth of contributions to the music within a brief span of active life, died in middle age — Miller in 2013, Hargrove in 2018.  As his career blossomed, Hargrove deepened his ideas and used his instrumental fl

With two sets of trio partners, Gary Walters grabs the pandemic by the tail in 'The COVID Sessions'

  Gary Walters takes care of business. Long known for a variety of teaching and performing activity as a locally based jazz keyboard maestro, Gary Walters comes up with a new studio recording of trios made since COVID-19 upended so many lives.  "The COVID Sessions" (available through the website linked above) reflects his taking advantage of the relative idleness enforced upon many active musicians as the concert scene dried up early last year.  He brings back some original tunes and revives jazz pieces he likes, plus a couple of Great American Songbook standards. He divides the chosen repertoire between trios with Thomas Brinkley and Chris Pyle on five tracks, Peter Hansen and Gene Markiewicz on three. And there's one duo track each with bassists Hansen and Brinkley. Walters has a mainstream sensibility, but exhibits plenty of ideas for putting his personal stamp on the music. The trio's introduction to "Monk's Dream," for instance, is captivating in it