Showing posts from December, 2023

Kenny Banks Jr. returns as Kenny Phelps' special guest

 On Christmas Eve eve, which some social-media wag has dubbed "Christmas Adam," Kenny Banks Jr. Kenny Banks at work, bringing lights to the keyboard returned to the Jazz Kitchen, where he first attracted widespread attention here. That splash was in the Premiere Series of the American Pianists Association jazz competition in 2018-2019 , when he was one of the finalists. Hearing the second set Saturday night, I was pleased to take in his pixieish, magpie range of bits and pieces of music he was able to relate to whatever he announced before or after. He had the joy of sharing the bandstand with two musicians hired for that competition's series of trio appearances at the durable jazz club: bassist Nick Tucker and drummer Kenny Phelps. The bond held, clearly.  It was Phelps' gig officially, but in his gracious introduction, he made clear that Banks would be shaping the performance. The seasonal thrust was evident in the first piece, with considerable tweaking of the f

Valedictory recording of Mahler's Eighth hits technical and artistic heights

Osmo Vänskä will finish his career as a guest conductor   Long ago I was excited by my first exposure to Mahler's "Symphony of a Thousand" (No. 8 in E-flat major) through Georg Solti's 1971 recording, which I own on open-reel tape.  Troubles with my tape player have sidelined that recording for years, but it paved the way for my first concert experience of the work a couple of decades ago at the Cincinnati May Festival, led by James Conlon. The impact was mighty, but the thickest musical textures were too massive, almost clotted, to appreciate fully.  My experience with a CD version came first with the Chandos recording Leif Segerstam conducted with Danish choral and orchestral forces . It was evident, despite some excellent interpretive decisions, that properly balancing the many performers carries inherent difficulties over to recording if the artistic and technological sides of the project aren't kept clear and distinctive.  My first impression hearing the M

No roundabout path: Tempo accelerated toward Carmel Symphony's appointment of David Commanday

David Commanday built quickly upon two guest-conducting stints with the CSO. Transitions toward new artistic leadership in the arts sometimes proceed at a glacial pace. Hiring a music director of a professional symphony orchestra is a process fraught with trials, delays, and second guesses. The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra has been without a head of its conducting staff since Krzysztof Urbanski's tenure ended several years ago. Not so with the appointment of David Commanday to lead the Carmel Symphony Orchestra . His predecessor, Janna Hymes, departed for a similar post in Arizona just before the current season opened. There was a sudden vacancy at the top as the CSO's Oct. 7 seasonal launch approached. After the native Californian was brought in from his base in Illinois to conduct the first CSO concert of 2023-24, "the musicians of the CSO fell in love with Maestro Commanday at their first rehearsal," executive director Anne Marie Chastain said in a statement De

'Christmas Carol Comedy': What the dickens is Ben Asaykwee up to?

It's impossible to be much more disarming than Ben Asaykwee is in the "Director/Creator's Note" to "A Christmas Carol Comedy. "   Writing in an ebullient holiday spirit, he calls the District Theatre production "dumb" several times. And it would be uncharitable to disagree. Scrooge has reason to be apprehensive. With a huge cast encompassing a variety of local theater experience and stature, Asaykwee has lovingly thumbed his nose at Charles Dickens' venerated novella, which is amply familiar in theatrical form via Indiana Repertory Theatre 's annual production in Tom Haas' adaptation.  The comedy ranges over the variety of wit Asaykwee is capable of, from punning and satirical jabs through a vast gift for parody and on to slapstick and an abundance of generic self-consciousness. It was all mildly amusing to me; others in the audience on opening night Friday found it uproarious. Full disclosure here: I admire Dickens' original just 

Sean Imboden Large Ensemble moves toward milestone of spreading the word

In my six years of checking in with Sean Imboden's development as a composer and leader of sizable jazz groups, I have appreciated the wisdom of his identifying the group as "Large Ensemble" instead of "Big Band." That's no reach after upward mobility in the form of wishful thinking.  Someone walking in on an Imboden gig and seeing a crowded bandstand will orient their ears to what they see: several each of reeds, trumpets, and trombones and a conventional rhythm section of piano, guitar, bass, and drums. That says "big band," and leads to expectations of dialogue among instrumental choirs and blends that shift toward the outcome of intensifying the unanimous swing factor. Sean Imboden conducts his 17-piece Large Ensemble at the Jazz Kitchen.  Heard in the second set Friday night at the Jazz Kitchen , the Sean Imboden Large Ensemble  (or SILE, but never "siloed") set out a powerful agenda with "Certified Organic," which amounted