• 'Treme,' Episode 7: Civil Dysfunction Meets Civil Disobedience

    May 24, 2010. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Wendell Pierce slide-synchs along with actual New Orleans musicians at the airport. (Image Credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO)

    Times are not good here. The city is crumbling into ashes. It has been buried under a lava flood of taxes and frauds and maladministrations so that it has become only a study for archaeologists. Its condition is so bad that when I write about it, as I intend to do soon, nobody will believe I am telling the truth. But it is better to live here in sackcloth and ashes, than to own the whole state of Ohio.
    --Lafcadio Hearn, 1879

    Hearn's quotation, voiced by John Goodman's Creighton Bernette, rings eerily true in the post-Katrina New Orleans of Treme. Episode seven of the first season gives us two dead bodies, police brutality, closed businesses and the double dealing of an election season. And yet, the unique artistic spirit that defines New Orleans persists, on the backs of those determined to honor its traditions in spite of the natural and man-made disasters.

    To talk about some of those artistic expressions (HBO's full playlist here), I'm joined once again by Josh Jackson of WBGO.

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  • The Sondheim Year

    May 23, 2010. Posted by Michael Bourne.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

    StephenSondheimStephen Sondheim, greatest (sez me) creator of musical theatre, celebrated his 80th birthday on March 22nd, and New York theatre celebrated with umpteen tributes, including all-star galas at City Center, Roundabout, and with the New York Philharmonic.  City Center "Encores" presented a delightful revival of his flop (but better than plenty of hits) "Anyone Can Whistle," and a Tony-nominated revival of "A Little Night Music" (my all-time favorite musical) came from London to Broadway,  starring Tony-nominated and Outer Critics Circle winner (voted by me) Catherine Zeta-Jones.  Roundabout also presented "Sondheim on Sondheim," with projected Sondheim interviews and songs from throughout his musical life.  I've gathered together this web special of favorite songs from the original and revival productions of "A Little Night Music," plus two performances of Sondheim himself.

    Terry Trotter  "Night Waltz"
    Len Cariou   "Now"
    Alexander Hanson   "Now"
    The Chorus   "Remember?"
    Len Cariou & Glynis Johns   "You Must Meet My Wife
    Cleo Laine   "Liasons"
    Catherine Zeta-Jones   "Send in the Clowns"
    Stephen Sondheim & Herbie Hancock   "They Ask Me Why I Believe In You"
    Stephen Sondheim   "Anyone Can Whistle"

    -- Michael Bourne

  • Women In Jazz Festival - Friday night report

    May 21, 2010. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

    Hi from Washington! On the first night of the 15th annual Mary Lou Wms Women In Jazz Fest @ the Kennedy Ctr, the All-Star Quintet delivered two WOW sets. The group is Dee Dee Bridgewater, 18-year-old saxophonist Grace Kelly, Geri Allen on piano, Esperanza Spalding on bass, and  Terri Lyne Carrington on drums. With Geri on the left and Terri Lyne on the right, this group has WINGS and flew. Esperanza's bass had a beautiful sound, great playing all night.

    Geri Allen, Esperanza Spalding by Margot Schulman
    Geri Allen, Esperanza Spalding .. photo by Margot Schulman, Kenn Ctr

    First set was MLW music from Miss DD for her friend Doris Duke through Pisces from the Zodiac Suite and New Musical Express. DDB came on for four vocals. Ghost of Love had haunting lyrics and odd steps in the melody, and Busy Busy is about how we don't have time to FEEL.

    The second set opened with original pieces. Then three things happened. DDB came back for Cotton Tail. Things became a one-on-one as she went from woman to woman, facing off, but this was not mere staging. It was dynamic and high-flying. I would love to hear it again and WE CAN I hope when JazzSet makes a show from this concert. When DDB got to young Grace, the saxophonist took a step back. Was she in the same league? But DDB persisted and Grace stepped up. (She already has been blessed by Phil Woods; he gave her a cap.) All Blues floated with a drawn out ending, long diminuendo. Sweet good night.

    After Cotton and before All Blues, Kevin Struthers of the Kenn Ctr wheeled a cake onstage and all sang Happy Birthday, taking DDB by total surprise (5/27 is the day). That was a momentary interlude. Between the Quintet sets, pianist Carmen Staaf (Seattle --> Boston --> Brooklyn --> Cornelia St Cafe next week) led her trio in originals and some MLW music. Quite a night here! The Washington Post blogged it here.