May 25, 2010. Posted by Becca Pulliam.
The Fest climaxed on Saturday night with a full performance of Mary Lou's Mass featuring Carmen Lundy, the 20-piece Howard University vocal ensemble Afro Blue directed by Connaitre Miller, and the Geri Allen Trio with Kenny Davis and Andrew Cyrille (who worked with MLW). Lundy and Allen quietly cast a breath-holding spell with Lazarus, the story of the rich man and the beggar that begins unforgettably with "There was a selfish rich man who clothed himself in purple and fine linens, there also was a beggar-man named Lazarus. . ." (at least I think those are the words). It is one of the 15 brief movements of the Mass, which also unfolds like a history of the music, and this performance was powerful and effective.
Earlier, Geri Allen received the Lifetime Achievement Award. And she's so young! Her daughter was there to enjoy this honor with Geri.
Virginia Mayhew led a piano-free quartet in MLW compositions including Medi I and Medi II. Virginia had taken the music off recordings at the Institute of Jazz Studies. Her saxophone has a wonderful dry tone. To open the concert, Ann Patterson's Maiden Voyage came from Los Angeles with MLW charts from the 1940s and 60s (written for Ellington). This big band played well. Carol Chaikin on tenor took some strong solos. Saxophonist Patterson is the musical heart, and has worked intensely since 1980 to organize and lead Maiden Voyage. There's no institution behind it. There's Ann. Claire Daly, bari from New York, soloed on Chief Natoma. Other tunes were Lonely Moments (which the late Hank Jones used to play), Scratchin in the Gravel, O.W., Scorpio from the Zodiac Suite, New Musical Express. The full swing to modern MLW arc was traversed.
In the 2010-11 season, JazzSet will feature this music from the 15th annual Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival at the Kennedy Center. Stay with us!
© 2010 WBGO
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.
© 2010 WBGO
May 23, 2010. Posted by Michael Bourne.
Stephen 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
© 2010 WBGO