Rss

Tapping the Roots of American Music

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars

The closing concert of the enterprising Riverside Symphony´s 29th season, on Wednesday evening at Alice Tully Hall, was a thematic program that pulled together 20th-century works with roots in American vernacular music. It was, in a way, the perfect program for our eclectic, genre-hopping time, not only because it illustrated the porousness between formal and popular styles, but it also showed that this supposedly trendy approach is really nothing new. The two works on the first half of the program, after all, were composed in the 1920s.

Copland´s "Music for the Theater" (1925) was not composed for theatrical use at all, but for the concert hall; the Boston Symphony, under Serge Koussevitzky, gave the piece its premiere. But the work is steeped in the pop conventions of its time. The fast movements, especially, draw on jazz moves, and are meant to swing – as they did in this performance, led by George Rothman; the slow movements, with their prominent trumpet and English horn solos, evoke crooning vocalists and slow dances. You even hear a hint of Gershwin´s "Rhapsody in Blue," a predecessor (by a year) in the world of symphonic jazz crossovers.

Weill´s "Threepenny Opera" (1928) has tendrils that reach toward American jazz too. But its allusions are more oblique – a matter of rhythm and spirit rather than harmony or melody – and its more dominant accent is that of the German cabaret. In a tight, vigorous performance of a suite from that work, the orchestra´s woodwinds, brasses and percussion (with guitar, banjo and piano) thoroughly captured the music´s essence and conveyed a palpable sense of its dark atmosphere and pervasive restlessness.

Songs That Rock the Boat, With Heart and Soul, Too

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars

On the face of it, Frank Loesser, one of Broadway´s all-time great wielders of urban slang, and Karen Oberlin, a demure pop-jazz singer who radiates a subdued glamour, are not a natural fit. Had he lived in a later time, Loesser, who died in 1969, might have turned a Martin Scorsese movie like "Raging Bull" into a hard-boiled pop opera. Nothing about Ms. Oberlin, whose tribute to Loesser, "Heart and Soul: A Centenary Celebration of Frank Loesser," is playing at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, could be described as hard-boiled. She is no smoldering Vikki LaMotta. Nor could I imagine her in "Guys and Dolls," playing Miss Adelaide, whose comic signature song, "Adelaide´s Lament," is conspicuously missing from this show. (Sarah Brown, yes.)

But there are other aspects to Loesser besides the wisecracking pre-Beat poet of "Guys and Dolls." And in "Heart and Soul" Ms. Oberlin concentrates on Loesser´s softer-edged zaniness and on his unjustly neglected romantic side. Several of Loesser´s great ballads – notably, "I´ve Never Been in Love Before," "I Wish I Didn´t Love You So" and "Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year" – were given careful, contemplative readings in Wednesday´s show.

Beyond having a pretty voice, poise and interpretive insight, Ms. Oberlin is a thorough researcher who placed many of the songs in a historical or personal context. The frisky "Bloop, Bleep!" and the galloping boogie-woogie "Rumble, Rumble, Rumble," she explained, described Loesser´s nocturnal frustration at the sounds of dripping faucets and an upstairs piano player.

Her interpretation of "Love Isnt Born (Its Made)," a song with music by Arthur Schwartz that Ann Sheridan introduced in the 1943 movie "Thank Your Lucky Stars," emphasized its message as a hard-headed advice song to women to be more sexually aggressive. "Here is a fact to face:/A man wont take a taxi just to get no place," it declares.

Ms. Oberlin brought enough sass to "Hamlet," Loesser´s riotously funny translation of Shakespeare into gangsterese ("He bumped off his uncle/and he Mickey Finned his mother") to make the song register.

Throughout the smart, polished show, she maintained a comfortable rapport with her musicians, the fleet, airy jazz pianist Jon Weber, who took a couple of impressive solos, and the bassist Sean Smith.

Karen Oberlin continues through June 19 at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, 59 West 44th Street, Manhattan; (212) 419-9331.

A Debut, an Anniversary and a Springboard

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars

An exuberant cacophony greeted audience members entering Riverside Church before a concert by the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra on Tuesday evening, as ensemble members sat onstage energetically rehearsing. Significant collective and individual preparation had clearly gone into their terrific concert, the orchestra´s New York debut appearance, celebrating the 40th anniversary of its founding by Leonard Slatkin, the former music director and now conductor laureate of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

music director of the youth ensemble (comprising musicians ages 12 to 22) and resident conductor of the St. Louis Symphony, has trained his charges exceptionally well. The string, woodwind, brass and percussion sections also received coaching from members of the New York Philharmonic before the concert, which was a benefit for the Riverside Food Pantry.

Mr. Stare inspired the musicians to impressive heights here, opening with a polished and suitably spirited rendition of Brahms´s "Academic Festival Overture." Brahms described the work – written to thank the University of Breslau, then part of the German Empire, for giving him an honorary doctorate – as "a very boisterous potpourri of student songs."

The brass section, often the weakest link in a professional orchestra, shone in the first movement of Mendelssohn´s "Reformation" Symphony and throughout the evening. Mr. Stare also coaxed elegant phrasing and nuanced dynamic contrasts from the string players in the symphony, composed in 1830 for celebrations of the 300th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession, a cornerstone of the Lutheran faith. (For various reasons that work was not presented during the festivities.) The woodwind players also performed well, with all sections meshing into a vigorous and expressive whole.

After intermission came Vaughan Williams "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis," with elegantly rendered solos by Jecoliah Wang, the concertmaster, and Emma Kinsley, a violist. The second half also included a technically proficient and lively rendition of the Overture to Bernstein´s "Candide" and concluded with a vivacious interpretation of Rimsky-Korsakov´s colorful "Russian Easter Festival."

The Sounds and Songs of Stanley Cup Rivals

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars

Here at the Wachovia Center, "God Bless America" is performed live by Lauren Hart or with her accompanying a videotape by Kate Smith, who died in 1986.

"It´s just so much fun for me," Hart, wearing her lucky outfit – a black leather jacket, a Flyers T-shirt from 1974, their first Stanley Cup year, and other items – said before Game 6 on Wednesday. "Although when we were in Chicago the other day, someone said, ´You should go down to the ice and elbow the guy.´ "

"The guy" is Jim Cornelison, who sings "The Star-Spangled Banner" before Blackhawks games at the United Center. Blackhawks fans are known for their nonstop cheering during the anthem – not that anyone can hear it. Readings on a monitor placed in a penalty box by the N.H.L. during the Cup finals measured 122 decibels – a level that can cause damage to hearing at three to four minutes of sustained exposure.

The sound levels for "God Bless America" at the Wachovia Center do not quite reach that plateau – 114 decibels was the N.H.L.´s highest measurement for Games 3 and 4 – but the performance has been inspiring for the Flyers.

The Flyers went into Game 6 with a record of 88-22-4 in games at which Smith sang, either live or on a recording, including 9-1 this postseason.

Smith´s performance of the 1918 Irving Berlin song has been a Flyers talisman since the team played it for the first time in December 1969, the second season of its existence. Smith herself showed up to sing it live at the Flyers´ 1973 home opener.

She also sang it live before the 1974 game against the Boston Bruins in which the Flyers won their first Stanley Cup, and again before Game 7 of the 1975 semifinals, after the Islanders had rallied from a three-games-to-none deficit. The Islanders´ captain, Eddie Westfall, tried to trump Smith´s mojo by presenting her with a bouquet, but it didn´t work.

The Flyers won their second Cup after "God Bless America" was played later that postseason, at the last home game of the finals series against the Buffalo Sabres. That performance gave them a 44-3-1 record with Smith singing. They have not fallen off too much in the intervening Cup-less years. They were 44-19-3 going into Wednesday.

Hart, 41, is the daughter of Gene Hart, the play-by-play announcer on Flyers radio broadcasts from their inception in 1967 until 1995. Gene Hart, who died in 1999, called both Cup victories.

Lauren Hart is a professional singer and the Flyers´ full-time anthem singer since 1998. She has been voted the N.H.L.´s best anthem performer.

Hart said that having grown up with the Flyers and watching Smith´s performances, it was not difficult to synch with the videotape, even the first time she tried.

"It was very comfortable," Hart said. "We did it a half-hour before the doors opened. For me, before they even told me what to sing, it was just instinctive which part would be mine, how we would come together. I just felt it – I rehearsed it once, and that was it."

Hart pointed out her lucky psychedelic paisley socks, which stay hidden beneath her pantsuit. "These are my lucky socks that no one ever sees," she said. "I have all my little necklaces and bracelets. Nothing changes, everything stays on the same hand.

"This is a great tradition unique to hockey, the anthems in both cities, and also to honor Kate Smith this way. We take great pride in that, and I´m so lucky that it turned out to be me. Because when I was a kid, I watched many games thinking, I wish I could do that."

Lady Madonna? Gaga Channels Madge in Video

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars

Is Lady Gagas Alejandro Video a Rip-Off or Homage to Madonna?
Gagas most-recent single, Alejandro,premiered, fans and music writers have been divided over whether Gaga was trying to flatter the Material Girl or rip-off her best-known videos.Madge has yet to weigh in on the debate. Her rep did not respond to ABCNews.com request for comment. But if her remarks at last Sundays MTV Movie Awards in which she called Gaga beautiful are any indication, then Madonna is most likely flattered.The nearly nine-minute video in which Gaga pays homage to Madonnas Like a Prayer and Vogue videos, has been drawing controversy for other reasons, too. Gaga swallows rosary beads while dressed as a nun in red latex, and simulates having sex while in the presence of a crucifix.

On the Horns of Abundance: Jazz Festivals Resound

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars

N extraordinary amount of jazz hits New York over the next two weeks: four festivals, about 150 sets, and much of it extracurricular to the usual riches at the clubs. It´s a time of marathons and breadth and goes in heavy for the new: not just youth, but also new aesthetic combinations, new attitudes toward repertory, new influences and paradigms, new clubs and theaters. Unlike some past jazz festival seasons, with more brand-polishing and sentimental favorites, this one – in the aggregate – can really show you where both the music and the culture of jazz in New York have gotten to. The news releases plonked into e-mailboxes throughout the spring. First to announce a schedule was the old-school jazz promoter George Wein. After the exit of JVC as his regular sponsor, he returns this year with the first annual CareFusion Jazz Festival, named after the medical technology company that is writing its checks. It´s a mixture: typical JVC-esque big-hall bookings (Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Joao Gilberto); carefully chosen smaller shows with some of the best younger bandleaders, including Ambrose Akinmusire and Darcy James Argue; and a few gigs for early and swing-era jazz fans.Next, the 15th Vision Festival, an event planned and run community-style, with minimum sponsorship and maximum input from musicians, by Patricia Parker; it´s built around the lineage of free improvisation and jazz´s nonmainstream. This year´s festival is half again as big as last year´s. It contains an evening devoted to the Chicago pianist Muhal Richard Abrams and his circle and gigs by the local scene´s veterans, including the saxophonists Charles Gayle and David S. Ware, as well as the improvising singer Fay Victor, the scholarly and freewheeling Chicago-based quintet People, Places & Things and the rock band Akron/Family. The shows spread through the Lower East Side: clubs, cultural centers, even the playground of the Campos Plaza housing development on East 13th Street. Then came news of the first Undead Jazzfest, two nights of hear-a-thons in clubs on a stretch of Bleecker and Sullivan Streets, this Saturday and Sunday. It occupies, roughly, the middle path between Vision Festival and CareFusion: heavy on neither free improvisation nor the mainstream-jazz continuum.

Its the sound of the adventurous present, including the drummer and composer John Hollenbeck, the saxophonist Steve Coleman, and Fight the Big Bull, a roustabout little big band from Richmond, Va. It´s produced by Brice Rosenbloom and Adam Schatz, who are doing much to expand, diversify and generally excite the New York jazz audience through their annual Winter Jazzfest.

Hello world!

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars

Welcome to Insva. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!