Category: Music

Dixieland downtown

Thursday, January 31st, 2008 | All Things, Music

Inside Trinity Church for one of their “Concerts at One,” part of the church’s Concerts-to-Go outreach program, now in its 40th season. This afternoon’s concert featured Doreen’s New Orleans Jazz, a Dixieland jazz trio made up of Doreen Ketchens on clarinet, her husband Lawrence Henry Ketchens II on tuba, and drummer Walter Harris.

Doreen’s Jazz

Doreen has been dubbed by the press as “The Queen of Jazz,” “The Female Louis Armstrong,” “Queen Clarinet,” and “Miss Satchmo.” Their toe-tapping renditions of “Sweet Georgia Brown” (best recognized as the Harlem Globetrotters’ theme) and “Basin Street Blues” illustrate why.

Doreen’s Jazz

Prior to Hurricane Katrina, the Ketchens used to perform in New Orleans near Jackson Square; they evacuated the city with their young daughter before the hurricane hit, losing virtually everything except for their musical instruments and a few possessions.

In between performances for American presidents (according to the group’s website, they’ve played before four of them), and their work spreading the culture and traditional music of New Orleans throughout the world, they still make it back for impromptu concerts on the streets of the French Quarter.

In 2006, the Ketchens participated in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s first ever South African cultural exchange program with the Field Band Foundation, an organization sponsored by The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to produce performances and events to increase awareness of the importance of HIV prevention.

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More pencils, more books

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008 | All Things, Books, Film, Music

My visit uptown coincided with the first day of Spring semester classes at Columbia. Remember how exciting that used to be?

Columbia University

I was last on campus in late October for the talk with New Yorker music critic Alex Ross. Since then, his cultural history of music since 1900, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, has landed on several “Best of 2007” lists including those of The New York Times, New York magazine and Slate. Earlier this month, the book was selected as a finalist for the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism.

Gothamist posted an interview with Ross today, in which he names Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood‘s score to Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood as his current soundtrack to the city. Disappointingly, the 33-minute piece (which has received raves all around) was disqualified from Oscar contention as it recycled parts of Greenwood’s 2005 BBC-commissioned suite “Popcorn Superhet Receiver.”

Ah, we still love you, Jonny.

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Music for mating

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008 | Events, Music

At Juilliard’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater for “A Modern Person’s Guide to Hooking Up and Breaking Up,” a vocal concert, presented as part of the 20th Anniversary season of the New York Festival of Song.

Steven Blier, NYFOS’s artistic director, and Michael Barrett, associate artistic director, in collaboration with the students of The Juilliard School’s Vocal Arts Department, and artists from the Juilliard Opera Center, put together this evening of song, which culminates the third annual installment of NYFOS@Juillard.

Peter Jay Sharp Theater

New York Festival of Song

For this year’s program, Blier and Barrett decided upon a theme that their cast of singers knew about firsthand: “mating, dating, betrayal, sexual urges of many stripes, and true love,” somewhat lighter fare than last year’s theme: “Songs of Peace and War.” The song selections were culled from sources ranging from musical theater, to German cabaret, to pop and rock.

The performance opened with a reading of “may i feel said he” by e e cummings. The ensemble (tenor Paul Appleby, baritone Paul LaRosa, mezzo-soprano Rebecca Jo Loeb, soprano Meredith Lustig, tenor Alex Mansoori, baritone David McFerrin, mezzo Renée L. Tatum, bass Marc Webster and soprano Jennifer Zetlan) alternated delivering lines on a darkened stage, which served as an apt introduction to the sometimes quite literal battle between the sexes. (“let’s go said he / not too far said she / what’s too far said he / where you are said she”)

The night’s sung selections were divided into themed segments: Drawing the Lines, Desire, Mars. vs. Venus, Variations and Working it Out, and ranged from the innocently flirty (Frank Loesser’s “Standing on the Corner” from The Most Happy Fella) to the somewhat less so (Kurt Weill’s “Ballad of Sexual Slavery” from Die Dreigroschenoper and songwriter-satirist Tom Lehrer’s “The Masochism Tango.”) There was a highbrow piece with the poetry of W.B. Yeats set to music by Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Moravec, a not-so-cryptic — and hilarious — ode to self love (A Chorus Line lyricist Ed Kleban’s “Do It Yourself“) and a rousing rendition of The Boss’s “Ain’t Got You” by ensemble member Appleby who, before marketing himself as a Rossini and Mozart tenor, sang lead in a Springsteen cover band. One of the quirkiest and most recent selections of the night was the 2006 piece “Neurotic and Lonely,” from the eight-song cycle Craigslistlieder, in which McFerrin sang words lifted directly from a Craigslist personal ad, set to music by none other than Brooklyn composer and performer Gabriel KahaneMP‘s talented young cousin, whom I met over one of our dinners at Public. “Must enjoy video games, must own a video game system: my parents refuse to buy one for me!!!! NO UGG BOOTS, NO LONG ISLAND!

The program was punctuated with interstitial quotations by a variety of “love experts,” ranging from Lord Byron to Miss Piggy, Oscar Wilde to St. Augustine (“Lord, make me chaste — but not yet.“)

For the finale, the entire group joined in a song and dance production of The Beatles’ “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You” with a saucy encore by Lehrer whose tune “I Got It From Agnes” ended things on a humorous note with the joys and pitfalls of spreading the … er, love.

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