Ravel Review Roundup

Ravel: Concerto for Piano & Orchestra in G major; Concerto in D major for the Left Hand; Fauré: Ballade in F-sharp minor, Op. 19
Yuja Wang/Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra/Lionel Bringuier (Deutsche Grammophon)
Complete Piano Works of Ravel: Sérénade grotesque; Menuet antique; Pavane pour une Infante défunte; Jeux d'eau; Sonatine; Miroirs; Gaspard de la nuit; Menuet sur le nom de Haydn; Valses Nobles et Sentimentales; Prélude; À la manière de…Borodine; À la manière de…Chabrier; Le Tombeau de Couperin; Menuet in C-sharp minor; La Valse; Casella: À la manière de…Ravel; Honegger: Hommage à Ravel; Briggs: Encore avec Ravel; Plate: Erinnerung au Maurice Ravel; Mason: Galoches en d'aoút
Hinrich Alpers (Honens)
Ravel: Miroirs; Pavane pour une infante defunte; Gaspard de la nuit
Carlo Grante (Music & Arts)

The promo mailings have recently yielded a new crop of Ravel recordings. None displace my favorites, but all are interesting and worth discussing. Read more »

Happy Thanksgiving, 2015!

From all of us to all of you, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Music and Sex #10: Writing and Rachel Redux

Music and Sex: Scenes from a life - A novel in progress (first chapter here).

Like his bandmates, Walter was relieved that the group could lapse for a while as midterms approached. He had to write a paper for Lit.Hum. that he hadn't started yet. He decided to do it on More's Utopia, since he'd been familiar with it since high school thanks to AP English and thus had already read it all instead of just the sections on the syllabus. He like More too, as a person, though granted that was based on the play A Man for All Seasons. The stubbornness of his position in regard to Henry VIII was something Walter identified with, though he doubted he'd be willing to be executed over anything no matter how right he thought he was. Read more »

New Neil Young Archives Release Draws from Neglected Period

Neil Young and Bluenote Café: Bluenote Café (Reprise)

This is Performance Series 11 from the Neil Young Archives project, a two-CD set of live recordings from eleven 1987-88 shows with his Bluenotes band, which had to be renamed because of a lawsuit by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. (The new name better reflects Neil's original inspiration, a beloved Winnipeg bar called, yes, Blue Note Café, shown on the cover.) The first two tracks on Bluenote Café are from the year before This Note's for You was released, the rest (oddly, presented in chronological order of recording date, with just one exception) coming from the tour to promote its release.

There has never been a consensus about This Note's for You, which marked Young's return to Reprise Records after his contentious tenure at Geffen, when his stylistic shifts into genre tangents (rockabilly, electronica) led to Geffen actually suing Young. Read more »

Ron Sunshine: Bring It Home

Ron Sunshine: Bring It Home (Rondette)

Ron Sunshine's mix of jazz, soul, and blues is always a little different from album to album. This time out the vibe is classy late-'50s/early '60s R&B with a small horn section and lots of blues shuffles. The horns and the pianist will sometimes play jazz harmonies, but in general the feeling is more down-home than his more swing-oriented efforts were -- though we're talking fine distinctions here; he's not changing styles, just shifting leanings by degrees. Read more »

Song of the Week: Bob Dylan - "Subterranean Homesick Blues" (Alternate Take & Video)

I'm inspired. And you will be, too, after you watch this video. Not much more need be said about Sir Bob Dylan. Many consider these years to be the zenith of his songwriting prowess. You should know this "rap" song already, but you may not have heard or seen this alternate version taken from his latest must-have collection Bob Dylan - The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12 (Columbia Records). Hey, spot the poet Allen Ginsberg hanging out in the background!

Paint It Black!

Anders Knutsson
Van Der Plas Gallery, NYC
September 5 - October 17, 2015

In his recent exhibition at Van Der Plas Gallery, entitled "Light, Time and Patience," Anders Knutsson spotlights color, the essential element that adds exponentially to the richness and vibrancy of visual art. Without the stimulation generated by hues our senses go hungry. Swedish American painter Knutsson has been exploring issues of color since the mid-1970’s, in dense wax and oil on linen “monochrome” paintings that highlight one pure color per painting. Their delicately modulated surfaces may look deceptively simple, but each piece involves the accumulation of 7 – 12 layers of carefully applied paint that creates luminous transparent depths. A number of the artist’s new works, engendered in 2014 by his joint project with Swedish weaver Hanna Kristine Isaksson, are referred to as "weave-paintings." Incorporating Knutsson's input on threads, fabric and design, Isaksson uses traditional Nordic techniques and patterns to weave linens that generate fresh assertions of light and color on the surface texture. Read more »

French Composers

In the wake of the terrible attacks in Paris, I found myself listening to a lot of French music and thinking about the Leonard Bernstein quote going around on Facebook: "This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before." This list came to seem like my natural response. A very small response, I know. This list is chronological and leaves off people I should probably include. The forty [note: now forty-one] composers listed below are merely a start. Read more »

Dandy Going Darkly through America!

Dandy Darkly's Trigger Happy!
Written and performed by
Neil Arthur James
Directed by Ian Bjorklund
Under St. Mark's Theater, NYC
October 29-31, 2015

Trigger Happy!, storytelling performance artist Dandy Darkly’s newest work, is a mesmerizingly entertaining, dark-toned foray into social criticism, a post-mortem on a still-living patient: America. The themes Mr. Darkly selected for his autopsy are in the media on a daily basis. The opinion page in The New York Times, Salon, and the Huffington Post supply daily missives about damaged U.S. soldiers returning from perversely unfocused wars, our cult of celebrity, gentrification neutering a once vibrantly inclusive social scene, and how political correctness police act to straightjacket open social discourse. Mr. Darkly's richly detailed, outrageous, and metaphoric tales examine these themes with an exactitude whose impact leaves our conventional media eating dust -- and his audience breathless with both awe and laughter. Read more »

Buckminster Fuller in Brooklyn

God is a Verb
Written by Gavin Broady Directed by Chad Lindsey
Hook & Eye Theater, The Actors Fund Art Center, NYC
November 4-November 21, 2015

Gavin Broady and the Hook and Eye Theater company’s outstanding new play God is a Verb invites audiences to step out of the box and into the geodesic dome. This bold, visually and intellectually exciting production revolves around quirky theorist, designer, and inventor R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983), but it is assertively not, as the program reminds us, a biographical piece. Instead, billed as an absurdist comedy, it takes place within its subject's mind, focusing on his decades-long World Game Project but skillfully interweaving the personal and the political, the individual and the global, throughout its 100 compelling minutes. Read more »

Song of the Week: Carlos Timón - "Carta al desastre"

Hints of the baritone vocals of Scott Walker, guitar playing chops of fellow countryman José González, and the pop rock sensibilities of Belle & Sebastian brush against the melancholy vibe of this Spanish-born, Göteborg, Sweden-based guitarist and composer's latest offering. Like a walk in crisp autumn weather, "Carta al desastre" (literal translation is "Letter to Disaster") is the perfect soundtrack for shorter days and falling leaves. From his new album Solar Rapé (Pueblo Records); one of my favorite albums of the year and on repeated shuffle for weeks now.

Because Me

Because Me
Written and directed by Max Baker
Stable Cable Lab Co. at The Wild Project, NYC
October 29-November 7, 2015

After last spring's excellent Live from the Surface of the Moon, writer-director Max Baker returns to The Wild Project in the East Village with his new play, Because Me. Live from the Surface of the Moon focused on a small group of friends navigating America’' transition from the '60s into the '70s, and Because Me similarly examines a small network of individuals in the context of their historical moment; but here that moment is our present. Whereas Baker's previous play included a significant New Year's Eve, its counterpart threshold here is more personal: protagonist Else's looming 30th birthday. Read more »

Music and Sex #9: Debut

Music and Sex: Scenes from a life - A novel in progress (first chapter here).

Walter got a call from Tony about getting together and, while they were chatting, complained about the guitarist situation.

"Hey, I know a guy who wants to be in a band. He's been bitching about everybody here playing guitar so there aren't enough bands to go around. You should talk to him."

Walter did so within minutes of getting the guy's phone number. Albert Imperatori, or as he styled himself, Emperor Albert, listened to Walter's explanation of what the band was aiming for, and its repertoire, and said, "I'm in. Better have a rehearsal tonight if you've got a gig tomorrow, right?" Read more »

Song of the Week: The Cramps - "I Was a Teenage Werewolf"

Happy Halloween! A classic from The Cramps, "I Was a Teenage Werewolf" is the perfect pyschobilly candy-with-razor-blade sweet treat for Halloween. Lux Interior (Erick Purkhiser) and Poison Ivy Rorschach (Kristy Wallace) getting it done on stage. Spooky, but cool, right? Read more »

Macbeth (Of The Oppressed)

Macbeth (of the Oppressed)
Written by William Shakespeare
Adapted and Directed by Tom Slot
Fab Marquee Productions The Theater at the 14th Street NYC
October 8-October 24, 2015

Shakespeare is one of the most frequently adapted playwrights in the English language, to the point that Shakespearean adaptation studies has become its own academic sub-field, and Macbeth, with its gothic elements and relatively streamlined tragedy of ambition, is a strong contender for his most frequently adapted play. Aside from more straightforward versions like the upcoming Michael Fassbender movie, the film Scotland PA, for instance, reimagined it as the story of a ruthless fast-food entrepreneur, Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood transposed it into feudal Japan, Mickey B filtered it through the experiences and language of Northern Irish inmates, and no fewer than two heavy metal bands have turned it into concept albums. Tom Slot’s adaptation, Macbeth (of the Oppressed) is less radical in its changes than some of these, but the changes it does make produce some radical effects. Read more »

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