Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Revisiting a Macabre Little 21st Century Masterpiece by NOW Ensemble

Here’s something this blog missed over several years worth of adjacency to October-long Halloween celebrations of dark music: NOW Ensemble‘s 2019 recording of Yevgeniy Sharlat’s potently picturesque triptych Spare the Rod!, which is still streaming at Bandcamp. The theme is the pervasive child abuse lurking beneath the surface of classic European fables. This particular piece isn’t listed on the bill, but the unorthodox 21st century chamber ensemble are playing what could be equally provocative works by Sarah Kirkland Snider, Judd Greenstein, Sean Friar, Patrick Burke, and their own members tomorrow night, Dec 8 at 7 PM at the Brooklyn Public Library Grand Army Plaza branch. The concert is free and there are no restrictions.

The suite’s first part is Rise, which is as classic as horror film scores get and even has a great video. At first there’s a gleefully macabre, disquietingly syncopated intertwine from two custom-made Yuliya Lanina music boxes (ensemble guitarist Mark Dancigers gets credit for cranking them). Then there are brief gusts from the group, anxiously flitting little accents from Michael Mizrahi’s piano and more gremlin-like accents from Alex Sopp’s flute and the recorders played by bassist Logan Coale and clarinetist Alicia Lee.

A flash of dramatic art-rock is over in barely a few bars, then with characteristic wit from Sopp the group segue into part two, Play. The kazoo choir would be funny if it wasn’t so creepy; a brief detour into shrieking recorder glissandos borders on unlistenable. Again, Mizrahi and Dancigers hint at a majestic rock anthem.

The way Sharlat reintroduces the music box theme via Lee’s clarinet is an artful little touch. While the music boxes eventually cede to a zany little polka, it isn’t long before a morose, Messiaenic tidal pool seeps in.

The final sequence, aptly titled Dream, begins as a briskly pulsing canon of sorts, Dancigers’ lingering resonance in contrast with the bubbly interweave of the woodwinds Does the child at the center of this surreal fable – pictured screaming and possibly in tears on the album cover – escape unscathed? No spoilers! This testifies equally to the group’s sense of fun as well as their dead-serious side and makes an appropriate soundtrack for a day when deadly so-called “bivalent boosters” are rubberstamped by the FDA as being appropriate for six-month-olds.

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December 7, 2022 Posted by | avant garde music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Monty Alexander Feels the Spirits at Trinity Church

Pianist Monty Alexander told the crowd at his show at Trinity Church today that “Last year I hit that golden number called 78.” He was referring, of course, to the 78 RPM record, the vehicle that spread the golden age of jazz around the world.

No one would have known his age if the man who has come to personify Jamaican jazz hadn’t mentioned it. In a dynamic, rising and falling hour and a half onstage with bassist Luke Sellick and drummer Jason Brown, he fired off crystalline cascades, vigorous rhythms and an reaffirmed his status as first-ballot, inimitably quotable hall-of-famer. “If I stop playing the piano, I confuse the spirit.”

One early highlight was an Ellington tune with a lyrical bowed Sellick solo, then a misterioso drum break which Alexander leapt out of to reassert the lively mood with his pointillistic ragtimey descents, The dubwise segue into Bob Marley’s Forever Loving Jah was the first of the reggae-jazz remakes that came to define Alexander’s career for awhile in the 90s and zeros. This one gave him a chance to hit harder on the low end. Brown’s shamanic rimshots and Sellick’s grit on the low end completed the picture.

Alexander follow a series of hymnal variations to a an immersive resonance, then worked his way up into No Woman No Cry. The ornate High Romantic eight-chord fakeout midway through this spare, unadorned reinvention was the high point of the show. A series of phantasmagorical flourishes were also hardly expected in the jump blues version of A Night in Tunisia that followed, as were were Brown’s flashy rudiments.

Moments of unease also persisted but then receded as Alexander built a spare swing on the next number, Renewal. He mentioned how the cultural diversity of his native country mirrors this one in Out of Many, One People, his insistent, optimistically climbing riffs reaching a light-fingered reggae groove

Hope, as Alexander and Brown saw it this time out, began with a regal drama and, then the pianist mined stern, ambered 19th century gospel phrasing. The trio followed with a spacious take of Besame Mucho, picked up with a swing, and then merged minor-key bite in the blues boogie Slappin’, which Alexander dedicated to the piano teacher he’d fled when she slapped his finger with a ruler.

The trio brought the ambience down with River, another Alexander original, rising from mystical glimmer to a lithely understated reggae groove driven by Sellick’s dancing arpeggios. They closed with what seemed to be a determined, percussive mashup of Ray Charles’ What I Say and When the Saints Go Marching In.

December 4, 2022 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inspiration and Rapture From Harpist Edmar Castaneda in a Sonically Challenging Downtown Space

At his concert today at St. Paul’s Chapel downtown, harpist Edmar Castaneda told the small crowd huddled together in the wintry chill under the balcony organ that he was sick of playing “For computers.” The audience seconded that observation and roared their approval when he’d fire off sparkling cascades, playing brisk melody lines against supple basslines, bending the body of his instrument for a wah-wah effect, or slamming the strings at the end of a song like the inside of a piano to cap off a big coda. But lockdown-era cabin fever aside, at this show Castaneda felt the room’s nature reverb and focused more on rapture and resonance than the pyrotechnics he’s best known for.

His wife, singer Andrea Tierra, marveled at how the Financial District had revitalized itself in the years since she’d walked around the neighborhood during the somber, acrid aftermath of 9/11. “”We always have to fight…New York always has to keep coming back, I think this is a very important message in this part of the city,” she emphasized.

Airing out her understatedly powerful, expressive alto voice, she channeled a distant angst as her husband rose from a suspenseful pulsing, verdant intro to a slow, spiky, bolero-tinged ballad, possibly titled Me Voy Llorando. It was a prime example of the individualistic blend of latin jazz and nueva cancion he’s made a name for himself with – and has played with his wife, whom he instantly fell in love with at a jam session in Queens eighteen years ago.

Tierra introduced a more spare, dancing tune, Cancion Con Todos, as a message of unity for all the people of the Americas, giving voice to citizens struggling for peace, The group – which also included incisive soprano saxophonist Shlomi Cohen and a terse, purposeful drummer – took the song bouncing, doublespeed, with an insistent solo out.

Castaneda played solo on Hecho (“Acts,” a Biblical reference), bringing the atmosphere up from guarded hope to starrier, more rhythmic terrain and a graceful, reflective ending. From there, he brought the rhythm section back to close the set with a wildly flurrying, merengue-flavored tune, Fresh Water, bristling with modal intensity over staggered, strutting syncopation.

November 29, 2022 Posted by | concert, jazz, latin music, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Smart, Dynamic Debut Album and a Bed-Stuy Show by a Rising Star Saxophonist

It was mid-May, 2021 – eighteen months ago, but it feels like a lifetime. At that point in time, no one in New York knew whether indoor concerts that weren’t clandestine would ever exist in this city again. Fortuitously, photographer Jimmy Katz had been scheduling a series of free outdoor jazz shows in Central Park, moving from one location to another in search of the ideal spot.

One of those locations was a clearing a few blocks north of the 82nd Street entrance on the west side. Mark Turner had played an unselfconsciously gorgeous set with a trio up on the hill to the south the previous afternoon. This particular day, a twentysomething tenor saxophonist with a muscular style was volleying her way through a handful of classic Coltrane tunes, out in front of a chordless quartet. Who was this fiery yet thoughtful player?

As it turned out, it was Julieta Eugenio. Even more serendipitously. she stuck around. She put out an album, Jump – streaming at Spotify – and has a gig coming up on Dec 6 at 9 PM at Bar Lunatico with the rhythm section on the record, Matt Dwonszyk on bass and Jonathan Barber on drums.

On the record, Eugenio is more reserved than she is onstage: either way, she doesn’t waste notes. The opening number is titled Efes – a shout-out to the delicious Turkish lager beer, maybe? No Turkish flavor in this one, but sizzling trills, a shout-out to an iconic Paul Desmond riff, and a lot of judicious use of space as Barber reaches for textures and surprise punches from around the kit. Meanwhile, Dwonszyk runs catchy, spring-loaded riffage, holding the center and firing off a wryly colorful solo midway through.

Eugenio opts for a balmy approach in the album’s title track, Barber prowling among the cymbals this time, Dwonszyk again serving as incisive anchor. There’s striking contrast between her spare, reflective lines, Barber’s carnivalesque drive and Dwonszyk’s bounce in La Jungla.

Eugenio stays in misty, even more spacious mode in the fond, vivid ballad For You. Racoon Tune turns out to be a warmly ornamented, latin funk-tinged number and a long launching pad for Eugenio to dance here way up to a percussively burning bass solo.

The version of Flamingo here is a samba, Dwonszyk working a supple, long-limbed pulse over an altered clave as Eugenio clusters and then backs away. She builds brooding, modally-infused resonance over a similar groove in Another Bliss, the album’s most darkly striking number, which the band take down to a mysterious whisper at the end.

Eugenio reinvents Billie Holiday’s Crazy He Calls Me as an opiated, expansive jazz waltz until Dwonszyk breaks the spell with his sober solo out. The group hit a pensive drive with Snowbirds, the bandleader in enigmatic mode again, Barber holding back from chewing the scenery with his boom-and-splash. It’s the best song on the album.

The trio close with the similarly moody Tres: it’s an ambience that suits these three well. Eugenio is really someone to keep your eye on.

November 26, 2022 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Viscerally Transcendent New Album and a Bed-Stuy Gig From Pianist Eri Yamamoto

Pianist Eri Yamamoto survived a hideous attack to make a beautiful record. In the early days of the 2020 lockdown, Yamamoto was assaulted on a Brookyn street. Her attacker mistook her for Chinese (she’s Japanese) and accused her of unleashing the Covid virus (which seems to have been manufactured in China, but was invented in a North Carolina bioweapons lab). This is the kind of incident that takes place when a society is divided and conquered, when orange-haired demagogues step to the podium to make divisive anti-Asian statements.

Although Yamamoto is a streetwise New Yorker – she honed her chops back in the 90s at the gritty Avenue B Social Club – the assault left her so shaken that she began wearing a purple wig and shades to hide her features.

But she transcended the attack, to the point where for the first time, she sings on record. Her new album A Woman With a Purple Wig is streaming at Bandcamp. She’s playing Bar Lunatico on Nov 30 at 9 PM.

On the album, Yamamoto reflects on the grimness of 2020, but also offers hope for the future. She opens the first track, Challenge, with a series of biting, brooding arpeggios over the low-key, lithe groove of bassist David Ambrosio and drummer Ikuo Takeuchi. With a calm determination, she expands from the center, building almost imperceptibly to a handful of jaunty flourishes. Takeuchi churns around as Yamamoto chooses her spots and then returns with a sober baroque focus before handing off to Ambrosio’s punching, dancing lines.

“One day I bought a wig on the internet, my favorite color,” she sings over a brisk, tightly wound stroll on the album’s title track: “Only twenty bucks…did you know that a purple wig has a special power?” Sarcasm reaches redline until Yamamoto runs the song’s chilling central mantra: it will resonate with anyone who’s been targeted for violence. It’s impossible to think of a more powerful jazz song released this year.

Ends to Start reflects Yamamoto’s hope that we will emerge from the ongoing reign of terror to create a better world, the intricate piano/bass polyrhythms in a tight interweave as Takeuchi shifts subtly between waltz time and a steady clave. Again, Yamamoto’s lines are spacious and reflective, up to a puckish crescendo and an eventual;y restrained majesty following a flurrying bass solo.

She returns to the mic for Colors Are Beautiful, a slow, catchy, allusively gospel-tinged singalong salute to ethnic diversity. Her gentle but bright oldschool soul riffage quickly falls away for a hushed bass solo over misty cymbals as Sounds of Peace gets underway, then she works through a pensive series of gospel-inspired variations.

Track six is titled Shout, a sleekly undulating, blues-infused number with lively extrovert drums. Yamamoto closes the album with Internal Beat, her most complex and animated postbop-style tune here, fueled by Takeuchi’s colorful accents.

November 25, 2022 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pianist Mike Holober’s Lavish, Dynamic Song Cycle Offers Optimism and Positivity When We Really Need It

Pianist Mike Holober is best known as a composer of picturesque, often breathtaking big band jazz. But along with his role creating cinematic charts for the NDR Bigband, he’s also a jazz songwriter. Fortuitously, he managed to record his latest album, Don’t Let Go live in concert at Aaron Davis Hall uptown in the fall of 2019, right around the same time that Event 201 was taking place. A project for his Balancing Act septet, it’s a lavish fourteen-part song cycle streaming at Sunnyside Records. Holober is providing an rare, intimate look at how this sausage gets made in a duo set with soprano saxophonist Charles Pillow at Mezzrow on Nov 30, with sets at 7:30 and 9 PM. Cover is $25 cash at the door.

Needless to say, this symphonically thematic suite seems very prescient considering what’s transpired over the last 32 months. It begins with Breathe Deep, a lustrous dawn theme in the shape of a gently syncopated canon, Holober’s piano slowly taking over from Marvin Stamm’s trumpet, Dick Oatts’ alto sax, Jason Rigby’s tenor sax and Mark Patterson’s trombone. Chanteuse Jamile takes centerstage to introduce the first of the songs, Morning Hope, a challenge to wake up, question, and “clear away the lies.” Holober’s piano foreshadows that promise, handing off to Mike McGuirk’s dancing bass solo over drummer Dennis Mackrel’s lithe, muted rimshots. Bright, balmy trumpet and warmly cantering piano against hazy vocalese fill out an optimistic picture.

Jamile offers wise advice to stay on the side of love in Four-Letter Words, a verdantly swaying, syncopated number, Oatts’ solo outlasting a bit of a storm. He switches to soprano for a blazing intro to Kiss the Ground, a bnrner with circling horn riffage over driving pedalpoint: “It ain’t coming round again,” Jamile warns before Mackrel takes it out unexpectedly.

Burnin’ Daylight begins warily, then brightens with Patterson’s spacious solo over an altered latin groove, Holober returning to an earlier, casually determined theme, Jamile cautioning us to keep our eye on the ball. There’s a similar trajectory from unease to distantly New Orleans-flavored ebullience in A Summer Midnight’s Dream. Necessary, the conclusion, allusively speaks to issues of personal sovereignty over a pouncing, icepick rhythm, with incisive solos from trombone and the saxes

Holober opens the second disc with I Wonder, his judicious, icily Messiaen-tinged solo introducing a slightly more driving variation on the initial cantering theme as Jamile channels her refusal to concede to fear. Although You’re a Long Way from Home has folksy, pastoral tinges, the unease persists despite Patterson’s genial, low-key solo.

Mackrel’s misty brushes underpin Holober’s spacious piano, Jamile tracing a trail of betrayal in You Never Know, Stamm adding a bittersweet, lingering solo as the rhythm subtly shifts into swing. Smile Slow, a summery interlude for Holober and Rigby, sets up Letting Go, a lilting, bossa-tinged ballad with a judicious but opaque soprano sax solo at the center.

Holober weaves the first disc’s jumping final theme into Touch the Sky, with more of a tropical bounce and a lively two-sax conversation: it’s the album’s most entertaining number. The concert ends with Don’t Let Go, Jamile asserting that “Things are better than they seem” and holding out hope over Holober’s tersely undulating melody, Rigby bringing in an inviting, final cloud cover. More jazz artists should make live albums like this one.

November 24, 2022 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Colorful, Frequently Rapturous Brooklyn Celebration of Yuko Fujiyama’s Music

Last night at Roulette an innovative, inspired cast of Japanese and Americana musicians played a fascinating salute to Yuko Fujiyama, concluding a two-night stand in celebration of the composer and pianist’s individualistic work. The dynamic shifts from animated, incisive, typically somewhat minimalist melodies, to hushed rapture and occasional controlled pandemonium, mirrored a distinctly Japanese sensibility more than the tonalities did.

Solo behind the drumkit, Tetsu Nagasawa opened the evening with an elegant hailstorm on the cymbals. Slowly moving to a coyly noirish rattle, he reached toward gale force, lashing the shoreline before descending to a muted rain on the roof that eventually drifted away. Following a steady, rather hypnotic upward trajectory, he then brought the ambience down to a hushed, shamanic ambience spiced with majestic cymbal washes.

Pianist Sylvie Courvoisier then joined him, adding a few judicious plucks over a distant rustle before introducing a staggered, minimalist pedalpoint. Eerie clusters alternated with simple, emphatic rhythmic gestures. Nagasawa signaled a detour into a flickering jungle; a good cop/bad cop high-lo dynamic ensued over a circular rumble. Courvoisier pounced and threw elbows, then she coalesced into a climb that mirrored the opening drum solo as it decayed to silence.

After the intermission, a cross-pollinated ensemble of Do Yeon Kim on gayageum (the magical, warptoned Korean zither), Satoshi Takeishi on drums, Ned Rothenberg on reeds and Shoko Nagai on piano took over with an improvisation that began with a little furtive prowling around and grew more agitated, Kim’s circling riffs leading the way up to an insistent, pansori-like vocal attack.

A bit of a blizzard gave way to rapturous deep-space washes fueled by Rothenberg’s desolate clarinet, Nagai adding icily spacious glimmer. Gently skipping piano anchored crystalline clarinet curlicues, Rothenberg and Nagai converging in dark circles as the other two musicians looked on but eventually edged their way in. Trails of sparks flickered off; Nagai, who’d moved to a small synth, hit a backwards loop pedal; the spaceship reappeared and everyone got in but chaos ensued anyway.

Rothenberg’s eventual decision to pick up his shakuhachi brought a return to woodsy mysticism, from which Nagai, back on piano, led the ensemble on a long scramble. A cantering forward drive and an unexpected turn into neoromantic rivulets grew grittier as Nagai brought the music to a forceful coda.

For the night’s concluding number, Fujiyama took over on piano, bolstered by additional flute and trumpet, with Nagai moving to accordion. Yuma Uesaka conducted. A brief, lustrous introduction set up Fujiyama’s judicious, otherworldly, Messiaenic ripples: mournful late 50s Miles Davis came to mind.

Pensive trumpet amid gingerly romping piano and an uneasy haze were followed by Kim’s graceful bends. which introduced an interlude that quickly grew squirrelly and eventually frantic.

Rothenberg’s emergence as voice of reason was temporary. Uesaka stopped the works, then restarted them as more of a proper upward vector, with flutters from the flutes and two drummers. The allusive charge down to a final drift through the clouds made a fittingly magical conclusion.

The next concert at Roulette is November 27 at 8 PM with John Zorn’s New Masada Quintet; you can get in for $35 in advance.

November 22, 2022 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Freedom Fighters From Music and the Theatre Speak Out Against Authoritarianism and Mass Hysteria

A panel discussion on CHD TV a couple of days ago, moderated by Mary Holland, featured six artists from the worlds of music and theatre who provided a revealing inside look at how the plandemic has destroyed the performing arts. Yet, the takeaway is that there is considerable hope for the future.

Holland (who appears as a conductor in a fleeting second of the video if you look closely) mentioned that there were artists who were afraid to join her six panelists on the show for fear of reprisals. The first one in a fascinating lineup, versatile opera singer Lisa Eden, organized a benefit concert in Greenwich, Connecticut for Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Children’s Health Defense organization and spoke truth to propaganda. She revealed that she’d suffered myelitis as a result of vaccines required for travel two decades ago. While there are classical artists speaking out against lockdowner restrictions and the lethal Covid injection campaign, their ranks seem to be slim at this point.

Eden has a medical exemption, but initially lost all her work in the performing arts, or as she terms it, “The carrot that gets people being ‘vaccinated.’ I think there was an agenda to shut down the arts in the manner that they did,” Eden asserts. She fled New York at the beginning of the lockdown: “I know Fauci from chronic fatigue syndrome and how he rebranded it, so I just left New York.”

When she returned, she was shocked to find that “My colleagues who stayed in New York were highly traumatized. There was this hypervigilance, people being afraid to be around you.”

The music director at her Connecticut church job “was deathly afraid of me,” as she recalls. He refused to let her sing unmuzzled when restrictions were lifted, required her to wear it when leading the choir, and to put it back on the second she wasn’t singing.

The priest at the church saw how ridiculous the situation was: in a “compromise,” she was eventually exiled to the side of the room opposite the music director as punishment for the crime of thinking for herself. “You’re being labeled as germy, or dirty, or not fit to be around people ” she recalled. “Meanwhile, this music director was on public transportation, on the train – you’re around ‘unvaccinated’ people all day.”

Later, Eden was able to sing with other ensembles including Lighthouse Opera, who didn’t make her “stand out like a scarlet letter.”

“I keep trying to come back to New York but the restrictions that persist, they’re requiring boosters now.” Eden mentioned how ubiquitous compliance with Covid theatre has become, beyond this city: “It’s a tightrope this whole time because of the polilticization, and the arts are highly liberal because it triggers things that have been programmed,” about what it means to be unjabbed. “I’m selfish, I’m horrible, I’m a granny-killer, all these really horrible associations.”

She also addressed the superspreader myth: “Another one of those propaganda/hypnosis words…singers were scapegoated as superspreaders. and singing is regarded as superspreader activity….used to curtail our right to worship and our freedom of assembly. I feel personally offended that we were scapegoated as somehow deadly and dangerous and called nonessential…there’s a lot of healing that needs to take place around this trauma that’s been inflicted on us….the trauma of propaganda. It’s made people fearful of each other, and fearful of normal activities.”

Like Eden, oboeist Gerry Reuter – the longest-tenured member of the Dorian Wind Quintet – was barred from work when the arts were criminalized during the lockdown. Reuter says that in the spring of 2021, his bandmates forced him to meet with them in Central Park since they were afraid to be indoors with him because he didn’t take the lethal Covid injection or comply with their requests that he subject himself to a meaningless PCR test.

As he tells it, a year later, the rest of the quintet were still afraid to meet with him indoors and then sent him a letter telling him he was being allowed to resign. A month later, this past July, he got the pink slip from the ensemble he’d played with for forty years.

Reuter related a hilarious moment from a rehearsal during the lockdown when the group members were playing fifteen feet apart from each other. One of them mentioned a MIT study that cited the oboe as being the superspreader of all wind instruments…when in reality the oboe is the one which requires the least air to play!

“I’m not surprised that they would fall in line with the narrative…it tells you a lot about how deep and real your relationships may not be,” says Reuter. He sees the experience of the past thirty-two months as character-building. “We have a whole new network of wonderful friends. something that comes from a place that’s really deep, not a matter of convenience.”

He was quick to give a shout out to St. Anthony of Padua Church in Fairfield, Connecticut and their music director Frank Maraci, who continued to program artists who refused the lethal injections. Reuter has also noticed that woodwinds are conspicuosly absent from many chamber music concerts since the lockdown.

Violinist Jeffrey Ellenberger lost his jobs at the Bar Harbor Festival, with the Masterwork Chorus and the New York Mandolin Orchestra. “The emotional pain of being around colleagues who think you’re contagious is so ridiculous,” he related. “The alienation is really staggering, but on the positive side there are groups like this,” he asserted, relating to his fellow panelists. Lately the now-politically marooned, former leftist Ellenberger has been playing a lot of house concerts. “It’s much better, but the scars will take awhile to heal over.”

Actress Dagmar Stansova was driving from her North Carolina home to Los Angeles, the first stop on a world tour, just as the lockdown was unleashed. She couldn’t resume after theatres reopened since she’s unjabbed. Her dad had been vaccine-injured, and her mother, a doctor, forbade her from taking the lethal injection. “I’m still a little bit in shock from betrayal from the industry,” she told Holland. Stansova, who has been a Screen Actors Guild member since 1981, is now “trying to create a new world.”

“It’s not like just going someplace and they want you to put a mask on, you just say, I’ll go somewhere else…all the people I knew in Los Angeles and the Screen Actors Guild, I know only one person who’s going the route I’m going. All the other people have the fake passports.”

Stansova spoke forcefully to the power of the arts: “Art can be used for good or evil…working in Hollywood, I realized that I was giving my life force to an agenda that I didn’t agree with. In the last couple of years when I saw certain shows normalizing myocarditis in children, I’d be like, WHAT???” It’s not only important for artists to be artists, but for all people to become more of an artist.”

Stansova defines an artist as “Someone who is available and capable of feeling…where we are right now, all this artificial intelligence and technocracy is the opposite of feeling, trying to remove us from our native human capacities…you can’t access good art without being connected to your feelings.”

“Propaganda is a skill…we have to be a skilful as they are at inverting the inversions that they have put out into the media,” she explained. “The communists regarded art as very dangerous. Art is something that can create the space for us to become more compassionate, more outraged if need be, so that we can process the chaos of being alive…maybe we can process all the grief, all the friends that we are losing, some of my friends who have passed away after the injections. Where we have our imagination in full play along with our logic, not just one or the other, we can find the compassion for all the people, including the people on the so-called other side. What they are going through, and the fear that they’re in, and the betrayal that we are going through…to find the compassion to rise above and be the expression of our best selves.”

Singer and Epoch Times reporter Enrico Trigoso, whose mother was murdered by the Pfizer shot, auditioned and was accepted by a bunch of choirs, but when they found out he didn’t take the injection, that killed those opportunities. In his dialogue with Holland, he focused on the commonalities between the lockdown and communism, and how communism targeted the spirituality implicit in the arts. Quoting Herbert Marcuse, he reminded how “Art subverts the dominant consciousness,” and how that can be weaponized.”

Actress and former Rockette Heather Berman was injured by the tetanus vaccine six years ago. Her activism was springboarded by a conversation with Dr. Pam Popper, founder of Make Americans Free Again and author of the first plandemic expose, the 2020 book COVID Operation.

“Being vaccine injured, there was no way that I was going to set and be masked for twelve to fourteen hours and get tested,” Berman insists. She discussed how the SAG/AFTRA “Return to Work” agreement was put into place without any input from the union rank and file. “It seemed to trickle down to all other entertainment…with daily testing, masks, completely covered up, hands, face, shields, like they were going to a hospital – I saw this whole thing playing out, OMG this was insane. They’re up to two boosters, this includes children! They were even going to test infants!

SAG/AFTRA have continued the Return to Work agreement through January of next year.

“We’re all told we don’t ‘make it’ until we’re on Broadway, in Hollywood or at Lincoln Center. That’s the lie,” Berman insists. “The more of us that gather, including those who have been injected – there are many with fake cards, plus those who got injected – we’re going to be a stronger front against this darkness that’s literally trying to obliterate us. Without the arts, what is humanity? I can’t imagine anyone would want to live on this planet without the arts!”

November 20, 2022 Posted by | classical music, Music, music, concert, theatre | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Welcome Return For Pianist Max Lifchitz’s Latin-Tinged Chamber Music Series

Monday night at the National Opera Center, pianist Max Lifchitz admitted that he was “a little scared” by the prospect of plunging back into live performance after being sidelined by plandemic restrictions for the past two years. It was a triumphant return to his niche, the terrain where the Second Viennese School meets south-of-the-border sounds. Until the 2020 lockdown, Lifchitz and his various North/South orchestral configurations had been a familiar presence in concert spaces around New York and beyond.

Picking up where he’d been rudely interrupted, he opened with Robert Fleisher’s 6 Little Piano Pieces, a brief Schoenberg-inspired partita: jazz-inflected modalities within a minimalist stroll with little flourishes that leapt to the surface. Robert Martin’s 2 Ancient Pieces, emphatic student works from a half-century ago, were as effective a segue as a reflection of that era’s 12-tone obsessions (with a few winks to sweeten them).

Lifchtitz romped through Ruth Crawford Seeger’s 2 Piano Pieces in Mixed Accents, a final pair of miniatures built around minimalist, cascading eighth-note phrases. With as much power on her low end as the curlicues at the top, soprano Maria Brea took centerstage for an expresssive interpretation of Osvaldo Golijov‘s Lua Descolorida (“Colorless Moon”), a steady, almost marching nocturne with more than a a hint of a ranchera ballad.

Next, mezzo-soprano Melisa Bonetti took over for Jimmy Kachulis’ Healing Waters of the Amazon. From the opening mantra, “Come on and heal me,” over Lifchitz’s brightly methodical, increasingly bracing chromatic drive, she made it an aptly bittersweet invocation against what the world has had to battle since March of 2020.

Brea returned to sing Odaline de la Martinez’s 4 Afro-Cuban Poems, including a bouncy one about a Cuban guy in love with an American woman whose language he can’t speak, and a shout-out to a girl who does all the hard work around the house. Lifchitz’s own Me Acero y Me Retiro (“I Approach and I Withdraw”) featured both singers in an expansive, dynamically shifting, distantly imploring dialogue and then a harmonically bristling duet after a spaciously climbing, enigmatic piano intro. Lifchitz mirrored that with an arresting, syncopated solo fugue for a coda. It was the highlight of the night.

He closed the program with a trio of brief piano pieces. Venezuelan composer Francisco Zapata-Bello‘s leaping Scherzo Latino perfectly capsulized Lifchitz’s primary focus over the years. William Ortiz‘s Max en Soho Jamming con the Orishas was another of the concert’s high points, a mashup of ragtime and chromatic Scarlatti with a danse macabre at the center. Lifchitz went back to energetic twelve-tone territory for the final piece on the bill, Aurelio de la Vega’s Hamenagem.

November 17, 2022 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The New York Composers Circle Keep the Creative Torch Burning Through Troubled Times

Last night at the cozy little Church of the Transfiguration on East 29th Street, the New York Composers Circle staged an intriguing performance of five world premieres and a New York premiere that featured a persistent unease as well as moments of puckish humor and considerable outside-the-box imagination.

Pianist Craig Ketter opened the concert with Hubert Howe‘s Moments of Uncertainty, which followed a staggered, increasingly spacious, warily Messiaenic call-and-response through a series of subtle dynamic shifts, some of them increasingly stark and minimalist. In less prosaic terms, a cautious stroll through a briar patch: daunting, but doable with care, as Ketter made sure.

He followed with four preludes and fugues from the second collection that Dary John Mizelle had written to keep himself entertained during the lockdown. Stern blues and oldtime gospel riffs in oddly strolling tempos would disintegrate into atonal ambiguity or push up against a steady, grimly looped walking bassline. A tongue-in-cheek sensibility sometimes percolated to the surface amid the thorns, especially in the baroque gestures of the fugues.

Bill Zito played Richard Brooks‘ Sonata for Guitar, a harmonically biting pavane descending to lithe fingerpicking and back as the first movement warmed with some Elizabethan tinges. The remainder of the work was an acerbic blend of baroque stairstepping with wry jazz phrasing, hints of flamenco and some welcome, recurringly humorous bits.

After the intermission, Ketter returned to the piano for Roger Blanc‘s Fantasy Variations, which the composer described as an attempt to get “maximum bang for buck” out of a seven-note scale. Uneasy close harmonies persisted in the opening stroll, which became more of a hauntingly hypnotic, rising and falling march. Ketter reveled casually in the fanged chromaties of the warily swinging fugue that followed. Blanc invested his buck well here.

Guitarist Oren Fader played Igor Vorobyov’s 2019 piece Elegy in the Old Style, a New York premiere springboarded by the Composers Circle’s ongoing cultural exchange with some of their Moscow colleagues. A call-and-response between spiky harmonics and spare, broodingly resonant chords harked back to Scriabin, an unexpected influence for guitar music. As Fader alternated between steady cascades and a brooding, spacious minimalism, it became a pensive ballad, interrupted.

The final piece on the bill was Consolations, a solo piano partita by Dana Dimitri Richardson. Ketter methodically parsed an increasingly agitated, chromatically-charged ballad for angst and rippling poignancy, then found a missing link between Rachmaninoff and Mompou. The progression from chiming, insistent belltones to High Romantic echoes amid a clenched-teeth, syncopatedly punching drive was the high point of the night.

The third part came across as a somber mid 20th century homage to the Chopin E minor prelude, the fourth a ringing, resounding mashup of a Balkan funeral ballad, Russian romanticism and late-period Ligeti, maybe. It made for a darkly glittering driving coda.

The New York Composers Circle’s next concert is Nov 20 at 2 PM with a program of works-in-progress TBA at the National Opera Center’s 7th floor studio at 333 7th Ave. in midtown. Space is limited and a rsvp is a good idea

November 16, 2022 Posted by | avant garde music, classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment