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April 2012

March 2012

Hey Rim Jeon Trio at Birdland Jazz Club

by Nick Fernandez

Hey Rim Jeon

With dim red lighting and a small but attentive crowd, Hey Rim Jeon's pre-dinner set at the Birdland Jazz Club Wednesday night could have easily been confused with an after-hours jam session downtown. The audience, however, told a different story: While appreciative of each clever phrase or cross-bandstand connection, the gathering of friends and family held their applause until the conclusion of each number and refrained from the vocal outbursts that often occur as the hours pass. To Jeon’s credit, instead of a meandering mélange of impromptu arrangements, she and her trio were our guides on a carefully planned musical exploration celebrating her U.S. album release party.

Introducing Hey Rim Jeon musically reflects the multinational and eclectic experience of the pianist who, born in Seoul, Korea, went from classical prodigy to jazz and popular devotee while at the Berklee College of Music. The album includes standards (“Softly as in a Morning’s Sunrise” and “Autumn Leaves”), impressions of “places you wish to visit, but haven’t yet” (“Prague”), and even a Korean folk song (“Arirang”).

After a slightly rocky start marked by timid playing and delayed communication, the trio found its bearing in “Prague,” the third song of the evening. Ms. Jeon came to life in a rubato introduction that offered panoramic views of imagined beauty—skirting the edges of the city to paint rural greenery and folk dancers. Bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Richie Barshay, high school friends who Ms. Jeon met while at Berklee, joined her in traveling into the city’s center. Mr. Curtis took over Jeon’s lyrical melodies while Barshay offered march-like accompaniment.

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Alexei Lubimov at the Baryshnikov Arts Center

by Michael Cirigliano II

Feast of Music, Alexei Lubimov, fortepiano, Baryshnikov Arts Center

Throughout his week-long residency at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, pianist Alexei Lubimov showed himself to be a most versatile performer. After tackling a pair of performances of John Cage’s 4 Walls last week, Lubimov returned to the BAC for a program of Beethoven, Schubert, and Glinka. Choosing to perform these works in a period context, Lubimov played on a 6 ½-octave copy of an 1820s Viennese fortepiano made by Roger Regier of Freeport, Maine. Unlike most fortepianos, which can have a very brittle color, Regier’s copy proved to be an agile instrument, and Lubimov extracted a wide array of colors.

Bookending the evening were two of Beethoven’s late sonatas: No. 30 in E Major and No. 32 in C minor. The sunny E Major Sonata relied on crisp, light textures throughout, only delving into Beethoven’s inner turmoil in fleeting passages. Lubimov excelled most in the chorale moments, where his sense of pacing and phrasing were elegant and captivating. At times, the heavier fugato section lacked clarity—certainly forgivable at times, given Beethoven’s delivery of fistfuls of notes. The C minor Sonata, however, was given an incredibly dramatic reading of cinematic scope, full of suspense and power throughout. The fortepiano only lacked depth in the deepest register of the instrument; unlike the modern piano’s booming and cavernous bass tones, the fortepiano sounded shallower by comparison. Lubimov accounted for the difference in timbre by making sure the bass register was never overpowered by the richer middle and upper registers.

Rounding out the program were two Schubert Impromptus—fleeting pieces that showcased Lubimov’s incredibly nimble finger work—and Glinka’s Introduction and Variations on a Theme from “I Capuleti e i Montecchi” by Bellini, full of dramatic harp-like flourishes and fanfares. The sold-out audience was enthusiastic throughout, even gasping at the evening’s most intimate and delicate phrases.

 


Richard Stoltzman and Mika Yoshida Performing New Works by Chick Corea and Others on April 4

Mikarichard

"Creating this composition for Mika Yoshida was a pure joy. Her only request to the composer was to have "groove" be part of the composition...The piece was written so it could be performed with the exactly written notes or with the players freely interpreting their parts and improvising their solos. Mika brings a joyful enthusiasm to the marimba that is captivating and, being a marimba enthusiast myself, I spent some time playing my marimba at home to help me conjure the phrases that make up "Marika Groove." - Chick Corea

Here's a new one: clarinetist Richard Stoltzman and marimbist Mika Yoshida will join forces and present a concert of world premieres by Chick Corea (“Marika Groove”), Marcos Valle, Tamar Muskal, Mike Mainieri, Michiru Oshima & William Thomas McKinley at Carnegie's Weill Recital Hall next Wednesday, April 4 at 8pm. They will be joined by special guests Eddie Gomez on bass, Mike Mainieri on vibraphone and Steve Gadd on drums. Tickets available at the Carnegie box office or online.

Listen to "Marika Groove" HERE




R.I.P. Earl Scruggs

Earl-scruggs-live2 (1)The last of the Blue Grass Boys has gone to that Grand Ol' Opry in the Sky: banjo player and bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs has passed at the age of 88 in Nashville. Earl - arguably the greatest 5-string banjo player in history - was a pioneer in the three-finger picking style, influencing at least three generations of players around the world. Without Earl, bluegrass and country music simply wouldn't be what they are today.

Go here to read a bit more about the great man. And here to catch a glimpse of him back in his prime.


OPERAtion Brooklyn Presents Excerpts from Susan Botti's "Wonderglass"

by Michael Cirigliano II

operation brooklyn

For their latest production, OPERAtion Brooklyn hooked on to the ever-popular Alice in Wonderland theme, mounting a two-night opera-burlesque “party” that featured excerpts from Alice-inspired vocal works by Susan Botti, Manly Romero, and David del Tredici. In many ways, Galapagos Arts Space was an ideal venue for such a venture, with its lily pad-style seating, dark wood, and candlelit balcony.

However, Monday night’s semi-staged production of scenes from Botti’s early opera, Wonderglass, failed to hit its mark. Despite an eerie introduction from a tall, gangly man dressed as the White Rabbit, the presentation of the first opera of the evening was quite rudimentary. (Sadly, I was only able to stay for the Botti work.) The producers of the evening quickly shattered the mystery of the White Rabbit’s presence by taking to the stage to announce drink specials and raffles that were to take place far later in the evening.

Thankfully, Botti’s music spoke for itself—a unique work that pulled inspiration from neo-classical Stravinsky, Kurt Weill, and Eastern gamelan sounds. Like most of Botti’s music, the voice is the focus, and there were certainly some operatic aerobatics on display. The Queen of Heart’s invitation to croquet tested the extreme range of the soprano, accompanied by fanfare and march motives from the jazz ensemble. In another of the Queen’s scenes, the tone changed on a dime, with the Queen morphing into a flamenco dancer-chanteuse, complete with hand claps and well-played solos from the sax and trombone players.

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