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The Sketchy Orkestra Plays Le Poisson Rouge

by Nick Stubblefield

IMG_3901Guest Star Emily Braden sings

Applying genre labels to music and musicians can be a tricky business -- it sells a product, but is often at odds with the art itself. The Sketchy Orkestra, brainchild of pianist and artistic director Misha Piatigorsky, is a group dedicated to defying labels and convention, and the result is a unique, fun, and energetic ride.  Their performance this week at New York's le Poisson Rouge served listeners a hearty helping of genre-defying tunes. There were elements of jazz, rock, hip-hop and even Russian folk-song in a single program, and it was raucous energy bobbing and weaving through the tapestry of lush texture and color. 

To stage right, we saw a traditional jazz set-up. The rhythm section included Piatigorsky at a Yamaha concert grand, the bassist switching between electric and standup, and an auxiliary percussionist on the cajón -- a box drum I happen to personally favor for its Earthy timbre. To their right, a trumpeter and saxophonist. Dominating center stage, appropriately, was the twelve-piece string orchestra, the strings delivering a cinematic richness to each composition.

But the question was -- "could they groove?" In fact, they could, and they could groove hard.  The arrangements, while diverse stylistically, were often filled with fun surprises. Sudden bursts of energy, jumbo-sized ranges in dynamics, and elongated sectional solos kept the audience engaged throughout. Piatgorsky's piano touch, plus the arrangements and compositions themselves, evinced the ensemble's classical training.  "17 Rooms" evoked a Khachaturian-esque waltz; its folksiness gave the string soloists plenty to work with, and they were allowed to explore their full-range of abilities. In contrast, "Somewhere in Between's" heavy groove reminded me of a classic mo-town rhythm section. 

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MATA Festival 2016 Wrapup

by Steven Pisano  2016 MATA Festival, Ryan Muncy, Dixon Place(All photos by Steven Pisano.)

As one of NYC's leading contemporary classical and experimental music festivals, the MATA Festival was back in town last week for six nights of innovative works by composers from around the world. On average, the directors of the festival receive about 1,100 submissions each year, out of which only 25-30 are usually performed. And yet, the fact that the number of submissions, from over 70 countries,increases each year, speaks to the need for a forum for young composers to share their work.

MATA's focus is on work by early career composers, many of them in their 30s. This year's festival saw works from more than a dozen countries, including Israel, Argentina, Turkey, Hungary, and Iran, among others. To perform these works, MATA arranged for top flight performers and ensembles to come to New York, including Ensemble neoN (from Norway), Ensemble Linea (from France), and the Rhythm Method Quartet

This year's offerings, although still "out there" in many respects, were much more unified in approach than the wildly divergent styles at last year's festival. With so many pieces performed over the week, in venues such as Scandinavia House, National Sawdust, and Dixon Place (not to mention an ice-breaker at the Paula Cooper Gallery), it is impossible to describe them all. Here are some highlights.

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Ticket Giveaway: Utah Symphony celebrates 75 at Carnegie Hall with Andrew Norman premiere

 

 The Utah Symphony and music director Thierry Fischer perform at Carnegie Hall in next Friday, April 29th—in a concert celebrating the orchestra’s 75th anniversary. The program features the New York premiere of American composer Andrew Norman’s Percussion Concerto, Switch, with Scottish soloist Colin Currie, commissioned by the Utah Symphony and Mr. Fischer, and includes Haydn’s Symphony No. 96 in D major, “Miracle,” Bartók’s Suite from the Miraculous Mandarin, and selections from the ballet score Romeo and Juliet by Prokofiev.

Feast of Music has 3 pairs of tickets to giveaway to next Friday's concert. Here's how to enter:

1. Email robert@feastofmusic.com    -OR-

2. Retweet our post with the hash tag #freetickets    -OR-

3. Head to our Facebook page and COMMENT on our giveaway post! 

Good luck!


Katherine Jenkins at the Café Carlyle

2016_04_12_Carlyle_03Photo: David Andrako

When you visit the Café Carlyle, just off the lobby of the historic Carlyle Hotel on Madison and 76th Street, you know you aren't just seeing any old cabaret show. The minute you're escorted to your seat underneath the famous murals by Marcel Vertès, you can feel the ghosts of Bobby Short, Eartha Kitt, Elaine Stritch and other legendary performers - both real and imagined - who've filled this surprisingly intimate room with song and laughter since 1955.

Last night, I paid my first-ever visit to the Café Carlyle. My guest and I was seated at a table right behind the piano, where we enjoyed a much-better-than-necessary three course meal, complete with wine. (Disclosure: both dinner and the show were compliments of the house.) A few minutes before showtime, the evening's accompanist, Jerry Steichen, took his seat at the piano and immediately struck up a conversation, no doubt intended to relax us both. "Let me know if either of you want to come up here and take a turn," he said with a devilish laugh.

"Only if you want to hear chopsticks," I replied.

"I don't think that's on the set list tonight." 

The evening's actual entertainment was provided by the Welsh mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins, who weaved her way to the stage through the tight rows of tables in a royal blue gown, careful not to catch her long, flowing trail. Jenkins, whose career has been spent mostly singing at soccer stadiums and arenas with the likes of Andrea Bocelli and David Foster, seemed right at home. And, with good reason: she told the audience she met her husband Andrew Levitas here on a blind date in 2013.

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