Third Annual JazzFest at BRIC

by Steven Pisano and FoM

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Last weekend, BRIC hosted its third annual three-night JazzFest marathon, which back in 2015 instantly became a mecca for adventurous jazz fans looking to hear a wide-ranging array of jazz styles. This year's festival kept that tradition going, revisiting old faithfuls and discovering new talent on the rise. There were also new bands put together by veterans of the scene, such as drummer Terri Lyne Carrington's Social Science, featuring a singer and MC delivering emotional lyrics inspired by police brutality and our polarizing political climate. Upstarts included Sharel Cassity's forward-leaning Elektra and the elegant, ethereal singer Kavita Shah. Guitarist Binky Griptite (formerly of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings) led a swinging band that inspired more than a few dancers, while Mexico's Troker straddled the line between jazz and funk. The venerable Sun Ra Arkestra, now in it's 65th year, closed out the night. 

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Margo Price Record Release Show at Rough Trade

by Melissa Caruso

Margo price 4Photo: Fernando Garcia 

I don’t love Margo Price simply because she’s saving country music, or because she can mesmerize an audience with a simple sway of the shoulder or scrunch of the nose. I don’t I love her because she's rejected the industry tropes that prescribe what an artist in 2017 should sing and say, or because she possesses a presence that threatens to bust the stage beneath her. I love Margo Price for all of these reasons - but mostly, because her songs remind us what it means to be human.

On Thursday night at Brooklyn’s Rough Trade, Margo Price and her band celebrated the release of her second album All American Made, one that weaves together the tattered and frayed threads of American tapestry and has garnered praise from veritable publications like The Washington Post and The New York Times. In a house packed with black leather and suede fringe, fans of this rising country revivalist had no trouble singing along to songs the band just started performing.

All American Made features songs weighed down by the sourness of a country gone wrong, be it the antithetical views of working women or the plights faced by the down-and-out. The title track is a poignant, personal song that retraces a childhood memory of when Price’s family lost their farm in Illinois. (“And my uncle started drinking when the bank denied the loan/But now it’s liver failure/And his Mad Cow’s being cloned/It’s all American made.”) At Rough Trade, Price and husband Jeremy Ivey’s acoustic performance transfixed the crowd; not a word was spoken, and not a single person looked at their phone. We were all taken to the bottom of her heavy heart. Or at least that’s how I remember it. 

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Mischa Maisky and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra Kick of 92Y Season

by Robert Leeper

Orpheus and Mischa Maisky The 92Y’s season kicked off last Thursday with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra — best known for their conductor-less performances — performing with cellist Mischa Maisky. Schubert’s beloved “Arpeggione” Sonata, arranged for cello and string orchestra by Dobrinka Tabakova, was bookended by Anton Arensky’s Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky, and Tchaikovsky’s own Serenade for Strings.

Beginning life as as the slow movement of Arensky’s String Quartet No. 2, the variations on Tchaikovsky’s “Legend” from his Sixteen Children’s Songs were composed the year after Tchaikovsky’s death as a tribute to the late composer. Arensky's seven variations and coda all stay fairly close to the hymn-like theme. Particularly notable was the the fifth variation (Andante), which was given an exceptionally beautiful rendition.

Tchiakovsky's Serenade for Strings is written in Neo-Classical mode, and Orpheus delivered with Mozartian transparency and articulation. In the stately introduction, the noble theme was a given a warm reading and there was buoyancy and character in the main allegro section. The gracious Valse was sunny and light, while the Élégie was robust and evocative before teasing out bits of Russian flair tucked into the niceties of the finale.

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"We Shall Not Be Moved" at the Apollo Theater

by Steven Pisano

"We Shall Not Be Moved" at the Apollo Theater(All photos by Steven Pisano.)

"We Shall Not Be Moved," which played at the Apollo Theater this week following its world premiere at Opera Philadelphia last month, is an urban opera that riffs on the history of the radical political group MOVE. Established in Philadelphia the early 1970s by John Africa (born Vincent Leaphart), MOVE is vividly remembered for several violent confrontations with the police - including a 1985 firefight that killed 11 MOVE members (including 5 children) and which destroyed over 60 houses.

Against this intensely violent background, composer Daniel Bernard Roumain, librettist Marc Bamuthi Joseph, and director Bill T. Jones have written a contemporary story of urban struggle. Five teenagers, who have veered in and out of trouble, find their school has been closed, so they squat in an abandoned house in West Philadelphia - which just so happens to be the former MOVE headquarters from the 1980s. The house is populated by peaceful ghosts dressed in gray sweatsuits who dance through the house and try to guide the teens.

But the teens have also caught the eye of Glenda, the local beat cop. She wonders why they are not in school during the day, and eventually their interactions escalate until one day the police officer accidentally discharges her gun and shoots one of the kids. The young people grab her gun, then hold her captive, not knowing exactly what to do now that everything has suddenly spun out of control.

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