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Lincoln Center Festival: Bang on a Can All-Stars with Gong Linna and Ornette Coleman's Chamber Music

CLOUD_SBP4072Photo: Stephanie Berger

The 22nd edition of the Lincoln Center Festival kicked off last week, bringing it's usual surfeit of starry theater and ballet companies to the various houses of the Lincoln Center campus left otherwise vacant for the summer. Amidst these, there were a pair of musical offerings that straddled the worlds of jazz, contemporary classical, and world music. 

On Friday, I went to the John Jay Theater to see the Bang on a Can All Stars perform with Chinese vocalist Gong Linna, who's become something of a sensation in her home country for her charismatic stage presence and acrobatic singing. They met while the All-Stars were touring China a few years ago and, after after BOAC founders David Lang, Julia Wolfe and Michael Gordon sat down with Gong and her husband, composer Lao Luo, (a.k.a. Robert Zollitsch) they came up with the 12 part song cycle Cloud River Mountain. Collaboration is nothing new for the Bang on a Can trio - previous efforts include The Carbon Copy Building (1999), Lost Objects (2001), and Shelter (2005) - but it was Lao who was instrumental in integrating the unique harmonies and rhythms of Chinese music.

The songs were sung in a mix of English and Mandarin, with lyrics drawn mostly from the mythological poetry of Qu Yuan, written during the Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD). It was difficult to follow without supertitles or any kind of house lighting to read the translations in the program, but Gong's theatrical performance - matched by her flamboyant costumes - was captivating in its own way. As for the music, it ranged from Julia's "Into the Clouds", which raged with Patti Smith-like intensity, to Michael's persistent, heavy-handed "River", to David's quiet, haunting "Girl With Mountain." For an encore, Gong performed the wild, frenetic folk song "Tan Te", which first catapulted her to stardom.

Meanwhile, David, Julia, Michael and the All Stars have all decamped to North Adams, where they'll be ensconced at Mass MoCA for the next three weeks at the Bang on a Can Summer Festival, culminating in the annual Summer Marathon on August 6 with guest composer Louis Andriessen. Details available on their website. More pics here.

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Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 with Roy Ayers at Central Park Summerstage

Seun Kuti - Summerstage - Feast of Music Jul 16  2017  5-46 PM Jul 16  2017  6-07 PM
It's been six years since I last saw Seun Kuti play Celebrate Brooklyn with Egypt 80, the backing band of his famous father, the late Afropop pioneer Fela Kuti. So, it was good to see him back at Central Park Summerstage on Sunday, strutting across the stage in a blue patterned jumpsuit that looked like it had been pulled straight from his father's old closet. Seun, now 34, has already been at this for more than 20 years, and now that he's the same age as his father was in is prime, there's really no separation between them. Jazz and funk legend Roy Ayers opened with his own sublime set, singing classics like "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" while accompanying himself on vibes.

More pics below and on the photo page

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Support Karikatura's Kickstarter for "Ghost Light"

KarikaturaTrombonist Dan Lehner, who has written some of our best jazz coverage over the years, is a member of local roots pop band Karikatura, which describes itself as "cumbia meets hip-hop, reggae meets klezmer, and indie-rock meets merengue." Over the years, the band has graduated from gigs in subway stations, to shows in Haiti, to a European tour this summer sponsored by the U.S. State Department. They're currently in the process of producing their second album, "Ghost Light" and have started an all-or-nothing Kickstarter to help pay for it. With less than a week to go, they're now more than halfway to their goal, but could use some help. Check out their music on Bandcamp, then throw them support here if you can. 

 


2017 Summer Music Preview

Celebrate Brooklyn 2016
It's Memorial Day weekend, which means it's time for the music to head outdoors into the parks, piers and schoolyards throughout the five boroughs (and beyond). As is our catholic, omnivorous nature here at FoM, our picks for the summer of '17 rolls everything up into just two categories: Free (or mostly free) and Not Free. Don't forget your sunblock.

(Mostly) Free:

Celebrate Brooklyn: (June 7-August 12) The city's best outdoor music series returns to the Prospect Park Bandshell for its 39th year on June 7 with a free show by Brooklyn soul rockers Lake Street Dive. Other highlights from the worlds of indie, folk, jazz and world music include Yeasayer, Poliça and Cymbals Eat Guitars (June 22), Andrew Bird and Esperanza Spalding (July 28), Béla Fleck (August 3) and Youssou N'Dour (August 12). Not to mention benefit concerts by Conor Oberst, Sufjan Stevens, and Fleet Foxes. 

Summerstage (June 3-September 2): This sprawling series reaches into all five boroughs with a potpourri of shows that run the gamut of rock, opera, R&B and more. Highlights include the Met Opera Recital Series (June 12-24) the Robert Glasper Experiment (June 25), and a Fela Kuti tribute with Roy Ayers and Seun Kuti (July 16).

NY Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks (June 13-18): Alan Gilbert has made it a hallmark of his tenure as the NY Phil's music director to conduct the annual parks concerts himself, which have typically been handled by a string of B-list guest conductors. (Gilbert grew up in NYC, and says the parks concerts were formative experiences for him.) Bring your blanket and come cheer Alan one last time as he closes out his eight-year run with an American-flavored program of music by Bernstein, Gershwin and Dvorák (the "New World" symphony). Followed by fireworks, of course. 

Make Music New York (June 21): Celebrate the longest day of the year with this citywide musical happening, with performances on street corners and in the parks. Grab an instrument and join in! 

Warm Up at MoMA PS1 (July 1-September 2): Now in it's 20th year, the summer's best outdoor dance party returns to Long Island City with ten Saturdays of DJ's and live acts performing in the courtyard of MoMA PS1. Tickets ($18-$22) include museum admission. (LI City residents get in for free.)

Lincoln Center Out of Doors (July 26-August 13): This year's Damrosch Park season includes performances by Angelique Kidjo (August 2), Rumer w/special guest Dionne Warwick (July 29), Nick Lowe (August 5), and a tribute to Pauline Oliveros (July 28). 

Charlie Parker Jazz Festival (August 24-27): The summer winds down with the 25th edition of this always-superb free weekend of jazz, which this year expands to four days with the Anat Cohen Tentet, Lee Konitz, Terry Lyne Carrington, Tia Fuller, Lou Donaldson, Joshua Redman, and others. 

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