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May 2011

Look and Listen Festival 2011

DSC02724This past week marked the 10th edition of the Look and Listen Festival, which sets performances of contemporary music in art gallery spaces. I last visited the festival in 2008, and as I wrote back then, the idea is a good one, giving audience members something to look at other than the musicians - not to mention that the high gallery ceilings offer excellent acoustics.

For the past two years, Look and Listen has been held at the Chelsea Art Museum on W. 22nd St., where the large abstract canvasses of Jean Miotte hang on the walls. Last night's concert, which was hosted by WQXR's Terrance McKnight, offered a variety of sounds from the worlds of jazz, new and electronic music that was both straightforward and stimulating.

Toy pianist Phyllis Chen - well on her way to being the next Margarel Leng Tan - played several works, including her own Colure & Double Helix (which I unfortunately missed.) David Lang's Miracle Ear - named after the hearing aid - was repetitive and subtly maddening, with Chen playing the piano with her right hand while precisely striking a metal bowl with her left. Angelica Negron's quiet and mesmerizing The Little Thing - a world premiere - beautifully blended electronics with various toys, including melodica and toy piano. Really, really affecting, skirting that well-tread line between pop and classical. 

The program ended with the jazz-influenced music of John Hollenbeck, written especially for the occasion. Hollenbeck himself sat in on drums with the Claudia Quintet (incl. familiar faces such as Matt Moran and Chris Speed), and was later joined by the hypnotic vocalist Theo Bleckmann who kept repeating the line "Do We Get Love?" with all the remarkable inflection of his mentor, Meredith Monk. 

DSC02741More pics on Flickr.

Wordless Music Orchestra: Glass, Ligeti and Greenwood

DSC07519It's been more than three years since the Wordless Music Orchestra gave the U.S. premiere of Johnny Greenwood's Popcorn Superhet Receiver: a success well beyond most expectations for the Radiohead's guitarist. So, it was no surprise that Greenwood's Doghouse - premiered last night at the Society for Ethical Culture by the same orchestra under conductor Brad Lubman - was a virtuosic joyride from start to finish, helped along by violinist Courtney Orlando, violist John Pickford Richards and cellist Lauren Radnofsky.

The first half of the program was no less engaging. Philp Glass' Symphony No. 4 "Heroes" (1997) was an exciting, minimalist riff on the experimental David Bowie/Brian Eno album of the same name. The highlight of the evening was Ligeti's Chamber Concerto (1970): written for 13 musicians, each of whom gets their own turn in the spotlight. Played here by Ensemble Signal, it writhed with kinetic movement and creepy glissandi, hurtling towards an unexpectedly abrubt finish. 

The program repeats tonight; tickets are $30 and available at the door. 

More pics on Flickr.

Miracle on Drums

DSC02717There is nothing more life-affirming than seeing drummer Roy Haynes, 86, still at the top of his game. Haynes has played with everyone from Prez, to Bird, to Sassy, and carries with him the full weight of the history of jazz as we know it. But, this isn't some sedate octogenarian resting in the back of the bandstand: Haynes is front-and-center, his gestures crisp with all the same snap-and-crackle they ever had.

If you haven't had the chance to experience to experience Roy live, he'll be at the Jazz Standard all weekend, playing with the Fountain of Youth Band (Jaleel Shaw – alto saxophone, Martin Bejerano – piano, David Wong – bass.) It'll almost make you want to get old.