LA Opera Announces its 2015/16 Season

August 21, 2015

LA Opera Opens the 2015/16 Season with Gianni Schicchi, Staged by Woody Allen

LA Opera’s thirtieth anniversary season opens with the double bill of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci (September 12 through October 3, 2015). Placido Domingo, LA Opera’s general director, will sing the title role in Woody Allen’s staging of Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi.

Wody Allen rehearses Gianni Schicchi

The opera will be conducted by Grant Gershon, the company’s resident conductor, and will feature Arturo Chacón-Cruz as Rinuccio, Andriana Chuchman as Lauretta, and Meredith Arwady as Zita. After the intermission, Mr. Domingo will move to the orchestra pit to conduct Franco Zeffirelli’s production of Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, starring Marco Berti as Canio, Ana María Martínez as Nedda, and George Gagnidze as Tonio.


Gianni Schicchi


LA Opera’s music director James Conlon had this to say: “I’m proud to be part of LA Opera for this thirtieth anniversary season, and to mark the occasion by conducting the celebratory gala with Plácido Domingo and Renée Fleming. I am also thrilled to welcome my colleague and friend Gustavo Dudamel, who is making his debut with our company. As part of our commitment to contemporary opera, I relish the opportunity to conduct Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick. I also look forward to collaborating again with Barrie Kosky for The Magic Flute as well as welcoming back Ana María Martínez and Stefano Secco in Madame Butterfly, after their previous successes in our 2012 Simon Boccanegra. As part of LA Opera’s expanding bel canto repertory, the return of Norma for the first time since 1996 is an important event.”

Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick comes to Los Angeles October 31 through November 28, 2015. Tenor Jay Hunter Morris stars as Captain Ahab in performances conducted by James Conlon and directed by Leonard Foglia. The cast also includes tenor Joshua Guerrero in the leading role of Greenhorn as well as baritone Morgan Smith as Starbuck, a role he created at the work’s 2010 premiere.

LA Opera will present Vincenzo Bellini’s bel canto masterpiece, Norma, (November 21 through December 13, 2015) in a production conducted by James Conlon and directed by Anne Bogart. Soprano Angela Meade, who made her LAO debut in 2012 as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, returns to lead a quartet of principals that includes mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton as Adalgisa, along with tenor Russell Thomas as Pollione, and bass Morris Robinson as Oroveso.

Conducted by James Conlon, The Magic Flute returns (February 13 through March 6, 2016) with its evocation of the silent film era. The production is directed by Barrie Kosky and by Suzanne Andrade of the British theater company 1927. Onstage performers, including tenor Benjamin Bliss as Tamino, interact with projected hand-drawn animation, to capture Mozart’s delightful blend of high comedy and fairy tale.

In a production new to Los Angeles, Puccini’s Madame Butterfly (March 12 through April 3, 2016) will be conducted by James Conlon and directed by Lee Blakeley. In her second leading appearance in the season, soprano Ana María Martínez stars as Cio-Cio-San, one of her signature roles, with tenor Stefano Secco as the faithless Pinkerton and mezzo-soprano Milena Kitic as Suzuki.

Georgian soprano Nino Machaidze returns for her sixth leading role at LA Opera, singing her first performances as Mimi in La Bohème (May 14 through June 12, 2016). Speranza Scappucci will make her LAO debut conducting six of the eight performances. The final two performances will feature the company debut of conductor Gustavo Dudamel, music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. This revival of the Herbert Ross production features Abdellah Lasri and Mario Chang sharing the role of Rodolfo and Janai Brugger and Amanda Woodbury sharing the role of Musetta. Moldavian soprano Olga Busuioc performs the role of Mimi on May 19 and 25.

On March 18, 2016, LA Opera presents a 30th Anniversary Concert starring Plácido Domingo and Renée Fleming. Conducted by James Conlon, the concert features many of opera’s greatest arias and duets.

Off Grand

LA Opera’s Off Grand initiative was developed to expand on traditional ideas of the operatic experience by experimenting with performance spaces, creative artists new to the genre, and a variety of musical styles. Here is a look at the 2015/16 Season:

  • The West coast premiere of Song from the Uproar, by composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek, explores the fascinating life and death of adventurer Isabelle Eberhardt and will be performed at REDCAT from October 8 through 11, 2015.
  • Philip Glass’s contemporary score for Bela Lugosi’s classic 1931 film Dracula will be performed live by the composer, joined by the Kronos Quartet, at the Theatre at Ace Hotel, a 1927 Spanish Gothic movie palace, from October 29 through 31, 2015.
  • On December 12, 2015, Erwin Schrott returns in Rojotango in Concert, a tribute to the music of his native South America in a program featuring tangos by Astor Piazzola and Pablo Ziegler as well as Argentinean and Brazilian folk songs.
  • Free performances of a community opera for families, The Festival Play of Daniel, will be conducted by James Conlon and performed at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on March 4 and 5, 2016.

The season concludes with the world premiere of Anatomy Theater by composer David Lang and visual artist Mark Dion, presented at REDCAT. Based on actual 18th-century texts, Anatomy Theater follows the progression of an English murderess from confession to execution and, ultimately, public dissection before a paying audience of fascinated onlookers.*

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Photos courtesy of LA Opera.

Ballet: Nederlands Dans Theater 1 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles

October 20, 2013

By Jane Rosenberg

Though “Shoot the Moon” is a small ensemble piece, it says volumes about the singular dancers and idiosyncratic vision of the Nederlands Dans Theater. The third in a trio of ballets performed opening night during the company’s run at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion through Sunday, “Shoot the Moon” was a gripping convergence of contemporary choreography, music, and art.

Set to the second movement of “Tirol Concerto for Piano and Orchestra” by Philip Glass, this ballet, the collaboration of Sol León (resident choreographer) and Paul Lightfoot (artistic director), highlighted the troupe’s theatrical concerns by offering edgy ballet infused with twenty-first century angst. It’s brilliance lay in how that angst was communicated through dance, set design, and video.

Shoot The Moon

Shoot The Moon

Five dancers – three men, two women – paired off and explored their relationships through revolving sets depicting three empty, wallpapered rooms. Reminiscent of a dwelling Gregor Samsa might have inhabited in Kafka’s Prague, these rooms told a story of their own and became part of the psychology of the couples.

Varying aspects of relationships were explored from isolation to rage, commitment to ambivalence, longing to remorse. States of mind were sometimes made visible through stuttering, crippled motions but oftentimes were expressed through extensions of legs while dancers lay on their backs. The legs migrated off the floor, only to climb up and probe the walls. Think Fred Astaire dancing on walls and ceiling while channeling Mack the Knife in Brechtian frustration. The marvelous, elastic Nederlands dancers brought the dance drama to vivid life with poetic intensity. Even the set, designed by the León and Lightfoot, seemed alive, becoming part of the push and pull of the choreography. A window, in one of the rooms, revealed a solitary figure or, at times, a couple standing just outside, perhaps escaping the confines of domestic life. Enhancing the experience was the novel use of live video more familiar in the art installations of Bruce Nauman than on the stage. Above the back walls of the rotating sets, we were confronted with a stationary screen that displayed live video projections. What we glimpsed on the screen were the offstage movements, in character, of a given member of the five-person ensemble, reacting to his or her relationship. And so the audience became voyeurs, witnessing so-called “private” moments away from the stage, which added another dimension and odd reality to the piece.

As for the music, Lightfoot and León have created works to Philip Glass compositions on over ten occasions. Glass’s music has long been a partner to dance. His music supplies a rolling wave of sound, which allows a choreographer to run free. Given the vividness of the performance by the Philip Glass Ensemble in “Einstein on the Beach” last weekend at the same venue, one missed hearing live music rather than recording.

The second ballet on the program, also to movements from a Glass symphony and string quartet, was notable for the screams and vocalizations heard over the score. “Same Difference” was more theatrical than balletic – a surreal nightmare of what the choreographers described as “the chaotic influence the ego has on the individual” but I interpreted as a depiction of European post World War Two trauma.


The lighting by Tom Bevoort intensified the drama, creating patterns and the suggestion of a battlefield where an odd assortment of souls traversed the landscape, in particular a stricken soldier, Jorge Nazal, crying out in pain and rage. The ballet did have its humorous moments: Medhi Walerski (who created the opening ballet, “Chamber”) moving like a demented Charlie Chaplin reciting familiar French phrases such as “L’addition s’il vous plaît,” and Fernando Hernando Magadan in drag as an old matriarch. The piece, though interesting, felt as if the choreographers were inhibited, in service to the idea rather than to the dance. When finally, towards the end, the dance did bloom it was with a stirring pas de deux, the couple (Sarah Reynolds and Marne Van Opstal) moving as if with one body, becoming a two headed, four legged being. The sets were designed by León and Lightfoot, who, once again created another beautifully realized environment.

The evening opened with a newly commissioned work by NDT dancer, Medhi Walerski, and composer Joby Talbot, entitled “Chamber.” Inspired by Stravinsky and Nijinsky’s “Le Sacre du Printemps,” this piece loosely referred to both the music and choreography of the original. After an unclear introduction with a man in full dress and cane (perhaps a reference to the impresario, Diaghilev), the dance opened on the corps at the back of the stage, gliding forward mechanically like a line of comatose Rockettes. It was a riveting opening to an intriguing ballet that at times soared, but occasionally treaded water when it veered into posing rather than sustained movement.



The lighting by Jordan Tuinman in combination with the bare costumes, suggesting nudity, created startling effects – a chiaroscuro worthy of Caravaggio. The light seemed to create a two-dimensional world on stage resembling a German Expressionist woodcut or the flickering universe of Expressionist cinema. It may have been the ravishing beauty of the dim light, which, though effective in painting a picture distanced me from the dancing.



This evocation of spring seemed more about individuals struggling to make a personal space outside the group than about rituals that bind people together. While the percussive score referenced Stravinsky, the dancing bodies were insect-like in their posturing. Chests caved in or heaved forward, an individual tried to “dance” out of his skin like a moulting cicada, arms beat like wasp wings. Though the dancers did justice to the choreography and there were breathtaking moments, one longed to see the incredible grace and athleticism of this world-class company featured in all its power. Unquestionably accomplished, NDT once again challenges the audience with its rigor and vision.

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To read more dance and music reviews by Jane Rosenberg click HERE.


Jane Rosenberg is the author and illustrator of  DANCE ME A STORY: Twelve Tales of the Classic Ballets.  Jane is also the author and illustrator of  SING ME A STORY: The Metropolitan Opera’s Book of Opera Stories for Children.


 Photos courtesy of the Nederlands Dans Theater.

Opera: Glass and Wilson’s “Einstein on the Beach” at the Los Angeles Opera, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion through October 13

October 13, 2013

By Jane Rosenberg

The unique opera that is “Einstein on the Beach” is a product not only of the minds of Philip Glass, Robert Wilson, Christopher Knowles, and Lucinda Childs, but also of the nineteen seventies… and sixties…and fifties… and without doubt the thirties and twenties. 

Philip Glass

Philip Glass

If one believes, as I do, that art is created within an historical context, that it builds upon the art that preceded it and can only be formed in reaction to art of the past, then Glass and Wilson have mined a very rich vein of music and art history. They not only followed the art that came before but also opened the door for theatrical staging and musical exploration for the art that followed.

And so here are my impressions of the piece in keeping with, to quote Glass, the “resolutely nonsensical from beginning to end.”

Richard Wagner and Wieland Wagner, George Antheil and Fernand Leger, Kurt Jooss and Fritz Cohen, John Cage, Merce Cunningham and Robert Rauschenberg. Bathing caps, typewriters, brown bags, cookies.  Stanislavsky, Meyerhold, Peter Brook, Andrei Serban, Richard Foreman. Baggy pants, spaceships, trains, wigs. “Metropolis,” “Modern Times,” “2001 A Space Odyssey,” “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” “It Came From Outer Space.” Patty Hearst, chalk, clocks, suspenders.  Russian Constructivism, German Expressionism, Hans Richter, Donald Judd, Robert Morris, Sol Lewitt, Chris Burden.  Baggy pants, Crazy Eddie, Bojangles, jail. Lewis Carroll, Franz Kafka, Samuel Beckett, Walt Disney. Supermarkets, air conditioning, clocks, beakers.  Darwin, Einstein, Oppenheimer, Diver Dan.

Einstein on the Beach” defies labeling – opera barely covers it.  It’s a theatrical/musical experience where one is taken prisoner – alternately enthralled, irritated, illuminated, and uplifted.  Does it need to be four and a half hours long to get its glorious and painful self across to an audience?  Probably not, but then it wouldn’t be winner of the Olympic Decathlon of musical theater.

Einstein on the Beach

For me a review of this landmark achievement is nearly superfluous.  By its very nature, it defies description. It’s a jigsaw puzzle of ciphers, symbols, sounds, and visions; and it’s up to each and every viewer/listener to put it together in his or her own heads. In fact, like so much of the downtown New York theater of the seventies, where and when “Einstein” was created, it’s the audience as participant as well as viewer. Take, for example, the frantic electrical charge that went through many of us in 1974 when, standing up for the performance, we were chased around a 4th St. loft by a horde of Trojan women in Andrei Serban’s and Elizabeth swado’s play at La MaMa.

Though you aren’t, as an audience member, actively involved in the staging, you are asked to sit hours on end without intermission, with little or no narrative structure to hold onto. It’s an endurance piece (as denoted by art practitioners), on the part of the ticket holder – rewarding and exhausting all at once. Even some of Wagner’s operas, clocking in at four hours plus, offer down time at intermission. And yes, you are invited to leave anytime throughout “Einstein” and take a break, but given the musical and artistic invention, who wants to walk out and miss anything?

But onto a few specifics:  Lucinda Child’s choreography, as danced by her talented troupe, was the perfect marriage with Glass’s score, a ceaseless cascade of basic ballet forms – jetés, fouettés, piqué turns, to name a few – all intense movement, all performed with arms at shoulder height to add a minimalistic aura to the steps. Outfitted in pale gray and beige and performed against a neutral tinted watercolor palette of light, the dancers embodied the music.  

Conducted by Michael Riesman, the Philip Glass Ensemble performed the driving yet often times subtle score. Los Angeles is the last stop of the production in North America and Glass was on hand, along with Wilson and Childs, for opening night. The chorus was flawless in their rendering of the demands of the music.  Hai-Ting Chinn performed her Act Four, Scene Two solo with a supernatural edge. Jennifer Koh as Einstein on the violin was a wonder of precision and spirit. On tenor saxophone, Andrew Sterman, in Act Four, brought a reflective, human scale to the entire evening – a poetic musing of American streets and sounds. Was the industrial brick building in the background the old Bell Labs Research Center (which became Westbeth Artists Community and declared an historical landmark in 1975) where so many modern technical marvels were invented?  

Helga Davis and Kate Moran shone in the Knee Plays and throughout the evening. Charles Williams in his roles as judge and bus driver was the one false note for me. His characters were given voice to emotive ramblings – a sharp contrast to the rest of the proceedings. One particular speech, parodying feminism and the women’s movement, I found dated. Though as judge, he was, in all probability, giving voice to the prejudices of the time, the speech came across as harsh and strident, at odds with the rest of the piece. As the bus driver, he tells, in a cozy voice, a romantic tale at the end of the opera – an intentionally jarring bit of storytelling to what purpose? Perhaps it was a poke at melodramatic endings.

In the case of “Einstein on the Beach” the audience came to be transported via spaceship, train, or bus to the outer dimensions of Glass and Wilson’s world and received more than it could possibly have imagined – still mesmerizing in the twenty-first century.

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To read more dance and music reviews by Jane Rosenberg click HERE.


Jane Rosenberg is the author and illustrator of  DANCE ME A STORY: Twelve Tales of the Classic Ballets.  Jane is also the author and illustrator of  SING ME A STORY: The Metropolitan Opera’s Book of Opera Stories for Children.


 Photos courtesy of the Los Angeles Opera.


Ballet: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Alonzo King Lines Ballet at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

June 23, 2013

By Jane Rosenberg

On Friday evening, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion stage was awash with undulating, quivering bodies at the West coast premiere of Alonzo King’s Scheherazade and his latest choreographic venture, Azimuth, in collaboration with Hubbard Street Dance.  Drawing on diverse dance idioms, from Western Classical to Persian, Indian, and African, to name a few, King’s powerful dancers displayed a mastery of his complex and dizzying dance vocabulary. Of the two ballets, Azimuth had the more coherent structure, offering the audience the visual space to contemplate the choreography.

Although Scheherazade had a number of inspired moments, as when Scheherazade and Shahryar dance, bound together by rope from ankle to ankle, the overall effect of the eight segments was of an overly ornamental and cluttered procession of non-stop motion. In particular, arms, ceaselessly cutting the air or describing curves, added to the confusion. In stating his intentions, King calls the title character the “symbol of the savior,” weaving “tales not to save her own life, but to save humanity from its unending, retributive response to injury.” A thoughtful premise, and at its best it seeped into the choreography, but at its weakest it became a mere stylistic display.

Scheherazade from “Play Me A Story: A Child’s Introduction to Classical Music” copyright 1994 by Jane Rosenberg.

Even with his female dancers on point, King doesn’t give them characteristically feminine movements. In Azimuth, where the women are not on point, the androgynous steps of male and female are satisfying; however in Scheherazade dancers on point seemed to render the work awkward and strained, minimizing the sensuality of a piece that begs to be erotic.  Kara Wilkes, in the featured role, was able to overcome these limitations, with her elastic fragility and innate gracefulness.  As Shahryar, David Harvey brought a subtlety to King’s choreography and delivered a seasoned performance.

The music, based on Rimsky-Korsakov’s lush symphonic suite, was interpreted and re-imagined by Indian tabla musician, Zakir Hussain. One wished the instrumentalists were there in person. Unfortunately, it suffered in recording.  In part, Hussain gave us an Arabic infused version of the original music, which was quite effective, putting me in mind of Duke Ellington’s interpretations of Tchaikovsky and Grieg.  But these segments were interwoven with a series of disconnected percussive sections, which, though interesting in themselves, interrupted the flow of the dance.  A heavy silk backdrop created by Robert Rosenwasser was appropriately luxurious as were his costumes, co-created with Colleen Quen.

Hubbard St Lines duoAzimuth, danced by both King’s company and the Hubbard Street dancers was a more successful merging of dance and music.  And with quieter choreography, one was able to appreciate the intricacies of the movement of torsos and legs. Though performed by a larger ensemble, with the vivacious and skilled Hubbard Street dancers on board, clearer patterns and a cleaner structure made for a more successful piece than its predecessor. Meredith Webster’s mastery of King’s aesthetic, along with her athleticism, shone bright in her solo and in her final dance with David Harvey.  Original recorded music by Ben Juodvalkis complemented the dancing but felt a bit like a new age tour through world religions.

Sandwiched between King’s two productions, but by no means less important, was a lovely poem of a dance entitled Little Mortal Jumps, choreographed by Alejandro Cerrudo, Hubbard Street’s resident choreographer.  Opening with a vaudevillian sweetness and poignancy, the human scale of the piece immediately absorbed and entranced, and the versatile Hubbard Street dancers performed it to perfection.  In one section, the ensemble that had gathered on stage fled, leaving two dancers, male and female, helplessly mounted on blocks, attached like Velcro puppets to the walls and just out of reach of each other.  As they unzipped their coats to extricate themselves from the walls, they began a childlike exploration of each other.

As Little Mortal Jumps proceeded, it grew darker, but all the while maintained a sense that, although we may be tossed about by the vagaries of life, through our shared humanity we can persevere with humor and courage.  The set, by the choreographer, used large, black minimalist blocks as partitions, merging visual art with dance in a symbiotic way.  The lighting by Michael Korsch and costumes by Branimira Ivanova completed the harmonious whole.  The music, a compendium of various artists from Tom Waits to Philip Glass, informed the dance while the dance informed the music – one couldn’t ask for much more.

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Photos by Margo Moritz. 

To read more dance and music reviews by Jane Rosenberg click HERE.


Jane Rosenberg is the author and illustrator of  SING ME A STORY: The Metropolitan Opera’s Book of Opera Stories for ChildrenJane is also the author and illustrator of DANCE ME A STORY: Twelve Tales of the Classic Ballets.

Picks of the Week: July 20 – 26

July 20, 2009

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Patricia Talem - web

Patricia Talem

– July 21. (Tues.) Patricia Talem. The musical talent never seems to stop flowing from the rich, creative culture of Brazil. But the musically eclectic newcomer Talem, who is celebrating the release of her self-titled CD, is something special. Blessed with a warm, intimate, whisper in your ear voice, she uses it with the communicative qualities of a born story teller. She’ll be backed by the impressive skills of pianist Russell Ferrante, bassist Jimmy Haslip, guitarist Sandro Albert and drummer Marco DaCosta. Catalina Bar & Grill. (323)466-2210.

– July 21. (Tues.) Jon Mayer Trio. Mayer has been quietly delivering one classy performance after another for decades — from the intimate jazz of his own trio to deeply empathic backing for a wide range of other artists. This time out, he’s celebrating the release of his new CD “Nightscape,” backed by bassist Chris Conner and drummer Roy McCurdy. Charlie O’s. (818) 994-3058.

– July 23. (Thurs.) Mike Marshall, Darol Anger and Väsen. The strings will be flying in what promises to be a fascinating encounter between the bluegrass mastery of Marshall’s mandolin, Anger’s boundary-less fiddle and the nyckelharpa, viola and guitar of the dynamic Swedish trio, Väsen. The Skirball Center. (310) 440-4500.

– July . (Thurs.) The Squirrel Nut Zippers. It’s a real night for dancing on the Santa Monica Pier, with the retro jumping jive of the Squirrel Nut Zippers and the authentic big band swing of Johnny Vanus and the Big Band Alumni. All of it taking place on the 85th anniversary of the opening of the La Monica Ballroom. The Twilight Dance Series. (310) 458-8901.

– July 23. (Thurs.) Philip Glass and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Michael Riesman, in the world premiere performance of a new arrangement of Glass’ score for Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance. The Music will be played in sync with a video projection of Godfrey Reggio‘s 1982 wordless film, Koyaaniqatsi. The Hollywood Bowl. (323) 850-2000

The .

Roberta Donnay

Roberta Donnay

– July 23. (Thurs.) Roberta Donnay Quartet. Donnay’s one of the real originals in the latest wave of female jazz vocalists. Although there are traces of Blossom Dearie in her sound and Madeleine Peyroux in her phrasing, Donnay transforms everything she touches into her own unique musical vision. Crowne Plaza Hotel. (310) 642-7500.

– July 25. (Sat.) The Mike Melvoin Trio. Is there such a thing as the “Mike Melvoin Songbook?” The veteran jazz pianist says, “yes.” And Mike, with the incomparable assistance of bassist Tony Dumas and drummer Ralph Penland, will sing and play its pleasures and its secrets. With scheduled guest appearances by Keith England, Theresa Russell and possibly others. Spazio. (818) 728-8400.

gerald wilson

Gerald Wilson

– July 25. (Sat.) “Music and Monologues — Harmony and Humor.” An evening of fun, satire, hi-jinks and some pretty good music, too. Featuring Teresa Tudury, Vicki Juditz and Jonathan Solomon. Parlor Performances. Steinway Hall. (310) 476-6735.

– July 25 & 26. (Sat. & Sun.) The Central Ave. Jazz Festival. The Southland’s most authentic jazz festival — at last in terms of location — situated across from the Dunbar Hotel, at the center of what was once the heart of jazz in Los Angeles. On the schedule — Sat.: The CJS Quintet; Raya Yarbrough; The Eric Reed Trio; The Adonis Puentes Band; Bill Henderson. Sun: Jazz America; The Littleton Bros.; Kalil Wilson; Kamasi Washington; The Gerald Wilson Orchestra; The Jazz on the Latin Side All Stars. The Central Avenue Jazz Festival. (213) 743-8738.

San Francisco

– July 22 (Wed.) “A Musical Tribute to Buddy Montgomery.” Friends, former associates and admirers of the late vibist/pianist (who passed away in May) celebrate his memory. Featuring Marlena Shaw, Mary Stallings, John Handy, David Hazeltine, Brian Lynch, Jeff Chambers and many others. Yoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600.

– July 25 & 26. (Sat. & Sun.) “Hawaiian World Festival” reaches across the broad spectrum of Hawaiian music. Featuring the versatiel group Hapa, slack key and ukulele master Led Kaapana and singer/songwriter John Cruz. Yoshi’s Oakland. (510) 238-9200.

New York City


Charlie Haden

– July 21 – 26 (Tues. – Sun.) The Charlie Haden Invitation Series. Bassist Haden measures his considerable versatility against a world class line-up of pianists. With Ethan Iverson (Tues,) Steve Kuhn (Wed.), Kenny Barron (Thurs. & Fri,.), Paul Bley (Sat.) and Bill Charlap (Sun.). (212) 475-8592. The Blue Note.

– July 22 – 25. (Wed. – Sat.) The Lee Konitz Quartet. Konitz should be on everyone’s must-hear list whenever he’s in town. And even more so when he’s in the company of drummer Paul Motian and pianist Dan Tepfer. Birdland. (212) 581-3080.

To contact Don Heckman with information regarding performers and/or performances for possible inclusion in Picks of the Week click here.

Picks of the Week: Feb. 23 – Mar. 1

February 23, 2009

By Don Heckman


– Feb. 28. (Sat.)   Chris Botti performs with the Boston Pops Orchestra, conducted by Keith Lockhart,  at Boston’s Symphony Hall.  He’s joined by a stellar array of guests including Josh Groban, Yo-Yo Ma, Sting, John Mayer and Steven Tyler.   7 p.m. in most areas, but check your local stations.  PBS.

Los Angeles


Lou Donaldson

– Feb. 24 – 26. (Tues. – Thurs.)  Lou Donaldson Quartet.  The veteran altoist cruises freely though the waters of bop and post-bop.  Jazz Bakery  (310) 271-9039.  Also at Yoshi’s in Oakland, Feb. 28 – Mar. 1. (see below)

– Feb. 25. (Wed.)  The Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Sextet.  Drummer Gibbs showcases his always swinging, cutting edge ensemble.  DSteamers.  (714) 871-8800

– Feb. 25 – Mar. 1. (Wed. – Sun.)  The music of Philip Glass.  “The Book of Longing”  A song cycle based upon the poetry and images of Leonard Cohen receives its Southern California premiere performances.  Garrison Theater, Scripps Performing Arts Center, Scripps College.  (909) 607-8668.

– Feb. 26. (Thurs.)  Jazz Expression! The young jazz players of Freedom 4U, a youth-oriented non-profit that provides creative arts programs, perform in concert.  The second hour is an open jam session for any youth – 13 – 20 years of age – who wishes to participate and shows up with an instrument.  Free to the public.  Trump National Golf Club, Rancho Palos Verdes.  6:30 – 8:30  p.m..  (310) 897-5043.


Jane Monheit

– Feb. 26 – Mar. 1) Thurs. – Sun.)  Jane Monheit applies her glorious voice to selections from her latest CD, “The Lovers, the Dreamers and Me.”  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– Feb. 27. (Fri.)  Julie Fowlis. She comes from Scotland’s distant Hebridean Islands, and sings in Scottish Gaelic.  But the expressiveness of her voice is one of the enchanting marvels of contemporary folk music.  McCabes’s. (310) 828-4497

– Feb. 27 – Mar. 1. (Fri. – Sun.)  Kenny Barron Trio.  Barron’s been everyone’s A-list pianist for decades.  But the full range of his lyrical imagination is at its best with his own trio.  Jazz Bakery  (310) 271-9039.

– Feb. 27. (Fri.)  Afro Cuban All-Stars.  Bolero, Cha Cha Cha, Salsa, Rumba, Danzón, and Timba music – expect to hear them all from the Grammy-nominated ensemble. Cerritos Center.  (562) 467-8818


Bill Tapia

– Feb. 28. (Sat.)  Bill Tapia.  The remarkable Hawaiian ukulele player and singer celebrates his 101st birthday with yet another entertaining performance.  (And whatever it is that he drinks should be bottled and sold under the “Fountain of Youth” label.)  The Grand Annex, San Pedro.  (310) 833-4813.

– Mar. 1. (Sun.)  Add Polish singer Aga Zaryan to the growing list of gifted European jazz singers.  Hopefully, she’ll sing her touching interpretation of Abby Lincoln’s “Throw It Away.”  Favoring a guitar sound in her back-up groups, she’ll perform with the versatile Larry Koonse, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Munyungo Jackson. Only one set, at 4 p.m., and she shouldn’t be missed.  The Jazz Bakery  (310) 271-9039.


Corky Hale with Billie Holiday

– Mar. 1. (Sun.)  Corky Hale.  Corky was one of the pioneers of the still-rarely heard jazz harp.  But she’s a gifted pianist as well, with a colorful, eclectic career that includes backing Billie Holiday.  Add her gently swinging, jazz-tinged vocals, her knack for finding the heart of a song,  and expect an entertaining musical evening.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

San Francisco

– Feb. 27 – Mar. 1. (Fri. – Sun.)  Randy Weston’s African Rhythms Trio.  Weston’s music was described, with good cause, by Langston Hughes as “an ebb and flow of sound seemingly as natural as the waves of the sea.” Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

– Feb. 28 – Mar. 1.  (Sat. & Sun.)  Lou Donaldson. The veteran altoist cruises freely though the waters of bop and post-bop.  Yoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.

New York City

– Feb. 24 – Mar. 1. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Spanish Harlem Orchestra.  Pianist and Music Director Oscar Hernandez’s l3 piece ensemble revives and contemporizwes the glories of “old school New York ‘salsa dura’.” The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.


Ann Hampton Callaway

– Feb. 24 – Mar. 1. (Tues. – Sun.)  Ann Hampton Callaway.  The versatile singer/pianist Callaway presents material from her new CD, “At Last,” with tunes reaching from Joni Mitchell to Cole Porter.  Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola. (212) 258-9595.

– Feb. 24 – 25. (Tues. & Wed.)  Aaron Parks. At 25, the highly praised pianist’s resume includes substantial stints with Terence Blanchard, as well as a growing list of his own outings.  Jazz Standard  (212) 576-2252.

– Feb. 25 – 28. (Wed. – Sat.)  Gary Peacock, Marc Copland and Bill Stewart. It’s an unlikely, but intriguing combination – veteran bassist Peacock, with Copland – who started out as a saxophonist, switching to piano when he was 25 – and the young A-list drummer Stewart.  Should produce some compelling music.  Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

monk-town-hall-cd– Feb. 26. (Thurs.)  Charles Tolliver.The Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall, 1959: Reviving a Landmark.” Trumpeter Tolliver celebrates the epic late /50s performance with a set of new transcriptions of Hall Overton’s large ensemble charts. It’s an event not to be missed.  Town Hall. (212) 997-1929.

– Feb. 27. (Fri.)  Jason Moran “In My Mind, Monk at Town Hall, 1959.” The gifted young pianist Moran has created a multi-media piece based on the Monk Town Hall performance, including Monk selections for an eight piece band, photos by Eugene Smith and never-before-heard recordings of Monk and Hall Overton.  Town Hall. (212) 997-1929.

San Diego


Amina Figarova

– Feb. 26. (Thurs.)  Amina Figarova Sextet. Atheneum Music and Arts Library. Pianist Figarova, born in Azerbaijan, based in the Netherlands, is composing an impressive catalog of selections embracing her 21st century interpretation of the jazz mainstream. San Diego Atheneum. (858) 454-5872

Picks of the Week: Feb 2 – 8

February 2, 2009

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– Feb. 2. (Mon.)  Emerson String Quartet.  The veteran, eight Grammy Award-winning ensemble performs amid a major retrospective showing of the art of painter Roberta Eisenberg.  The program includes Beethoven, Ravel, Webern and Schubert.  Cal State Polytechnic.  Pomona. (310) 216-5861.


Jacky Terrasson

– Feb. 4 – 7.  (Wed. – Sat.)  Jacky Terrasson Trio.  The always-intriguing French pianist makes a rare L.A. stop.  The Jazz Bakery  (310) 271-9039.

– Feb 5.  (Thurs.)  Klezmerata Fiorentina.  How’s this for eclecticism: Four principal players from Florence’s Orchestra del Maggio Musicale, performing Ukrainian-Jewish instrumental music in an improvisatory style. Expect to hear lots of tapping feet.  Skirball Cultural Center.  (310) 440-4500.

– Feb. 5.  (Thurs.)  Ron Eschete Trio. The master of the seven string jazz guitar in action.    Steamers. (714) 871-8800


Steve Tyrell

– Feb. 5 – 8  (Thurs. – Sun.) and Feb. 12 – 15 (Thurs. – Sun.)  Singer Steve Tyrell does his unique take on the Great American Songbook.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Feb. 6.  (Fri.)  Master Musicians of Jajouka.  William S. Burroughs described it as the “music of a 4,000 year old rock & roll band.”  But even that colorful beat generation description misses the intensity of the Jajoukas’ music, with its plangent reeds, wailing flutes and roiling percussion.  UCLA Royce Hall. (310) 825-2101.   (Also Feb. 11 and 12 at Yoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600.


Orchestra Otmani

– Feb. 6.  (Fri. ) Orchestra Otmani of Fes.  A rare opportunity to hear Moroccan music in the Andalusian style.  Orchestra Otmani performs in both secular and Sufi traditions, and features the singing of 21 year old vocal prodigy Marouane Hajji.  Zipper Concert Hall at the Colburn School.  (866) 468-3399.

– Feb. 6, 8, 13 and 15.  (Fri,, Sun., Fri. & Sun.)   Le Nozze di Figaro.  “Figaro” is always fun.  But rarely more so than in this self-described “boisterous new production” by Opera UCLA.  Schoenberg Hall. (310) 825-2101

– Feb. 6 & 7.  (Fri. & Sat.)  Another jazz saxophone weekend at Charlie O’s, with the boppish stylings of Lanny Morgan on Sat. and the Pink Panther tenor of Plas Johnson on Saturday.  Charlie O’s.  818- 994-3058.

– Feb. 7.  (Fri.)  An Evening with Edward Albee. The great American playwright tells how it’s done.   Royce Hall UCLA.  UCLA Royce Hall. (310) 825-2101.


Azam Ali

-Feb. 7.  (Sat.)  Niyaz.  The cross-cultural ensemble of singer Azam Ali, multi-instrumentalist Loga Ramin Torkian, oud player Naser Musa, tabla player Salar Nadar, bassist Miles Jay and keyboardist Ray Lee explore the surprisingly compatible linkages between Persian, Indian, Turkish and Western dance music.  The El Rey.  (323) 936-6400.   Also Fri., Feb. 7 at Cal State Fullerton Performing Arts Center.  (714) 278-3371.

– Feb. 7.  (Fri.)  Rahim AlHaj and Souhail Kaspar.  Iraqi oud virtuoso AlHaj is joined by Lebanese percussionist Souhail Kaspar in a presentation of music from his latest CD, “Home Again.”  The Getty.



– Feb. 8.  (Sun.) Kodo Drummers.  Disney Hall.  No that’s not the big one you hear, although it sometimes approaches the intensity of a major temblor.  It’s Japan’s Kodo Drummers, filling Disney Hall with their incomparable blend of sheer showmanship and body-shaking percussion sounds.  Walt Disney Concert Hall. (323) 850-2000.

San Francisco

– Feb. 2 & 3.  (Mon. & Tues.)  Chris Hillman & Herb Pederson with John McEuen.  California country, rock and bluegrass lives.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

New York City

– Feb. 3 – 8.  (Tues. – Sun.)  The perfect contemporary jazz storm: The Yellowjackets’ irrepressible beat  and Mike Stern’s take-no-prisoners guitar playing. Blue Note.  (No wonder they have two Grammy nominations.)  (212) 475-8592.

– Feb. 4 – 7  (Wed. – Sat.)  Drummer Lewis Nash steps to the front of the stage with his own sterling quintet  (Jeremy Pelt, trumpet, Jimmy Greene, tenor saxophone, Renee Rosnes, piano, Peter Washington, bass)  Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

– Feb. 6.  (Fri.)  Up and coming pianist Helen Sung combines her youthful perspective with veteran bassist Ron Carter‘s ever-adventurous overview.  Rubin Museum of Art. (212) 620-5000.

– Feb. 6 & 7.  (Fri. & Sat.)  Pianist Mike Melvoin, bassist Jay Leonhart and drummer Bill Goodwin make a convincing case for the fact that jazz can be simultaneously lyrical, elegant, imaginative and hard-swinging.  The Kitano.  (212) 885-7000.  Also at Scullers Jazz Club in Boston on Tues., Feb. 10.  (617) 562-4111.

– Feb. 6 & 7.  (Fri. & Sat..)  (10:30 & 12:00 AM)  Tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake‘s envelope-stretching quintet, with pianist Dave Kikoski, guitarist Lage Lund, drummer Bill Stewart and bassist Matt Clohesy.  Smalls.  (212) 252-5091.

Knoxville, Tennessee

– Feb. 6 – 8  (Fri.  –  Sun.) Big Ears Festival.  A cross-genre music and arts festival combining art installations, exhibitions, performance art, seminars with artists, and interactive experiences.  Confirmed artists include Philip Glass, Jon Hassell, Pauline Oliveros, and numerous others.  At locations around Knoxville, Tenn.    (865).684-1200 Ext. 2.


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