Live Classical Music: The Rose Ensemble at The Getty

May 19, 2009

By Don Heckman

The early music of Eastern Europe, of roughly the 12th through the 16th centuries, has rarely received the attention it deserves. But the thought that its obscurity is justified as the issuance of a culture of invaders on horseback dwelling in wooden Baba Yaga huts — while the West was building magnificent cathedrals and carving timeless marble statuary — is simply off base.

So give credit to the Rose Ensemble from St. Paul, Minnesota for having had the curiosity, the time, and the talent, to explore music from the archives of Moscow, Warsaw, Cracow and other areas east of the Danube. The Ensemble’s “Slavic Wonders” program at The Getty’s Williams Auditorium was as enlightening as it was entertaining, a stunning display of music that can comfortably stand alongside the works of Machaut, Dufay, Gabrieli, etc.

Rose Ensemble by Michael Haug

The Rose Ensemble

The six men and six women of the Ensemble performed a cappella for the most part, occasionally with the aid of Ginna Watson playing the
vielle, a Medieval string instrument similar to the violin, and — on several works — with members of the Ensemble playing hand drum and recorder. The program was remarkably far-ranging: a pair of anonymous Czech hymns from the 11th and 12th centuries; the 13th century Polish hymn, battle song and traditional national anthem, “Bogurodzica”; a pair of motets by the 17th century Polish composer Mikolaj Zielenski (who studied with Giovann Gabrieli); and a contemporary “Ave Maria” setting by the Belorussian composer Sergey Khvoshchinskiy.

The performances were mesmerizing, presented in varying combinations — some with the full ensemble, occasionally in antiphonal style, some by men alone or women alone, others by smaller, mixed ensembles. Throughout, one could only marvel at the Ensemble’s extraordinary combination of tonal precision, dynamic variation, the excellence of the individual singers, and their capacity to capture the authentic period styles for each of the works.

The Rose Ensemble has eight CDs available, with programming embracing Hawaiian vocal music, traditional American song, Mediterranean music and Mexican Christmas songs, as well as their fascinating excursions into Gregorian chant, Medieval and Renaissance music.

Photo by Michael Haug

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.

Picks of the Week: Jan. 12 – 18

January 12, 2009

Los Angeles

– Jan. 13. (Tues.) Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Jazz Sextet. The title says it all: Alegria and his players showcase a rhythmically vital Latin jazz that takes a path that is different, but no less compelling, than the more familiar accents of Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music. The Jazz Bakery  (310) 271-9039.

– Jan. 15 (Thurs.) and 17 (Sat.)  The Alan Parsons Live Project. Parsons, the veteran producer, musican, engineer and hit maker (with the original Alan Parsons Project) performs in a new context, without former partner Eric Woolfson.  On Thurs. at The Grove of Anaheim. (714) 712-2700.; on Sat. at The House of Blues (Hollywood)  .



– Jan. 15 – 17. (Thurs. – Sat.) Pianist Eldar Djangirov, once a child prodigy, now a mature and gifted jazz pianist.  With his trio. The Jazz Bakery  (310) 271-9039.

– Jan. 15 – 18. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Cutting edge alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett keeps stretching the improvisational envelope.  With his quartet.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.


Jessica Molaskey and John Pizzarelli

– Jan. 15 – 18. (Thurs. – Sun.)  John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molasky.  The jazz world’s most entertaining vocal couple cross easily from jazz to cabaret to Broadway.  Samueli Theatre, Orange County Performing Arts Center..(714) 556-ARTS.

– Jan. 16. (Fri.) Fretwork.  Described as “the finest viol consort on the planet,” Fretwork performs a program celebrating the 350th birthday anniversary of Henry Purcell.  Soprano Clare Wilkinson joins the tribute, mostly dedicated to songs, operatic selections and fantasias.  In the sumptuous setting of the Los Angeles City Hall Council Chambers.  The Da Camera Society.  Chamber Music in Historic Places. 213.477.2929.

– Jan. 16. (Fri.)  Interpreti Veneziani.  The chamber ensemble from Venice creates atmospheric settings of music from the Baroque era.  Included in the program – selections from Vivaldi, Geminiani, Corelli and De Falla.  The Cerritos Center.  (562) 467-8818


Justo Almario

– Jan. 16 & 17.  Jazz saxophone weekends at Charlie O’s continues with Justo Almario (Fri)  Don Menza (Sat.), with the John Heard Trio.   Charlie O’s.  (818) 994-30 58.

– Jan. 16 & 17. (Fri. ( Sat.)  Joey DeFrancesco keeps the jazz organ tradition alive and cooking.  Steamers.  (714) 871-8800

– Jan. 17 & 18. . (Sat. & Sun.)  Andy Statman.  A master of both the mandolin and the clarinet, Statman finds common ground between klezmer, jazz and bluegrass.. The Getty. Williams Auditorium.  (310) 440-7300

San Diego


Marilyn Crispell

– Jan. 17. (Sat.)  Marilyn Crispell. Exploratory pianist Crispell reaches deeply into boundary-less areas of improvisation. Atheneum Music and Arts Library. (858) 454-5872  Also at the Jazz Bakery in Los ‘Angeles on Jan. 18.  The Jazz Bakery  (310) 271-9039.

San Francisco

– Jan. 13  – 14. (TK)  John Abercrombie Organ Quartet. Straight ahead, down home and swinging.  With organist Gary Versace, tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi and drummer Adam Nussbaum.  Oakland. . (510) 238-9200.

– Jan. 14. (Wed.)  Les Yeux Noir. The dynamic, violin playing brothers Eric and Olivier Slabiak, leading a sextet – named after “The Black Eyes,” a gypsy tune favored by Django Reinhardt – that finds the common ground between gypsy, klexmer and jazz.  Yoshi’s Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.


Jeremy Pelt

– Jan. 15. (Thurs.)  Jeremy Pelt. Down Beat’s Rising Jazz Trumpet Star for five years in a row.  Think Freddie Hubbard with traces of Lee Morgan, filtered through Pelt’s own far-ranging musical imagination. Yoshi’s Oakland. . (510) 238-9200.

– Jan. 15 – 18. (Thurs. – Sun.)  Ramsey Lewis. He’s won three Grammys, has seven gold records, four honorary doctorates and was recently named an NEA Jazz Master.  But Lewis is still at his best when he’s digging into the grooves of such hits as “The In Crowd” and “Hang On, Sloopy.” Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

– Jan. 17 – 18. (Sat. & Sun.)  James Moody.  No one swings, sings and brings as much joy to jazz as Moody does.  Yoshi’s Oakland. . (510) 238-9200.

New York City

– Jan. 12. (Mon.)  Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band.  Featuring Slide Hampton (trombone), Jimmy Heath (tenor saxophone), Roy Hargrove (trumpet), Claudio Roditi (trumpet), Antonio Hart (alto saxophone, flute), Steve Davis (trombone), Roberta Gambarini (vocals), Cyrus Chestnut (piano), John Lee (bass), Willie Jones III (drums),  The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.


Jeff and John Clayton

– Jan. 13 – 18. (Tues. – Sun.)  The Clayton Brothers Quintet. Bassist John and alto saxophonist Jeff make a convincing jazz case for sibling revelry.  Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola. (212) 258-9595.

– Jan. 13 – 18. (Tues. – Sun.)  Delfeayo Marsalis’ “A Tribute to Elvin Jones.”  Trombonist Marsalis recalls the influence of the innovative drummer.  The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.


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