Night After Night turned two years old today, and I wish I had something suitably momentous to share for the occasion. I don't, but at the very least I can provide a scattered handful of observations, tidbits and links.
Last week a reader asked me announce in advance the gigs I would be going out to see. I sheepishly confessed that the reason I hadn't been doing so was because of a superstition that arose after I ended up missing more than a few concerts I'd stated I'd be attending. But it seemed like a reasonable request, so I agreed to try again.
Guess what? I'm recanting already. The last thing I'd announced my intention to attend was Appomattox at the San Francisco Opera. If you've wondered why I haven't gotten around to saying anything about that, there's a simple explanation: I didn't go. I was home ill all last weekend, and swallowed the cost of my plane tickets in order to sit down and repair for a spell.
So, my superstition persists, and I'll be keeping my precise datebook to myself. Still, I used to be a lot better about drawing attention to worthy, interesting upcoming events that I learn about through my day job. And as year three commences, I promise to do a better job of posting advance information about those, at the very least.
For example, were I not tied up with other duties this weekend, there's no way I'd miss out on one of the two concerts Gamelan Çudamani is presenting at New York University's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. I'm no expert on the subject of Balinese music, although I did play for a very short time in a local gamelan now known as Dharma Swara, based at the Indonesian Consulate. But I have it on excellent authority that Çudamani is one of Bali's most innovative, progressive ensembles, with a penchant for new music based on a unique seven-tone scale rather than the usual five, and an unusual dedication to training women not just as dancers but as musicians, traditionally a male role. The brief audio and video samples I was sent attested to the group's strong reputation. The two shows are on Saturday the 27th at 8pm and Sunday the 28th at 2pm; everything else you need to know is on the Skirball site.
Reactions to Richard Taruskin's New Republic evisceration of three recent books about classical music's continuing necessity and vitality -- and, to some extent, innate superiority -- are coming fast and furious. Three of the strongest responses have come from Marc Geelhoed, Matthew Guerrieri and John Gibbons. Mr. Gibbons, whose Holde Kunst blog is new to me and promises much fascination, posted a comment here, begging to differ with my characteriztion of Taruskin's essay as "snarky-in-the-right-way." I've come to agree. In my defense, as I stated at the time, I hadn't yet finished reading the essay. Now that I have, I'll say that while I continue to concur with many of his observations and find his dissection of the Joshua Bell busking stunt right on the money, Taruskin's tone ultimately struck me rather like hunting rabbits with a vengeance -- and a bazooka.
From Anne-Carolyn Bird, we learned today that blogging baritone Thomas Meglioranza has released his first CD, an all-Schubert program accompanied by pianist Reiko Uchida. Having had the privilege of reviewing a recital this pair presented last season, as well as an opera in which Meglioranza was featured more recently, I wasted no time heading over to CD Baby to snag a copy. Sound samples are available on the site.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: One of the very best things about my job is the thrill of discovery that can result from unwrapping a new CD by an unfamiliar artist and being completely knocked out. That happened late this afternoon with a disc called The Song Within by drummer Asaf Sirkis and his trio, the Inner Noise. Sirkis is an Israeli drummer currently active in England, and his group plays a powerful, lyrical strain of jazz-rock fusion. He's a fluid, compelling player whose stylistic predecessors are Tony Williams and Jack De Johnette, and a solid writer as well. But with no slight intended toward him or the equally fine keyboardist, Steve Lodder (whose playing on church organ during one track might be a first for this genre), what really did it for me here was guitarist Mike Outram, whose gorgeous legato style comes out of Allan Holdsworth without being slavishly imitative. Outram is apparently a rising star in British jazz, having worked with Herbie Mann, Julian Argüelles, Photek and the Cinematic Orchestra, among others; he also holds teaching posts at a number of British colleges and academies. Based on this evidence, he's someone to watch. I'm looking forward to spending more time with this disc.
Speaking of Holdsworth, yesterday one of his former bandmates in prog-rock supergroup U.K., Eddie Jobson, announced the formation of a new band, UKZ. Jobson, a violinist and keyboardist who played in Curved Air, Roxy Music and Frank Zappa's band prior to forming U.K. with Holdsworth, John Wetton and Bill Bruford, hasn't worked with a band in decades, probably not since his stint as a guest with Jethro Tull for the album A and a subsequent tour in 1980.
Apart from a one-off rock album in 1983 and a new age solo CD in 1985, Jobson, famously an ultra-perfectionist, has confined his efforts to commercial studio work and TV scoring. Supposedly he puttered around for ages with a U.K. reunion project that was said to have involved Wetton, Bruford, Tony Levin and the Bulgarian Women's Choir -- three songs from which ended up on the choir's 2000 album, Voices of Life. (A trivial aside: Jobson was reportedly the first keyboardist approached when Yes reunited to record 90125 in 1983, but turned down the offer. When Tony Kaye briefly quit the band after the album was completed, Jobson signed on. But Kaye soon returned, and Jobson was out. Nevertheless, Jobson actually appears ever-so-briefly in the video for "Owner of a Lonely Heart.")
UKZ includes one other prominent player well known to American prog-heads: the excellent touch-guitar player Trey Gunn, formerly of King Crimson. Of the remaining members -- vocalist Aaron Lippert, guitarist Alex Machacek and drummer Marco Minneman -- I know nothing at all. But Jobson's controlling interest seems to be implicit, given that the band's music is currently being assembled via e-mail. (Judging by the obviously Photoshopped band photo available on its press page, one wonders whether these musicians have ever actually met.) UKZ's debut performance -- and Jobson's first onstage appearance in 27 years -- is scheduled to take place on January 25, 2008 in Los Angeles. I can't imagine any circumstance that would make it possible for me to attend, but I'm hopeful that someone will provide a report. Henry Holland, I'm looking at you.
That's all for now. In closing, my deepest thanks to everyone who has made this blogging experience a joy from the very beginning, and all who continue to do so.
Marc Baron, Bertrand Denzler, Jean-Luc Guionnet and Stéphane Rives - Propagations (Potlatch)
R.E.M. - Live (Warner Bros.)
Radiohead - In Rainbows (W.A.S.T.E. download)
Phil Lesh and Friends - Onondaga County War Memorial Auditorium, Syracuse, NY, Oct. 21, 2007; Glen Falls Civic Center, Glen Falls, NY, Oct. 20, 2007; Shea's Buffalo Theatre, Buffalo, NY, Oct. 18, 2007; and Lyric Opera House, Baltimore, MD, Oct. 16, 2007 (Archive.org streams)
Café Tacuba - SiNo (Universal)
Asaf Sirkis and the Inner Noise - The Song Within (SAM Productions)
Grateful Dead - Live at the Cow Palace New Year's Eve 1976 (Grateful Dead/Rhino)