Friday, December 31, 2010

Weekend arts picks: Dec. 31, 2010-Jan. 2, 2011

Jacquy Pfeiffer in Kings of Pastry.

Film:‭ ‬We know,‭ ‬we know,‭ ‬one of your New Year’s resolutions is to lose some weight,‭ ‬and viewing the high-calorie baked goods in the tasty new documentary‭ ‬Kings of Pastry is not going to help matters.‭ ‬Still,‭ ‬treat yourself to this affectionate confection by co-directors D.A.‭ ‬Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus‭ (‬The War Room,‭ ‬Moon Over Broadway‭)‬,‭ ‬chronicling the three-day Meilleurs‭ ‬Ouvriers de France competition to crown‭ ‬the best pastry craftsman in a nation that knows a few things about crumpets,‭ ‬crusts and cream filling.‭ ‬The drama is almost as high as the cholesterol count,‭ ‬as the film follows Jacquy Pfeiffer,‭ ‬who founded The French Pastry School in Chicago,‭ ‬as he returns to his native land to vie with‭ ‬15‭ ‬of France’s top pastry chefs for the title.‭ ‬This week at Living Room Theaters on the FAU campus in Boca Raton.

Erin Joy Schmidt and Deborah L.‭ ‬Sherman in Goldie,‭ ‬Max‭ & ‬Milk.

Theater:‭ ‬Did you hear the one about the artificially inseminated lesbian mom and the Orthodox Jewish‭ ‬lactation consultant‭? ‬Of course,‭ ‬there is a natural tension between the two of them in the odd-couple comedy‭ ‬Goldie,‭ ‬Max‭ & ‬Milk by Karen Hartman,‭ ‬but over time they rub off on each other and even teach one another a thing or two.‭ ‬Florida Stage is giving the play‭ ‬--‭ ‬an audience favorite from the‭ ‬2010‭ ‬1st Stage Festival‭ ‬--‭ ‬its world premiere,‭ ‬gently directed by Margaret D.‭ ‬Ledford,‭ ‬with a crafty cast led by Erin Joy Schmidt,‭ ‬Deborah L.‭ ‬Sherman and newcomer Sarah Lord.‭ ‬At the Kravis Center’s Rinker Playhouse through Jan.‭ ‬16.‭ ‬Call‭ (‬561‭) ‬585-3433. -- H. Erstein

Inside the Sphinx,‭ ‬by Gerri Aurre.‭ ‬At Contempo.

Art:‭ ‬Two exhibits open this coming week in the northern part of the county:‭ ‬Contempo,‭ ‬at the Lighthouse ArtCenter in Tequesta,‭ ‬an exhibit of contemporary works juried by the Vero Beach Museum of Art‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬6-Feb.‭ ‬10‭)‬,‭ ‬and the biennial faculty art show at Palm Beach State‭’‬s Eissey Campus in Palm Beach Gardens.

Contempo features works that were completed within the last two years,‭ ‬and is being shown at the same time as‭ ‬ArtyBras,‭ ‬a collection of art bras created to raise money for breast cancer awareness.‭ ‬The opening reception is planned for‭ ‬5:30-7:30‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Thursday,‭ ‬Jan.‭ ‬13.‭ ‬Admission is‭ ‬$5‭ ‬for visitors‭; ‬free for members.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬746-3101‭ ‬for more information.

A ceramic by‭ ‬Victoria Rose Martin.‭ ‬
At the Palm Beach State faculty exhibition.

‭ ‬The faculty exhibit,‭ ‬which opens Jan.‭ ‬5‭ ‬and runs through Feb.‭ ‬4,‭ ‬features artists from the Palm Beach State campuses in Boca Raton,‭ ‬Palm Beach Gardens and Lake Worth.‭ ‬It consists of work by‭ ‬17‭ ‬artists including Victoria Rose Martin,‭ ‬Dennis Tishkowsky,‭ ‬Sherry Stephens and Nazare Feliciano.‭ ‬The opening reception is set for‭ ‬5:00-8:00‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Tuesday,‭ ‬Jan.‭ ‬11,‭ ‬in the BB Building on the Eissey Campus.‭ ‬Gallery hours are‭ ‬9‭ ‬a.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬5‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Monday through Friday,‭ ‬except for Tuesday,‭ ‬when the gallery is open until‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Admission is free‭; ‬call‭ ‬207-5015.

Anton Arensky‭ (‬1861-1906‭)‬.

Music:‭ ‬The Delray String Quartet has expanded its reach again this year,‭ ‬and the second seasonal program will be going on the‭ ‬road to the Trinity-by-the-Cove Episcopal Church in Naples as of Jan.‭ ‬16.‭ ‬But the first time to hear it is Sunday afternoon in the quartet‭’‬s home base at the Colony Hotel in Delray Beach,‭ ‬where the foursome will tackle the Shostakovich Quartet No.‭ ‬7‭ (‬in F-sharp minor,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬108‭)‬,‭ ‬the Beethoven Quartet No.‭ ‬6‭ (‬in B-flat,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬18,‭ ‬No.‭ ‬6‭) ‬and the standard-arrangement version of the Second Quartet of Anton Arensky‭ (‬in A minor,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬35a‭)‬,‭ ‬originally written for violin,‭ ‬viola and two cellos.‭ ‬

The Arensky is a deeply‭ ‬beautiful work,‭ ‬far too rarely played in either version,‭ ‬and it‭’‬s an inspired choice to go along with the Shostakovich quartet.‭ ‬Both are memorials:‭ ‬Arensky‭’‬s was composed in‭ ‬1895‭ ‬as a memorial for his mentor,‭ ‬Tchaikovsky,‭ ‬while Shostakovich composed his in‭ ‬1960‭ ‬as a memorial to his first wife,‭ ‬Nina.‭ ‬The Beethoven quartet is a splendid piece as well,‭ ‬and wraps up the collection of the six Op.‭ ‬18‭ ‬quartets that marked the composer as someone who would bring something new to the Haydn-Mozart string quartet approach.‭ ‬The concert begins at‭ ‬4‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sunday at the Colony‭’‬s music room.‭ ‬Tickets are‭ ‬$35‭; ‬call‭ ‬213-4138‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬

Thursday, December 30, 2010

ArtsPaper Interview: Age of Philippe begins at Boca Symphonia

Philippe Entremont.‭
(‬Illustration by Pat Crowley‭)

By Greg Stepanich

The French pianist Philippe Entremont was born in‭ ‬1934‭ ‬in Rheims,‭ ‬France,‭ ‬to two musicians,‭ ‬and found fame early,‭ ‬entering the Paris Conservatoire at‭ ‬12‭ ‬and winning first prizes in solfège,‭ ‬chamber music and piano performance by the time he was‭ ‬15.

He made his‭ ‬American debut in‭ ‬1953,‭ ‬and has enjoyed a career as one of the world‭’‬s leading pianists,‭ ‬with numerous recordings and concerts all over the world.‭ ‬He added conducting to his activities in‭ ‬1967,‭ ‬and has been director of the New Orleans and Denver symphonies,‭ ‬and the Vienna,‭ ‬Israel and Netherlands chamber orchestras.‭ ‬He founded the Santo Domingo Festival in‭ ‬1997‭ ‬in the Dominican Republic,‭ ‬and in December led his first concert as director of the Boca Raton Symphonia.

Last February,‭ ‬he sat down with Greg Stepanich of‭ ‬Palm Beach ArtsPaper‭ ‬at the Boca Raton Resort and Club for lunch and a long,‭ ‬wide-ranging conversation.‭ ‬Among the things‭ ‬they discussed was the recent performance of‭ ‬Souvenirs,‭ ‬written for Entremont in‭ ‬2009‭ ‬by American composer Richard Danielpour.‭ ‬Illness prevented him from conducting it in two appearances at the Kravis Center,‭ ‬but he led it last month at the Roberts Theatre in Boca Raton to open his first concert with the Symphonia.‭

Because it was a lunch,‭ ‬the interview was less formal than most such interviews are,‭ ‬and that is reflected in the following text.‭ ‬Many of the references in the conversation refer to events from the‭ ‬2009-10‭ ‬season.‭ ‬Questions have been edited for length and clarity‭; ‬answers have been excerpted in some cases.‭

They began by talking about their mutual admiration for the Fourth Symphony of Gustav Mahler:

Entremont:‭ ‬It is not too long,‭ ‬and it is‭ ‬absolutely gorgeous from the first note to the last.

Stepanich:‭ ‬It has that‭ ‬all that mastery of orchestration that Mahler has‭…‬.

Entremont:‭ ‬Exceptional.‭ ‬It has all that clarity.‭ ‬It has two big climaxes,‭ ‬no more.‭ (‬Laughs‭) ‬But they are good‭! ‬The quality is there.‭ ‬I must say that I‭ ‬have done it,‭ ‬too,‭ ‬with the Orchestra of Europe just two months ago.‭ ‬Magnificent.‭

You know who put Mahler on the map‭? ‬It was Bernstein.‭ ‬He really put Mahler on the map in spite of all the exaggeration.‭ ‬(Laughs‭)

Stepanich:‭ ‬Have you ever heard those last Tchaikovsky recordings of Bernstein‭?

Entremont:‭ ‬No.

Stepanich:‭ ‬In the‭ ‬Pathetique‭ ‬[Symphony‭]‬,‭ ‬it‭’‬s molto largo‭ ‬… (sings the opening bars to demonstrate‭)

Entremont:‭ (‬Sings along‭) ‬And the world‭ ‬stops‭!

Stepanich:‭ ‬It‭’‬s way too much.

Entremont:‭ ‬That‭’‬s OK.‭ ‬I‭ ‬don‭’‬t care.‭ ‬When you hear such drive,‭ ‬and inspiring stuff‭ ‬– I love mistakes.

[‬A waitress comes to‭ ‬take drink orders.‭ ‬Stepanich talks about his‭ ‬digital recorder,‭ ‬a‭ ‬Sony ICD-SX68‭ ‬that he prizes above all things.‭]

Entremont:‭ ‬I need one.‭ ‬I am in the process‭ ‬– maybe‭ ‬– to do a book.

Stepanich:‭ ‬A memoir‭?

Entremont:‭ ‬Not on me,‭ ‬because I hate biography.‭ ‬But I am pushed to do a biography.‭ ‬But‭ ‬I much prefer to talk about‭ ‬60‭ ‬years‭ ‬of music,‭ ‬of the people I have known.

Stepanich:‭ ‬You‭’‬ve known everybody.‭

Entremont:‭ ‬I‭’‬ve known everybody.‭ ‬Absolutely everybody.

Stepanich:‭ ‬Would you write it with someone or do it yourself‭?
Entremont:‭ ‬No,‭ ‬no,‭ ‬no.‭ ‬I will use somebody,‭ ‬but I have to do the writing anyway.‭ ‬Because I‭’‬m certainly going to be doing that with someone who doesn‭’‬t know too much about it.

Philippe Entremont.
‭ (‬Photo by Greg Stepanich‭)

Stepanich:‭ ‬… Let me ask you about how you came to the Boca Symphonia.

Entremont:‭ ‬This is an old story,‭ ‬a friendship story.‭ ‬I know‭ ‬[Boca Symphonia Executive Director‭] ‬Marshall Turkin‭ ‬– the first time I met him was in‭ ‬1955.‭ ‬That was a long time ago.‭ ‬And I‭’‬ve always liked Marshall.‭ ‬We have always been good friends,‭ ‬because he is a fabulously nice guy.‭ ‬He knows what he is talking about.‭ ‬There is no fluff.‭ ‬He was a very good manager,‭ ‬and he knows music extremely well.

We have always been friends,‭ ‬and he approached me,‭ ‬without caution‭ (‬laughs‭)‬.‭ ‬And I don‭’‬t want a directorship‭ ‬– no way.‭ ‬A big orchestra‭ ‬– I don‭’‬t like it.‭ ‬And I‭’‬m doing a‭ ‬lot,‭ ‬maybe too much for my age,‭ ‬but this is why I am still young in character.

I never canceled anything but the two concerts in Palm Beach,‭ ‬as you know.‭ ‬I was sick,‭ ‬I had bronchitis.‭ ‬I could fly:‭ ‬that‭’‬s it.‭ ‬But I conducted a concert two days later,‭ ‬when I was‭ ‬in Washington.‭

Stepanich:‭ ‬Mr.‭ ‬Danielpour did‭ ‬all right,‭ ‬conducting his piece‭ [‬Souvenirs‭]‬.

Entremont:‭ ‬It‭’‬s a nice piece‭! ‬In Vienna,‭ ‬it went very well,‭ ‬because it was the‭ ‬anniversaire,‭ ‬it was‭ ‬the occasion.‭ ‬But in Germany,‭ ‬where I collaborated with the German‭ ‬Philharmonie,‭ ‬out of the blue,‭ ‬like that‭ ‬–

Stepanich:‭ ‬They didn‭’‬t like it‭?

Entremont:‭ ‬They‭ ‬loved‭ ‬it.‭ ‬They said to me:‭ “‬We play so much crap‭ (‬laughs‭)‬,‭ ‬and finally to play something that is well-written‭!”‬ He writes very well.‭ ‬A brilliant orchestrator,‭ ‬and it‭’‬s a good piece.‭ ‬I like it.

Stepanich:‭ ‬He‭’‬s not afraid to write a melody.

Entremont:‭ ‬Why not‭?

Stepanich:‭ ‬For years,‭ ‬it wasn‭’‬t done.

Entremont:‭ ‬He started as a very avant-garde composer and switched.‭ ‬He‭’‬s writing a piano concerto now that I won‭’‬t play‭ ‬– it will be a young pianist.‭ ‬And we hope to do the premiere in Vienna in June‭ ‬2011‭ …‬ I‭’‬ll conduct.

Stepanich:‭ …‬How many concerts will you be doing with the Boca Symphonia‭?

Entremont:‭ ‬They will do five concerts,‭ ‬I will do three.‭ ‬Maybe one year I‭’‬ll do four.‭ ‬I‭’‬ll do three because I manage that to fit with what I have to do in America.

You know I have the symphony in Santo Domingo,‭ ‬which is next door.‭ ‬It‭’‬s very convenient for me to stop there before and after.‭ ‬It works very well.‭ ‬And they have very good musicians in that orchestra.‭ ‬That‭’‬s a‭ ‬good orchestra.‭ ‬And we are committed to making it better.‭ ‬There‭’‬s always room for improvement.‭ ‬But there,‭ ‬we have the material to do something very good.

Stepanich:‭ …‬ Are you planning anything special for the Boca Symphonia‭? ‬Will you conduct from the piano‭?

Entremont:‭ ‬I‭’‬ll do two.‭ ‬I‭’‬ll do one‭ [‬alone‭]‬,‭ ‬and then we are going to do the Beethoven Triple‭ [‬Concerto‭]‬.‭

Stepanich:‭ ‬I love that piece.
Entremont:‭ ‬You are the first critic to like the damn piece.‭ ‬That piece is so maligned.‭ ‬I don‭’‬t understand it.‭ ‬It‭’‬s the most beautiful slow movement I know.‭ ‬It‭’‬s a gorgeous piece.

It‭’‬s very difficult for the cello,‭ ‬heh‭?

Stepanich:‭ [‬Talks about a recent performance of the work at the Palm Beach Symphony‭] ‬I‭ ‬have a couple recordings of it,‭ ‬but I hadn‭’‬t heard it live in a while.

Entremont:‭ ‬I have a fantastic cellist for that,‭ ‬because I have recorded it with him,‭ ‬and this is my cellist in Vienna‭ [‬Christophe Pantillon,‭ ‬principal cellist of the Vienna Chamber Orchestra‭]‬.‭ ‬And‭ ‬he plays that concerto so well.‭ ‬And the violin‭ ‬was not very difficult for my concertmaster‭ [‬Ludwig Mueller‭]‬.‭ ‬And I covered the piano.

I‭’‬ll start my tenure with the Danielpour piece.‭ ‬His‭ ‬maman lives here,‭ ‬you know.‭

Stepanich:‭ ‬He told me he tries to come down once a year for a visit.

Entremont:‭ ‬I start with that,‭ ‬the D minor Mozart‭ [‬Piano Concerto No.‭ ‬20,‭ ‬K.‭ ‬466‭]‬,‭ ‬and the Beethoven Four[th Symphony‭]‬.‭ ‬The second concert I do is an all-Spanish evening‭ [‬Feb.‭ ‬20‭]‬.‭ ‬And‭ ‬[with‭] ‬all the pieces on that program,‭ ‬I have done a world premiere.‭

Sortileges,‭ ‬by‭ [‬Xavier‭] ‬Montsalvatge,‭ ‬a suite from the‭ ‬Goyescas‭ ‬of Granados,‭ ‬orchestrated by‭ [‬Catalan pianist and composer‭] ‬Albert Guinovart:‭ ‬Beautiful orchestration.‭ ‬I give the premiere,‭ ‬and after the intermission,‭ ‬the‭ ‬Triana of Albeniz with a new orchestration because I think the original one is horrible,‭ ‬but this one is nice.‭ ‬I give the premiere,‭ ‬and then the‭ ‬El Amor Brujo of de Falla.‭ ‬I think that makes a nice Spanish program.

And a short program‭ ‬– I start with the Sextet from‭ [‬the opera‭] ‬Capriccio,‭ ‬by‭ [‬Richard‭] ‬Strauss,‭ ‬which I have recorded.‭ ‬Then the Triple,‭ ‬and in the second part the‭ [‬Chamber‭] ‬Symphony,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬73a,‭ ‬of Shostakovich,‭ ‬orchestrated by‭ [‬Rudolf‭] ‬Barshai for wind and strings.‭ ‬It‭’‬s a beautiful piece.‭ ‬Very,‭ ‬very nice.

Stepanich:‭ ‬Sound like good programs.

Entremont:‭ ‬It‭’‬s good.‭ ‬I am interested,‭ ‬and the place is nice.‭ ‬Not bad to be here for‭ ‬the winter.‭ ‬And I know some of the musicians in the orchestra very well.‭

…They are very lucky,‭ ‬because I have an assistant.‭ ‬This is‭ ‬[Spanish pianist and conductor‭] ‬Ramon Tebar.

Stepanich:‭ ‬He‭’‬s a good conductor.‭ ‬I saw him do the Bizet Symphony in C ‭…

Entremont:‭ ‬He has a big success with the opera,‭ ‬and with me in Santo Domingo.‭ ‬He came last year and did marvelously well a Wagner program,‭ ‬and he‭’‬s doing‭ ‬Carmen this year.‭

Philippe Entremont conducts.

Stepanich:‭ ‬He just did‭ ‬Lucia with Florida Grand Opera.

Entremont:‭ ‬He‭’‬s a very good opera conductor.

Stepanich:‭ ‬He‭’‬s got a long career ahead of him‭ …‬ I saw him at the ICPA‭ [‬International Certificate for Piano Artists festival at Palm Beach Atlantic University‭]‬ doing master classes.

Entremont:‭ ‬We do that at the ICPA.‭ ‬I‭’‬m very happy with that.‭ ‬They are nice kids.‭ ‬[Referring to ICPA contestant‭ ‬Gen Tomoru of Japan,‭ ‬who had just soloed in the‭ ‬Jenamy Concerto,‭ ‬No.‭ ‬9‭ ‬in E-flat,‭ ‬K.‭ ‬271,‭ ‬with the Palm Beach Symphony:‭] ‬You know,‭ ‬that was the first time he played a Mozart concerto.‭ ‬Never played a Mozart piece before.

Stepanich:‭ ‬He did a nice job.

Entremont:‭ ‬When I told him we are going to play a concerto by Mozart,‭ ‬he said,‭ “‬I can‭’‬t.‭”‬ I told him:‭ “‬You have to try.‭”‬ And I was amazed.‭

[The waitress arrives to tell us about the‭ ‬specials,‭ ‬and the conversation turns to the concert hall,‭ ‬the DeSantis Family Chapel,‭ ‬where the concert had taken place.‭]

Stepanich:‭ ‬I‭’‬d like to hear a series of Mozart concerti in that hall.

Entremont:‭ ‬I‭’‬d like to play there.‭ ‬But not the Rachmaninov Three‭!

Stepanich:‭ ‬Or the Brahms One.‭

Entremont:‭ ‬It‭’‬s not for that place.‭ ‬You know,‭ ‬there is no hall‭ [‬here‭] ‬except for Kravis.

Stepanich:‭ ‬Lynn University in Boca is going to open its new hall in March‭ [‬2010,‭ ‬which they did‭]‬.

Entremont:‭ ‬I can‭’‬t wait.‭ ‬I‭’‬ve heard‭ ‬very good things about it.‭ ‬I want the orchestra to play there.

‭…‬ Stepanich:‭ ‬Your parents were musicians.‭ ‬Your father was an opera conductor and your mother a pianist.

Entremont:‭ ‬Yes.‭ ‬She was primarily a teacher.‭ ‬We had our‭ ‬days.‭ ‬It is very difficult to work with your mother.‭

The first time I played with orchestra,‭ ‬it was in Germany,‭ ‬in Ludwigshafen,‭ ‬and I played the Grieg.‭ ‬That was‭ ‬the‭ ‬first concerto.‭ ‬It was very famous at the time‭; ‬the Grieg concerto was played all the time.‭ ‬And I played that,‭ ‬and my mother came with me.

I was not yet‭ ‬16,‭ ‬and she came‭ [‬backstage‭] ‬after the concert,‭ ‬and said‭ “‬Oh,‭ ‬my darling.‭”‬ And I told her:‭ “‬You liked the concert‭? ‬I am glad,‭ ‬because this is your last.‭”‬ She looked at me‭ [‬with surprise‭]‬,‭ ‬and the next time she went to one of my concerts was‭ ‬25‭ ‬years later.

Not when I played in Paris,‭ ‬because she was a Parisienne.‭ ‬But outside of Paris,‭ ‬the first time was‭ ‬25‭ ‬years later,‭ ‬when she came to‭ ‬New York.

Stepanich:‭ ‬You must have been studying through the war.

Entremont:‭ ‬I started late.‭ ‬I was‭ ‬8,‭ ‬so that would have been‭ ‬1942.‭ ‬And it was very difficult at the beginning,‭ ‬’40,‭ ‬’41‭ ‬… My parents made me do something absolutely dreadful:‭ ‬two years of solfège.‭ ‬I didn‭’‬t like it:‭ ‬No‭! ‬But‭ ‬[after that‭] ‬I was so agile at solfège,‭ ‬it was incredible.‭ ‬I could read it very fast,‭ ‬a different key at every note.‭

But that helped me immensely.‭ ‬I was capable of playing a Beethoven sonata after five months.‭

Stepanich:‭ ‬It must have been tough to study music during the war.

Entremont:‭ ‬Yes.‭ ‬I had a teacher in Paris from whom I learned everything.‭ ‬I remember I went to Paris,‭ ‬I was in Rheims,‭ ‬taking that dreadful train.‭ ‬It made the trip from Rheims to Paris,‭ ‬it was‭ ‬130‭ ‬kilometers,‭ ‬in eight hours.‭ ‬And there were two huge bombings.‭ ‬Yes,‭ ‬I had a bad war.

Stepanich:‭ ‬Did you study with Marguerite Long at the Conservatoire‭?

Entremont:‭ ‬No,‭ ‬she was not there anymore.‭ ‬I met Marguerite for the first time when I was‭ ‬10‭ ‬years old.‭ ‬Then‭ ‬I entered the Paris Conservatory when I was‭ ‬12.‭ ‬And I lost three years,‭ ‬because it wasn‭’‬t to‭ ‬my liking at all‭ …‬ I hated my teacher‭ [‬Jean Doyen‭]‬,‭ ‬who was a fabulous pianist.‭ ‬We were not getting along at all.

I got my prize:‭ ‬I don‭’‬t know how,‭ ‬because the piece that was chosen as the main work for the prize was‭ ‬Mazeppa,‭ ‬by Liszt.‭ ‬That was the only piece I learned that year‭! (‬Laughs‭) ‬But compare it to the people,‭ ‬who,‭ ‬when they got their first prize,‭ ‬they stopped practicing.‭ ‬Me,‭ ‬I start practicing after.‭

…I have never been to the Conservatoire since,‭ ‬the old one or the new one.‭ ‬Jean Doyen died‭ [‬in‭ ‬1982‭]‬,‭ ‬and he left a note that said:‭ ‬I want Philippe to be my successor.‭ ‬That was very nice.‭ ‬By that time,‭ ‬we were very good friends.‭ ‬But I said no.‭ ‬I said no because it‭’‬s not honest,‭ ‬never to be there.‭

Stepanich:‭ ‬It must have been wonderful to study with Long because of her relationship with Ravel.‭ ‬She premiered the G major‭ ‬Concerto.

Entremont:‭ ‬Always,‭ ‬if you did anything with it,‭ ‬she would say:‭ “‬You‭’‬re not going to play that concerto.‭ ‬It‭’‬s‭ ‬my‭ ‬concerto‭!”‬ Nice‭!

She played the premiere.‭ ‬And contrary to what we think,‭ ‬she was a very good pianist.‭ ‬It was just reissued,‭ ‬a four-CD set of all the recordings of Marguerite.‭ ‬Marvelous playing.‭ ‬The way she plays Fauré,‭ ‬it is not the salon musician that we think.‭

Stepanich:‭ ‬Did Long tell you any stories about Ravel‭?

Entremont:‭ ‬No.‭ ‬She kept it to herself.‭ ‬I don‭’‬t think she had that great a relationship with him.‭ ‬Ravel wasn‭’‬t easy to know,‭ ‬he wasn‭’‬t seen much.‭ ‬He was very secretive.‭ ‬I know one of the pieces of‭ ‬Le Tombeau de Couperin was dedicated to her husband,‭ ‬who was killed in the First World War.‭

…One thing is,‭ ‬nobody knows how to teach Ravel well,‭ ‬nor Debussy.‭ ‬It‭’‬s foreign to most of the best teachers.

Stepanich:‭ ‬What are they missing‭?

Entremont:‭ ‬Everything.‭ ‬I am killing myself to say that in French music,‭ ‬you have to do only one thing:‭ ‬Do what is written.‭ ‬And it‭’‬s true.‭ ‬It‭’‬s so well-explained.‭ ‬Of course,‭ ‬you‭ ‬must do something of your own.‭ ‬But you have a frame that is very well-defined.

Stepanich:‭ ‬What was the most useful lesson Long gave you‭?

Entremont:‭ ‬The importance of the left hand.‭ ‬And after that,‭ ‬I was pretty much on my own.‭ ‬I said,‭ ‬“I am going to make mistakes,‭ ‬but they are going to be mine.‭”‬ You have to find your way yourself.‭

…Stepanich:‭ ‬Do you have a practice routine at the piano‭?

Entremont:‭ ‬I have a very strong disease.‭ ‬It‭’‬s called laziness.‭ (‬Laughs‭) ‬My mind works all the time.‭ ‬But I have periods of intense practicing.‭

When I play every morning,‭ ‬I play‭ ‬Le Gibet by Ravel,‭ ‬just to keep it in my memory.‭ ‬It‭’‬s a horrible piece to memorize.‭ (‬Sings to demonstrate‭)‬ Every morning I play it.‭ (‬Laughs‭) ‬It‭’‬s a morbid way to start the day‭! ‬And then if I am doing good,‭ ‬I play‭ ‬Ondine‭ [‬both pieces are from Ravel‭’‬s‭ ‬Gaspard de la Nuit‭]‬.‭ ‬I do‭ ‬Ondine very well now.

‭[‬They discuss the vagaries of the musical season and the difficulties attendant on running an arts organization.‭]

Entremont:‭ ‬I hope to do something good here.‭ ‬I think the environment is right.‭ ‬I‭ ‬will try to make this orchestra well-known.‭ ‬One thing is certain:‭ ‬We need economic support.‭ ‬It‭’‬s not a good time,‭ ‬but at the‭ ‬same time,‭ ‬people are not that poor.‭ ‬People are making money a lot.

..I gave a speech for the ICPA at the Governors Club,‭ ‬and I gave them the business.‭ ‬It was like ice in the room.‭ (‬Laughs‭) ‬But they have to be reminded:‭ ‬It‭’‬s a duty.‭ ‬And I told them:‭ ‬You know,‭ ‬this is not for me.‭ ‬It‭’‬s for the young kids.‭

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Music reviews: Fine new music for cello; PB Symphony charms; Delray Quartet advances

Justin Dello Joio.

Carter Brey and Christopher O‭’‬Riley‭ ‬(Dec.‭ ‬19,‭ ‬Kravis Center‭)

World premieres are always special,‭ ‬but they don‭’‬t always suggest that they will make a lasting impact on the culture.

But composer Justin Dello Joio‭’‬s‭ ‬Due per Due,‭ ‬which was given its debut by cellist Carter Brey and pianist Christopher O‭’‬Riley,‭ ‬is a worthy new work that deserves to be added to the programs of ambitious cellists looking for something new to add to their solo programs.‭

The first of its two movements began with fragments and wisps of things,‭ ‬including a passage for high harmonics against a clinking of glass in the upper reaches of the piano.‭ ‬But the heart of the movement was a song,‭ ‬highly emotional and lyrical,‭ ‬but also somewhat restrained,‭ ‬just shy of total release.‭

The second‭ ‬movement,‭ ‬a perpetual-motion romp,‭ ‬had Brey and O‭’‬Riley almost continually playing rapid scale figures,‭ ‬which toward the end were regularly interrupted by sudden chordal outbursts.‭ ‬It‭’‬s a tough piece to play,‭ ‬but rewarding to listen to,‭ ‬and Brey and O‭’‬Riley gave it a stellar performance.

The piece received a warm response from the midsized house,‭ ‬which included the composer himself,‭ ‬who stood and applauded his interpreters.‭

Also on the program was a somewhat rough-and-ready version of a Bach gamba sonata‭ (‬No.‭ ‬3‭ ‬in G minor,‭ ‬BWV‭ ‬1029‭) ‬in which Brey was noticeably out of tune with the piano until midway through the first movement.‭ ‬The principal cellist of the New York Philharmonic showed his true mettle in the second movement,‭ ‬demonstrating a noble,‭ ‬lovely tone that suited the music admirably.

The second half of the program was devoted to the Cello Sonata of Edvard Grieg‭ (‬in A minor,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬36‭)‬,‭ ‬and here,‭ ‬too,‭ ‬Brey’s beautiful sound quality made the most of the Norwegian composer’s distinctive melodies.‭ ‬O’Riley was a fine accompanist,‭ ‬restraining himself when he could easily have let loose with the pyrotechnics of Grieg’s piano writing.

The encore was a tasteful,‭ ‬elegant‭ ‬Daisies‭ (‬Op.‭ ‬38,‭ ‬No.‭ ‬3‭)‬,‭ ‬a transcription of the Rachmaninov song.‭ ‬– G.‭ ‬Stepanich

Ramon Tebar.

Palm Beach Symphony(‬Dec.‭ ‬15,‭ ‬Society of the Four Arts‭)

A very large audience at the Society of the Four Arts on‭ ‬Dec.‭ ‬15‭ ‬heard what the late Sir Thomas Beecham‭ ‬called‭ “‬lollipops‭”‬ --‭ ‬sweet short pieces of a classical nature‭ ‬– for the first concert of the Palm Beach Symphony season.‭

It also marked the first concert with Ramon Tebar as the group‭’‬s music director,‭ ‬and he‭’‬s a man with much to celebrate these days:‭ ‬he just won the Henry C.‭ ‬Clark Conductor of the Year award from Florida Grand Opera,‭ ‬and he‭’‬s a new father to baby Isabel,‭ ‬born Dec.‭ ‬8,‭ ‬a week before the concert.

Aaron Copland‭’‬s‭ ‬Three Latin-American Sketches began the program.‭ ‬The first sketch has sharp,‭ ‬cutting,‭ ‬staccato rhythms with dissonant tonal passages,‭ ‬distinctly Copland.‭ ‬The second was sensitive and lingering,‭ ‬shaped nicely by Tebar.‭ ‬Working hard in the last sketch,‭ ‬the strings shone and the percussionists outdid themselves.

Next followed Samuel Barber‭’‬s justly famous‭ ‬Adagio for Strings.‭ ‬Putting down his baton,‭ ‬Tebar led a golden interpretation,‭ ‬bringing out the long elegiac line as the strings swept up to a climax‭ ‬--‭ ‬a deafening long pause,‭ ‬then the downward glide to a pianissimo ending.‭ ‬One could hear a pin drop.‭ ‬Cautiously, the audience picked up on a well-deserved ovation for this work,‭ ‬which belongs in the pantheon of great string pieces by Elgar, Holst, Grieg and Warlock. ‭

‬Before intermission,‭ ‬Copland‭’‬s‭ ‬ Appalachian Spring‭ ‬ got an inconsistent reading.‭ ‬Written in‭ ‬1931‭ ‬for the savvy Martha Graham‭ (‬whom I knew‭) ‬and her dance company,‭ ‬she took her lead from Igor Stravinsky‭’‬s association with Serge Diaghilev‭’‬s Ballet Russes.‭ ‬Copland was savvy,‭ ‬too,‭ ‬incorporating the‭ ‬Simple Gifts hymn of Mother Anne Lee,‭ ‬whose Shaker settlements stretch along the top of the Appalachian Trail in New England.‭

It was wordsmith Ira Gershwin who coined the title‭ ‬Rhapsody in Blue‭ ‬for his brother George‭’‬s 1924‭ ‬classical‭ ‬concerto‭ ‬tribute to the‭ ‬jazz‭ ‬world.‭ ‬Venezuelan pianist Kristhyan Benitez shone as the soloist here,‭ ‬with a brilliant and sensitive handling of the keyboard.‭ ‬There were a few fluffs,‭ ‬but overall the piece was a blockbuster,‭ ‬and the audience gave‭ ‬it‭ ‬a standing ovation.‭

‬Leonard‭ ‬Bernstein‭’‬s ‭ ‬Three Dance Episodes from his musical‭ ‬On the Town,‭ ‬about three sailors on shore leave in New York City,‭ ‬had a rousing performance.‭ ‬The brassy first ‭ ‬dance set the scene.‭ ‬In the second dance,‭ ‬the clarinet was prominent with trumpet‭ ‬obbligato soaring over incoming strings.‭ ‬In the third dance, Tebar was in his element,‭ ‬visibly dancing on the podium to Bernstein‭’‬s catchy tunes. ‭–‬ Rex Hearn

Tomas Cotik.

Delray String Quartet‭ (‬Dec.‭ ‬3,‭ ‬All Saints Episcopal Church,‭ ‬Fort Lauderdale‭)

Not every composer wrote string quartets with four more-or-less equal voices.‭

The earliest quartets,‭ ‬and the quartets of later writers such as Gaetano Donizetti,‭ ‬can often be a workout for the first violin,‭ ‬with the other three instruments playing backup.‭ ‬But much of the canonical repertoire requires all four of the players to be equally able,‭ ‬and the foursome that doesn‭’‬t have a deep bench finds musical life to be a struggle.

So it‭’‬s a pleasure to report that the new second violinist of the Delray String Quartet,‭ ‬Tomas Cotik,‭ ‬makes a fine addition to this ambitious group,‭ ‬which opened its seventh season Dec.‭ ‬3‭ ‬with a concert at All Saints Episcopal Church in Delray Beach.

Cotik,‭ ‬an Argentinian-born musician who has recently joined the faculty at the University of Miami,‭ ‬replaces Megan McClendon,‭ ‬a one-season replacement for Laszlo Pap,‭ ‬a founding member of the quartet.‭ ‬Pap now leads the Fort Lauderdale String Quartet,‭ ‬which is under the auspices of the Symphony of the Americas.

Cotik also has a strong and distinctive sound,‭ ‬and in most of the concert he and violist Richard Fleischman supplied a vivid,‭ ‬virile middle to the music,‭ ‬with solo work from both men making full impact.‭ ‬This first concert of the season had two major events,‭ ‬the first being the performance of the String Quartet No.‭ ‬4‭ ‬of the American composer Kenneth Fuchs.

Fuchs,‭ ‬a Broward County native who studied at the University of Miami before moving on to Juilliard,‭ ‬was on hand to discuss his brief but engaging one-movement quartet,‭ ‬subtitled‭ ‬Bergonzi,‭ ‬in honor of the UM-based quartet for whom it was written.‭ ‬It‭’‬s a relatively light but tautly constructed piece built on a three-note rising motif first sounded by the viola.‭ ‬That trades off with a gentler three-note motif introduced by the cello,‭ ‬and the music soon expands into a busy,‭ ‬energetic sonic tableau,‭ ‬music that sounds very open and very American.

In the middle,‭ ‬the cello motif is transformed into a moody,‭ ‬expectant theme over a pizzicato version of the three-note opening material‭; ‬in the‭ ‬last section,‭ ‬the feeling of purposeful energy resumes.‭ ‬It is a fine piece of music,‭ ‬and the Delray played it well,‭ ‬though with a certain tightness and tension that sounded at times as though the players were somewhat too concerned with precision.

Despite‭ ‬its speedy tempo and offbeat accents,‭ ‬this is essentially positive,‭ ‬forthright music,‭ ‬and it would have benefited from a greater sense of relaxation and ease.‭ ‬Still,‭ ‬it was impressive that the Delray began its season with a piece of recent contemporary American music,‭ ‬which to my mind is the logical core repertory for this quartet.

The Second Quartet of Johannes Brahms‭ (‬in A minor,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬51,‭ ‬No.‭ ‬2‭)‬,‭ ‬which closed the concert,‭ ‬is one of his most familiar pieces of chamber music,‭ ‬and the Delray gave its rolling‭ ‬first movement a sound that was well-balanced and elegant.‭ ‬The short‭ ‬ritardando transition passages,‭ ‬though,‭ ‬slowed things down a little too much,‭ ‬which hurt the narrative momentum.

First violinist Mei-Mei Luo offered a lovely reading of the main theme of‭ ‬the slow second movement,‭ ‬and the quartet handled the dramatic contrasting section capably.‭ ‬The third movement also was a bit on the slow side for my taste,‭ ‬though I‭’‬ve heard other performances at about that speed.‭ ‬But it lacks lift at this pace,‭ ‬and the‭ ‬expectation-and-mystery tradeoff here sounded tentative rather than deliberate.‭ ‬The Allegro vivace was quite good,‭ ‬though,‭ ‬from the standpoint of pace,‭ ‬technical accomplishment and ensemble.

The finale clipped along smartly,‭ ‬and the players attacked the music with considerable force and excitement.‭ ‬The transition to the A major section toward the end was beautifully done,‭ ‬with some fine playing by cellist Claudio Jaffe.‭ ‬Overall,‭ ‬while some of the music was too cautiously approached,‭ ‬this was a strong performance of this repertoire staple,‭ ‬and another important stage in this quartet‭’‬s development.‭ ‬

Transportation problems had me arriving late at the concert,‭ ‬so I missed all but the last movement of the opening piece,‭ ‬the‭ ‬Bird Quartet‭ (‬in C,‭ ‬Hob III:‭ ‬39‭) ‬of Haydn.‭ ‬The finale had good ensemble and a snaky kind of energy that was more forceful than the usual powdered-wig approach,‭ ‬and‭ ‬it worked well.

For an encore,‭ ‬the quartet played Fleischman‭’‬s arrangement of‭ ‬a piece called‭ ‬Melody,‭ ‬by the Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla.‭ ‬The Delray played it with the requisite high emotion for an effective interpretation of this composer‭’‬s music. – G.‭ ‬Stepanich

Monday, December 27, 2010

Film feature: State, regional critics agree: 'Social Network' was year's best film

Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network.

By Hap‭ ‬Erstein

There is no dominant front-runner for this year’s Best Picture Oscar,‭ ‬but you would never know that from the polls of the Florida Film Critics Circle and the Southeastern Film Critics Association‭ (‬the two groups I belong to as a voting member‭)‬.

Both tapped‭ ‬The Social Network,‭ ‬David Fincher’s account of the founding of Facebook,‭ ‬as the best film of‭ ‬2010‭ ‬and,‭ ‬as happens only occasionally,‭ ‬I am in agreement with the groups‭’ ‬pick.‭ ‬Both organizations also named Fincher best director and singled out Aaron Sorkin for best adapted screenplay.‭ ‬SEFCA also recognized the movie’s cast as the year’s best ensemble,‭ ‬an award that the FFCC does not present.

Both groups also saw the leading acting categories the same,‭ ‬voting Colin Firth as the year’s best actor for his performance as speech-impaired King George VI in‭ ‬The King’s Speech and the best actress award went to Natalie Portman for the mentally unhinged ballerina in‭ ‬Black Swan.‭ ‬I concur on Firth,‭ ‬and expect him to also pick up the Oscar for the role,‭ ‬in part for being overlooked last year for his also impressive dramatic turn in‭ ‬A Single Man.‭ ‬I liked Portman’s performance,‭ ‬but my vote went to Annette Bening for‭ ‬The Kids Are All Right,‭ ‬and the two of them should be battling it out for the Oscar.

‭The critics‭’ ‬panels diverged when it came to the supporting acting categories.‭ ‬The Florida group voted for Geoffrey Rush,‭ ‬the unconventional speech therapist in‭ ‬The King’s Speech,‭ ‬and Hailee Steinfeld,‭ ‬the spunky frontier teen in the remake of‭ ‬True Grit.‭ ‬The Southeastern association went with two performers from‭ ‬The Fighter,‭ ‬Christian Bale and Melissa Leo,‭ ‬as the brother and mother of brawling boxer Mickey Ward.‭

Mark Wahlberg,‭ ‬Jack McGee,‭ ‬Melissa Leo
and Christian Bale in The Fighter.

I side with the SEFCA picks and think they both are probable Oscar winners.‭ ‬Bale steals‭ ‬The Fighter with his loopy,‭ ‬brain-addled,‭ ‬drug-addicted performance and should edge out the fine work by Rush,‭ ‬who previous took home an Academy Award for‭ ‬Shine.‭ ‬Leo is a little-known veteran actress who is greatly admired in the industry.‭ ‬By contrast,‭ ‬Steinfeld is making her film debut.‭ ‬She’s quite good in the Coen Brothers‭’ ‬highly stylized‭ ‬Western,‭ ‬but her central role is really the movie’s lead.‭

In a true no-brainer,‭ ‬both groups call‭ ‬Toy Story‭ ‬3‭ ‬the best animated feature of the year.‭ ‬I not only agree,‭ ‬but think the Oscars should just give a statuette to the film now and consider naming the category for the Pixar Studio.‭

The Florida Film Critics managed to scrape together four awards for‭ ‬Inception,‭ ‬the mind-bending action picture about invading the subconscious as a form of industrial espionage.‭ ‬FFCC recognized it for best original screenplay,‭ ‬best cinematography,‭ ‬best art direction/production design and best visual effects.‭ ‬SEFCA gave its original screenplay award to‭ ‬The King’s Speech and cinematography to‭ ‬True Grit,‭ ‬with‭ ‬Inception‭ ‬the runner-up in both categories.

I side with the‭ ‬Inception wins,‭ ‬but imagine the more traditional Motion Picture Academy will lean toward‭ ‬The King’s Speech come Oscar time.

Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit.

The Florida circle calls‭ ‬The Tillman Story,‭ ‬about the friendly-fire death of pro football’s Pat Tillman in Iraq,‭ ‬the best documentary of‭ ‬2010.‭ ‬The Southeastern group went with‭ ‬Inside Job,‭ ‬the well-made saga of the financial collapse.‭ ‬I voted for‭ ‬Waiting for Superman,‭ ‬the story of the failure of our public schools and how to fix them.

The year’s best foreign film,‭ ‬according to SEFCA,‭ ‬was the Korean thriller‭ ‬Mother.‭ ‬The Florida critics tapped‭ ‬I Am Love,‭ ‬a family tale of commerce and awakening passion,‭ ‬which got my vote.

The Florida Film Critics Circle is composed of‭ ‬19‭ ‬writers from publications across the state.‭ ‬The Southeastern Film Critics Association has‭ ‬43‭ ‬members working in print,‭ ‬radio and online media in nine states throughout the region.‭

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Art review: Less isn't more as Norton asks, 'Now WHAT?'

inverted red catenary,‭ by Allyson Strafella.

By Gretel Sarmiento

Two strangers in a museum find themselves sharing the same opinion about that thing facing them.‭ ‬They call it‭ ‬“thing‭”‬ because they don't know what it is.‭ ‬And the brave one's loud comment‭ (‬“What the heck is this‭?”‬) is the shy one's relief.

Such‭ ‬a‭ ‬flow of communication might be common at the Now WHAT‭?‬ show,‭ ‬which opened recently at the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach in an attempt to bring to town a flame or two of the fire set in Miami Beach by‭ ‬this year’s‭ ‬Art Basel.

Out of that fair came the‭ ‬31‭ ‬pieces and‭ ‬21‭ ‬artists that compose‭ ‬Now WHAT‭? ‬The selections were made by two of the museum's curators,‭ ‬who went‭ ‬south to pick the freshest,‭ ‬riskiest,‭ ‬most relevant art representative of our times.‭ ‬They then decided that the theme bringing it all together will be communication.

In that sense,‭ ‬and only in that sense,‭ ‬the Norton show is great.‭ ‬Nothing gets a conversation going like a piece that makes no sense.‭ ‬That conversation usually goes something like this:‭ ‬Is this art‭?‬ Here it is provoked by plenty,‭ ‬such as‭ ‬Pigeon Holes,‭ ‬by Roxy Paine,‭ ‬in which plasters of paints appear inside plexiglas like dead insects pinned down waiting to be examined.‭

Volumes From an Imagined Intellectual History of Animals,‭ ‬Architecture and Man,‭
‬by Julian Montague.

In Volumes from an Imagined‭ ‬Intellectual History of Animals,‭ ‬Architecture and Man,‭ ‬nothing was actually created,‭ ‬unless you consider the title of the piece or the order in which the books are placed a creative result.‭ ‬The work,‭ ‬by Julian Montague,‭ ‬consists of‭ ‬10‭ ‬old books,‭ ‬most of which have the image of a bug on the cover and hint at the effect small animals can have in the life of man.

Meanwhile with‭ ‬September‭ ‬2010,‭ ‬Receipts,‭ ‬a‭ ‬24-foot long strip of personal expenses,‭ ‬the artist,‭ ‬David Shapiro,‭ ‬is telling us that we are all artists.‭ ‬After all,‭ ‬as an observer pointed out,‭ ‬we all have collections just like this at home.‭ ‬Due bills‭? ‬Receipts‭? ‬Anyone‭?

One singular instant in which this dialogue ceases to be sarcastic comes courtesy of Bryan Drury and is titled‭ ‬Ali.‭ ‬It is a striking small portrait that calls us no matter where we stand in the room and made dramatic by its bright red background.

Once directly facing it,‭ ‬we marvel at how realistic and alive‭ ‬Ali is.‭ ‬Notice the pores of the skin,‭ ‬the imperfect flesh,‭ ‬the swollen lips and you will see condensed in this seemingly traditional/safe work the prints of a skillful artist.‭

‬Whenever I‭’‬m reviewing a show,‭ ‬I usually go alone.‭ ‬This time,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬I brought along company on purpose.‭ ‬I wanted to see if I‭’‬m alone in thinking that lately the concepts of simplicity and absence are being repeatedly presented as art.‭ ‬I saw it at Art Basel.‭ ‬It is here again.

A dark silver wood panel is all that Teresita Fernandez‭’‬s Nocturnal‭ (‬Rise and Fall‭) ‬is.‭ ‬Hers is the second piece to the right once you enter the gallery room.‭ ‬I can‭’‬t detect specific figures or a message.‭ ‬As it often happens with art,‭ ‬there is no explanation for it.‭ ‬All it seems to be is precisely what it is:‭ ‬solid graphite and pencil on wood panels.

Ghost-Ship-Wreck,‭ ‬by Christopher Russell.‭

‬In‭ ‬Allyson Strafella‭’‬s foundation‭ ‬(2005‭) ‬and‭ ‬inverted red catenary‭ (‬2010‭)‬ ‭ ‬art seems to take the form of holes resulted from typing underlines and colons over and over on carbon paper.

When it’s not holes,‭ ‬art here is vanishing,‭ ‬disappearing,‭ ‬hardly visible,‭ ‬almost a ghost.‭ ‬No other work here puts it better than Christopher Russell’s‭ ‬Ghost-Ship-Wreck,‭ ‬an‭ ‬18-frame piece done mostly in silver.‭ ‬Thin and thick white lines give life to the ship,‭ ‬which in some frames appears sinking and in others marching ahead.‭

‬Could it be that artists are teaching themselves to create less or use less to create‭? ‬Is the trendy minimalism wave to blame‭?

I don’t know that you can simplify art without affecting its very essence.‭ ‬A kitchen,‭ ‬for instance,‭ ‬has two factors that make it identifiable:‭ ‬appearance and use.‭ ‬Simplify or alter its look as you may and you would still be able to tell it‭’‬s a kitchen through the way it is used.‭ ‬Art is not an appliance or a closet.‭ ‬It has no use through which it can make itself present or known.‭ ‬It relies on what you can see to make itself identifiable,‭ ‬ideally,‭ ‬as art.

Simplify the only thing it is and you end up with less of what it is,‭ ‬or even worse,‭ ‬you end up with nothing:‭ ‬a thing forced to pose for an audience when really all it wants is to be put out of its misery.

Kim Rugg‭’‬s‭ ‬The Story Is One Sign‭ ‬seems to me an example of this.‭ ‬If we go along with her message,‭ ‬the story is sometimes a dollar sign,‭ ‬$,‭ ‬and other times‭ ‬a‭ “‬J‭” ‬or a‭ “‬K.‭”‬ The artist has grabbed a front page of‭ ‬The New York Times and placed the same‭ ‬30‭ ‬times next to one another.‭ ‬In each copy,‭ ‬the content and images have been stripped from the page only to leave a sign or a letter.‭ ‬On one page,‭ ‬we can only see the‭ “‬Ks‭”‬ as they appeared originally on the newsprint.‭ ‬The rest,‭ ‬most of it,‭ ‬is white.‭ ‬Nothing to be seen.‭ ‬Less to judge.‭

‬By the end of the show my guest and I had reached a conclusion:‭ ‬The artists here had great concepts,‭ ‬ideas,‭ ‬but either got lazy halfway into their projects or they didn't have much imagination to carry their creations to the very end.‭ ‬Or maybe,‭ ‬they simply didn't care.
Pigeon Holes,‭ by Roxy Paine.

Or you could say that present here are great conceptualists or philosophers,‭ ‬but not necessarily great artists.‭ ‬Unless you find yourself already in the museum,‭ ‬this is not something you need to see.‭ ‬If you don’t come,‭ ‬you won‭’‬t miss anything.‭

‬The show was intended to be full of delightful surprises.‭ ‬And‭ ‬Now WHAT‭? ‬seems like something we would say to the person who keeps interrupting us in the middle of something delightful.‭ ‬But that‭’‬s not what I feel like saying.

I want to be interrupted,‭ ‬pulled‭ ‬aside and told the secret behind this exhibit:‭ ‬Is it art or is it a joke‭? ‬And to the museum curators I want to ask:‭ ‬Why‭? ‬How‭? ‬I get a feeling those visitors who do come from now until March‭ ‬13‭ ‬will be asking the same.‭

Now WHAT‭?‬ runs through March‭ ‬13‭ ‬at the Norton Museum of Art.‭ ‬Admission:‭ ‬$12,‭ ‬adults‭; ‬$5‭ ‬ages‭ ‬13-21.‭ ‬Hours:‭ ‬10‭ ‬a.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬5‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Tuesdays through Saturdays‭; ‬1‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬5‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sundays‭; ‬closed Mondays.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬832-5196‭ ‬or visit‭

Friday, December 24, 2010

Weekend arts picks: Dec. 24-26

Colin Firth in The King’s Speech.‭ ‬

Film:‭ ‬With meticulous attention to period details and an engrossing history-based story that humanizes the struggle of a British king like no movie before it,‭ ‬The King’s Speech is great,‭ ‬albeit old-fashioned,‭ ‬filmmaking.‭ ‬Colin Firth stars as Bertie,‭ ‬a/k/a Prince Albert‭ (‬Colin Firth‭)‬,‭ ‬who unexpectedly becomes King George VI as World War II looms,‭ ‬due to his older brother’s abdication over his love of divorcee Wallis Simpson.‭ ‬But the king has a secret stammer,‭ ‬made worse by the thought of public speaking.‭ ‬His struggle to overcome it,‭ ‬aided by an impudent John commoner and unorthodox speech therapist‭ (‬Geoffrey Rush‭)‬,‭ ‬forms the heart of the film.‭ ‬Directed crisply by Tom Hooper,‭ ‬whose best work previously was the impressive Adams mini-series.‭ ‬Opening locally this weekend. -- H. Erstein

Chris Oden and Dennis Creaghan in Freud’s Last Session.

Theater:‭ ‬Two towering minds of the‭ ‬20th century‭ ‬--‭ ‬Sigmund Freud,‭ ‬the father of psychoanalysis and a staunch atheist,‭ ‬and C.S.‭ ‬Lewis,‭ ‬a fervent convert to Christianity who would become a religious philosopher and author‭ ‬--‭ ‬meet at Freud’s London consulting room as England is drawn into World War II,‭ ‬and they debate the existence of God,‭ ‬the nature of good and evil and the very meaning of life in Mark St.‭ ‬Germain’s two-character play,‭ ‬Freud’s Last Session.‭ ‬That’s it,‭ ‬virtually no plot,‭ ‬no action,‭ ‬but since the essence of theater is words and ideas,‭ ‬the conversation is enough to grip us over the evening’s brief,‭ ‬but densely packed‭ ‬70‭ ‬minutes.‭ ‬Dennis Creaghan disappears completely into the role of Freud,‭ ‬aided by a snowy beard and a Viennese accent,‭ ‬and Chris Oden is his reverent,‭ ‬but verbally combative foil Lewis.‭ ‬Continuing through Feb.‭ ‬6.‭ ‬Call‭ (‬561‭) ‬514-4042‭ ‬for tickets.‭ -- H. Erstein


Music:‭ ‬Most of the music world is taking a breather for the holiday,‭ ‬but there are still some shows around over the weekend if you travel‭ ‬a little.‭ ‬On Sunday night at Fort Lauderdale’s Revolution Live,‭ ‬it’s a show by VersaEmerge,‭ ‬a trio from Port St.‭ ‬Lucie.‭ ‬Led by big-voiced singer Sierra Kusterbeck,‭ ‬the group has a new album,‭ ‬Fixed at Zero,‭ ‬and is on a national tour with bands such as I See Stars and Black Veil Brides.‭ ‬6:30‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$19.30,‭ ‬available through Ticketmaster‭ ‬at‭ ‬1-800-745-3000‭ ‬or‭ ‬‭ ‬

Karrie Griffiths.

Flutist Karrie Griffiths currently plays in the Fort Lauderdale-based Symphony of the Americas,‭ ‬but she also is the founder of Music in Miami,‭ ‬a chamber music series.‭ ‬This Sunday at Miami’s Trinity Cathedral,‭ ‬Griffiths is joined by violist Modesto Marcano,‭ ‬oboist Marco Navarette,‭ ‬pianist Maria Menendez and classical guitarist Miguel Bonachea for a program of music by Beethoven‭ (‬Serenade in D,‭ ‬op.‭ ‬25‭)‬,‭ ‬Ravel‭ (‬Habanera‭)‬,‭ ‬Ibert‭ (‬Escales‭)‬,‭ ‬and Holst‭ (‬Terzett0‭)‬.‭ ‬Also on the program are pieces by Agustin Barrios,‭ ‬Antonio Lauro and Jose Manuel Lezcano.‭ ‬6‭ ‬p.m.,‭ ‬Trinity Cathedral.‭ ‬Free admission,‭ ‬but donations accepted.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬954-309-2424‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬ for more information.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Theater reviews: Bracing ' Freud,' endearing 'Goldie'

Dennis Creaghan and Chris Oden in Freud’s Last Session.‭
(‬Photo by Alicia Donelan‭)

By Hap Erstein

With Freud’s Last Session,‭ ‬playwright Mark St.‭ ‬Germain follows a simple formula for success‭ ‬--‭ ‬put two compelling characters with differing viewpoints onstage,‭ ‬then stay out of their way and let them speak.

In this case,‭ ‬the characters are two towering thinkers of the‭ ‬20th century.‭ ‬There is Sigmund Freud,‭ ‬the father of psychoanalysis and a staunch atheist,‭ ‬and C.S.‭ ‬Lewis,‭ ‬a fervent convert to Christianity who would later become renowned as a religious philosopher and famous for writing such allegorical works as the‭ ‬Chronicles of Narnia series.

There is no evidence that these two ever really met,‭ ‬but St.‭ ‬Germain takes his inspiration from a book by Dr.‭ ‬Armand Nicholi,‭ ‬The Question of God,‭ ‬who suggested that such a meeting of the minds would have been fascinating.‭ ‬And indeed,‭ ‬St.‭ ‬Germain has Freud‭ ‬--‭ ‬suffering from oral cancer and contemplating suicide‭ ‬--‭ ‬summon Lewis to his London consulting rooms for a combustible conversation about the existence of a higher being,‭ ‬as well as the nature of good and evil,‭ ‬the purpose of sex and the very meaning of life.

Yes,‭ ‬it is heady stuff,‭ ‬but St.‭ ‬Germain frames the actual words of these two men in an entertaining fashion,‭ ‬leavened with humor that keeps matters from becoming dry.‭ ‬And the play‭ ‬--‭ ‬which continues off-Broadway after five months‭ ‬--‭ ‬is produced locally in its Southeastern premiere by Palm Beach Dramaworks,‭ ‬a company that prides itself on offering‭ “‬theater to think about.‭”

Director William Hayes puts the emphasis of this gem-like production on the words,‭ ‬moving his actors around the stage just enough to avoid the action-challenged play from feeling static.‭ ‬He is fortunate to have a pair of first-rate actors,‭ ‬Dennis Creaghan‭ (‬last seen at Dramaworks as the junk shop proprietor in American Buffalo‭) ‬and Chris Oden‭ (‬Werner Heisenberg in a similar play of factual supposition,‭ ‬Copenhagen‭)‬,‭ ‬as Freud and Lewis respectively.

Creaghan again demonstrates that he is one of South Florida’s most versatile performers,‭ ‬a chameleon disappearing behind Freud’s snowy beard and Viennese accent.‭ ‬Oden is a worthy foil,‭ ‬in awe of Freud yet drawn to attacking his nihilistic view of the world with respect and a bit of sadness.‭ ‬Together,‭ ‬they pick apart each other’s arguments with surgical precision.

Freud’s Last Session runs only‭ ‬70‭ ‬minutes,‭ ‬but they are densely packed with ideas,‭ ‬served up by a pair of actors who make the time spent with these two historical figures bracingly cerebral.

FREUD’S LAST SESSION,‭ ‬Palm Beach Dramaworks,‭ ‬322‭ ‬Banyan Blvd.,‭ ‬West Palm Beach.‭ ‬Through Sunday,‭ ‬Feb.‭ ‬6.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$47.‭ ‬Call:‭ (‬561‭) ‬514-4042.

‭ * * *

Deborah L.‭ ‬Sherman and Erin Joy Schmidt
in Goldie,‭ ‬Max‭ & ‬Milk.‭
(‬Photo by Ken Jacques‭)

Speaking of characters with opposing viewpoints,‭ ‬consider what happens when Maxine,‭ ‬an unemployed lesbian from Brooklyn who has given birth to a baby girl by artificial insemination,‭ ‬meets Goldie,‭ ‬a judgmental Orthodox Jewish lactation consultant.

The sparks fly in Karen Hartman’s world premiere comedy,‭ ‬Goldie,‭ ‬Max‭ & ‬Milk,‭ ‬at Florida Stage,‭ ‬even though it is not hard to predict that the two women will rub off a bit on each other,‭ ‬teach one another a few important life lessons and,‭ ‬after some tidily resolved crises,‭ ‬reach a truce of understanding and respect.

Yes,‭ ‬Hartman’s play is sitcom-convenient,‭ ‬but this decidedly offbeat look at alternative family values still manages to win us over with its humanity and its heart-on-the-sleeve argument for tolerance.

As the play begins,‭ ‬Max is down in the dumps.‭ ‬Her apartment has fallen into disrepair,‭ ‬her longtime lover Lisa has left her in a sudden fit of heterosexuality and Max has no prospects of landing a job.‭ ‬But she cradles in her arms her gorgeous new daughter,‭ ‬tiny Lakshmi Rose,‭ ‬named for the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity.‭ ‬If only there were milk flowing in her breasts so she could nurse her baby.

Enter Goldie,‭ ‬sent by the hospital to help matters,‭ ‬which she does,‭ ‬even though she opposes Max’s sexual orientation.‭ ‬So they spar with some clever,‭ ‬pointed exchanges,‭ ‬but Hartman soon runs out of comic barbs.‭ ‬What gives the play its follow-up punch is the arrival of Goldie’s teenage daughter,‭ ‬Shayna Brucha,‭ ‬who comes laden with a noodle casserole and a dilemma of her own.‭ ‬You see,‭ ‬she is a closeted lesbian,‭ ‬who worries if she tells her mother she will be ostracized from the family.

Wait,‭ ‬there’s more.‭ ‬As the first act ends,‭ ‬Lisa rashly kidnaps little Lakshmi to gain Max’s attention.‭ ‬Not much is made of this intermission cliffhanger other than turning us off to Lisa.

Goldie,‭ ‬Max‭ & ‬Milk is directed by Margaret M.‭ ‬Ledford of Promethean Theatre,‭ ‬making her Florida Stage debut.‭ ‬To her credit,‭ ‬she reins in the play’s potential for caricature,‭ ‬getting an earnest,‭ ‬dimensional performance from Deborah L.‭ ‬Sherman as Goldie,‭ ‬full of practical wisdom as well as a religious code that knows no compromise.‭ ‬She is a vivid presence,‭ ‬but the production belongs to Erin Joy Schmidt‭ (‬Max‭)‬,‭ ‬endearingly clueless on child-rearing and perpetually exhausted,‭ ‬but with a natural maternal instinct.

Sarah Lord is a petite wise-beyond-her-years dynamo as Shayna,‭ ‬Carla Harting adds some nuance to the play’s villainess Lisa and David Hemphill lends solid support as the odd-man-out,‭ ‬Lisa’s brother Mike,‭ ‬the sperm donor dad who moonlights as a drug dealer.

Florida Stage gives further evidence that it is learning how to use its new home at the Kravis Center’s Rinker Playhouse,‭ ‬thanks to Timothy R.‭ ‬Mackabee’s scenic design,‭ ‬which has far more set pieces than would ever have fit in the Manalapan playhouse.‭ ‬Goldie,‭ ‬Max‭ & ‬Milk is lighter than much of the company’s usual fare.‭ ‬Maybe the company wanted to ease up for the holidays as it continues to search for an audience in West Palm Beach.‭ ‬Still,‭ ‬the play weaves some substance in between its strokes of warm humor.

GOLDIE,‭ ‬MAX‭ & ‬MILK,‭ ‬Florida Stage at the Kravis Center’s Rinker Playhouse,‭ ‬701‭ ‬Okeechobee Blvd.,‭ ‬West Palm Beach.‭ ‬Through Sunday,‭ ‬Jan.‭ ‬16.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$47-$50.‭ ‬Call:‭ (‬561‭) ‬585-3433‭ ‬or‭ (‬800‭) ‬514-3837.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Music review: Jazz bassist Parrott, trio show creativity, surprise in JAMS show

Jazz bassist and singer Nicki Parrott.
(Photo by Mary Jane Photography)

By Bill Meredith

Singing bassist Nicki Parrott’s trio walked on to the stage at the Harriet Himmel Theater in West Palm Beach on Tuesday while still getting used to dry land.

Parrott,‭ ‬Italian pianist Rossano Sportiello and drummer Ed Metz Jr.‭ ‬had just exited a Crystal Cruise line ship earlier in the day after playing a‭ ‬10-day jazz-themed sail from Fort Lauderdale to the Caribbean.

And while a few tentative early moments showed that the three were still getting their land legs under them,‭ ‬they soon righted the ship through creative arrangements of a few classics and more than a few surprises,‭ ‬all to the delight of the three-quarter capacity crowd.

‭“‬We’re going to play tunes from the American Songbook,‭”‬ Parrott said,‭ ‬tongue firmly planted in cheek,‭ “‬otherwise known as the Rod Stewart songbook.‭”

The humor of the Australia native,‭ ‬now based in Brooklyn,‭ ‬showed all night long.‭ ‬On Louis Jordan’s bluesy‭ ‬Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby,‭ ‬she augmented her breathy,‭ ‬understated vocal delivery with snippets of scat-singing as Metz creatively played his snare drum with brushes,‭ ‬drumsticks,‭ ‬and even his hands.

Sportiello introduced an early highlight,‭ ‬Tommy Flanagan‭’‬s‭ ‬Beats Up,‭ ‬by playing a long,‭ ‬ragtime-influenced solo.‭ ‬Metz propelled the warp-speed piece with his rimshots and hummingbird breaks,‭ ‬and Parrott‭ ‬played a snippet of Mendelssohn‭’‬s‭ ‬Wedding March‭ ‬during her solo.

The bassist then downshifted by‭ ‬singing Consuelo Velazquez‭’‬s‭ ‬Besame Mucho,‭ ‬Irving Berlin‭’‬s‭ ‬White Christmas‭ (‬which she renamed‭ ‬Down Under Christmas,‭ ‬and infused with lyrics of Australian imagery‭)‬,‭ ‬and Adler and Ross‭’‬s‭ ‬Whatever Lola Wants,‭ ‬a tune from the musical‭ ‬Damn Yankees.

The best of the first set‭’‬s jazz standards was Cole Porter‭’‬s‭ ‬Let's Do It,‭ ‬Let‭’‬s Fall in Love‭ ‬which Parrott injected with her own humorous lyrics‭ (“‬Piano‭ ‬players who are Milanese do it,‭”‬ with a wink toward Sportiello,‭ ‬before she also mentioned Metz,‭ ‬the Tea Party,‭ ‬TSA agents,‭ ‬Lindsay Lohan,‭ ‬Batman,‭ ‬Mel Gibson,‭ ‬Tiger Woods,‭ ‬and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie‭)‬.

All of which led to the evening‭’‬s signature piece,‭ ‬a medley of Chopin melodies that Sportiello arranged for the trio.

‭“‬Imagine that Chopin gets caught in Harlem in‭ ‬1955,‭”‬ Parrott said.‭ ‬The three musicians then engaged in a dizzying chase that started with the pianist's introduction over a mid-tempo rhythm by Parrott and Metz.‭ ‬The drummer used brushes,‭ ‬and Parrott employed her bow,‭ ‬as Sportiello led them into dramatic pauses,‭ ‬then his manic,‭ ‬Art Tatum-esque solo at a breakneck pace.‭ ‬The trio then effortlessly de-accelerated‭ ‬into a ballad feel‭; ‬a bluesy Harlem shuffle,‭ ‬and a‭ ‬6/8‭ ‬rhythmic cadence before the coda and a necessary,‭ ‬breath-catching intermission.

‭“‬I hadn‭’‬t planned on doing this,‭ ‬but we're going to do a little tribute to Les Paul,‭”‬ Parrott said early in the second set.‭ ‬The bassist was a part of Paul‭’‬s weekly house band at the Iridium Jazz Club in Manhattan for nine years until the‭ ‬94-year-old icon died in‭ ‬2009,‭ ‬and she still honors him there on Mondays as part of the Les Paul Trio‭ (‬with guitarist Lou Pallo and pianist John Colianni‭)‬.

Parrott again changed the lyrics to suit the subject,‭ ‬this time in a medley of‭ ‬Young at Heart‭ ‬and‭ ‬How‭ ‬High the Moon.‭ ‬The loping former segued into the up-tempo latter,‭ ‬complete with a swinging Sportiello solo and trades between Metz and Parrott that had the bassist laughing and dancing.‭ ‬Her infectious energy permeated the entire concert,‭ ‬right down to‭ ‬her ballad ode to Peggy Lee,‭ I Love the Way You're Breaking My Heart‭ (‬featured on Parrott‭’‬s‭ ‬2009‭ ‬CD Fly‭ ‬Me to the Moon‭)‬.

Sportiello then showed his arranging prowess again,‭ ‬this time infusing George‭ ‬Shearing‭’‬s‭ ‬Lullaby of Birdland with a Baroque feel.‭ ‬Parrott‭’‬s underrated playing included both bow and fingerstyle‭; ‬Metz soloed only on the cymbals,‭ ‬and the pianist seamlessly shifted between swing and Baroque figures.

A muscular arrangement of Bert Kaempfert‭’‬s‭ ‬Spanish Eyes closed the show,‭ ‬and featured compelling solos by both Sportiello and Parrott.‭ ‬Yet it was Metz who brought the house down.‭ ‬Like Buddy Rich,‭ ‬the drummer uses every tool at his disposal‭ ‬--‭ ‬playing with brushes,‭ ‬soloing with his hands,‭ ‬and then bouncing drumsticks off of the snare,‭ ‬some of which he caught‭; ‬some of which ended up on the ledge above the stage.

This trio first played together while recording Metz‭’‬s‭ ‬2008‭ ‬CD‭ ‬Bridging the Gap,‭ ‬and it developed chemistry while performing a week‭’‬s worth of dates in Switzerland the following year.‭ ‬Parrott and Sportiello have recorded two duo CDs and are completely simpatico already,‭ ‬so any hiccups on this night‭ (‬most coming at the end of songs‭) ‬were en route toward complete symmetry with their otherwise fabulous drummer.

The three are likely to have all kinks worked out by the time they record during late-January dates at the Jazz Corner in Hilton Head,‭ ‬S.C.‭ ‬If this evening was any indication,‭ ‬the result could be a stellar‭ ‬2011‭ ‬live CD.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Music feature: Aussie bassist Parrott masters American jazz

Nicki Parrott, who plays the JAMS series
tomorrow night at CityPlace.
(Photo by Mary Jane Photography)

By Bill Meredith

For every Jaco Pastorius or Charles Mingus,‭ ‬there are countless jazz bass players who never become household names,‭ ‬so most take up the workmanlike instrument for deeper reasons than‭ ‬attaining celebrity.

In the case of Nicki Parrott,‭ ‬it‭ ‬was family.

At age‭ ‬15‭ ‬in her native Australia,‭ ‬she started her performing career when her older sister,‭ ‬saxophonist Lisa Parrott,‭ ‬needed a bassist.‭ ‬Before long,‭ ‬though,‭ ‬it was evident that the‭ ‬self-taught musician was clearly playing bass for the love of‭ ‬the instrument.

After studying at the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music in Sydney,‭ ‬where she was able to take additional lessons with touring bass dignitaries like Ray Brown and John Clayton,‭ ‬Parrott made her move.‭ ‬In‭ ‬1994,‭ ‬at age‭ ‬24,‭ ‬an Australian‭ ‬Young Achievers Award provided her with the funds to move to the United States and study with renowned New York City bassist Rufus Reid.‭ ‬She's now based in Brooklyn,‭ ‬and has only left to tour ever since.

‭“‬I‭’‬m a permanent resident here,‭ ‬but not a U.S.‭ ‬citizen yet,‭”‬ Parrott said before her Dec.‭ ‬21‭ ‬concert at the Harriet Himmel Theater in CityPlace,‭ ‬her Aussie accent still intact.‭ “‬Citizenship is on my to-do list.‭”

That being said,‭ ‬she‭’‬s certainly mastered America‭’‬s musical art form.‭ ‬Now also a breathy,‭ ‬self-taught vocalist,‭ ‬Parrott's recording and performance resume includes work with the likes of Clark Terry,‭ ‬Billy Taylor,‭ ‬Dick Hyman,‭ ‬Randy Brecker,‭ ‬Mike Stern,‭ ‬Howard Alden,‭ ‬Ken Peplowski,‭ ‬Harry Allen,‭ ‬and Bucky and John Pizzarelli.‭ ‬In addition to her recording sessions,‭ ‬she‭’‬s played with the New York Pops and on Broadway shows.

For nine years,‭ ‬Parrott also played every Monday night at the Iridium Jazz Club in Manhattan with legendary guitarist Les Paul.‭ ‬When the icon died in‭ ‬2009‭ ‬at age‭ ‬94,‭ ‬Parrott wanted‭ ‬to carry on his legacy at the venue‭ ‬--‭ ‬which she‭’‬s done ever since as bassist and vocalist for the Les Paul Trio,‭ ‬with guitarist Lou Pallo and pianist John Colianni.

‭“‬I first started doing vocals while working with Les,‭”‬ Parrott says,‭ “‬because he made me‭ ‬do it‭! ‬I'd never actually sung much before.‭ ‬He was wonderful,‭ ‬and it shocked us when he died because he looked so good.‭ ‬He was very coherent right up until the end,‭ ‬and almost always pretty peppy,‭ ‬and very funny.‭ ‬I'd jokingly blame him for all the technological overkill in recording studios,‭ ‬since he did invent multi-tracking,‭ ‬and he'd laugh and go along with it.

‭“‬A guitarist would sit in and play a Gibson Les Paul model and he‭’‬d say,‭ ‬‘If I hadn‭’‬t invented that piece of crap,‭ ‬you wouldn‭’‬t have been able to play it so loud‭!‬’ We‭’‬re carrying on Mondays at the club as a tribute to him,‭ ‬and we bring in guest artists every week.‭”

On recent Mondays,‭ ‬those included Jane Monheit,‭ ‬Frank Vignola and Todd Rundgren.‭ ‬Forthcoming guests in December and January include Bert Jansch,‭ ‬Reb Beach,‭ ‬Mike Stern,‭ ‬Victor Wooten,‭ ‬Jim Hall and Greg Osby.

Parrott's trio for her‭ ‬Tuesday concert in the Jazz Arts Music Society‭ (‬JAMS‭) ‬series at the Harriet Himmel Theater at CityPlace includes Italian pianist Rossano Sportiello and Florida-based‭ ‬drummer Ed Metz Jr.‭ ‬ The three first recorded on Metz‭’‬s‭ ‬2008‭ ‬CD‭ ‬Bridging the Gap,‭ ‬and they plan to record a live album for Arbors Records during a late-January date at the Jazz Corner in Hilton Head,‭ ‬S.C.‭ ‬If the CityPlace show was any indication,‭ ‬the live CD should be a must-have item for any fan of the trio.

‭“‬I've been playing with Rossano for about‭ ‬10‭ ‬years,‭”‬ Parrott says.‭ “‬He moved to New York a few years ago,‭ ‬and we've recorded a couple duo CDs within the past six years or so.‭ ‬I think he's one of the most brilliant jazz and classical pianists alive today.‭ ‬I‭’‬ve found that European jazz musicians seem to have more of a classical background than American jazz musicians,‭ ‬and Rossano typifies that.

‭“‬As for Ed,‭ ‬his CD turned out to be one of my favorite recordings for Arbors Records,‭”‬ Parrott continues.‭ “‬So when the three of us played for a week at a club in Switzerland last‭ ‬year,‭ ‬we were really able to home in on our material.‭ ‬Now we're used to playing with each other‭; ‬we have repertoire,‭ ‬and it‭’‬s great fun.‭”

JAMS president and founder Susan Merritt‭ ‬remembered the joy Parrott exhibited during a previous appearance for the organization,‭ ‬which was part of the reason she was booked for its special holiday concert.

‬“Nicki first played for us a few years ago with the DIVA Jazz Orchestra,‭”‬ Merritt says.‭ “‬I'd also enjoyed her session work on a variety of albums on Arbors Records,‭ ‬and I recently saw her play with Ann Hampton Callaway.‭ ‬She's a great singer and bass player,‭ ‬and just adorable.‭”

When she left Australia in the mid-‭‘‬90s,‭ ‬Parrott left a jazz scene‭ ‬that she remembers as depreciating.

‭“‬There was always a jazz scene in Sydney,‭”‬ she says,‭ “‬but it seemed like it was more happening in the‭ ‬‘80s than in‭ ‬the‭ ‬‘90s.‭ ‬All the major cities there have a jazz scene‭ ‬--‭ ‬Melbourne,‭ ‬Perth,‭ ‬Brisbane.‭ ‬Sydney was really‭ ‬thriving in the late‭ ‬‘80s,‭ ‬but Melbourne probably has a better scene now.‭"

She doesn‭’‬t tour her native country much,‭ ‬but Parrott also remembers an ever-strong classical scene.

‭“‬All the major Australian cities‭ ‬have great symphony orchestras,‭”‬ she says,‭ “‬so there's a huge classical tradition there.‭ ‬And jazz is sort of a smaller branch of that.‭ ‬There‭ ‬are occasional festivals that I‭’‬ll play there,‭ ‬but otherwise there aren't really that many touring opportunities.‭”

That may be due,‭ ‬in part,‭ ‬to the amount‭ ‬of gigs Parrott plays in the U.S.‭ ‬Her trio will hit the stage in West Palm Beach fresh off a‭ ‬10-day,‭ ‬jazz-themed sail from Fort Lauderdale to the Caribbean aboard the Crystal Cruise line.‭ ‬Parrott is also busy within the modern,‭ ‬downsized,‭ ‬do-it-yourself reality that exists within the‭ ‬21st-century music industry.

‭“‬We all have‭ ‬to deal with the business side,‭”‬ she says.‭ “‬It‭’‬s not all practicing and performing,‭ ‬because most of us work without managers.‭ ‬Each gig requires a lot of planning between publicity,‭ ‬photos and press in general.‭ ‬So with travel,‭ ‬e-mails and all the other details,‭ ‬there's a lot less time to devote to your craft.‭”

Some of Parrott‭’‬s most time-consuming travel is to the Far East.

‭“‬I read a definition of jazz recently in a music union paper,‭”‬ she says.‭ “‬It was called‭ ‬‘America's most original art form‭; ‬beloved by Europeans.‭’‬ I‭’‬d add‭ ‬the Japanese to that as well.‭ ‬I‭’‬ve been to Switzerland five times this year,‭ ‬and I‭’‬ve released four albums in Japan,‭ ‬all with vocals,‭ ‬all of which have done‭ ‬quite well.‭ ‬So I‭’‬ve toured there,‭ ‬and I'll be going back again next year for the Fujitsu Concord Jazz Festival.‭”

Parrott‭’‬s latest Japanese release is‭ ‬Black Coffee‭ ‬(Venus‭)‬.‭ ‬She also appears on this year‭’‬s‭ ‬All My Friends‭ ‬Are Here:‭ ‬Tribute‭ ‬to Arif Mardin‭ (‬Nunoise‭)‬,‭ ‬which features David Sanborn,‭ ‬Norah Jones,‭ ‬Bette Midler,‭ ‬Dianne Reeves and Willie Nelson and pays homage to the late Grammy-winning producer.‭ ‬Her latest domestic release is the second duo CD with Sportiello,‭ ‬last year‭’‬s‭ ‬Do It Again‭ (‬Arbors‭)‬.

The versatile bassist has come a long way,‭ ‬both literally and figuratively.

“I was the first female bass student my teacher had at the conservatorium in Sydney,‭”‬ Parrott says.‭ “‬My sister and I were always been influenced by a lot of different music,‭ ‬from Brazilian to Eric Clapton.‭ ‬Now I play acoustic and electric bass,‭ ‬and I don‭’‬t know many bassists in New York who don‭’‬t.‭ ‬I think the more diverse you are as a musician,‭ ‬the better you can be.‭”

That‭’‬s a common mantra for modern musicians in all genres,‭ ‬and for better or worse,‭ ‬it‭’‬s likely to shape music in general and jazz in particular in the future.

‭“‬I was talking to Harry Allen about‭ ‬that recently,‭”‬ Parrott says,‭ “‬and we agreed that it‭’‬s all about broadening one‭’‬s horizons.‭ ‬Harry will go from a gig playing with the Brazilian group Trio da Paz to recording a‭ ‬‘James Bond‭’‬ record.‭ ‬Jazz has almost always been somewhat of a marginalized art form,‭ ‬anyway‭; ‬never hugely popular unless you‭’‬re someone like Diana Krall.

‭“‬I‭ ‬just try to play with people who also play a lot of different styles.‭ ‬That way,‭ ‬I can broaden both my horizons and my repertoire.‭”

See the‭Nicki Parrott Trio‭ at‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬on Tuesday,‭ ‬Dec.‭ ‬21,‭ ‬at the Harriet Himmel Theater,‭ ‬700‭ ‬S.‭ ‬Rosemary Ave.,‭ ‬West Palm Beach‭ (‬Tickets:‭ ‬$35‭; ‬call‭ ‬877-722-2820 or visit‭)‬.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The View From Home 17: New releases on DVD

By John Thomason

Kobayashi Four
‭ (‬Facets‭)
Standard list price:‭ ‬$71.99
Release date:‭ ‬Nov.‭ ‬23

Facets celebrates its new release of Masahiro Kobayashi’s‭ ‬2001‭ ‬film‭ ‬Man Walking on Snow by repackaging three of the director’s previously available releases into a box set titled‭ ‬Kobayashi Four.‭

Watching these four titles from the criminally neglected Japanese auteur reveals a bracing talent with a thematically cohesive oeuvre who should easily be as recognized in contemporary Asian art cinema as Kiyoshi Kurosawa,‭ ‬Hirokazu Kore-eda or Kim Ki-Duk,‭ ‬all of whom share similar sensibilities.

The obsession that lingers most in Kobayashi’s cinema is the specter of death and its uncertain aftermath.‭ ‬Death incites equal parts grief,‭ ‬jealousy,‭ ‬anger and connection throughout these four titles,‭ ‬arriving in even the most deceptively comic packages.‭

In the oldest title in this set,‭ ‬Kobayashi’s second feature‭ ‬Bootleg Film‭ (‬1998‭)‬,‭ ‬the suicide of a shared lover brings together two of her paramours,‭ ‬a cop and a yakuza,‭ ‬who road-trip together to attend her funeral.‭ ‬Kobayashi directs this sharp,‭ ‬black-and-white Cinemascope journey with hipster detachment and film-school quirk.‭ ‬A manic slapstick comedy on the surface,‭ ‬Bootleg Film is reverential and referential to icons of the past,‭ ‬mostly American pop-culture institutions favored by the yakuza character,‭ ‬an avowed cineaste.

The film channels Laurel and Hardy one minute and‭ ‬Reservoir Dogs the next,‭ ‬with Tarantino’s cult film particularly‭ ‬ingrained in Kobayashi’s script.‭ ‬In one hilarious digression,‭ ‬the yakuza pre-empts the killing of a girl‭ – ‬and fellow Tarantino fan‭ ‬--‭ ‬to argue with her about the proper way to pronounce Steve Buscemi’s surname.

Bootleg Film only gets weirder,‭ ‬and more supernatural,‭ ‬as it progresses.‭ ‬Characters we assume are dead to this world walk through the epic landscapes once again:‭ ‬Death is elusive and impermanent,‭ ‬a theme that will recur in arguably the director’s most engaging movie,‭ ‬Man Walking on Snow‭ (‬2001‭)‬.

In that film,‭ ‬we follow the routine of Nobuo‭ (‬Ken Ogata‭)‬,‭ ‬a‭ ‬70-year-old man whose wife died two years prior and who spends his days wandering the snowy terrain of a remote Northern Japanese village,‭ ‬eventually wending his way to a salmon-breeding pond,‭ ‬where he strikes up an unlikely bond with a woman who works there.‭ ‬It’s a film that very much lives up to its title.

Seemingly endless shots of Nobuo traipsing through the harsh climate are intercut with shots of his two sons‭’ ‬daily lives,‭ ‬one of whom dotes on his father’s every need while the other,‭ ‬a failed musician,‭ ‬has been estranged and bitter ever since his mother’s passing.‭ ‬The occasion of second anniversary of her death‭ – ‬and of Nobuo’s wavering vow of chastity‭ – ‬attempts to bring the broken family to some semblance of togetherness.

Kobayashi films this discomforting story of familial conflict with subtle formal cues:‭ ‬The way his camera jitters restlessly during the brief close-up shots and only seems steady and comfortable when filming the characters in long shots suggests the distance required for the family to communicate.‭ ‬The film’s depictions of real-life problems are authentic and moving,‭ ‬and its tragic nature creeps up on you‭ – ‬at least until Kobayashi,‭ ‬as in‭ ‬Bootleg Film,‭ ‬seems to negate a key climactic death,‭ ‬punctuating the film with a confounding epilogue.

Kobayashi followed‭ ‬this‭ ‬a couple of films later with‭ ‬Bashing,‭ ‬the harsh story of Yuko‭ (‬Fusako Urabe‭)‬,‭ ‬a woman returning home from being held hostage in Iraq,‭ ‬where she had volunteered for the coalition forces.‭ ‬Whether it’s for being captured or simply for volunteering in the first place,‭ ‬Yuko receives nothing but ire and shame from the unforgiving townspeople,‭ ‬from her family and boyfriend to the soup kitchen that refuses to serve her.‭ ‬Bashing is‭ ‬80‭ ‬minutes of pure suffering,‭ ‬and this time,‭ ‬there’s no rebirth for the deceased.

If it’s the weakest title in this box set,‭ ‬it’s partly because the film doesn’t have much room to breathe beyond its Issue Movie limitations.‭ ‬But mostly,‭ ‬Bashing doesn’t work because it’s hard for us in the West to relate to the story.‭ ‬It’s not a universal problem.‭ ‬The unforgiving society Kobayashi presents is culturally polarized from how we perceive returning veterans,‭ ‬especially hostage victims,‭ ‬all of whom return as heroes even if no heroism was demonstrated.

The box set concludes,‭ ‬appropriately,‭ ‬with Kobayashi’s most sublime and ascetically rigorous film,‭ ‬2007‭’‬s‭ ‬The Rebirth.‭ ‬We get all the story we’re going to get in the film’s first eight minutes,‭ ‬where we learn that a woman’s daughter stabbed and killed the daughter of a neighboring,‭ ‬widowed man in an act of high-school terrorism.‭ ‬Kobayashi then revisits to these two characters‭ – ‬the mother of the culprit and the father of the victim‭ – ‬one year later,‭ ‬where both have resigned from their previous jobs and generally from life itself.

Until the last five minutes of this‭ ‬102-minute feature,‭ ‬there is no dialogue or narration.‭ ‬We simply follow the characters in silent observation of their daily rituals:‭ ‬Eat,‭ ‬sleep,‭ ‬commute,‭ ‬work,‭ ‬eat,‭ ‬sleep,‭ ‬commute,‭ ‬work.‭ ‬Morning becomes night,‭ ‬and night becomes morning again.‭ ‬Like ghosts,‭ ‬they never communicate with the world around them,‭ ‬preferring lives of contemplative solitude.

To watch these two principal players‭ (‬the man is portrayed by Kobayashi himself‭) ‬for more than an hour and half is to accept the film’s meditative lull with a Zen-like sense of ease and comfort,‭ ‬and it reminds us how much potency can be conveyed without the crutch of dialogue.‭ ‬The characters do eventually meet,‭ ‬partaking in a kind of magnetic ballet of attraction and repulsion throughout the movie’s second half.‭ ‬But the pleasures are more in the soothing routines of their lives than in their wordless,‭ ‬predestined encounters.

This study in repetitive,‭ ‬Warholian banality‭ – ‬the‭ ‬Jeanne Dielman of post-mortem grief‭ – ‬is seemingly as removed as possible from the madcap antics of‭ ‬Bootleg Film,‭ ‬but the two movies share an understanding of the different ways we grieve,‭ ‬a common thread running through all of Kobayashi’s cinema.‭ ‬One solution in the grieving process may be to take solace in the familiar,‭ ‬as the characters in‭ ‬The Rebirth do.‭

The next time I lose someone close to me,‭ ‬this is the film to which I would most want to return.

Hair High
‭ ‬(Microcinema‭)
Release date:‭ ‬Nov.‭ ‬30
SLP:‭ ‬$17.99

Cult animator‭ ‬Bill Plympton directed this icky ode to high school,‭ ‬which plays out like an‭ ‘‬80s John Hughes flick dragged through a dirty,‭ ‬surrealist muck until all sense of logic,‭ ‬decorum and‭ “‬decency‭” (‬whatever that is‭) ‬have been removed.‭ ‬In other words,‭ ‬it’s customary Plympton,‭ ‬familiarly disgusting for his admirers and instantly repellent for those not attuned to his wavelength.‭ ‬The movie centers on Spud‭ (‬Eric Gilliland‭)‬,‭ ‬a nerdy outcast forced to serve slavishly under Cherri‭ (‬Sarah Silverman‭)‬,‭ ‬the head cheerleader inevitably paired with hunky boyfriend and quarterback Rod‭ (‬Dermot Mulroney‭)‬.‭ ‬When Cherri finally reciprocates Spud’s attractions,‭ ‬their romance sets Rod off,‭ ‬leading to an uncertain death and a skeletal resurrection,‭ ‬with the title of prom royalty at stake.

The self-contained universe of‭ ‬Hair High is not the world as we see it,‭ ‬but the world Plympton sees,‭ ‬and it’s one worth visiting for a respite from conventional Hollywood‭ “‬realism.‭” ‬Channeling the anarchy of animation’s early deviants,‭ ‬Plympton utilizes the style’s uninhibited elasticity the way few contemporary animators do,‭ ‬exploiting it in truly visionary ways.‭ ‬Though many of the film’s sophomoric cheap shots suggest the emotional maturity of a‭ ‬15-year-old male,‭ ‬Plympton smartly uses the tricks of the animation trade to creatively amplify its characters‭’ ‬intense emotions,‭ ‬from fear to anxiety,‭ ‬anger,‭ ‬love and joy.‭ ‬If most of us felt things the way the characters in‭ ‬Hair High feel them,‭ ‬we’d be living in a very strange world,‭ ‬but it would be a lot of fun for about‭ ‬10‭ ‬minutes.

‭ (‬Film Movement‭)
Release date:‭ ‬Dec.‭ ‬7
SLP:‭ ‬$24.95

Shot in the titular historic city in Israel,‭ ‬Jaffa is the latest forbidden-love drama between a Jew and an Arab,‭ ‬a romantic conceit that’s become as narratively familiar as it is perpetually relevant.‭ ‬The major players are the strikingly eyebrowed,‭ ‬newly pregnant Mali‭ (‬Dana Ivgy‭); ‬her auto-mechanic father Reuven‭ (‬well-known Israeli actor Moni Moshonov‭); ‬Toufik‭ (‬Mahmud Shalaby‭)‬,‭ ‬the Arab laborer with whom she’s planning on eloping‭; ‬and Meir‭ (‬Ro’i Asaf‭)‬,‭ ‬Reuven’s son and an anti-Arab bigot.‭ ‬You don’t have to be Socrates to predict where these boiling tensions are heading,‭ ‬but nevertheless,‭ ‬I won’t spoil any of the plot’s tragic developments.

Jaffa is best when it probes familial grief and the lasting impact of chance decisions‭; ‬we’re refreshingly spared any moral lectures about the eternally irreconcilable differences between the ethnic groups in question.‭ ‬But compared with the thrilling,‭ ‬fly-on-the-wall action of last year’s similarly set‭ ‬Ajami,‭ ‬this film’s glacial pacing is not always involving,‭ ‬and an extended epilogue,‭ ‬set nine years into the future,‭ ‬adds little resonance to the drama.

The Zookeeper‭
(‬Brink DVD‭)
Release date:‭ ‬Nov.‭ ‬23
SLP:‭ ‬$17.99

This turgid war drama from music-video director Ralph Ziman won Best Film and Best Actor at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival in‭ ‬2001,‭ ‬which says more about FLIFF’s diminished standards of quality than it does about the merits of this picture.‭ ‬Sam Neill stars as Ludovic,‭ ‬a jaded ex-Communist in an unspecified,‭ ‬supposedly contemporary Eastern Europe country that’s dressed inexplicably in period garb.‭ ‬Ravaged by war,‭ ‬most of the citizens have migrated elsewhere‭ – ‬only Ludovic and his veterinarian companion‭ (‬Om Puri‭) ‬have agreed to stay and keep the animals in the city’s zoo alive as bombs explode around them.

Ponderous direction sinks the film’s interesting subject matter,‭ ‬rendered insufficiently compelling by Ziman’s insistence on derailing the narrative away from the fascinating dealings with the animals and toward the trappings of kitchen-sink melodrama.‭ ‬Ziman frees his zookeeper protagonist from the heavy tedium of his position by granting him a seemingly orphaned‭ ‬10-year-old boy and,‭ ‬later,‭ ‬the boy’s androgynously disguised mother,‭ ‬which conveniently serve as Ludovic’s redemptive parenting lesson and rote romance,‭ ‬respectively.

Worse yet,‭ ‬the film feels epically longer than its‭ ‬100‭ ‬minutes,‭ ‬and not in a good way.