Hong Xu, Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Juilliard Orchestra at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater
The New York Times, September 25, 2007
Hong Xu, Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Juilliard Orchestra at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater
The New York Times, September 25, 2007
There's a lot to say about tonight's prima of Lucia di Lammermoor at the Metropolitan Opera; unfortunately, I don't have time to work through my feelings about it in any great depth. The performance, in short, was hit or miss -- many things felt unsettled. Natalie Dessay provided a bold, athletic and characterful presence, gamely enacting everything she was called upon her to do, and even righting herself after a scary tumble down the raked stage without missing a beat. (She had a chuckle about that during her final curtain call.) Dessay's singing was characteristically high-flying if not especially rich. But when you factored in her exceptional intelligence and agility, the result was a satisfying performance.
Marcello Giordani, as Edgardo -- a role that doesn't entirely suit his strengths -- took a while to warm up, but was in reliably heroic form by the all-important final act. Marius Kwiecien sang Enrico powerfully, though he occasionally seemed a bit uncontrolled. John Relyea provided typically sturdy support as Raimondo. The most secure singing came from debutant Stephen Costello in the small role of Arturo, his tone bright and hardy, with a strip of metal down the center. The orchestra sounded good, if not on top form; James Levine's tempos were usually broad and sometimes breathless, but never cause for alarm.
No doubt some of the patchier spots in the performance will settle down as the run progresses. The same can't be said for Mary Zimmerman's staging: it is what it is, and what it is offers no real improvement on the Met's previous production. The sets were drab, and spare to no apparent effect; special effects seemed obvious at best and laughable at worst. Direction of crowd scenes sometimes lapsed into parody, a pity since the chorus was in good voice.
Not unexpectedly, Dessay made the most of the mad scene, and the use of a real glass armonica was an outstanding touch -- too bad that it had to end in a reaction-milking production number. (The audience, I should note, participated eagerly.) The staging of the Wolf's Crag scene packed all the intensity of a Charlie Rose episode. And the ghostly visitation in the final scene... just no.
You'll no doubt be reading and hearing a lot more about Lucia over the next few days. (Good grief, Alex already has photos from the plaza.) Not me, though: I'm heading to JFK in about six hours for a flight to Ho Chi Minh City and a long-awaited rendezvous with Dr. LP, and I'll basically be traveling entirely unplugged. Blogging will almost certainly be limited, so I'll catch up with you in a few weeks.
"If Grant Had Been Singing at Appomattox"
The New York Times, September 23, 2007
A conversation with Philip Glass about two major operatic events coming up this season: the premiere of Appomattox at San Francisco Opera on October 5, and the first Metropolitan Opera production of Satyagraha next April. Despite nearly 30 years separating Glass's creation of the two works, both tackle the same basic issues of racial discrimination and social justice. The contexts are vastly different, but not so very far apart from a historical perspective. And neither opera is strictly bound by its temporal setting. Where the two differ most fundamentally, it seems to me, is a function of the evolution that has taken place in Glass's compositional style and dramaturgical conception.
I spent an hour or so tonight working on a post about Glass's long history of treating social themes on the operatic stage, with a graceful segue into some thoughts about the bombshell news of Gérard Mortier's inaugural season at New York City Opera. Unfortunately, when I was about 99.9% finished, my browser crashed, and I lost all of it. It's too late at night to deal with it now, but I'll try to find the time to put my thoughts together again tomorrow.
Trombonist Jeb Bishop, who participated in Thursday night's performance by the Globe Unity Orchestra in Harlem (described in the post immediately below), stopped by here and provided a couple of comments regarding certain things that I wrote. I'm pulling his comments up for plain view, because I think both are important:
thanks for the kind words --
(a) there was no pre-planning at all other than our implicit multilayered shared history together as players/listeners
(b) the saxophonist/clarinetist's name is Daniele D'Agaro; Google will no doubt yield information about him under that name. Zingaro could be violinist Carlos.
That this large ensemble of powerful soloists was able to present such a coherently shaped performance without any pre-planning whatsoever simply boggles the mind -- and offer profound testimony to just what it is that can make free improvisation so completely vital an experience. It also serves as a manifestation of something that Alexander von Schlippenbach talked about in an interview with photojournalist Laurence Svirchev: the belief that spontaneous creation and longtime relationships between musicians are not fundamentally incompatible:
It make good sense that if you find musicians you really can work with and you understand very well like Evan [Parker] and Paul [Lovens], I like to go on for long distance working together. It makes sense. There are some people with theories of improvisation, like Derek Bailey, they doubt this point. They say you should only play one time together. If you play together too much, it is no longer improvisation. I find this is more theory, it’s not the point of view of a musician, because you want to find something that works. If I can have the possibility to go on for a longer time there also may be weaker periods or even crisis points. But if you can work it through and can go on, then the music gets a stable bottom.
The full interview is well worth taking the time to read. It covers Schlippenbach's formative years, primary influences and subsequent development, including some points about which I'd been completely unaware: his studies with composer Bernd Alois Zimmerman, for one.
My apologies to Mr. D'Agaro, whose name I misheard in the post-concert tumult of well wishers. His long, distinguished bio is chock full of meaningful work with Tristan Honsinger, Ernst Glerum, Han Bennink, Benny Bailey and Mark Helias; his most recent working band includes Bishop, the great bassist Kent Kessler and former Sun Ra drummer Robert Berry. The last thing D'Agaro said to me was that he hoped he'd get the chance to play here more often. I hope he gets his wish.
My sincere thanks to Jeb Bishop for setting the record straight on both of these counts.And now that you've finished reading here, head straight over to my TONY colleague Hank Shteamer's review of the same concert, which includes a long, dazzlingly characterized description of the Axel Dörner solo (and a seriously great title for the post).
There's something irresistable about the sound of a free-improvising big band up close and in your face: winds and brass roaring and swirling in a hot caldera of molten sound, drums pattering and cymbals slashing, a pianist darting out now and again for surprising little cameos. Since it was founded in 1966, Alexander von Schlippenbach's Globe Unity Orchestra has been among the foremost of such units. During its illustrious if necessarily sporadic career, the band has engaged in everything from full-bore freak jazz to relatively structured graphic-score compositions; in 1974 it even made a memorable recording with a choir from Hamburg's NDR Radio.
Over the years, Globe Unity has included most of Europe's most powerful and distinctive voices, among them Evan Parker, Peter Brötzmann, Willem Breuker, Manfred Schoof, Kenny Wheeler, Paul Rutherford, Derek Bailey, Han Bennink, Jaki Liebezeit, Paul Lovens and Paul Lytton. Non-European guests such as Steve Lacy, Anthony Braxton, George Lewis, Bob Stewart and Alan Silva have swelled its ranks on occasion.
Recently, Lewis became the director of the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University, which -- in conjunction with the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone and Jazzmobile -- has just launched the first Columbia/Harlem Festival of Global Jazz, running through September 29. A complete schedule of events, including an all-star band co-led by David Murray and Kidd Jordan and a hugely impressive lineup of rare films and videos, can be found here.
The first major concert of the festival, presented tonight (Thursday, Sept. 20) at the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center in Harlem, featured a rare local appearance by the Globe Unity Orchestra, reactivated in 2002 after a layoff of more than a decade. Also on the bill was the great French bassist Joëlle Léandre's Octet, performing an hour-long composition called "Satiemental Journeys." (The seeming peculiarity of an all-white, mostly European roster kicking off a festival in Harlem was inescapable, which may or may not have been Lewis's point.)
As its name suggests, "Satiemental Journeys" was inspired by Erik Satie. Rather than adapting or even quoting his music outright, however, Léandre sought to evoke a sense of, in her own words, "his writings, his music, his journeys and his personality -- a provocateur in the spirit of Dada." She goes on in her program note to say, "I welcome and watch for the utopia of what tomorrow's composition could be, without all these hierarchies, roles and rules."
Admirable in theory. But in practice, "Satiemental Journeys" felt discontinuous, arbitrary and mannered. Much of what transpired suggested a vision of Satie glimpsed exclusively through the prism of John Cage, emphasizing randomness and quirk at the expense of a generous simplicity that seems equally fundamental to Satie's music.
That's not to suggest there was nothing to enjoy; the exceptional band Léandre led assured a steady stream of quality moments. Apart from the terrific clarinetist François Houle and violinist Mary Oliver, most of these players were unknown to me, although I'd at least heard of tuba player Melvyn Poore -- who provided a showstopping moment with an otherworldly solo played through a saxophone mouthpiece. The group also included flutist Cécile Daroux, trumpeter Guy Bettini, pianist Michael Berger and percussionist Hannes Clauss.
All provided outstanding moments as this piece cycled through sentimental melodies, inspired improvisations, elements of absurdist theater and angular ensemble passages reminiscent of some of Anthony Braxton's writing.
In the end, however, what "Satiemental Journeys" seemed to lack was an underlying momentum that might have made this series of disparate episodes cohere into a unified statement. What resulted, despite the stellar details, was a seemingly random clash of pretty tunes and quirky bits, with no real clue as to what connected them. Maybe that was Léandre's point, but I can't help thinking there's considerably more -- and in some ways, rather less -- to Satie than that.
After a lengthy break, Globe Unity took the stage with a healthy mix of veteran kings and new jacks. Along with Schlippenbach, the old-guard members included Parker, Schoof, Lytton and Gerd Dudek. A clutch of younger players -- trumpeter Axel Dörner, trombonists Jeb Bishop and Nils Wogram, and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love -- brought an infusion of fresh ideas, not an easy task when playing with musicians once assumed to have taken their instruments to the outer extremes of technical virtuosity. Completing the lineup were trumpeter Jean-Luc Cappozzo, who has been working with Globe Unity for a few years now, and an Italian clarinetist-saxophonist whose name I jotted down as Daniel (or Daniele?) Zingaro, about whom Google has yielded absolutely nothing. [EDIT: The saxophonist's name was Daniele D'Agaro; see Jeb Bishop's comment, below.]
Lewis announced that the band was dedicating its performance to the memory of anarchic British trombonist Paul Rutherford, a longtime member who passed away in August. (AllAboutJazz.com has a valuable page of reflections from his colleagues.) From the opening bars, it seemed clear that some organizational strategy must have been in place. Solo and ensemble passages alternated with a regularity that was structurally satisfying, almost but not quite verging on predictable. Somehow, the players must have been feeding signals to one another.
Schlippenbach kicked things off with a stabbing two-note figure, accompanied by rustles and murmurs. The music assumed greater volume and density fairly quickly, but it rarely seemed overbearing: it expanded and contracted like a mighty lung. The two drummers, though largely invisible from where I sat, provided a fascinating contrast in approaches: Lytton offered the familiar akimbo splatter of European free improv, while Nilssen-Love seemed more goal-oriented, more willing to impose direction with stabbing accents placed like thrown elbows. (That, too, might have been a pre-planned stategy.)
In one sense, Globe Unity's set was as old-fashioned as a Jazz at the Philharmonic swing summit: massive ensemble passages alternated with lengthy solo spotlights. But while a wild ruckus was raised throughout the hour-long set, the most memorable moments were also generally the quieter ones.
Dörner, who played a trumpet equipped with both valves and slide, blew microtonal melodies and offered fair impressions of an industrial wet-vacuum cleaner and a chugging steam locomotive over a bed of glowing pedal tones from winds and brass, with percussion flashing at lowered levels. If I had to pick a single high point in the performance, this was it.
Cappozzo concentrated on mellow melodies on fluegelhorn over Lytton's shimmering brushwork. An amazing solo by Bishop, concentrating on a relatively limited series of pitches varied with slide position and mutes, was accompanied by Schlippenbach on a piano whose strings were treated with a variety of implements, including antique cymbals and a cheese grater. When
Zingaro D'Agaro joined in on clarinet, it sounded like a Dixieland breakout in the middle of a Chinese opera.
Wogram took the final solo, an effective study in blatty low notes, even if he tended to lean too often on what sounded like an impression of a sports car shifting gears. He was also responsible for another of the set's most sublime moments. After his solo, the full ensemble erupted; as it subsided, a haunting whistle floated above the din. Eventually the source was revealed: Wogram, his horn lowered, was singing harmonic overtones using Asian techniques. It was completely unexpected, and utterly intoxicating in context.
Without question, Globe Unity's ferocious roar provided the kick everyone at the show must have anticipated. But it was the contrast provided by those subtler moments from Dörner, Bishop and Wogram that made those tumultuous climaxes so effective.
Peter Evans - Peter Evans Quartet (Firehouse 12, due in November)
Tyshawn Sorey - that/not (Firehouse 12, due in November)
Kiss - Animalize and Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions (Mercury)
John Corigliano - The Red Violin Concerto; Sonata for Violin and Piano - Joshua Bell, Jeremy Denk, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra/Marin Alsop (Sony Classical)
Philip Glass - The Voyage - Landestheater Linz, Bruckner Orchester Linz/Dennis Russell Davies (Orange Mountain Music)
Bohuslav Martinu - Symphonies Nos. 1 and 6 - National Symphony Orchestra of the Ukraine/Arthur Fagen (Naxos)
Eric Moe - Tri-Stan - Mary Nessinger, Sequitur/Paul Hostetter (Koch International Classics)
Jean Sibelius - Violin Concerto in D minor; Magnus Lindberg - Violin Concerto - Lisa Batiashvili, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo (Sony Classical, due Oct. 2, 2007)
Arch Enemy - Rise of the Tyrant (Century Media, due Sept. 25, 2007)
King Crimson - Augsberg, Germany, March 27, 1974 (DGMlive.com download)
Iskra 1903 - Chapter One (Emanem)
I get to see a lot of amazing things in my line of work, but it's hard to overstate just how excited I'd been all week long in anticipation of this afternoon's outing. Thanks to my much esteemed colleague The Determined Dilettante, I was able to attend today's matinee performance of King Lear, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the BAM Harvey Theater in Brooklyn. As everyone in New York knows, this lengthy run has been completely sold out for months, mostly due to the presence of Ian McKellen in the title role. Also of note, the production was directed by Trevor Nunn, auteur of megabuck spectacles such as Cats and Les Misérables.
Planning ahead to make the most of my experience, I spent every spare minute of the week poring over the lengthy commentary by R. A. Foakes in the Arden edition of King Lear, boning up on the various textual discrepancies and the divergent philosophies with which the play has been presented over the years. I also intentionally skipped reading any reviews, in order to come to the production completely fresh and with an open mind.
I'm happy to report that my enthusiasm was largely warranted. What was best about this Lear was the strong acting. McKellen offered a brave, powerful account of a headstrong monarch accustomed to solving problems through the application of force. Slightly doddering and infirm from the beginning, McKellen's Lear makes snap judgements that in the end cost him everything. His exchanges with the Fool, played by Sylvester McCoy as an aged wiseacre, were sharply pointed, and his mental breakdown -- including the much-reported (I now know) scene that might be called "Sir Ian McKellen: Uncut" -- was harrowing: a naked depiction of a fleshy sack bereft of all reason. Lear's reunion with Gloucester, his reconciliations with Cordelia and Kent, and his end were all utterly heartbreaking.
On a par with McKellen's titanic assumption were the performances of William Gaunt as a noble Gloucester, Jonathan Hyde as the earnest Kent and Julian Harries as an Albany whose transformation from milksop to penitent crusader was compelling. Ben Meyjes brought a live-wire intensity to his portrayal of Edgar/Tom of Bedlam that weirdly enough reminded me of Nicolas Lea's Alex Krycek in The X-Files -- which is a compliment, mind you -- in that even as a victim, Edgar always kept his wits about him, and seemed genuinely capable of assessing a situation and exerting influence over his fate.
As Edmund, Philip Winchester was a handsome conniver whose scenery chewing was, perhaps strangely, impossible not to enjoy. Less sympathetic in their villainy were Frances Barber's Goneril, largely a shrieking harpy, Monica Dolan's oddly slutty Regan and Guy Williams's Cornwall, who clearly aspired to Lear's initial boorishness. These, you could say, were strong performances within the confines of directorial limitation. Romola Garai's Cordelia was beautiful to look upon, but hardly broadcasted the mettle it would take to lead the French army against her sisters.
Where this Lear rang most untrue was in some aspects of Nunn's staging, which often played rather obviously to a Broadway blockbuster mentality. The Cossack garb, whether it was a bizarre attempt to link Lear to the company's concurrent production of The Seagull or simply an excuse to inject a lot of noisy gunplay, was puzzling to say the least. The overly loud music, composed by Steven Edis, was slight but generally dismissable, apart from bombastic organ cues that led you to think a chandelier might fall from the ceiling at any moment. The tempest registered more as a gentle rain storm; it looked quite good, actually, but the shattered rafters at the close of the scene seemed like pandering.
On the other hand, the Fool's hanging was genuinely creepy -- particularly since it happened immediately before intermission, which meant that as you left the theater, you couldn't avoid awareness that you were turning your back on a dangling human body. (It provided a measure of relief to see the actor helped down when I was halfway up the stairs.) I can't imagine a more gruesome depiction of Gloucester's blinding. I'll also single out Malcolm Ranson for his genuinely effective fight choreography: the final duel between Edgar and Edmund, in particular, was visceral, balletic and utterly thrilling.
On balance, this was a production in which the positives far outweighed the negatives, frequently rendering the kind of "we're all in the same room" ritual power that makes live theater at its best a mind-altering substance. I feel lucky to have seen it -- and the scenes between McKellen's Lear and Meyjes's Edgar-as-Tom made me want to see these two as Prospero and Caliban, respectively.
Afterward, I headed back to Manhattan for a performance by saxophonist Sam Sadigursky, who presented a record-release show for his Words Project at the Cornelia Street Café. I've previously blogged about Sadigursky's disc (recently issued on Judd Greenstein's New Amsterdam label) here, and also reviewed it for Time Out New York. At Cornelia Street, he led a group that included pianist Pete Rende, bassist Eivind Opsvik, drummer Bill Campbell, and vocalists Becca Stevens and Monika Heidemann.
Impressively, Sadigursky didn't just trot out tunes from what I considered to be a successful, substantial record. During the set I saw, most of the material was new.
True, the performances of "Gardener and Flower Too," "Still Life," "I'm Glad Your Sickness" and "Love," all on the CD, were the more technically polished moments. "Love," which closed the set, was especially powerful, melding Stevens, high and light, and Heidemann, lowe and dusky, in solo passages and non-quite-canon echoes.
But the new material -- settings of "To Drive a Nail" and "Paths" from Andrew Boyd's Daily Afflictions, as well as David Ignatow's grody "No Theory" and Bertolt Brecht's epigrammatic "Motto" -- proved the Words Project to be a growing concern rather than a done deal.
The two singers gave Sadigursky ample resources with which to contemplate texts that ranged from sentimental to absurd. His settings provided strict, angular melodies that the singers had to navigate like horn players; conversely, his saxophone solos offered the kind of flexible elaborations that one might expect from a vocalist. The rhythm section was always supportive, and Rende proved an exceptional soloist through his enigmatic, introvert turns of melody and harmony.
Anton Bruckner - Symphony No. 7 - Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Bernard Haitink (CSO Resound)
Tim Berne's Bloodcount - Seconds (Screwgun)
Robert Ashley - Now Eleanor's Idea (Lovely Music)
Eleni Mandell - Miracle of Five (Zedtone)
Fiery Furnaces - Widow City (Thrill Jockey, due Oct. 9)
Nicole Atkins - Neptune City (Columbia, due Oct. 30)
Philip Glass - Symphony No. 6, "Plutonian Ode" - Lauren Flanigan, Bruckner Orchester Linz/Dennis Russell Davies (Orange Mountain Music)
Philip Glass - The Sound of a Voice: Suite - Wu Man, Lynn Chang, Peter Rejto, Tara Helen O'Connor, Gary Cook; In the Summer House - Krista Feeney, Richard Sher (Orange Mountain Music)
Philip Glass - The Light; Heroes Symphony - Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Marin Alsop (Naxos)
Kiss - Alive! 1975-2000 (Mercury)
At its core, black metal is protest music. Put aside for a moment the infamous associations with intolerance, the unfortunately all too true connections to genuinely heinous crimes such as church burning and even murder: what remains is the same sense of societal disaffection that sparked "Masters of War" and "Gimme Shelter." It's even closer to John Lydon's famous proclamation: "No future."
In Norway, black metal was the product of kids taking out their frustration toward society by blaming the Christian church for its stifling effects. Some acts espoused a Satanic credo: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law," as Aleister Crowley put it. Others fantasized about a return to an idealized pagan past of nature worship and Viking swordplay. (An unfortunate few damaged souls allowed the power trip to play out too far, earning the scene its grim reputation.)
From this perspective, it doesn't seem like such a stretch that ChthoniC, a black metal band from Taiwan that has suddenly become ubiquitous here over the last month or so, chose to adapt what might seem a fundamentally Aryan sound and frame of reference for its own music.
Having missed a few earlier opportunities, the Determined Dilettante and I finally caught ChthoniC live on Wednesday night at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, at an obscenely early 6:30pm. To the band's immense credit, it gave its all in a tight four-song set performed before no more than 40 audience members at a show headlined by old-school Florida death-metal band Obituary. (Apparently this set was crammed in at the last minute after ChthoniC was dropped from an opening slot on last week's Katatonia bill at B.B.'s; previously the band opened here for Nile, and also played the second stage at Ozzfest in New Jersey.)
Specifically, ChthoniC's style resembles those of Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth: a big, bombastic mix of crunching downtuned guitar riffs, screeched and growled vocals, and symphonic keyboards. Lyrics are sung in a mix of Taiwanese and English -- though honestly, it's not as if you'd notice without crib notes. The most visible departure from metal orthodoxy is band member "Su-Nung, the Bloody String," who plays hena, a two-stringed, bowed instrument known more widely as the erhu.
The members of ChthoniC took up black metal, according to interviews, because they were fans. But it's no stretch to assume that they intuited its fundamental impulse, since ChthoniC's songs dig into native history and mythology as a means to underscore their real message: international recognition of Taiwan as an independent state, in particular by the United Nations.
Fascinatingly, the band evens links its use of what looks like standard-issue Norwegian corpsepaint to Taiwanese tradition: in one online interview, singer Freddy Lim -- a.k.a. "Freddy, the Left Face of Maradou" -- traces the look to Taoist mythology:
Corpse paint is not the monopoly of the Scandinavian metal bands. It also originates from the “Eight Generals”, who appear in religious parades based on Taiwanese folklore. When these deities wear corpse paint, they are empowered with the eight Taoist spirits to be the judge of good and evil. The corpse paint of some Scandinavian black metal bands reminded Chthonic of the Taiwanese “Eight Generals”. Therefore, Chthonic gradually incorporated their corpse paint with the influence of the “Eight Generals”, such as the reverse hook emphasis on the corners of the mouth, etc.
No wonder, then, that some of ChthoniC's songs are banned in China. What's much stranger is that the band has attained a surprising degree of celebrity and official approval in its homeland: when ChthoniC claimed the prize for "Best Group" at the 14th annual Golden Melody Awards, Taiwan's version of the Grammies, in 2003, the trophy was presented by the nation's president, Chen Shui-bian. The Taiwanese government, according to several reports, supplied funding for the band's current, seemingly endless North American trek.
Normally at B.B.'s metal showcases, the Dilettante and I assume a standard position behind the soundboard, giving the moshers their space. Here there was no need, so we got up close behind the front row of headbangers in Obituary jerseys. What we learned was that official status hasn't tamed ChthoniC's ferocity.
Lim employed a stellar range of shrieks and growls -- never mind that the audience had no idea what he was going on about. Guitarist Jesse Liu ("Jesse, the Infernal") and keyboardist C.J. Kao ("CJ, Dispersed Fingers") provided a suitably infernal racket and the occasional florid solo. Bassist and backing vocalist Hsiang-yi Yeh ("Doris, Thunder Tears"), a strikingly beautiful woman who more than held her own in this boys' racket, offered thick, meaty bass lines that were unusually audible in the mix. Drummer "Dani, Azathothian Hands," adorned in a spiky bondage mask, managed blistering blastbeats sans electronic triggering, playing double-bass kicks on a single drum that was visibly miked. Su-Nung maintained a state of statuesque solemnity except when he was called upon to play, at which time he burst to life with keening string melodies that soared above the din.
Playing by B.B.'s harsh clock, ChthoniC hit the stage at 6:30pm and was finished by 7. Having not snagged a set list, I can't report most of what the band played, but the closer was "UNlimited Taiwan," its most recent tune and definitely its bluntest political diatribe. Beforehand, Lim roused the crowd with an obscenity-laden rant against the U.N., in English. It was enough to prompt this tiny but enthusiastic audience to thrust devil horns skyward in support of... whatever the guy onstage was going on about.
Lim took several opportunities to plug ChthoniC's hastily arranged date as a headliner this Sunday night at the Highline Ballroom, a show the band has dubbed "UNlimited New York." This well-deserved showcase will allow ChthoniC to regale its fans at greater length, as any band might wish to do -- a point Lim made in an interview for Blabbermouth.com.
But there's also a strategic component to the concert's timing: the United Nations convenes on the following Tueday, and Taiwan is once again trying to forcibly press the issue of its independence. If true comprehension has probably eluded most of the audiences ChthoniC has faced during its current American sojourn, perhaps the band hopes that a patina of evil funk will drift lazily toward the East River next week.
For more about this utterly fascinating band, here is an excellent recent Ozzfest brief from Toronto's Eye Weekly. And here is a more substantial piece from the International Herald Tribune -- a spectacularly detailed feature that digs into the band's political ties, revealing, for instance, that Freddy Lim was once enrolled at the Lee Teng-hui Academy, a finishing school for potential politicians.
Giuseppe Verdi - Macbeth - Carlo Cossutta, Christa Ludwig, Sherill Milnes, Vienna State Opera / Karl Bohm (Opera d'Oro)
Maurice Ravel - Daphnis et Chloé Suite No. 2; Rapsodie Epagnole; Igor Stravinsky - Le Chant du Rossignol Suite; The Firebird Suite - New York Philharmonic/Lorin Maazel (Deutsche Grammophone download)
Do Make Say Think - You, You're a History in Rust (Constellation)
Michael Gordon - Weather - Ensemble Resonanz/Evan Ziporyn (Nonesuch)
Gavin Bryars - Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet - Gavin Bryars Band with Tom Waits (Point Music)
So, exactly as the rumor mill had suggested, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones will be joined by Jason Bonham, son of late Zep drummer John Bonham, for a gala concert honoring Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun.
Here's the press release that just hit my in-box:
TRIBUTE TO AHMET ERTEGUN
NOVEMBER 26, 2007
O2 ARENA, LONDON
LONDON -- One of the most eagerly awaited concerts of the decade will celebrate the life and work of Ahmet Ertegun, founder of Atlantic Records and much missed mentor to some of the greatest names in music.
Profits from this amazing show will go to the Ahmet Ertegun Education Fund which provides students with annual scholarships to universities in the UK, USA and Turkey. In addition, a music scholarship open to all will be established at Ravensbourne College in the UK.
The incomparable Led Zeppelin will headline the tribute to the man who founded Atlantic Records in 1947. Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones will be joined by Jason Bonham, the son of their late drummer John Bonham.
In addition, Pete Townshend, Bill Wyman and the Rhythm Kings, Foreigner and Paolo Nutini, all touched by Ertegun's guiding hand over the years, will play on the night. Paolo was the final British artist that Ahmet mentored.
It will be a tribute from UK artists that Ertegun worked with in a 60 year career.
The press release goes on to say that tickets, priced at £125 apiece, will be distributed via a random ballot. The official site at which to register is here.
I'd bet money that an announcement for a lucrative American tour in 2008 follows. Some bulletin boards are already buzzing with possibilities for the opening slot. Personally, regardless of whether I'd be attending such a show, I'd love to see Tinariwen get that gig.
David Behrman - My Dear Siegfried (XI)
Ralph Shapey - Five; Mann Soli; Partita for solo violin; Etchings for solo violin; Millennium Designs - Miranda Cuckson, Blair McMillen (Centaur)
Ge Gan-ru - Four Studies of Peking Opera - Kathryn Woodard, Shanghai Quartet; Wrong, Wrong, Wrong! - Margaret Leng Tan; Yi Feng - Frank Su Huang (New Albion)
Composers Inside Electronics - From the Kitchen Archives Vol. 4 (Orange Mountain Music)
Rex Moroux - Royal Street Inn (self-released)
Kiss - Creatures of the Night; Music from "The Elder"; Kiss Alive! 1975-2000 (Mercury)
Globe Unity Orchestra - Globe Unity 67/70 (UMS/Atavistic)
Keyboardist and composer Joe Zawinul, a founder of Weather Report and one of the most important architects of modern jazz, succumbed to cancer this morning in an Austrian hospital, aged 75. Here is the obituary from Reuters -- which unfortunately dwells on Zawinul's electric work with Miles Davis and thereafter, but omits altogether his important early soul-jazz work with Cannonball Adderley.
VIENNA (Reuters) - Keyboardist Joe Zawinul, who played with Miles Davis and helped create the sound of jazz fusion, died from cancer in Vienna on Tuesday, local news agency APA reported, quoting his son Erich.
"Joe Zawinul was born on July 7, 1932 in earth time, and on September 11, 2007 in eternal time. He lives on," APA quoted Erich Zawinul as saying.
Zawinul, 75, had been admitted to the Wilhelmina Clinic in his native city last month. The hospital said it would give a statement later in the day.
Zawinul went to the United States in his 20s and found fame as a keyboardist and a composer in trumpet legend Davis's first electric band, playing on the "In a Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew" albums that pioneered jazz fusion in the late 1960s.
In 1970 he founded Weather Report, a band that did much to bring electric piano, synthesizers and African and Middle Eastern rhythms to mainstream audiences in a jazz setting.
Zawinul has fronted the Zawinul Syndicate" for the past 20 years. He had planned to give a concert in Vienna's concert hall on September 29.
Here is a longer subsequent Reuters obit that at least mentions stints with Adderley and Dinah Washington.
From YouTube, a great clip of Weather Report playing Zawinul's "Black Market" in 1978: