Jamie Ousley: “Shenandoah” from cd Sea of Voices


I meant to publish this a long time ago.  Jamie is an outstanding bass player who I think teaches in Florida.  On this recent album he does a duet on the classic American song “Shenandoah” with a Japanese singer named Nanami Morakawa that will stop you dead in your tracks.  He does an arco bass solo and she vocalises over it.  His tone is big and his intonation is spot-on.  There are also some straight ahead songs.  Highly recommended. To comment, click Read More →

De Wain Valentine’s Diamond Column 1978


I went to San Diego Museum of Modern Art yesterday to see the Phenomenal show, part of the current stupendous Pacific Standard Time concurrent exhibitions around Southern California.    The show Phenomenal is about how California artists used California light, space, and new materials in their constructions.  Works by James Turrell, Robert Irwin, and others are there.   But the work that stopped me dead in my tracks was a 1978 sculpture by De Wain Valentine, Diamond Column.   Read More →

I Saw Samuel Beckett


I was a literature major in college, also a French major, so I could read Samuel Beckett’s novels and plays in both French and English.  His plays used a literary device called “stichomythia”, which had characters speaking short lines back and forth, so it was easy to read in French.  Beckett, like Joseph Conrad or Vladimir Nabokov, wrote in another language than his mother tongue;  Beckett was Irish even though he’s more associated with French literature.  After all,  his 1953 play En Attendant Godot –Waiting for Godot–catapulted him to French fame. Read More →

Artists You Should Know: Moacir Santos


A few years ago while I was consulting for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, I proposed a memorial show to celebrate the music of Moacir Santos.  Moacir who?  The Brazilian composer had died a few months earlier.  He had lived in LA for 40 years yet most people never knew who he was.

It’s doubtful that the show would have sold that many tickets, and Disney Hall is a big venue, with over 2000 seats. Read More →

The Importance of Music Education


In writing a recent blog, inspired by Gustavo Dudamel’s orchestral version of a popular Puerto Rican band’s hit song, I began to muse on the subject of music education:  in Venezuela and the U.S.  What happened to it here in the U.S.?  Why are the arts always the first to be cut during financial squeezes? Read More →

Gustavo Dudamel, El Sistema, and How Music Can Transform Young Lives


I recently received a couple of emails from an music aficionado friend with some links to a popular Puerto Rican group that had its hit song “Latinoamerica” (=Latin America) performed by an orchestra at the Latin Grammy Awards Ceremony.  It’s not surprising the conductor was Gustavo Dudamel, Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

It’s not surprising that “The Dude” would conduct a hit song with an orchestra….this was the Latin Grammies, after all.   But I couldn’t imagine another conductor, say, Lukas Foss or Rafael Frubeck de Burgos, conducting this song.

The song, by the Puerto Rican group Calle 13, is listed as reggaeton, the new style ubiquitous in the Caribbean, but it’s actually more akin to nueva cancion, the movement in Latin America during the sixties that promulgated human rights and dignity, the same human elements that were being stripped away by dictators like Pinochet in Argentina and Somoza in Nicaragua.

Dudamel didn’t go to Juilliard or some classical conservatory to learn music.  Read More →

My Love-Hate Relationship with Keith Jarrett


Keith Jarrett has yet another solo album out, called Rio.  As the title would suggest, it was recorded in Rio de Janeiro.  On it we hear the now familiar musical mood swings:  from angular vertical runs, acrid harmonies, to unbearably lovely encores.  The audience once again goes wild at the end.  It’s a two disc set, probably covering most of the concert that night in April, 2011.   I wondered as I unpeeled the shrink wrap and label–with a tried and true technique Kurt Elling taught me—how the cariocas–as the residents of Rio de Janeiro are called–would greet a solo piano concert.  Brazilian music is often very upbeat, but there is always saudade lurking in the background.  As it turned out, Jarrett supplied both in the concert.  I particularly love the three encores that close the second cd—the audience goes wild at the end, typical of Jarrett’s fans, although this was, I believe, his first concert in Brazil.   He seemed to really be enjoying it.  There’s even a photo of him smiling, while sipping a demitasse cup of espresso.

Of course as a solo  Keith Jarrett sprung to fame with his Köln Concert of 1977, a record that sold preposterously well for a jazz album.   Read More →

David Byrne and Barry White: Their Rides


I love David Byrne and Barry White, and I love cars too.  I have all my favorites.  1953 Packard Caribbean convertible.  Henri Chapron Citroën DS 23 Pallas, 1956 Buick Roadmaster, Ferrari 365 GTB, Maserati 3500 GT…..all cars I can ill afford to own let alone properly maintain.  When David Byrne once visited me at KCRW during a nightly show I briefly did, he ran in all agitated, saying he parked his car outside in a no-parking area. School was in and parking was always scarce.   I told him I’d move his car.  He told me “no, you won’t know how to drive this car!”.   Read More →

Fall Music Listening: The Group Oregon


It’s gray and foggy where I live in Southern California, cold too.  I helps sink in the fact that summer is gone and fall is here.  I never liked the fall, though it’s been easier over the past few years.  The holidays from Halloween until Valentine’s Day can either be a source of joy and togetherness or a sinkhole of dread and sadness, depending on each person.   I may have been influenced by my late father, who always darkly observed, as fall was approaching, that “the shadows are getting longer”.  It sounded like a portent of death to me.

I associate the music of the Portland, Oregon band Oregon with fall.  There’s a fall feeling in their music, which they’ve been making and recording since the 1970s.  The group has changed little except for the drummer/percussionist.  The original drummer, Colin Walcott, died in a car accident in Germany, and a succession of drummers, including Trilok Gurtu and Mark Walker, have followed.  Otherwise the group Oregon consists of Paul McCandless on double reeds and soprano sax, Glen Moore on bass, and Ralph Towner on guitars.   They’ve made about a dozen cd’s over the years, maybe more. Read More →

Dori Caymmi’s New Album: Poesia Musicada and Why I Love It


Brazilian composer, arranger, and guitarist Dori Caymmi has a stunning new album out.  It’s called “Poesia Musicada”, which roughly means “Poetry Set to Music”.  Dori, along with siblings Nana and Danilo, comes from Brazilian musical royalty:  their father, Dorival Caymmi, was the patriarch who paved the way for Jobim, Joao Gilberto, Caetano Veloso and all who followed him.  Dorival also introduced Carmen Miranda in 1939 when she was still unknown.  The debut song was called “O Que é Que a Baiana Tem” (“What is it about Bahian Women”) and was a big hit.  By 1945 she was the highest-paid woman in the world. Read More →