Monday, December 24, 2012

Playlist "Classics" Sunday 23rd December 2012

David Matthews & the Manhattan Jazz Orchestra-"David Matthews & The Manhattan Jazz Orchestra-Bach 2000" Milestone MCD 9312-2-"Fugue No. 2" (arr: Matthews)w/ Lew Soloff, Ryan Kisor, tps-Chris Hunger, Bill Evans, sxs. (soloists? perhaps-no info)

"Art Tatum: The Complete Pablo Group Masterpieces" Pablo 6PACD 4401-2-"Deep Purple"/ "Somebody Loves Me" w/Tatum, p-Harry "Sweets" Edison, tp-Lionel Hampton, vibes-Barney Kessel, g-Buddy Rich, dms

"Nat "King" Cole-After Midnight Sessions" Capitol COP 7 48328-2-"Sometimes I'm Happy" (w/ Stuff Smith, vn)/""Don't Let It Go To Your Head" (w/Willie Smith, as)/ "I Know That You Know" (w/Stuff)

"Duke Ellington Jazz Party" Columbia LP CJ 40712-"Hello Little Girl" w/ Jimmy Rushing, voc-Dizzy Gillespie,tp-Jimmy Jones,p 

"Wilbur De Paris Plays-Jimmy Witherspoon Sings-New Orleans Blue" Atlantic LP 1266-"How Long Blues"/ "Careless Love" w/Witherspoon, voc-Wilbur De Paris,tb-Sidney De Paris, tp-Omer Simoen. cl-Sonny White, p

"Bob Brookmeyer and Friends -Stan Getz, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Gary Burton, Elvin Jones" Columbia LP CL 2237-"Misty"/ "Jive Hoot" w/Brookmeyer, tb-Getz, ts-Hancock, p-Carter,b-Burton, vbs-Jones, dms

"Clark Terry-Swahili" Emarcy LP MG 36007-re-issue as Trip LP TLP 5528"Swahili" (by Quincy Jones)w/Terry, tp-Jimmy Cleveland, tb- Cecil Payne, Silver, p-Oscar Pettiford, cello-Art Blakey, dms

"Herbie Mann/Phil Woods-Beyond Broooklyn" Manchester Craftsmen;s Guild MCGJ1012-"Another Shade of Blues" w/Mann, fl-Woods, cl-Gil Goldstein, accordion-Alain Mallet,p-/ "Alvin G." w/ Woods, as-Mann, fl-Jay Ashby, tb-Mallet,p

The Clayton Brothers-"The Gathering" artistShare ASO 0118-"The Happiest of Times" w/Jeff Clayton, as-Terrell Stafford,tp- Stefon Harris, vbs-Wycliffe Gordon, tb-Gerald Clayton, p

"Andy Narell-The Passage" Heads Up HUCD 3086-"Song for Mia" w/Michael Brecker, ts-/ "Mabouya" w/ Paquito D'Rivera, as- & Calypsociation

"Scott Robinson: Thinking Big" Arbors ARCD 19179-"Basso Profundo"/ Ko-Ko" Robinson, contrabass saxophone-Bucky Pizzarelli, g-Pat O'Leary, b-David Robinson, ct-Dan Barrett, tb-Richard Wyands,p

Playlist: "The Best of Broadway" Sunday, 23rd December 2012

Glen Hansard, Markéta Irglová, Fergus O'Farrell: music & lyrics-Once" (original Broadway cast) Masterworks Broadway 88691948242-excerpts w/Steve Kazee, Cristin Milioti, Will Connolly-Martin Lowe, music supervisor

Alan Menken: music & Jack Feldman: lyrics-"Disney Newsies-The Musical" (original Broadway cast) Ghostlight Records 8- 4457-excerpts w/Jeremy Jordan, Ben Fankauser, Kara Lindsay etc.-Mark Hummel, music director

Burt Bachrach: music & Hal David, lyrics-"Promises,Promises" (2010 Broadway cast) Masterworks Broadway 88697 73495 -2-excerpts w/ Tony Goldwyn, Kristin Chenoweth-Phil Reno, music director

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Playlist: "The Best of Broadway" Sunday, 16th December 2012

Stephen Sondheim: music & lyrics-"Follies" (2011 Broadway cast) ps classics PS1105-excerpts w/Bernadette Peters, Ron Raines, Lora Lee Gayer, Danny Burstein, Jan Maxwell, Christian Delcroix, Nick Verina, Kirsten Scott, Jayne Houdyshell, Mary Beth Pell, Susan Watson, Terri White, Elaine Page, Rosalind Elias, Leah Horowitz-James Moore, music director

Playlist: "Classics" Sunday, 16th December 2012

Howard Hanson: music & Richard L. Stokes: libretto-"Merry Mount" (opera)-Naxos 8.669012-13-excerpts w/ Richard Zeller,bar- Gino Luchetti, ten- Charles Robert Austin, b-Walter MacNeil, ten-Lauren Flanigan, sop-Byron Ellis,b/bar-Seattle Symphony Chorale, Northwest Boys Choir, Seattle Girls' Choir-Seattle Symphony-Gerard Schwarz, conductor

Robert Livingston Aldridge: music & Herschel Garfein: libretto-"Elmer Gantry"- (opera) Naxos 8.669032-33-excerpts w/Keith Phares,Vale Rideout,Heather Buck,Patricia Risley,Frank Kelley,Matthew Lee, Julia Elise Hardin,Matthew Richardson,William Johnson,Aaron Blankfield,Jamie Offenbach-Florentine Opera Chorus-Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra-William Boggs,conductor

Theatre review: "Gruesome Playground Injuries" at Off The Wall Productions-Sunday, 16th December 2012

Two fine, local actors whose talents have brightened many plays in recent years again confirm their appeal. Erika Cuenca and Tony Bingham fill the stage with warmth, depth and truth. At Off the Wall Productions, superbly guided by director Maggie Balsley, they are the cast in the unfortunately-named Gruesome Playground Injuries by awarded and much-admired Rajiv Joseph.

In choosing this play at this time of year, Off the Wall continues to confirm its name. But don’t let the title put you off, making you expect violence or nastiness as if part of some current anti-traditional trend. Do not anticipate slashing satire or brutal irony either. This gentle, sometimes sweet play doesn’t explore the unrelenting intensity we’ve witnessed this month in two local theatre productions with no obvious relation to holiday themes, Angels in America at CMU and The Crucible at Point Park Conservatory. The compelling, vivid experiences made them worth your time and attention. This matches those others when it comes to the acting and staging, even if the writing and invention do not equal Tony Kushner’s and Arthur Miller’s.

Joseph’s 2009 script comes up with a well-made character study, enriched by perceptive choices of how to present it. He delves into the lives of two wounded people who yearn to merge into one whole relationship. Imaginatively, their fractured existence is seen in 30 years worth of non-linear fragments. This is not to say that this is some kind of puzzle which you must piece together. It is always clear what has been happening to Kayleen and Doug, whose backgrounds and ideas remain simple and not thoroughly defined. Despite those limitations, they remain interesting people.

Doug is accident-prone, risking injuries in all kinds of goofy adventures from age 8 to 38. Kayleen wants to understand, even to help heal. But she has agonies of her own, physical results of emotional wounds. As they stumble into and out of each others lives, they keep getting drawn back to each other as if their spilled blood can transfuse into something healthier.

Cuenca and Bingham’s naturalness make both characters always loveable. They create especially amusing portraits of Kayleen and Doug at age 8 when they first encounter each other in a small town hospital where they will cross paths again in later life.

They and director Balsley play each scene with well-paced time for reflection and reaction, making the non-verbal moments always meaningful. They confirm that these people don’t know what they are doing and haven’t the ability to articulate complexities.

The production is full of physical business, with much time and attention given to intermittent costume changes, hair and make-up alterations. It’s possible that this is a device to create distance from the characters, to remind us that this is theatre, akin to Tony Kushner’s Brecht-like choices. Or it could imply a kind of intimacy. In any case the acting keeps us coming back to connecting with these people, as if we want to hold and comfort them. The performances make that so.

Gruesome Playground Injuries continues through December 29th at Off The Wall Productions 25 W. Main Street Carnegie, PA -1-888/ 71-TICKETS or 1-888/718 4253 – (FYI :there are $5 student tickets) 724/ 873-3576.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

FYI: new blog link

Hello! January 1st 2013 the link will become

Playlist: "Classics" Sunday 9th December 2012

Antonin Dvorak: composer-"Dvorak: String Quartets opp.96 & 105-5-5 Bagatelles-Takacs Quartet" London 430 077-2-"5 Bagatelles" w/o repeat in 3rd movement-Takacs Quartet w/Gabor Ormai, harmonium not viola

Bohuslav Martinu: composer-"Martinü_The Six Symphonies-BBC SO-Belohlavek" Onyx 4061-Symphony No. 2-BBC Symphony Orchestra-Jiri Belohlavek, conductor

Leos Janacek: composer-"Intimate Letters-Emerson String Quartet" DGG B00127770-02-String Quartet No. 1(“after Leo Tolstoy: The Kreutzer Sonata") w/Emerson Quartet

Bohuslav Martinu: composer-"Martinü-Orchestral Works-Conlon" Erato 3984-24238-2-"Les Fresques de Piero della Francesca"w/Orchestre National de France-James Conlon, conductor

Leos Janacek: composer-"Janacek: Glagolitic Mass-Wiener Philharmoniker-Chailly" London 289 460 213-2-"Glagolitic Mass": excerpts w/ Eva Urbanova, sop.-Marta Benackova, mezzo sop-Vladimir Bogachov, ten-Richard Novak, bass-Thomas Trotter, organ-Slovak Philharmonic Choir-Vienna Philharmonic-Riccardo Chailly,conductor

Playlist: "The Best of Broadway" Sunday 9th December 2012

Walter Kent: music & Kim Gannon: lyrics-"Seventeen" (original Broadway cast) Masterworks Broadway 88725 42775 2 -excerpts w/Dick Kallman, Bob Backanic, Richard France, Jim Moore, Darrell Notara, Bill Reilly, John Sharpe, Kenneth Nelson, Ann Crowley, Ellen McCown, Helen Wood, Joe Bullitt, Harrison Muller-Vincent Travers, music director

Richard Nelson: lyrics & Ricky Ian Gordon, lyrics and music-"My Life with Albertine" (original off-Broadway cast) ps classics PS 313-excerpts w/ Kelli O'Hara, Donna Lynne Champlin, Chad Kimball, Brent Carver. Emily Skinner, Caroline McMahon, Brooke Sunny Moriber-Charles Prince, music director

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Theatre review: Point Park University Theatre Conservatory's "The Crucible" Sunday 9th December 2012

Director Shirley Tannenbaum has gotten impressive results from her Point Park University Conservatory student cast, vitalizing Arthur Miller’s still -gripping play The Crucible. This 1953 classic has always been seen as an indictment of McCarthyism, often called “witch hunting” to imply a kinship with what Miller portrays, dark days in early American history. Certainly the corrosive things which happened among us in the 1950s tarnished our times but this production thoroughly reminds us that Miller’s script is no simple polemic. Tannenbaum and her excellent performers dramatically make clear the culture of that period and place, focusing on characters caught up in the craziness which dominates and poisons a tightly knit community. Miller’s depiction of unbridled religious fanaticism and crowd hysteria surges on the stage. Everyone especially makes the intense second act compellingly relentless.

Miller based his script on actual events in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, but rather than suggesting a documentary, he dwells on human behavior, while revealing the primitive thinking which gave rise to such an aberration. Some of the characters have the same names as the real people but Miller did not attempt to represent them factually.

John Proctor is at the center of this tale. The good man strayed from his goodness by having an affair with 17 year old Abigail Williams. After breaking it off with Abigail, Proctor confessed his error to his wife Elizabeth. Abigail is one of five girls who, breaking out into paroxysms, claim to be under the spell of the devil and of witches among them. Their accusations are taken seriously by people with power, Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth among them. While attempting to find truth they readily give credence to the idea that there are witches and that the devil has power to dominate souls. Meanwhile Abigail, having been rejected by John, does her utmost to destroy his and Elizabeth’s lives.

Tannenbaum’s actors become a vivid ensemble, while at the same time well-defined as distinctive individuals. Joe Rittenhouse especially stands out among them as Danforth, making him always authoritative, and totally sincere in his unyielding convictions. Rittenhouse never overdoes it. And Alex Walton’s version of John Proctor remains sturdily convincing while Harrison Buzzatto’s playing of much put-upon townsman Giles Corey likewise leaves a memorable impression.

Tannenbaum has admirably paced many crucial moments, creating intense, suspenseful tension. Joan Markert’s costumes add to solid sense of reality, as does Gianni Downs’ stripped-down set, implying the raw, crude nature of how such people lived. Downs has also added a telling comment, making the walls and colors suggest the fires of hell, as if the place could actually be where the devil rules. Tannenbaum reinforces that with Steve Shapiro’s initial sound design of echoing peals of hollow laughter.

This expert production clearly reminds us that, although the Devil may not exist, evil done in the name of God still thrives all around the world. 
Performances of The Crucible continue through Sunday December 16th at Pittsburgh Playhouse, 222 Craft Avenue, Oakland. 412/392-8000 or

Monday, December 3, 2012

Playlist: "Classics" Sunday 2nd December 2012

John Mackey-"Strange Humors" Naxos 8.572529-"Strange Humors" (correct) w/ Rutgers Wind Ensemble-William Berz, conductor

Reynard Burns-"Slices" Navona NV 5874-"Carnival" w/Moravian Philharmonic Winds-

"Elliott Miles McKinley-String Quartets" Navona NV 5855-String Quartet No. 4 w/Martinü Quartet

"Numinous/Joseph C. Phillips Jr.-Vipassana" innova 720-"Stillness Flows Ever Changing" w/ Ben Kono, soprano saxophone-Numinous-Phillips conductor

"In Eleanor's Words: Music of Stacy Garrop" Cedille 90000 122-"Silver Dagger for violin, cello and piano" w/Lincoln Trio

"George Tsontakis: the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra" Koch KIC CD 7592-Violin Concerto No, 2: "Surges (among stars"), "Gioco" w/ Steven Copes, violin-The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra-Douglas Boyd, conductor

Robert Muczynski-"Muczynski: Complete Works for Flute" Naxos 8.55900-Quintet for Winds, op. 45 w/ Stanford Wind Quintet

"Paul Paccione-Our Beauties Are Not Ours" New World Records 80706-2-"Five Songs from Christina Rossetti"; four of them. w/ Terry Chasteen, tenor-Molly Paccione, clarinet-Moises Molina, cello-Andrea Molina, piano

"David Kechley-Colliding Objects" innova 829-"Untimely Passages-A Slow Groove & Chaconne for Marimba & Flugelhorn" w/ Candy Chiu,marimba-Tom Bergeron, flugelhorn

Playlist: "The Best of Broadway" Sunday 2nd December 2012

Tony Kushner: lyrics & Jeanine Tesori: music-"Caroline or Change" (original Broadway cast) Hollywood Records 2061-62436-2-excerpts w/ Tonya Pinkins, Chuck Cooper, Capathia Jenkins, Veanne Cox, Harrison Chad, Tracy Nicole Chapman, Marva Hicks, Ramona Keller, Aisha de Haas, Akika Noni Rose, David Constable-Linda Twine, music director

Lynn Ahrens: lyrics & Stephen Flaherty:music-"Dessa Rose" (original Broadway cast) Jay Productions CDJAY 1392-excerpts w/Eric Jordan Young, LaChanze, David Hess, Rachel York, Kecia Lewis, Rebecca Eichenberger, Michael Hayden, Norm Lewis-David Holcenberg,music director

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Theatre review: "Angels in America: Millennium Approaches" at CMU Theatre. Sunday, 2nd December 2012

The CMU School of Drama has taken on Tony Kushner’s renowned Pulitzer Prize winning Angels in America: Millennium Approaches. This production surges with vitality due to totally convincing performances by the student cast. Certainly everyone was inspired by director Jed Allen Harris’ impressive work on the interpretations. Yet some of Harris’ other conceptions look more puzzling than illuminating.

Kushner’s creation still dazzles with well-developed characters and imaginative flights of fantasy and the surreal. Experiencing it again, though, I continue to find more smoke and mirrors than a work of art saying coalescing into something substantial. Looking behind the surface certainly reveals interesting and illuminating information about what Kushner was trying to do. But you shouldn’t have to explore intentions to appreciate a work of art. What you see and hear should be enough.

Nonetheless, I did post-performance reading on background to try to understand what Kushner had in mind. Evidently he wanted to create Brecht-like theatre, i.e keep the audience distant from rather than immersed in his fable, to be deliberately didactic. Consequently, despite compelling people fleshing out his space, you could want something more significant, rather than just admiring the bones. And, at this play’s conclusion, Kushner implies that there could be a genuine point to the whole thing, but later after this ends with an angel descending to announce that there is more to come. But, so far, you too, can be left hanging.

What has such background to do with this production? It looks as if Director Harris is trying to avoid realism and emphasize the obvious mechanics of stage craft by having scenes played in tiny spaces on a vast, open and barren stage. Certainly that suggests the characters’ isolation outside mainstream society but it also makes it difficult to connect with them. Harris also has a giant wall across the back rumble and, from time to time, heavily surge forward or shift back. His use of such a device to underscore Kushner’s deliberate moving into and out of the presumably real world seems justified for whatever symbolic interpretation you’d care to conjure. But we remain in intellectual territory, our brains given dominance over our hearts.

Earnest Mormon, deeply closeted Joe Pitt and his wife Harper have an increasingly dysfunctional relationship emphasized by her dependence on escaping into Valium-induced illusions. Joe has become a protégé of powerful, nasty ex -Joe McCarthy attack dog and successful lawyer Roy Cohn. In a parallel part of New York, intellectual omnivore Louis Ironson’s lover Prior Walter has contracted AIDS and seems to be dying. Louis and Joe eventually fall in love. Meanwhile Cohn fights to the death his possible exposure as a homosexual.

The performers play these roles with convincing sincerity, giving each depth and dimension. Interpreting Prior, Trevor McQueen-Eaton gives a touching, beautiful performance. And Emily Koch’s portrayal of Harper captures all of her vulnerable confusion. As Joe and Lewis I found Adam Hagenbuch and Jesse Carrey-Beaver always truthful. But I had trouble understanding Brian Morabito’s Roy Cohn, who seemed most often to snarl and bite off his words instead of making clear his points.

There are three other minor characters listed in the program book, There are also nine more, none of them identified, each played by an uncredited person in the eight-member cast. Background reading shows that such doubling is a Kushner choice. That may be Brecht-like too, but if Kushner wants to emphasize theatricality over reality, wouldn’t he want us to be aware that these are actors practicing their versatility? I suppose director Harris has to honor what the author wants.

Harris has made an off-putting choice by combining and overlapping two scenes. In one, Joe and Harper harshly confront each other as their marriage disintegrates. In another, the bond between Lewis and Prior splits apart. Harris obliterates the essence of such urgent and dramatic developments, all four talking at the same time making clear virtually nothing except that sorrow and anger attend both couples equally, as if sacrificing Kushner’s words for some symbolic trick.

Much has been made about the idea that this is a play about AIDS. That seems debatable. Yes, bewildered Prior and Roy Cohn have it. They suffer agonies while losing their way in disturbing fantasies. But that says nothing obvious about the disease itself. I continue to see this play more about being ostracized and imperiled gay men in Ronald Reagan’s America, in a society whose emotional and physical pain pains everyone. There Kushner grabs us, even though he wants to push us away.

Why should we be distant observers, huddling in the darkness instead of reaching out to hold hands with our brothers?

Carnegie Mellon University presents Angels In America: Millennium Approaches by Tony Kushner at Philip Chosky Theater, Purnell Center for the Arts, on the CMU campus, Oakland. 412/268-2407.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

FYI: my blog link

Hello! As of January 1st 2013 I'm changing it to ""