Category: Chris Barton

Jazz review: Anthony Wilson Trio with Jim Keltner at the Blue Whale

April 13, 2012 |  6:45 am

Anthony Wilson onstage at the Grammy Museum in 2010
If you happened to be walking by Pro Drum Shop on Vine Wednesday night, or maybe glanced in the percussion room at Guitar Center, chances are the skins had gone quiet throughout the city as the second night of guitarist Anthony Wilson's month-long residency at the Blue Whale kicked off with a special guest in drum titan Jim Keltner. Attention among the faithful -- even those who never sat down at the instrument -- must be paid.

Even if you don't think you're familiar with Keltner, you are. A first-call session drummer in a storied career, Keltner has recorded with George Harrison, Wings, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, the Ramones -- frankly, it's probably easier to list which music legend he hasn't recorded with at this point.

And while Keltner's track record leans toward rock, Wilson wasn't stepping outside his home genre with his choice. Keltner also contributed shape-shifting percussion to some of Bill Frisell's spacey folk-jazz recordings, as well as the jazzy twists of Steely Dan's "Aja." Plus, if there were any doubt in his abilities to slip into any genre, one drummer in the crowd answered the question succinctly: "It's Jim Keltner, man."

But it was also Anthony Wilson, who's enough of a master craftsman in his own right that there were probably no shortage of guitar lovers in the Blue Whale's packed, standing-room-only crowd as well. Wilson's "Campo Belo" was an arresting take on the music of Brazil, and the live guitar recording "Seasons" is maybe rivaled only by 1981's "Friday Night in San Francisco" by Paco DeLucia, Al DiMeola and John McLaughlin for six-string fireworks. And this doesn't even count his collaborations, which includes work with Diana Krall, Willie Nelson and, by the way, his father in bandleader Gerald Wilson.

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Sweden's Robyn joins 'day in the life' photo project

April 10, 2012 |  3:26 pm

Swedish pop star and platform shoe enthusiast Robyn will be able to add amateur photographer to her résumé by signing on to be a part of the ongoing global art project

The singer joins Virgin Chief Richard Branson, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and thousands of people around the world in an attempt to document details of everyday life and show the commonalities of the human experience, organizer Jeppe Wikstrom told the Associated Press.

“A few months ago we were looking for everyday pictures of Paris from a major photo agency, the first thing we got was thousands and thousands of pictures of Paris Hilton,” Wikstrom said. “It's an indication of our time.”

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Singer Thomas Quasthoff talks retirement and his 'cripple bonus'

April 10, 2012 | 11:43 am

With Peter Dinklage proving there's no height requirement for leading men with his Emmy-winning turn as Tyrion in HBO's "Game of Thrones," German bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff recently walked away from a odds-defying career of his own when the thalidomide-damaged singer announced his retirement at 52.

In an interview with Der Spiegel, Quasthoff spoke frankly about his reasons for retirement -- a mix of grief at the death of his brother and a recent battle with laryngitis -- and his response to what a colleague once called his "cripple bonus," a sort of preferential treatment afforded him as a result of his physical deformities.

"I think I kept my cool and simply replied: 'Well, you had the chance to beat me, but it wasn't quite enough,'" Quasthoff said, who stands at just over 4 feet, 3 inches. "Today, I can say in all honesty that there was certainly a bonus for being disabled.

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Album review: Billy Hart's 'All Our Reasons'

April 10, 2012 |  9:00 am


Billy Hart, "All Our Reasons" (ECM)

An enduring, engaging presence behind the drums who has recorded with Wes Montgomery, Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis (as a hired hand on the 1972's landmark "On the Corner"), 71-year-old Billy Hart sees no reason to rest on his laurels.

Here on a lush reconvening of a band that came together on the 2006 album "Quartet," Hart leads with a steady, almost invisible hand that gives his younger, high-profile collaborators ample room to stretch.

Pianist Ethan Iverson is best known for co-leading the witty, boundary-shredding jazz group the Bad Plus, but here his playing remains in a more contemplative place, particularly on "Ohnedaruth," one of his own compositions that nods toward John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" with an insistent, multidirectional patter from Hart and an understated lead from saxophonist Mark Turner.

A notable bandleader in his own right, most recently with the trio Fly, Turner's trademark reserve is a highlight on his slow-burning composition,"Wasteland," but it's Hart who owns some of the record's most memorable turns with the knotty "Duchess" and the opener "Song for Balkis."

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Georgia's Josef Stalin museum will acknowledge atrocities

April 10, 2012 |  7:30 am


This post has been corrected. See details below.

In an announcement that marked something akin to an acceptance of reality, a museum in Gori, Georgia, has closed for remodeling as it shifts focus toward also exhibiting the atrocities that colored the rule of former Soviet leader Josef Stalin.

Georgian Culture Minister Nika Rurua stated that his nation can no longer host a museum "glorifying the Soviet dictator," which was first opened in 1937 and includes the house where Stalin was born in 1879, along with more than 47,000 exhibits and personal effects, according to the Associated Press.

The move could be seen as a continuation of the Western-friendly trend in Georgia, which broke away from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Not so coincidentally, many of Stalin's more than 700,000 victims in his brutal policies were ethnic Georgians, along with Chechens, Ukrainians and practically anyone else who could have been considered an enemy during Stalin's reign in the 1930s.

While the planned changes can only be considered positive, it's hard to say whether they can improve a museum that couldn't have been considered a terribly upbeat destination to begin with. As one reviewer wrote on the travel website TripAdvisor, "The Stalin Museum could be easily skipped and the time spent on more uplifting experiences. But it is such an anachronism that may travelers may find strangely compelled to go."

[For the record April 10: An earlier version of this post listed Stalin's year of birth as 1897. He was born in 1879.]


Damien Hurst compares art to currency

Denver museum shines light on Titanic survivor Molly Brown

Eisenhower Memorial Commission throw support behind Gehry

-- Chris Barton

Photo: A bust of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin inside a museum dedicated to him in the town of Gori, Georgia. Credit: Shakh Aivazov / Associated Press

Esperanza Spalding, Ambrose Akinmusire lead Monterey Jazz lineup

April 4, 2012 |  9:00 am

The performers for the 55th annual Monterey Jazz Festival this fall have been announced, and as usual it's a stacked lineup that cherry-picks from across the genre.

Rising star and the festival's 2012 artist in residence Ambrose Akinmusire will appear four times over the weekend of Sept. 21-23, as will the percussion legend Jack De Johnette, who released the ambitious album "Sound Travels" earlier this year.

From there the bill features familiar names such as veterans Pat Metheny and Tony Bennett, guitarist Bill Frisell, jazz artist of the moment Esperanza Spalding and the rambunctious funk of New Orleans' Trombone Shorty.

In addition to nodding toward the blues with Robert Randolph and the Family Band, the festival also offers an intriguing collection of young jazz talent in 2012 Grammy nominee Gerald Clayton, pianist Tigran Hamasyan, bassist Ben Williams and Oakland by way of Chicago saxophonist Aram Shelton. Pianist Michael Wolff will lead a tribute to Latin jazz's Cal Tjader joined by Pete Escovedo.

Tickets for the festival go on sale Wedneday and are available on the festival's website, along with the full artist lineup, for those jazz fans looking for a way to beat L.A.'s annual Indian summer heat.


Ambrose Akinmusire plays it his way

McBride, Carrington lead 2012 Playboy Jazz Festival lineup

Jazz review: 2011 Angel City Jazz Festival at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre

-- Chris Barton

Photo: Ambrose Akinmusire onstage during the 2011 Newport Jazz Festival. Credit Eva Hambach / AFP/Getty Images

Damien Hirst fires back at critic, compares art to currency

April 3, 2012 |  8:08 am

Damien Hirst
While the debate of art versus commerce has probably plagued creative types since shortly after someone first offered a steak in exchange for viewing a cave painting, such considerations aren't an issue once you reach the level of celebrated U.K. artist Damien Hirst.

Known for such attention-grabbing works as a shark suspended in formaldehyde as well as high-profile collaborations with Blur and Eddie Izzard in the '90s, Hirst recently came under attack from critic Julian Spalding, who wrote a pointedly titled short book, "Con Art -- Why You Ought to Sell Your Damien Hirsts While You Can."

In a piece reported Monday by Reuters, Hirst playfully fired back at Spalding, who described Hirst's works as "worthless financially." "I think art's the greatest currency in the world. Gold, diamonds, art -- I think they are equal," Hirst countered while speaking to journalists outside the Tate Modern gallery, which is hosting a Hirst retrospective that opens this week. "I think it's a great thing to invest in."

Hirst added, "It's like, you say, 'Sell your Hirst.' I say, 'Don't sell your Hirsts, hang on to them.'" Hirst then recommended consideration of recent numbers, which as of last week included an auction where Hirst's doodle of his famous shark fetched $7,500. The drawing was given to a chauffeur as a tip.

Numbers, once again, don't lie.


Damien Hirst to build 500 eco-homes

Hirst's web site to feature live streaming art-making

Banksy, Damien Hirst works draw high prices in London

-- Chris Barton

Photo: Damien Hirst poses in front of one of his pieces at the Tate Modern on Monday. Credit: Oli Scarff / Getty Images.

Smithsonian Folkways to release rare Louis Armstrong concert, recipes

April 3, 2012 |  7:07 am

Elvis Costello may soon have something else to recommend for his fans with the announcement that Smithsonian Folkways will be releasing a recording of one of the last live performances by Louis Armstrong, "Satchmo at the National Press Club: Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours." Available on CD and in digital form on April 24, the release comes in celebration of the 11th annual Jazz Appreciation Month.

Recorded in Washington, D.C., just five months before Armstrong's death in 1971, the recording features Armstrong favorites "Mack the Knife," "Rockin' Chair" and "Boy from New Orleans" from an impromptu concert. Rounding out Armstrong's five-track set is a tribute concert from the same venue after the bandleader's death and, as an added bonus for the gastronomically inclined, a selection of Armstrong's favorite recipes.

Included as part of the recording's original, vinyl-only limited release in 1972, the recipes include Armstrong's take on Louisiana caviar -- which, based on a quick Google search, could mean any number of things -- and the Sazerac, another New Orleans favorite that should prick up the ears of followers of the current vintage cocktail craze because, after all, who wouldn't want to follow in Satchmo's footsteps?

Armstrong's recordings enjoyed a welcome return to the public eye last year with Elvis Costello's advice that fans buy his "Ambassador of Jazz" box set rather than his own "The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook," which Costello viewed as overpriced. "Frankly the music is vastly superior," he wrote.


Book review: 'Half-Blood Blues' by Esi Edugyan

Jazz box set review: 'Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology

Elvis Costello on price of new box set: 'Either a misprint or a satire'

-- Chris Barton

Photo: Louis Armstrong studies sheet music before a 1956 performance in London. Credit: Associated Press

Album review: Chano Dominguez's 'Flamenco Sketches'

March 29, 2012 | 10:49 am

'Flamenco Sketches,' Chano Dominguez

Blue Note

More than 20 years after Miles Davis' death, it's almost bigger news when a month passes and a reissue or tribute to Davis' music isn't released. Still, this seven-track live set from 2009 led by Spanish pianist Chano Domínguez reveals there's yet more undiscovered territory in these well-worn songs, proving that it's not necessarily the tributes to the iconic trumpeter that are the problem, it's the skill and imagination going into them.

Opening with an expansive, 16-minute take on "Flamenco Sketches" from Davis' landmark "Kind of Blue" recording, Domínguez begins the album with a lush solo that accelerates into a simmering flamenco groove that develops into a hip-swiveling maze of handclaps and sparkling piano flourishes.

Songs from "Kind of Blue" do much of the heavy lifting here with a take on "Freddie Freeloader" reframing the song's breezy refrain with a percolating rhythm from bassist Mario Rossy and percussionist Israel "Paraná" Suárez, and the typically slow-burning "All Blues" gains a hotter pulse and a rhythmic hitch that twists the song into a head-bobbing dance number.

Rossy also leads a rubbery, quickened take on the familiar intro of "So What," which Domínguez quickens into a raucous stomp atop a maze of pattering percussion. It's still Miles, but it's miles away from what's already been done.

Domínguez performs live as part of the Jazz Bakery's Moveable Feast series on Saturday, March 31 at 8 p.m. Zipper Hall at the Colburn School 200 S. Grand Ave., L.A. $30


New CDs: 'Miles Davis Quintet: Live in Europe' and 'Miles Espanol'

Album review: Esperanza Spalding's 'Radio Music Society'

Robert Glasper's 'Black Radio': Is all that jazz?

-- Chris Barton

Jazz review: Keith Jarrett at Walt Disney Concert Hall

March 28, 2012 | 12:26 pm

Keith Jarrett
Not unlike the old joke about going to watch a fight and seeing a hockey game break out, what happens when you go to a Keith Jarrett show and a comfortable, even relaxed concert experience breaks out?

This isn't to disparage Jarrett's music on Tuesday night at Walt Disney Concert Hall, which was another of his signature, engrossing evenings of solo, in-the-moment creation that lie somewhere between mind-scrambling instrumental skill and the harnessing of pure magic. Instead this is a byproduct of Jarrett's often prickly performing persona, an unfortunate elephant in the room during his concerts, which in the past have found the mercurial pianist storming off stage at the sound of coughing or sternly scolding amateur photographers in the audience for snapping his picture, as he did during a 2010 show at Disney Hall.

And whether the result of a crowd fully aware and respectful of Jarrett's particular rules (a wave of preemptive coughing crested through the room and fell to laughter before the pianist even walked onstage) or a mellowing of Jarrett's usual sensitivities, Tuesday's concert bore far less of the best-behavior audience tension that can shade Jarrett's appearances and instead allowed even more room for the music to be the focal point.

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