Reviewing what gets reviewed
Earlier this year, reader Mel Bryson of Porter Ranch called to complain that there was "nothing on the performance of Paul Potts at the Wiltern" on March 26. Said he, "I’m kind of wondering how your entertainment section seems to be able to cover all of these rock and roll and all of these other performances, however, when it comes to something like classical music or something that is uplifting, you people have a complete failure here."
Antonio Epelde of Torrance didn't find what he wanted either: "I understand that the seminal jazz group Return to Forever played a long-awaited reunion concert. I have been looking for the review everywhere with no success. Same thing happened with the Cure concert [May 31, June 1] a month ago. What's going on with you guys? You keep publishing extensive reviews on frivolous acts, but you don't pay attention to important performances."
One man's frivolous act is another reader's important show, of course. As another example, there was no review of Michael Buble after his show in Anaheim on May 10, as several readers complained. Yet The Times reviewed two other May 10 events -- Wango Tango '08, featuring, among others, the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus; and Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting Mahler's "Das Lied von der Erde." The day a review might have run for the June 13 Return to Forever show, The Times published a review of the June 13 show by the British pop duo the Ting Tings.
Deputy arts editor Craig Fisher put it this way in an e-mail: "Choosing what performances to send reviewers to is in no way an exact science. It depends on who’s available that night, what else is going on, whether the show is the first of several or a one-off, etc. The plain fact is that we simply can’t review everything."
In June there were more than two dozen reviews, on pop, jazz, world music, rock, classical and opera performances. Gina McIntyre, who as Calendar's assistant entertainment editor oversees all pop music coverage, explained in an e-mail, "We have to sometimes make difficult choices based on when we last wrote about an artist, what the reviewers’ schedules look like, etc. We also try to break things up by either writing a preview, an interview or a blog post in lieu of a review."
In fact, the reader might have known about the reunion tour by Return to Forever from a long profile in February about, as the story put it, "one of the groups that defined the jazz-rock fusion of the '70s." It included the point that the reunion tour "undoubtedly will be the big jazz news of the summer." And reader Bryson could have kept up on the singer and the "series of events that set Potts on the exhausting six-month global tour" in a profile published in Calendar on March 25.
Wrote McIntyre, "We did not review the RTF show precisely because we had done a long feature piece in February. There are just too many acts/concerts coming through town for us to get to everything, and most often, if we’ve done a long feature in advance, we will typically not do a review –- unless it is a really, really big act." Another such example along those lines was the big piece that ran in Sunday Calendar on April 20 on Sly Stone -- whose shows at House of Blues on April 25 and 26 weren't reviewed in The Times.
McIntyre also considers whether a band is doing multiple performances that sell out. That's why Calendar editors, besides publishing on June 22 a story on Coldplay, plans to review the group's sold-out concerts at the Forum July 14 and 15.
Calendar's Fisher, who assigns classical reviews, gives as an example the choices he made when it came to reviewing pianist Andras Schiff. Schiff has given four recitals at Walt Disney Concert Hall in the first installment of a two-year project during which he will play all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas.
In October, Chris Pasles reviewed the first of those recitals and Mark Swed reviewed the second. Schiff was back in April for recitals three and four, neither of which was reviewed in The Times. Fisher says, "My reasoning was that both Swed and Pasles had weighed in on Schiff and his ongoing endeavor just seven months earlier and that we ought to be covering as broad a range of classical offerings as possible, not merely dutifully checking events off a list."
In fact, Fisher continues, "on the first of those April evenings Swed was in Costa Mesa reviewing the Helsingborg (Sweden) Symphony, and on the second he was in Santa Barbara reviewing performance artist Laurie Anderson. But of course, readers who went to see Schiff on April 2 and April 9 wondered why we hadn’t been there."
Photo above by Lynn Goldsmith shows Return to Forever's Al Di Meola, left, Stanley Clarke, Chick Corea and Lenny White in an official reunion photo.