Archive for January, 2010

in performance: joe lovano

joe lovano. photo by jimmy katz.

joe lovano. photo by jimmy katz.

In the wake of last weekend’s winter storm, cancelled flights left two members of Grammy winning saxophonist Joe Lovano’s quintet stranded in Louisville and Cincinnati. As of showtime last night at the Singletary Center for the Arts, neither had arrived. Amazingly, the absent parties were collected and the concert commenced with only a 20 minute delay.

With the crisis resolved without most of the audience even knowing it took place, Lovano introduced himself by way of an unaccompanied tenor sax solo that merrily echoed around the mighty Singletary Concert Hall.

From there, Lovano’s group jumped into two tunes from his current Folk Art album – Us Five (which doubles as the quintet’s name) and the title composition – that put some novel ensemble dynamics into motion. Specifically, the quintet utilized two drummers. The first, Otis Brown III, largely stayed within the groove of the tune. The other, Francisco Mela, worked more off of Lovano’s turns on the tenor saxophone. But the strategies shifted regularly. Sometimes Mela sat out, especially when the fine Us Five pianist James Wiedman received his all-too-few solo spots. Sometimes the cross-rhythms created an almost samba like grace, as in Mal Waldron’s Soul Eyes – one of several works to feature the quintet’s “sixth” member, vocalist Judi Silvano (Lovano’s wife). And at times the drummers were in direct, complimentary harmony with each other.

As prominent as the percussion was, though, it was still Lovano’s leads on tenor sax, the clarinet-like tarogato and aulochrome that fueled the 100 minute performance. The latter, a contemporary creation that fuses two soprano saxophones together, revealed a wild chromatic range during the John Coltrane-ish turns of Big Ben. Lovano’s more familiar but equally robust tenor sax sound nicely turned the heat up under Sanctuary Park and neatly played off Silvano’s animated vocal charge during Thelonious Monk’s Reflections.

All in all, it was a performance that might have seemed novel given the designs of the instrumentation (and, in the case of the aulochrome, the very instruments). But considering Lovano’s history of musical thrillseeking, the concert was simply another adventure where nothing was more daring or distinctive than the cunning of the jazz intellect drove it.

in performance: solas

solas: mick mcauley, mairead phelan, winifred horan (on floor), seamus egan and eamon mcelholm. photo by robert hakalski.

solas: mick mcauley, mairead phelan, winifred horan (on floor), seamus egan and eamon mcelholm. photo by robert hakalski.

In warming last night’s Frankfort crowd at the Grand Theatre to the tales of unforgiving, unrequited and altogether unhealthy love that are like nutrients to traditional folk music, Solas singer Mairead Phelan introduced the unpronounceable Mollai na gCuach Ni Chuilleanain by revealing the tune’s ending.

“She doesn’t come back. And he dies. It’s another cheery number.”

Judging by the smiles that lit up among artists and audience members alike, there was a still degree of cheer to these dour sagas. Sure, Phelan’s light, almost fanciful vocal delivery kept the lament from turning too bleak. But there was also Solas’ vibrant acoustic spirit to contend with. Lively banjo, flute, accordion, guitar and extraordinary fiddle drove the music. So no matter how dark the lyrical scenario, the melodies and the instrumentation driving them were elegant and vibrantly alive. The lone contemporary device was the ambient hum of a single electric keyboard that three of the band’s five members, including Phelan, took turns on during the evening.

The bulk of the two-set performance drew heavily from Solas’ two newest albums, 2008’s For Love and Laughter and the upcoming The Turning Tide (due for release on Feb. 16).

At times, Solas paired itself down for a bare bones mood piece, like a show-opening slow air led by the light melancholy of flute by multi-instrumentalist Seamus Egan. In other instances, the band’s ensemble muscle was deployed, as when Egan, now on banjo with strings that burst before as intermission approached, took charge on Vital Mental Medicine. Similarly striking was a trio turn by the wonderfully animated fiddler Winfred Horan, who strayed briefly from Irish shores for the gypsy accented instrumental My Dream of You.

There were also moments when the Irish-American Solas nicely tipped the hat to their British folk counterparts by interpreting the late John Martyn’s 1975 arrangement of Spencer the Rover (sung by accordionist Mick McAuley) and early Richard Thompson (1972’s The Poor Ditching Boy, led by Phelan).

With music that was impeccably played and joyously displayed, Solas remained, in this performance, an Irish-based band with a very worldly reach.


The Boston Globe (Boston, MA) July 12, 2004 | Michael A. Busack, Globe Correspondent Dedicated to the advancement of pediatrics and neonatology, Dr. Peggy Herschel Mittendorf left her mark in medicine. She died Friday at her home in the Hyde Park section of Chicago after six years with breast cancer. She was 64.

Dr. Herschel, who used her maiden name professionally, was raised in Chicago and later graduated from Woodstock Country School in Vermont.

She graduated from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley in 1961 and from Tufts University School of Medicine in 1965.

She then trained in pediatrics and neonatology at the former Boston City Hospital.

She also worked at the Neponset Health Center and the former St. Margaret’s Hospital, both in Boston.

For the past 12 years, Dr. Herschel worked with the University of Chicago Children’s Hospital. here jaundice in newborns

Dr. Herschel also was the author or co-author of almost 40 scientific articles that are cited by Index Medicus, a bibliographic listing of references to articles from biomedical journals worldwide.

Her work established her as an international authority on the management of hyperbilirubinemia which may lead to jaundice in newborns and the prevention of kernicterus, a devastating neurological disease.

Dr. Herschel became associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Chicago and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Most of her work focused on improving the care of children of indigent mothers.

“She was a wonderful colleague of mine; my best friend,” said her husband of nearly 25 years, Dr. Robert Mittendorf. The couple on many occasions worked side by side in their research.

Though she had cancer, Dr. Herschel remained determined to accomplish as much as possible in her field. With her husband’s help, Dr. Herschel missed just eight days of work in the six years she had the disease. in our site jaundice in newborns

“She had incredible will power. She would get chemotherapy on the same days that she would go to work. She was an inspiration to her family and her colleagues . . . she was courageous,” Dr. Mittendorf said.

In addition to her husband, Dr. Herschel leaves two sons, Robert William of Chicago and Jeffrey David of Chandler, Ariz. She also leaves a daughter, Inga Noelle of Chicago; her parents, Gladys Herschel of Washington, D.C., and A.J. Herschel of Sarasota, Fla.; and her biological father, James Mulvey of Milton; three sisters, Janet O’Brien of Baltimore, Ellen Cresap of Midland Park, N.J., and Jane Quiles of Hawthorne, N.J.; and a brother, Michael Mulvey of Milton.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. in First Parish of Milton on Friday.

Michael A. Busack, Globe Correspondent

viva lovano

the happiest jazz man on the planet: joe lovano on the cover of his 2009 album "folk art."

the happiest jazz man on the planet: joe lovano on the cover of his 2009 album with the us five, "folk art."

Before you experience a note of his music, check out the cover to Joe Lovano’s recent Folk Art album. The portrait alone is a tip off to the soul and charm of the Grammy-winning jazz saxophonist, composer and bandleader.

Set against a backdrop of brilliant orange, Lovano strikes a pose of elegant cool. His profile is adorned with the requisite hat and shades. Clasped in his right arm, reaching over his shoulder, is his chief tool-of-the-trade – a tenor saxophone. But what is most suggestive of just how artful and engaging his music can be is the smile plastered on Lovano’s face.

It’s bright, cheery and natural – an expression of welcome from one of the most industrious jazz globetrotters of our generation.

“It’s a blessing to live in the world of music,” said Lovano, who performs Saturday at the Singletary Center for the Arts.

“Every musical situation for me has its challenges and its beautiful results. You know what I mean? Collaborations with great musicians are all rare and unique. But I don’t go into any situation just trying to be who I am. I try to learn things from the artists I’m playing with and share the space with the energy and the ideas that are around me. Tapping into that is what’s really exciting and inspiring.”

Just how strong is Lovano’s presence in the world of modern jazz? Strong enough to yield 20 extraordinary albums on the Blue Note label in 17 years, making him by far the historic label’s most prolific present day jazz artist.

But there are also collaborative projects Lovano has continually engaged in outside of concerts and recordings that exclusively bear his own name – such as a celebrated trio with drummer Paul Motian and guitarist Bill Frisell, a longstanding partnership with guitarist John Scofield and duet outings with pianist Hank Jones.

Finally, there is the sheer flexibility of Lovano’s projects. He has performed in solo, duo, trio, quartet, quintet and nonet settings. He has played in wind ensembles, big bands and full symphonies.

Yet, the voice behind it all – whether it is displayed on tenor, alto or soprano saxophones, clarinets or the Hungarian/Turkish woodwind instrument known as the taragato – bears that broad, unshakeable smile. It’s practically ingrained in Lovano’s music.

“All of my recordings are really reflective of where I’ve been,” Lovano said. “They’re honest statements about where I am at each moment they were made. The inspiration for each has fueled the next.”

A jazzman in New York: Long one of the most established jazz names working out of New York, the saxophonist born Joseph Salvatore Lovano is actually a native of Cleveland. Among his initial jazz inspirations was his tenor saxophonist father, Tony “Big T” Lovano.

After attending the Berklee School of Music, the younger Lovano settled in New York and a role in Woody Herman’s big band, the Thundering Herd. At age 23, Lovano found himself in the band chair once occupied by veteran Herman sax man Sal Nistico. It was with Herman that Lovano made his Lexington debut in the late ‘70s.

“With Woody, there’s no audition,” Lovano said. “You’re recommended, you get the call and you go. Your first notes with him are on the first gig. So we played a parking lot in St. Louis. The music is blowing all over the place. I’m all nervous. The pressure of just reading the music was daunting. But when I soloed, I felt Woody was with me. He was listening to me.

“Woody’s attitude was, ‘Oh, you’ll learn the music.’ But he wanted to hear the feeling in your sound. That’s the kind of leader he was.”

Following two-and-a-half years with Herman, Lovano joined the Mel Lewis Orchestra in 1980. The group occasionally toured, but was known mostly for its regular Monday concerts at the legendary Greenwich Village jazz haunt, the Village Vanguard. The club would become a performance home for Lovano in the years to come.

He recorded two of his finest Blue Note albums there – 1995’s Quartets and the 2003 nonet session On This Day at the Vanguard. He also performs a two week engagement every September at the club with the Motian trio and will celebrate the Vanguard’s 75th anniversary next month with his current quintet, the Us Five.

“I was with Mel’s band from 1980 to 1991, playing every Monday night at the Vanguard. It was an amazing period for me. Imagine living in New York, playing every week at the Vanguard and then having the freedom to also play with Paul and these other bands. By 1990, I was recording for Blue Note. And here we are today.”

Capping off this summation of Lovano’s artistic life in New York and his great jazz good fortune was a thoroughly natural and unavoidably musical coda from the saxophonist – a burst of laughter.

The big breaks: All was well in the jazz world of Lovano last autumn. Performances in Amsterdam with the Us Five were recorded with consideration for a possible live album. Later in the month came concerts with Lovano’s Grammy-winning nonet. But a fall following a concert in Lausanne, Switzerland left the saxophonist with a broken left arm. Carrying on with his arm in a sling, Lovano fell again in Barcelona, breaking his right arm. His remaining 2009 concerts were cancelled to accommodate surgery and subsequent physical therapy, which is still ongoing, for repair of busted humerus bones in both shoulders.

“I never had any cast on or anything, so I’ve actually been practicing since the first week after my surgery,” Lovano said. “I was playing mainly soprano saxophone and other horns for the first three or four weeks. The tenor (sax) was a little harder to pick up. I’m still in the middle of some serious physical therapy, but I’m back to playing concerts. Over the last week and half, I played one show in Barbados and one in Panama. So I’m good.

“The accident actually gave me some time off to write some new compositions and re-focus a bit. I’ve had quite a few jam sessions in my house during that time, too. But music has been a big part of my physical therapy, because my shoulders were affected most in the fall. All the handwork and range-of-motion physical therapy that I’ve been involved with has probably been something that, in my recovery, advanced me faster than it might have with others who don’t play music. Music, of course, is a healer.

“I continue to live in this real creative world of music. I feel its blessing all the time. I’m still thrilled being able to share my ideas at the level I am right now internationally. I just want to carry on.”

Joe Lovano performs at  7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Singletary Center for the Arts Concert Hall. Tickets are $25, $30, $35. Call (859) 257-4929 or go to Lovano will also presets a clinic/masterclass at the Singletary Center for the Arts Recital

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the joe lovano dozen

In anticipation of Saturday’s concert at the Singletary Center for the Arts by Grammy winning saxophonist, composer, bandleader and all around jazz man Joe Lovano, we offer this ‘get acquainted package’ – a 12 pack of essential Lovano recordings. The first six come from Lovano’s immensely prolific catalog on Blue Note Records. The rest are collaborative projects where Lovano’s presence on saxes and woodwinds are no less profound. Together they form the foundation of one of the most creatively fruitful jazz careers of our generation.

Out in front. Six critic’s picks from Joe Lovano’s expansive Blue Note Records discography.

+ Joe Lovano with Gunther Schuller: Rush Hour (1995) – Drawing on material by Duke Ellington, Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus and himself, Lovano teams with conductor and Third Stream pioneer Schuller for a variety of orchestral and chamber adventures.

+ Joe Lovano Trio: Trio Fascination – Edition One (1998) – A sumptuous sampler of trio tunes, from the hushed soul of Ghost of a Chance to the spacious swing of 4 on the Floor – all cut with the extraordinary bassist Dave Holland and the late, great Elvin Jones on drums.

+ Joe Lovano Nonet: 52nd Street Dreams (2000) – Utilizing an effortlessly warm and spirited tenor sax sound, Lovano fires up his Grammy winning nonet for a repertoire that leaps from Miles Davis to George Gershwin with spry arrangements by Willie “Face” Smith.

+ Joe Lovano Street Band: Viva Caruso (2002) – Jazz meets Pagliacci? A tropical tenor sax take on Santa Lucia? Such are the delights when Lovano tackles the repertoire of opera icon Enrico Caruso for a toast “from one great Italian tenor to another.”

+ Joe Lovano and Hank Jones: Kids (2007) – The ageless Hank Jones almost steals the show here. But Lovano creates intimate and animated dialogue with the pianist on this live recording of tunes by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Thelonious Monk and more.

+ Joe Lovano Us Five: Folk Art (2009) – A novel quintet lineup of piano, bass and two drummers ignites some of Lovano’s most satisfying compositions. Substitute bassist Cameron Brown for Us Five all-star Esperanza Spalding and you have the band that plays the Singletary on Saturday.

 On the side. Six sterling recordings featuring Lovano in a supporting and/or collaborative role.

+ John Scofield Quartet: Time On My Hands (1990) – Arguably the finest of Lovano’s recordings with guitarist Scofield (well, 1991’s Meant To Be and 1993’s What We Do were pretty cool, too). Bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Jack DeJohnette round out the fun.

+ ScoLoHoFo: Oh! (2003) – A wonderfully intimate all-star summit featuring Scofield, Lovano, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Al Foster. The gentle bluesy sparring of Lovano and Scofield on Right About Now typlifies the album’s grand sense of fun.

+ Pat Martino: Think Tank (2003) – Cut six months after Oh!, Think Tank mounts muscular swing from underrated guitar great Martino with help from Lovano, pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Lewis Nash.

+ Paul Motian/Bill Frisell/Joe Lovano: I Have the Room Above Her (2005) – Drummer Motian’s long running trio with Lovano and guitarist Frisell has never sounded more spacious, warm and mysteriously atmospheric than on this sublime ECM recording.

+ Marc Johnson: Shades of Jade (2005) – Another great ECM outing with bassist Johnson fronting a band that again pairs Lovano with Scofield. But the gorgeous, hushed exchanges between tenor sax and pianist Eliane Elias on Apareceu turns Jade to gold.

+ McCoy Tyner: Quartet (2007) – A live recording led by piano titan Tyner. Hearing Lovano, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Tain Watts navigate the outageously majestic turns of the ‘70s Tyner masterwork Sama Layuca is pure joy.

New route for Macys parade

The Record (Bergen County, NJ) November 24, 2009

The Record (Bergen County, NJ) 11-24-2009 New route for Macys parade Date: 11-24-2009, Tuesday Section: NEWS Column: DID YOU KNOW For the first time since it stepped off in 1924, the Macys Thanksgiving Parade will not march along Broadway. Organizers had to find a new route when Broadway became a pedestrian zone, which prohibits floats and other vehicles.

First called the Macys Christmas Parade, the extravaganza started on 145th Street and made its way six miles down to Herald Square. For the first few years, animals from the Central Park Zoo were featured. site macys printable coupons

By 1927, Macys volunteers towed the first helium-filled balloons, which included Felix the Cat and were released at the end of the parade. They burst on the sharp edges of the New York skyline, so they were made stronger the following year. go to web site macys printable coupons

Since then, colossal replicas of cartoon and action characters have floated through skyscrapers, annually delighting 3 million spectators lining the streets.

A new sailor Mickey Mouse will appear this year, 75 years after his debut.

Floats were introduced in 1969 and are still made in a former Tootsie Roll factory in Hoboken. The floats, which can be up to 40 feet tall, fold up for the trip through the Holland Tunnel on Wednesday evening and are reassembled during the night on the Manhattan side.

The parade route was shortened in 1946 the first year it was televised locally to the popular Broadway path. It went on national television the following year and has since built an audience of 44 million viewers.

Illustrations/Photos: ***

solas system

solas. from left: mick mcauley, winifred horan, mairead phelan, eamon mcelholm, seamus egan. photo by robert hakalski.

solas. from left: mick mcauley, winifred horan, mairead phelan, eamon mcelholm and seamus egan. photo by robert hakalski.

When Seamus Egan and Winifred Horan began gigging about the country in the first lineup of Solas, there wasn’t much concern for what the future held.

That was nearly 15 years ago. Since then, the acclaimed Irish-American ensemble has released 10 albums that favor Irish traditional music without staying exclusively bound to it.

“If you had asked us 15 years ago, ‘What do you think will happen?’ I think our answer would have been, ‘Oh, we’ll just do a few gigs and that will be it,'” said fiddler/vocalist Horan. “Seriously. I doubt there was even thought to making an album.

“Obviously, we’re still getting something out of Solas. But what that is doesn’t feel like work. The band is the safety zone. It’s the best place to be.”

If the music on the band’s upcoming album The Turning Tide is any indication, the best place is about to get a lot better. It is Solas’ second recording with its current personnel – multi-instrumentalist Egan (born in Pennsylvania, but reared in County Mayo in Ireland), Horan (born in New York to Irish parents), accordionist/guitarist Mick McAuley (from County Kilkenny in Ireland), guitarist/pianist Eamon McElholm (from County Tyrone in the north of Ireland) and vocalist Mairead McAuley (also from County Kilkenny). And like the music it has produced since the release of a self-titled debut record in 1996, The Turning Tide is richly traditional in scope and style. Except when it isn’t.

“In general, Solas doesn’t pay too much mind to labels. It’s very crippling to life, as well as to music and art, when you have to live according to how you’ve been labeled. Sometimes it is completely inaccurate.”

So what does that make Solas then? Is it the sort of band that bowed to enormous contemporary and commercial influence, like the Celtic ensemble Clannad during the ‘90s, to where it sounds almost like a pop group? Definitely not. Save for very discreet touches of electric bass, Solas’ music is thoroughly acoustic.

On The Turning Tide, the approach is only contemporary when you look at the repertoire. Sprinkled amid traditional instrumentals and songs are interpretations of works by such modern songsmiths as Bruce Springsteen, Richard Thompson and Josh Ritter. But those compositions reflect such a strong folk sensibility – lyrically as well as spiritually – that their transference to a largely Irish traditional setting seems quite natural.

From Springsteen, Solas chose the John Steinbeck-inspired The Ghost of Tom Joad, which is taken at a spry Celtic gallop. From Thompson came 1972’s The Poor Ditching Boy, which already boasted a broad sense of traditional spirit. From Ritter, came A Girl in the War, which boasted a suitably timeless narrative.

One of the album’s most curious adventures is an adaptation of the traditional tune A Sailor’s Life, which has long been ripe for reconstruction. In fact, Thompson was one of the chief architects in devising a new electric version of the song over 40 years ago as a member of the then-young Fairport Convention. Solas’ take, which is considerably less ghostly than the Fairport revision, flies on lighter, limber accents of fiddle and accordion as well as the altogether sweeter air of Phelan’s vocals.

“Myself and everyone else in the band are huge Richard Thompson fans,” Horan said. “We were playing at a bluegrass festival in Colorado four or five years ago and he was on the bill as a solo act. We scurried to get out front to get a spot to watch the gig. And it just blew us away. It was an epiphany, really. He was solo, but it sounded like there were 15 people onstage.”

“Really, if you try to cover somebody else, especially people like Bruce and Richard, one of the things you have to consider is that their original version will always be the original. And, in most people’s minds, it will also be the best. And that’s fine. But to get around that, you have to try to make the song your own. For us, that means bringing these songs into that little Solas vortex and making them work for us while still paying the tribute that is due to the material.”

When it comes to original music, Horan has come up with quite a surprise for The Turning Tide. It’s an instrumental rich in accordion, mandolin and fiddle that boasts more of a rustic Eastern European flavor than an overtly Irish one. The title is A Waltz for Mairead in honor of Phelan. The surprise element comes in the fact that Horan still had not told Phelan about the title when we conducted our interview.

“Mairead is such a wonderful person and a good friend. She has breathed new life into the band musically, socially and, for me, in every way. I know the boys feel that way, too. She is a wonderful spirit. I’m curious to see what she’s going to say when she finds out I wrote her a tune.

“I think the best thing any band has going for it is when it can be its own barometer for the kinds of music it wants to do. But we’re still very well aware of where we come from and where our roots are. You have to know where you come from to actually get someplace comfortably.

“I mean, life is a journey, isn’t it? You never get to a point where you get everything figured out. There’s no set plan or map, really. It’s the same with music. So why not keep playing and experimenting?”

Solas performs at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 29 at the Grand Theatre, 308 St. Clair St. in Frankfort. Tickets are $15, $20 and $30. Call (502) 352-7469 or go to

The Top Ten travel list: Above-par golfing.

Chicago Tribune (Chicago, IL) July 10, 2006 The world’s top golf resorts, from the readers of Conde Nast Traveler:

Four Seasons Resort, Punta Mita, Mexico American Club, Kohler, Wis. site big island hawaii

Westin Turnberry Resort, Ayrshire, Scotland Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Big Island, Hawaii The Homestead, Hot Springs, Va. this web site big island hawaii

Four Seasons Resort, Nevis The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.

Inn at Bay Harbor, Bay Harbor, Mich.

Gleneagles, Auchterarder, Scotland Four Seasons Resort at Troon North, Scottsdale, Ariz.

___ GEOQUIZ: King Tut was entombed in the Valley of Kings near which ancient city that was once capital of the Egyptian Empire?

(Answer: Thebes) ___ Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

critic’s pick 108

matthew ship: 4d

matthew ship: 4d

Stylistically, Matthew Shipp and Pat Metheny hail from different ends of the jazz cosmos. Shipp, stubbornly pidgeonholed by many critics as avant-garde, remains one of the most original voices to emerge on jazz piano in decades. Metheny is a guitarist that has weaved post bop into jazz gold with his band while moonlighting over the years with such esteemed jazz elders as Charlie Haden and Ornette Coleman.

Both artists have now released new recordings created entirely on their own. For Shipp’s 4D, that means interspersing crafty original works with highly original takes of jazz standards for an absorbing solo piano recording. For Metheny’s Orchestrion, that means redefining the term “one man band” with music generated on an array of guitars, pianos, marimbas and “custom fabricated acoustic mechanical instruments.”

Shipp’s 4D is a delight through and through. As engaging as his ensemble recordings have been in recent years, his solo albums – in particular, 2006’s sublime One – are revelatory works where technique and temperament form an instrumental voice that, despite its unaccompanied setting, sounds full and complete.

Take 4D‘s The Crack in the Piano’s Egg, a joyride that rumbles down an especially devious sideroad. The spirit of Thelonious Monk sits in the back seat, as it does on so many of Shipp’s more mischievous tunes. But the playing bumps, rumbles and regales with a voice all its own. Ditto for the wonderfully slippery flight patterns of Blue Web in Space. But on Equilibrium, the tension is contained before taking flight in darker impressionistic circles.

And the covers? Try a stormy and heavily percussive Frere Jacques, a beautifully immediate and at times pensive Autumn Leaves and a deeply churchy (but sadly brief) What a Friend We Have in Jesus that suggests an entire album of Shipp-style spirituals might be worth exploring in the future. For now, though, 4D, is a smart, distinctive and altogether daring piano adventure.

pat metheny: orchestrion

pat metheny: orchestrion

The design and intent behind Metheny’s Orchestrion isn’t half as satisfying as the accessible and joyous music it embraces. Metheny engages in a dizzying practice here of creating a solo band sound on instruments that, the bio material states, are “struck, plucked and otherwise played via the technology of solenoid switches and pneumatics” created with “a brilliant team of scientists and engineers.”

Uh, were talking jazz here, right? Despite the academic indulgences seemingly surrounding its creation, Orchestrion sounds like a new Pat Metheny Group record. You still hear the rich Jim Hall-style guitar lyricism, sweeping piano-and-keyboard melodies and lightly layered percussion designs with a soft spot for marimba. And it’s all played by Pat.

The album is a lovely listen and a grand reminder of Metheny’s gift for compositional melody and efficient orchestration. Just try and forget the whole thing reads like a lab experiment.

from croatia with love

andreas kapsalis (left) and goran ivanovic.

andreas kapsalis (left) and goran ivanovic.

The idea was to try something different within a guitar duo framework. But a look at the cultural heritages of Andreas Kapsalis and Goran Ivanovic suggest an already distinctive string sound.

Kapsalis is the Chicago-reared son of first generation Greek parents that developed an eight finger tapping technique. Ivanovic, a Croatian native, grew up the son of a Serbian father and a Bosnian Croat mother with a love of classical, jazz, and Balkan music.

Not to be presumptuous here, but how can two guitarists from such diverse backgrounds play together and not sound different?

“We actually had to sit down and be very careful about what types of music we wanted to do,” said Ivanovic, who performs an acoustic guitar duo concert with Kapsalis at Natasha’s Bistro on Thursday.

“We were already doing a lot of different things, from classical works to avant-garde jazz things. And we were at a starting point with some of the Spanish classical guitar repertoire. But we had to remind ourselves, ‘There are 100 other ensembles that do this and have been doing this much better for much longer than us.’ We had to start from scratch and build something new that could be a missing link in the guitar repertoire.”

Kapsalis had already established himself in Chicago with a trio that matched his tapping guitar technique – a process developed after recovering from surgery to repair a severed tendon in his left hand – with two percussionists. He has also composed scores for several independent films, several of which are interpreted in trio form on his aptly titled Original Scores album.

Ivanovic’s projects included the ensemble Eastern Blok, a band devoted to the folk inspirations of Serbia, Macedonia and Bulgaria, as well as progressive guitar collaborations with Fareed Haque.

“I met Andreas five or six years ago,” Ivanovic said. “There was a club in Chicago called The Hot House. Unfortunately, it is closed now. But it was maybe the best jazz and world music venue in town. A booking agent put us on the same bill without us knowing each other. So the bill was Andreas’ band and my band. After the show, we had a few drinks and hit it off.

“That’s kind of how it has to happen. If you want to play with somebody, you really should be friends with them as well.”

Initially, the development of the duo’s new guitar repertoire came slowly as their performances together were infrequent. But last year, the two cut an indie record that defined their sound titled simply Guitar Duo and took to the road. In 2009, Kapsalis and Ivanovic performed over 100 duo concerts.

“Both of us obviously love guitar music, but we also love orchestral classical music and film music. So we tried to come up with something that was kind of non-guitar-istic. We tried to create a lot of different sounds that would sound like a small orchestra. That was a good starting point. Everything evolved from there.”

The film score inspiration surfaces on Guitar Duo by way of Vertigo, a piece that takes it cue from the classic 1958 Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name and, to a degree, its famed score by Bernard Herrmann. The tense melody has an almost darkly tropical accent as the music outlines the dynamics that emerge in the differing playing styles of Kapsalis and Ivanovic.

Vertigo is a good example of how we sit down and write,” Ivanovic said. “We saw the Hitchcock movie, which gave us a few ideas for the song. Then we finished writing the music within a few hours. That’s one of the ways we get inspiration – by watching great movies.”

Another Guitar Duo work, Kalajdzisko Oro is ripe with Eastern European inspiration until it leaps into a different time and place by directly quoting Dave Brubeck’s signature tune Blue Rondo a la Turk).

“I’ve been playing that piece with different ensembles for awhile. It’s basically a Macedonian folk song. But I had to pay tribute to Brubeck because he was one of the first jazz musicians to combine folk and modern jazz. The song is kind of my homage to him.”

The inspiration Ivanovic’s music takes from Eastern Europe underscores the fact that he has only lived and worked in the United States for 12 years. While pursuing musical studies in Salzburg in the ‘90s, Ivanovic’s parents were expelled from Croatia. They were soon granted political asylum in this country, landing the guitarist in Chicago.

While he has forged a solid artistic reputation within Chicago’s fertile jazz and improvisational music scene, Ivanovic admits he is still adjusting to a new life in a new land.

“It has been difficult,” he said. “It still is difficult, and challenging. But the saying goes that this is the country of opportunity. If you want to create something of your own, you can.

“When I got off the plane in this country, I went looking for gigs the very next day. It took a long time to find musicians, find friends and find work. It has been, and still is, a journey.

“Obviously, the music I play with Andreas is not mainstream. But we have to write music that is interesting to us in hope that it will relate to other people. That’s why we are prepared to play a lot in this country. We want to find our audience.”

The Andreas Kapsalis and Goran Ivanovic Guitar Duo performs at 9 p.m. Jan. 28 at Nastasha’s Bistro, 112 Esplanade. Admission is $10. Call (859) 259-2754.

hope for haiti now

bruce springsteen. photo by dennis clinch.

bruce springsteen. photo by dennis clinch.

The most surreal aspect surrounding international telethons like last night’s Hope for Haiti Now is how quickly time is suspended. It’s all live, but there are no commercials. There are dynamic performances and testimonials, but there are no studio audiences.

That was especially true of the music the telethon stacked up. As a result, the performances that really drove a sense of urgency and hope home were the ones that dropped the frills. For some, the approach was business as usual, as when Bruce Springsteen sang We Shall Overcome back by trumpet, accordion and four singers (including wife Patti Scialfa). Others were major surprises, as when Justin Timberlake ably took on the mighty Leonard Cohen profession of faith Hallelujah.

In other instances, the music became wonderfully elemental, revealing a level of grace and intimate grit that some of the performers might otherwise keep hidden. Leading that category was, wonder of wonders, Beyonce, who delivered a thoroughly de-glammed Halo backed only by Coldplay’s Chris Martin on piano.

Best of all, though, was the way pop classics with timeless themes of strength and renewal found a new voice in a time of adversity. You heard that in the way Jennifer Hudson embraced The Beatles’ Let It Be and in how a trio of Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow and Keith Urban rekindled Bill Withers’ Lean on Me. The killer, though, was a beautifully haggard and warbly reading of the stark Hank Williams meditation Alone and Forsaken by Neil Young and Dave Matthews. It was the most technically imperfect but immediately impassioned performance of the night.

Madonna’s full choir delivery of Like a Prayer, Wyclef Jean’s soca-style Rivers of Babylon and especially the Jay Z/Bono/Rhianna/The Edge summit Stranded were lacking. But leave it to Sting to pull a fast one with a worldbeat flavored Driven to Tears backed by trumpeter Chris Botti and members of The Roots.

Not surprisingly, the performance that best illuminated a sense of hope in the wake of Haiti’s devastating earthquakes came from one of the country’s own. Haitian singer Emeline Michel offered a lovely reading of Jimmy Cliff’s Many Rivers to Cross. The song remains an anthem of survival and a prayer of peace. Last night, it spoke to Haiti’s past, present and, hopefully, future.

To donate to Hope for Haiti Now, click here.

All of the telethon’s performance are available through iTunes with proceeds going to the Hope for Haiti Now charities (Unicef, American Red Cross, WFP, Oxfam America and more).

in performance: brad paisley/miranda lambert/justin moore

brad paisley last night at rupp arena. photo by herald-leader staff photographer mark cornelison.

brad paisley picking last night at rupp arena. photo by herald-leader staff photographer mark cornelison.

It began on a note – well, quite a few notes – of blessed simplicity.

Instead of the video montages, the synthesized hums or the outer space light shows, Brad Paisley strolled onstage last night at Rupp Arena, walked down a ramp that took him out to the audience of 8,500 and sang a solo acoustic version of a hopeful music-making yarn titled Start a Band.

Actually, the reigning Country Music Association Male Vocalist of the Year fashioned what has become his winter show-opener for the Kentucky crowd by hitching it to a few verses of the Darrell Scott mountain soul meditation You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.

Of course, country music being what it is today, nothing stays simple for long. As the final verses of Start a Band concluded, Paisley did just that. With the snap of a drumbeat, a massive curtain fell revealing a seven member band and a multi-tiered stage with a half dozen video screens. With the transformation came the title tune to Paisley’s newest hit album, American Saturday Night and a huge, electric sound full of bright melodic hooks, sunny lyrical turns and guitar, guitar and more guitar.

Once the tune’s homey but symphonic charm settled and the realization set in again that was at hand was, in fact, a Lexington Thursday night, Paisley turned to the microphone and gave an almost sheepishly casual greeting to the crowd.

“Hi, everybody.” He said it like he had just run into friends in a grocery store.

That was a telling salutation – both for Paisley and the immensely entertaining performance he gave. For all the concert production’s sleek, contemporary look, the music stayed refreshingly focused on a country path – a rarity for any arena-sized Nashville act these days.

Sometimes the touches were overt, like dropping a verse of I Walk the Line into the American Saturday Night tune You Do the Math or underscoring the decidedly unromantic I’m Gonna Miss Her by emphasizing the song’s quirky stance of favoring fishing over romance.

But, as is always the case with any Paisley show, the country authenticity was found predominantly in the fingerwork. Forget the flashy stage. When Paisley got cracking on guitar – which he did regularly – all kinds of country tradition came uncorked.

On the rollicking Wrapped Around, no less a country giant than Johnny Horton was reflected in Paisley’s expert picking. During Waitin’ on a Woman, the guitarwork seemed to favor pre-country preferences – namely, the British folk and rock styles pioneered in recent decades by Mark Knopfler and Richard Thompson. And on Catch All the Fish, and its subsequent jam that led Paisley offstage and out for a quick tour of the arena floor, the merry sense of twang was all his own.

Clean, concise songs; a singing style as cordial as it was conversational; a guitar capability that, in terms of technique and improvisational instinct, was expertly playful – it all very much made a rainy Thursday evening at Rupp into a celebratory Saturday night.

Texas country party gal Miranda Lambert, in her second Lexington outing in four months, preceded Paisley’s performance. Though her set lacked some of the spontaneous firepower that ignited an Applebee’s Park show last September, Lambert’s performance was packed with impressive variety.

Hitting the stage to a recording of Steve Earle’s The Revolution Starts Now (a tie-in to her third and newest album, Revolution), Lambert opened with the coy Only Prettier but wound through the anthemic heartbreak of Dead Flowers, a boozy lap steel guitar-fortified cover of The Faces’ Stay With Me and an acoustic duet with surprise guest (and boyfriend) Blake Shelton on Home.

Arkansas-born singer Justin Moore opened the evening with a brief five song set and a rich, capable voice that continually outclassed pedestrian and sometimes pandering fare such as Smalltown USA, Backwoods and the absurdly sophomoric I Could Kick Your Ass. Clearly, this is a singer in serious need of a songwriting upgrade.

“crazy girl with a shotgun”

miranda lambert. photo by randee st. nicholas.

miranda lambert. photo by randee st. nicholas.

Sometimes the elements simply refuse to get with the program.

Take a Friday evening last September when Miranda Lambert opened a sold out show for headliner Jason Aldean. No sooner did she take the stage at Applebee’s Park than the heavens opened.

The rain fell at a steady but manageable clip when Lambert fused honky tonk gusto with vintage pub rock by covering The Faces’ Stay With Me,. When the storm picked up enough for the beer stands to start handing out plastic ponchos, she answered with a makeshift but solemn version of the 1970 Creedence Clearwater Revival hit Have You Ever Seen the Rain. Then as the showers turned to a deluge, Lambert got as drenched as the crowd bringing her set to an electric close by playing Joan Jett’s I Love Rock and Roll side by side with her 2008 signature hit Gunpowder and Lead.

“It was a hard night, but shows like that just help you grow,” said Lambert, who returns to town on Thursday to open a bigger and unconditionally drier Rupp Arena concert by Brad Paisley.

“I did learn one thing, though – don’t wear heels for rainy day shows. But I just took my shoes off halfway through the set that night.”

As it turned out, a far more potent (and anticipated) storm awaited the Texas-born country star last fall. The Applebee’s Park show came only four days before the release of Revolution, Lambert’s third album. As was the case with her two previous recordings – 2005’s Kerosene and 2007’s Crazy Ex-GirlfriendRevolution entered the Billboard Country Albums chart at No. 1. She now stands as only the third female country artist to chalk up three charttopping album debuts.

Such is the meteoric rise of the singer from Lindale, Texas who came to prominence as a finalist in the 2003 season of the American Idol-like Nashville Star. Once Kerosene introduced her decidedly rockish country sound and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend cemented her popularity, Lambert became viewed as something of a wild country child.

Kerosene‘s title tune, after all, was a bit of a social kiss off anthem (“Forget you high society, I’m soakin’ it in kerosene; light ‘em up and watch ‘em burn”). Then there is Gunpowder and Lead, the breakthrough hit from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend where the protagonist waits at home for her jailbird lover in anything but a fretful state of mind (“Gonna load my shotgun, wait by the door and light a cigarette; if he wants a fight, well, he’s got one”).

Is this a sign of the country times? A rough riding, tough talking Texas lass packing heat? As it turns out, the only thing about the image that seems to bug Lambert is how limiting it can be.

“I was kind of thinking that I might be getting pushed into a corner, you know, where people just thought of me as this crazy girl with a shotgun. But I think Revolution took me out of that risk. I’m definitely more open on the new album.”

A touch of the vengeful spirit still surfaces on Lambert’s current hit, White Liar, but the tune is more of a country confessional than a tale of retribution. However, Revolution‘s first single, Dead Flowers (not to be confused with the Rolling Stones rocker of the same title) is an anthemic country weeper. There are no guns, no kerosene blazes – just pure, lyrical remorse.

“I think making records gets harder as you go,” Lambert said. “You’re just trying to outdo what you did before, so it’s a challenge. But it’s also fun. I love a good challenge. To learn more about myself so I can portray that in music is something I take a lot of pride in.”

While Lambert wrote or co-wrote much of the Revolution material, just as she did on her two preceding albums, there is also a choice selection of cover material. On Revolution, Lambert interprets tunes by Americana faves John Prine (That’s the Way That the World Goes ‘Round), Julie Miller (Somewhere Trouble Don’t Go) and Fred Eaglesmith (Time to Get a Gun).

“I already loved those artists,” Lambert said. “I was already a fan of Fred Eaglesmith and Julie Miller, so it was kind of a no-brainer. If I already loved their songs, already knew their songs and already felt I could do them in my style, then I felt I should go ahead and recognize those great writers.”

A fair amount of recognition has been heading Lambert’s way, as well. Since the release of Kerosene, she has opened concerts for just about every country star in or out of Nashville. Along with Aldean and Paisley, she has shared bills with George Strait, Toby Keith and, most recently, Kenny Chesney.

“We have done about every major country tour you can do,” she said. “Touring now with Brad is kind of icing on the cake. It’s a new crowd, a new stage, different elements and different people. It will be another learning experience.”

Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert and Justin Moore will performs at 7:30 tonight at Rupp Arena. Tickets are $39.75 and $54.75. Call (859) 233-3535, (800) 745-3000.

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