Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on August 8, 1999 · Page 78
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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania · Page 78

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Sunday, August 8, 1999
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A&E PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE SUNDAY, AUGUST 8, 1999 More than ever, classical music is accessible to the masses ) f"i r .""""V "ljT", "CLEMENTE: THE MEASURE OF A MAN": Prime Stage, which bills itself as "youth and family theater you can trust," premieres a new play it commissioned from experienced children's playwright Brian Krai. The result is a se- , nous attempt to honor Roberto Clemente and : also confront the racism he suffered and his own demons. There's also humor and some lovely Hispanic songs by Miguel Sague Jr. The length (2'A hours) makes it a better bet for older kids probably fifth grade and up. Adults who remember Clemente should lap it up. Through Aug. 1 5. Details: 412-394-3353. -Christopher Rawson I; n if-" . " . fi m - t cm n- ra ' . ' H ': & I it If. I i-t . I u t : : r r "KATIE JOPLIN": If you're a fan of actress Park Overall ("Empty Nest") tune to The WB's summer sitcom "Katie Joplin," which begins a short run tomorrow at 9:30 p.m. Overall stars as a late-night talk radio host who could use some of the advice she dish es out. Jay Thomas ("Love & War") and MTV's Simon Rex ("Felicity") also star. Rob Owen CIBO MATTO: Yes, we know it's not their show. But if you're planning on seeing the Soul Coughing concert tonight at the I.C. Light Amphitheatre, do yourself a favor and get there in time for the Yokocentric, hip-hop-sawy pop exotica of Cibo Matto, a Japanese girl-group featuring No. 1 son, Sean Lennon, on bass. The show begins at 7:30. Hurry, don't be late, as Little River Band 42? would say. Ed Masley FLAMING LIPSSEBADOHROBYN HITCH-COCKCORNELIUSIQU: You'd be hard-pressed to find a more intriguing pop sam- nler than Satiirrtav's nnnnert at Metrnnnl tODDed bv the breathtakina maiestv of Flam ing Lips, on tour in support of their strongest ; ' " effort yet (and clearly one of this year's best) , "The Soft Bul-letm." Tickets: $15.50 in advance and $1 7.50 at the door; 412-276-8300. ,' . . Ed Masley MI i-A ft S,'f(ilt '.I i fK 1IHM nnt . (fo on admission to the OdVC vJO Win & food festival Bring this coupon to Seven Springs August 21 or 22, 1999 s. and receive S3 off the SI 5 admission price. . vJL One coupon per person. jtbSEVEH 5PR1IX3 jno pnoiocopies accepica. PPG lXiVisiiM:sn...iv, tf'Mmim WimrJPte mmmmmBmmmmmMmBm III &WmMMB ; , mm r e often decry the "dumbing down" of classical music of the arts in gen eral. I'll admit I've been the first to complain over a "Soundbytes" advertisement promoting "The Rite of Spring" and "Tristan and Isolde" as scandalous music or an Opera brochure leading the reader to think there's going to be more sex than will actually materialize. It's a bait-and-switch technique. The new initiate who hears snippets of symphonic music interspersed with comic patter may be bored to death if he buys a ticket for a subscription concert, only to find that the 30-second "2001: A Space Odyssey" theme from "Zarathustra" is followed by 30 minutes of quiet and contemplative stuff with deep philosophical overtones, or that a performance of "Carmen" lasts for more than 3'A hours, there's a lot of filler music, and the heroine doesn't take her clothes off after all. Still, there's an upside to all this. When I was growing up, most singing commercials featured inane (but memorable) jingles like "Pepsi Cola Hits the Spot," and "I'm Chiquita Banana." "Gianni Schicchi" and "La Boheme" were confined to the Met, and the orchestral masterpieces were heard in Carnegie Hall. Nowadays, ah obscure duet from "Lakme" promotes British Airways, while Bach Inventions and Puccini arias sell cars. "Nessun dorma" is a pop song. Who would have thought these bits of esoterica would be hummed every day by the hoi polloi! Maybe this is a '90s substitute for real music education, which is fast disappearing from our public schools. Mass culture has adapted the classics, even if attendance is down among American symphony orchestras and the traditional recital has become an endangered species. It's a very different scene from what it was at mid-century. Take Mozart, for example. Right now, the annual Mostly Mozart Festival at New York's Lincoln Center is in full swing, and other cities are imitating it. Mozart became a household word after Peter Shaffer's play and film, "Amadeus," but when I saw my first opera "Don Giovanni" at the New York City Opera on my 10th birthday Mozart was considered a bit arcane. Now, Mozart's operas rank among the most popular, in part because today's singers lacking the big voices and grand style of an earlier generation's Verdi and Wagner icons are better suited for Mozart and the moderns. At my first concert by the New York Philharmonic, a very young Leonard Bernstein conducted a Mozart piano concerto, along with Bar-tok's "Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta," which was a startling modern piece, less than 20 years old. Bernstein was then often dismissed as a glamour boy upstart, not the profound Mahlerian he later became. And the bigger Mahler symphonies were rarities in America before Bernstein championed them in his a - - - - : , 1 robert croan tenure with the New York orchestra Bernstein as an educator had a lot to do with increased dissemination of the classics. The problem is that no one since Bernstein does it as well as he did, so we get a lot of dullards preaching their art in ways that may turn off potential music lovers instead of bringing them into the fold. But Bernstein's popularity and his use of the mass media for classical music led to today's outreach programs, in which symphony orchestras have tried to fill the gap left by our recalcitrant public schools. If anything has been a larger educator than Bernstein in the second half of this century, however, it was the LP record (followed by the CD). It's impossible to overstate the importance ' of this phenomenon. All of a sudden, the great masterpieces, along with every bit of historical and contemporary trivia, became available to music lovers at an affordable cost. Even though classical music represents only a small slice of the record industry as a whole, it has expanded the available repertory to the point that you can purchase a familiar Beethoven symphony or an obscure motet by Praetorius with equal ease by a mere flick of the mouse on the Internet. And the old standards aren't the best sellers anymore. Just look at the repertory for Grammy nominations if you have any doubts. The electronic media also have changed the way artists make their careers. Name soloists used to go on the recital trail to be heard in the provinces. Now, they make their reputations first on recordings, the lucky ones being hyped by the big conglomerates. Symphony orchestras once became legendary in their own cities and beyond by the cult of their great conductors. Conductors today don't have that same kind of clout, and American orchestras are searching for new ways to attract young audiences. Another major change that took place in the middle years of this century was the baroque revival. A recent PBS telecast about the great harpsichordist Wanda Landowska showed how hard it was for this pioneer artist, born in 1879, to revive interest in Bach and Handel's keyboard music on the instrument it was written for. By the end of World War II, however, the sit uation had changed. Early music ensembles, vocal and instrumental, sprouted up and flourished abetted by the LP record, which made Bach's "Brandenburg Concertos" and Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" a compulsory part of every college student's bag and baggage. . i More recently, early music status has been extended into the 19th century, with period instrument orchestras devoted to Beethoyen, Berlioz and even Brahms. While classical concerts are fighting an uphill battle, opera has become more popular than ever. Once the plaything of the moneyed elite in a few large cities, opera now attracts mass audiences in small- and medium-sized cities throughout the country. Although the snob appeal of opera has not gone away, new technologies have made it easy to understand (through the running translations in supertitles that are used almost everywhere and, again, through radio, TV and recordings). ; The repertory, too, has changed. Following the Mozart revival, divas beginning with Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland resurrected the hitherto ignored operas of the bel canto school Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and early Verdi. "La Cenerentola" and "LItaliana in Algieri" vie today with "The Barber of Seville'1? "Verdi's "Stiffelio" and "Luisa Miller" are as likely-to be seenonTVas"Aida." Moreover, American operas are flourishing, from John Adams' "Nixon in China" to Andre Previn's "A Streetcar Named Desire." Today's prima donnas Renee Fleming, DawR Up-shaw, Jennifer Larmore all have recital discs devoted to American arias and songs in their discographies. Even our vocabulary has evolved. Say the word "diva," and it used to mean Helen Traubel or Maria Callas. Now it conjures up a picture of Whitney Houston or Diana Ross. The changes haven't been all for the better. Pops concerts, for example as exemplified by Arthur Fiedler's version in Boston used to mean a program of light classics such as an Offenbach overture or a Kabalevsky concerto, with a bit of Broadway interspersed. Now, the classical element is negligible a few snippets that no one listens to followed by a pop culture artist. . On balance, though, the changes have been for the better. People who would have Shunned classical music now have some of the'Riustc in their minds, some of the names on their lips, some of the vocabulary on their tongue's.' It remains for the musical leaders of the 21st century to find creative ways to utilize state-o'f-the'-att technology at their disposal without losing-sight of their primary product: the great music of Western civilization. -':. Robert Croan is the Post-Gazette classical music critic. i Loss theiii fi bsst from Ibzz steis By Rick Nowlin Post-Gazette Staff Writer Records are rated on a scale of one (poor) to four (excellent) stars: ere are some new releases from three of the best- I f I known names in contem-U Uporaryjazz: "The Feeling's Back," Chuck Mangione. Chesky. -k-kli Well, maybe ... Over the course of more than four decades, the 58-year-old flugelhornist from Rochester, N.Y., has moved from playing bebop trumpet in the 1950s and early '60s to writing classically oriented orchestral pieces, to his acclaimed quartet, to TV and movie themes, to more recent near-obscurity. This album of largely Brazilian-oriented music, recorded live last fall at St. Peter Episcopal Church in New York City, represents a considerable departure from much of his past work. That's especially the case since he generally wears one hat pun intended throughout, composing only four of the 10 selections, not playing piano or being involved in arranging or production. Originally I wasn't at all thrilled with it, but after a second and third listening, it grew on me. The melodic, meandering "Mountain Flight," with acoustic guitar by Jay Azzolina, formerly of Spyro Gyra, could become a standard with a little more exposure. The introduction to "Consuelo's Love Theme" is vintage Mangione, leaping one octave in the course of the tune. The arresting melody and chord progressions on "Fotografia" typify Jobim. The introduction to this rendition is led by Gerry Niewood, the saxophonist with Mangione's original quartet who plays flute exclusively on this recording, before Mangione enters with the lead line. Both wind players play off each other on "Quase," with assistance from cellist Sarah Carter. But lest you think he's doing material totally obscure to the average listener, you may recognize the melody of "Manha de Camaval" as the better-known "Black Orpheus" and "La Vie en Rose." Of course, music is cyclical, and you can't expect to sound the same over time I mean, I'd be more than a little concerned if Mangione were consistently trying to replicate the success of "Feels So Good." It's not entirely clear where 4. XMY U 1 "zt -I 'ft. Clockwise from top, Chuck Mangione, David Sanborn and lorn Scott all have new jazz releases that yield a measure of pleasure. he wants to go with his music in general and this project in particular, and perhaps that's the point. "Inside," David Sanborn. Elek-tra. ' The Tampa-born, St. Louis-bred Sanborn has never pretended to be one of the great virtuoso alto saxophonists of our day try to mention him in the same breath with Charlie Parker and he might shoot you. But you know that every piercing note he plays, he means it. That's why I find this CD a bit of a disappointment. This album Is as much a workout for producer and longtime associate Marcus Miller as it is for Sanborn. Best known as a stellar electric bass player, Miller on this CD also performs on Fender Rhodes, guitar, sitar, drums, clarinet and bass clarinet, as for the leader. For that matter, the slightly overwhelmed and that's saying something Sanborn lays back more than you may be used to hearing him, compared to his early material. The seductive "Corners (for Her-bie)," written by Miller, includes Wallace Roney and Michael Brecker as part of the backup horn section, is the best tune. "Brother Ray," another Miller composition and an apparent tribute to Ray Charles, employs that same gospelsoul feeling Charles is known for. Sanborn is at his evocative best on "Miss You," the 45-second "Cane" and a reworking of his old tune "Lisa." And try not to tap your foot on "When I'm with You." On the other hand, I have never liked the idea of a horn-playing leader simply becoming a side-man on his own album. Miller's lifeless arrangement of "Daydreaming," Cassandra Wilson on lead vocal, doesn't compare to the breezy bossa nova of Aretha ... ". . Franklin's original. Bill Witfie'rsv "Ain't No Sunshine," with a hardly convincing vocal by Sting.Voiily marginally better. Between Sanborn's soprano sax and the cello . of Hank Roberts, it even sounds a tad cluttered. - "Smokin' Section," Tom Sc6tt and the L.A. Express. Windham Hiiuazz. The 51 -year-old saxophonist and wind synthesist Scott is per-' haps best known for throwing;'" down some of the most recognized solos in recording history 4-Steely Dan's "Black Cow," Dan Fo-gelberg's "Heart Hotels" arid1, Blondie's "Rapture" amonglhem. Despite the album's name, much of the music is more f)en-" sive. It may disappoint some of' Scott's longtime fans, but thecal-; bum plays with just a little more -"feel," especially on the ballads and mid-tempo selections, than much of his previous work. And as usual, Scott's roster of musicians reads like a Who's Who of L.A. session players guitarists Paul Jackson Jr., Dean Parks and Buzz Feiten, drummers Harvey Mason and Vinnie Colaiuta, keyboardist Alan Pasqua and percussionists Alex Acuha and Luis Conte. "If I Could Cry" is a straight-ahead ballad that finds Scott's moody soprano sax hovering over a piano trio setting, and the soulful, languid "Lost Again" finds him on wind synth above background vocals from his wife Lynne'arid.,, Terry Wood. - - There's also a bit of a Southern flavor, with Feiten's country-gtyle guitar on "Cruisin' Bayou"-and a remake of "Ode to Billy Joe, vocal by Patty Smyth. It doesn't sound bad considering my aforementioned distaste for guest vocalists. On the other hand, I'd still-have ' dropped "I'll Still Be Lovin.' Ypu," which features vocalist Phil' Perry. That's not to say there's no funk on this CD indeed, it wouldn't be Scott without it and those tunes make up the best material. Consider the title track: "The Beat Is On," a 12-bar blues with backup horns, and "TCB in 'E,'" which was recorded live in Japan and is apparently a reworking of an L.A. Express tune from the 1 970s that Feiten especially tears up. S Vi i r i i

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