Thursday, October 30, 2008
WOEA Day is a professional development day for educators in the Miami Valley. Every year the challenge is to find valuable, enriching and/or informative workshops to attend on that day. This year Cityfolk and the Dayton Visual Arts Center came to my rescue with a day of drawing and Jazz! The opportunity to learn about a local Jazz great, listen to live music, and meet and work with a visiting artist was a winning combination.
The morning started with an informal but well-researched presentation about “wall art” artists and their contributions. It was fascinating to compare the 15,000 BCE drawings in the Lascaux Caves of France (above) with the subway and graffiti artworks by such modern day artists as Keith Haring (below) and Banksy. All these artists saw the empty canvas of their worlds and wanted to give the public their art. A quote by Sol DeWitt summed up the concept of wall art and set the theme for the day. He said, “Your work...is a form of play. Lighten up and have fun with it.”
Artist Kathleen Thum showed us her work (below). Her wall drawings have a wonderful layer effect which adds depth and dimension to her wall installments. Under her direction, we then moved to the walls of DVAC to try our hand at creating our interpretation of music of Billy Strayhorn. The wonderful trio of Jim Smith (guitar), Hal Melia (tenor sax) and Mike Scharfe (bass) played jazz pieces by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn for all of us as we attempted to create with pencil and paint the feelings the music inspired in us. What a relaxing and personal experience.
Jazz is an art form that manifests itself in improvisation and collaboration. It can be at once experimental and unpredictable. Our attempts at creating a wall installment fit the same descriptors. The 15 educators who participated came from a range of areas – preschool to high school; art, music, special education and counseling! Yet we were guided so well by musicians and artist that we were not intimidated by our task.
Dave Barber rounded the day off with a discussion of the life and music of Billy Strayhorn. The excerpts from Robert Levi’s documentary film Lush Life along with Dave’s detailed knowledge of the life and talent of Strayhorn were fascinating. Between the movie, Dave’s comments and the musical interpretation by the trio of musicians, I am now a Billy Strayhorn fan and look forward to April 11- 18 when Cityfolk will host a week-long salute to Strayhorn. This was a relaxing, informative and inspiring workshop.
Jane Black of DVAC did a wonderful job of hosting such a welcoming and professional day. The wedding of Jazz and drawing was a great combination.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Ray LaMontagne’s grainy voice has regularly been compared to Van Morrison’s and Tim Buckley’s. He’s a low profile guy who is viewed as somewhat of a recluse. He doesn’t enjoy doing interviews, refuses to make music videos, and hates reviews of his work—be they positive or negative. It may be his anti-social behavior that makes him so likable and easy to relate to. Music is his life. He is the type of guy who creates music as if no one will listen to it. He treats today’s songs the same way he treated the songs he wrote ten years ago working in a shoe factory, not knowing his future as a full time musician lay ahead. His first album, the emotionally charged Trouble (2004), and the more solemn introspective follow up Till the Sun Turns Black (2006), greatly reflect his personality. However, Ray LaMontagne's third album, Gossip in the Grain, leaves listeners picturing him with a slight and gentle smile on his face.
Gossip in the Grain opens with the singer showcasing some Memphis-style soul on "You Are the Best Thing." Horns, strings, and a female backing chorus underscore his warm up tempo rasp. The swinging, banjo-driven "Hey Me, Hey Mama" is a lighthearted track - the rare tune where the fun being had in the studio is audible and immediately contagious. Other tracks like “I Still Care for You” and “A Falling Through,” so rich in atmosphere that his voice carries beautiful melodies like an instrument, showcase the Ray LaMontange people have grown to know and love.
Gossip in the Grain is Ray LaMontagne's most adventurous recording, yet in many ways it's also the most focused and well executed. The album grabs listeners with a side of him not previously revealed and keeps their attention by maintaining his unique and genuine tone. This is a fine and progressive follow up to his very successful first two albums.
Visit Ray LaMontagne's Amazon Store to hear samples from all three of his CDs for yourself.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
One of the miracles of 20th century music occurred in the 1950s when the Basie band was reborn in the 1950s with the two Franks--Wess and Foster--singer Joe Williams and arrangements by the late Neal Hefti to name one of many. A new generation got to hear a new kind of glorious. Classics such as "Jumpin' At The Woodside" were given a fresh coat of paint. New diamonds such as Hefti's "Lil' Darlin" and Joe Williams features such as "Every Day (I Have The Blues)" made their mark in sparkling, hi-fidelity sound. One of the reasons that miracle occurred was the level of musicianship involved and a cornerstone of that sound was Frank Wess.
But Wess is not just a living link to one of the most magnificent big band sounds in the history of American music. He is one of its very finest instrumentalists. He remains a composer and arranger of the first rank, a tenor saxophonist whose sound has aged like fine wine and whose flute playing remains, over a half century later, as good as it gets in jazz. You will have a rare chance to hear this remarkable musician on Saturday, November 15 at the Dayton Art Institute. His all-star quintet makes an appearance in Dayton as part of a two-stop run to the Midwest (the date was arranged while this band was performing at New York City's Village Vanguard this past summer).
The quintet features trumpet powerhouse Terell Stafford, Russian guitarist Ilya Lushtak, bass virtuoso Rufus Reid and the immaculate drumming of Winard Harper. Awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master fellowship in 2007, Frank Wess is still making music that makes people happy. Don't just take my word for it; watch this YouTube clip of the quintet at the Village Vanguard. Then treat yourself to the live performance on November 15. Buy your tickets online or call 937-496-3863.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Saturday, October 18, 2008
A real highlight of the show for me was when Dan Stacey on stage with a fiddle and a chair. He sat down and lit into a French-Canadian tune and foot percussion, then leapt up and wowed us all with some amazingly athletic Ottawa Valley stepdancing. This is the same sort of dancing that April Verch introduced to Dayton a couple of years ago: the body is much looser than Irish stepdancing, but there are similar steps patterns. I see tap dance in it as well, and fellow Cityfolk staffer Kelsa McClellan saw similarities to hip hop house dancing. It was a delight. Maura O'Connell sang a few songs in each set, including two of my favorites: "Maggie" and "Trouble in the Fields". I'm more familiar with each as sung by other singers; to hear them in her earthy, emotive voice was pleasure itself.
You may think that would be enough performers for one party, but there was one more: Dermot Henry. He is polite and unassuming off-stage, and amazingly funny as soon as he's standing behind a microphone! Last night, all the songs he performed were ones he'd also written, ending with "A E I O U", whose chorus was laughter! Not many performers could pull off lyrics like those.
All in all, it was a fabulous show. The performers are all brilliant at what they do, and had a blast doing it all together. The range of voices and performers kept the whole show fresh and fun. "An Irish Homecoming" is only playing a few dates this season, and I'm so glad that one of them was here in Dayton!
Thursday, October 16, 2008
The krump dance style was born organically within South Central Los Angeles less than a decade ago. Its originators and most seasoned practitioners execute movements with extreme physical ability, precise technique, and more aggressive energy than I have ever witnessed in any other dance form.While the outside on-looker might misrepresent krump as "violent" and stereotype its practitioners as "hoodlums," any krump dancer will tell you that the dance is highly spiritual and communal. The definition of krumping on www.krumpkings.com--a website maintained by a group of the dance style's founders--it "is a way for dancers to express emotions and different aspects of their personalities as well as a way to cope with the stresses and pressures of everyday life in a constructive manner." The website goes on to say, "In Krumping, a dancer tells a story through the voice of his or her 'character'…A dancer may express his or herself in any way, just as long as it is authentic and organic. In Krump, there is no right or wrong way to express one's self. It is an art form owned by feelings, not words or rules."
And a truly impressive art form it is! In my opinion, XTreme Movement "tore the roof off" of the Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood on October 4, 2008, and I was honored and humbled to share the stage with these talented artists who are also important carriers of cultural history. Nonetheless, it looks like krumpers will be fighting for respect within the contemporary dance world for some time to come; the Dance Magazine review referred to XTreme Movement's performance as "krumper types vying for the spotlight amid groups of raucous dancers flailing about as if on speed," and in the next sentence refers to group of caucasian dancers who incorporated "contemporary vocabulary with street [dance]" as "magnificent" and "artistry, like cream [that] rises to the top." Need I dig deeper to point out the, perhaps unintentional but nonetheless, obvious racial undertones in this statement?
The contemporary dance theater community is not ready to review such a raw, organic and fresh African American folk art form such as krumping. I have more confidence in the folk and traditional arts community to give krump and the rest of American urban street dance its due respect as art forms to be upheld, respected, and recorded as important pieces of our American folk art history. If you have a hard time seeing hip hop as a traditional folk art, follow the link to read my Enewsletter article about it from June, 2008.
See videos of Krumping at http://www.krumpkings.com/video/. The one by Tight Eyez (upper left) is a great example.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Cityfolk membership DEFINITELY has its privileges!
Cityfolk members are a special, growing bunch. As we enter the third year of our reconstituted membership campaign, we've gone from 300 members our first year to over 400 members in our year that just ended on September 30! Thanks to all that have supported us by becoming members of Cityfolk.With the help of The Marketing Formula, we've developed an entire new set of member gifts that are just FLYIN' off of our shelves! Not only do these new items have our cool, new logo on them, but they also allow you to proudly display your support of Cityfolk when you're out and about. To take a look at these brand new items, go to www.cityfolk.org and click on the membership button on the home page.
Cityfolk key ring - which also doubles as a bottle opener/penlight!
Cityfolk bucket hat - perfect gift for that hard-to-shop for friend or relative!
Cityfolk baseball cap - a classic!
Cityfolk tote bag - be green while supporting Cityfolk!
Cityfolk t-shirt - be the first one on your block to proudly wear our new
Finally, as if all of these items were not enough, we will ALSO be mailing every one of our 2008-2009 members a Cityfolk Membership card that will be good for 10% off of drip coffee and bakery items at Boston Stoker Coffee until September 30, 2009! AND Thanks to our new partner Boston Stoker Coffee, we will also be hosting a "Member Hospitality Room" at all of our shows during our upcoming Season of Events. Your membership card will be your entry into the "Member Hospitality Room" and we'll have coffee and treats available from Boston Stoker for you to enjoy before our scheduled performance.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
The freak tailwind of Ike leaves
Beginning with the bright spotlight that Paul Simon’s Graceland project put on South Africa’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo (presented by Cityfolk last season), the world has become captivated by the vocal sounds of
So when you find yourself looking for a transcendent pick-me-up in a fall that has been exhausting the patience for most of us, look no further than Soweto Gospel Choir. Still need convincing? Check out this video on YouTube.
Monday, October 6, 2008
At this year's Festival, I found a new love: scherenschnitte, or German paper cutting. Material culture artist Mary Gaynier made it easy for me to find this out, by providing templates, scissors and hole punches for festival-goers to try. Over the course of the weekend, I squeezed in time to try each pattern.
What's your favorite memory of this summer's Festival?
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
The posts here will bring you the same range of authors and subjects that you have enjoyed in our Enewsletter, and head off in some new directions, but in the blog format. Our plan is to bring you new content about twice a week. We welcome your comments and ideas.