June 5, 2009
"Some say that no one ever leaves Montreal, for that city, like Canada itself, is designed to preserve the past, a past that happened somewhere else."
Leonard Cohen, The Favourite Game
Posted June 5, 2009 12:00 AM
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5885 entries and counting
A list of new things we've liked (subject to unexpected and wildly capricious updating). EXHIBITION CD BOOK DVD PLAY
Not new, but still worth a look or listen (and no less subject to change without notice). ANTHOLOGY CD
This is a blog about the arts in New York City and the rest of America, written by Terry Teachout, Laura Demanski (otherwise known as Our Girl in Chicago, or "OGIC" for short), and Carrie Frye (who signs her postings "CAAF"). Terry, who lives in New York, is the drama critic of The Wall Street Journal and the music critic of Commentary.
Terry's latest book, Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, will be published in December by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the U.S. and JR Books in England. One of his essays is included in Robert Gottlieb's Reading Dance, published last year by Pantheon. He contributed an essay to Coudal Partners' Field-Tested Books (as did OGIC) and wrote the introductions to William Bailey on Canvas and the paperback edition of Elaine Dundy's The Dud Avocado.
To watch Terry's wsj.com review of Guys and Dolls, go here.
Terry is collaborating with Paul Moravec on The Letter, an operatic version of Somerset Maugham's 1927 play. It was commissioned by the Santa Fe Opera and will open there on July 25, 2009. Here is an ongoing series of progress reports on the writing and production of The Letter.
Lend me your ears (and eyes)
Men at work
Men at work (II)
Men at work (III)
Men at work (IV)
For better and worse
Men at work (V)
Men (and women) at work (VI)
Notes from an unkept diary
The case for lower-case opera
The envelope, please
Right turn at Albuquerque
Men at work (VII)
Scene stealing (I)
Scene stealing (II)
Becoming an artist
In one piece
Among the brethren
By the clock
No, but I heard the movie
The Doctor is in
A doll's house
Free at last
Looking for trouble
Step away from the car, sir
A ripping good show
All blessings are mixed
Almanac (apropos of The Letter, I)
Almanac (apropos of The Letter, II)
Almanac (apropos of The Letter, III)
Tied to the tracks
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The Collage Aesthetic of Louis Armstrong: "In the Cause of Happiness" (Peter Jay Sharp Arcade, Frederick P. Rose Hall, Broadway at 60th St., up through Sept. 26). Now that a book of Louis Armstrong's collages has been published, a growing number of music lovers are becoming aware that the greatest jazz musician of the twentieth century was also a gifted amateur artist who decorated the boxes that held his reel-to-reel tape collection and the walls of his New York home with colorful scissors-and-Scotch-tape assemblages of newspaper and magazine clippings whose freely associational quality recalls the "visionary art" of untrained painters. Jazz at Lincoln Center is currently mounting an exhibition of large-scale reproductions of Armstrong's collages, and a selection of the fragile one-of-a-kind originals will also be on view at the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens through July 12. Both shows offer a fascinating glimpse of a little-known aspect of Armstrong's proliferating creativity (TT).
The Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions (1935-1946) (Mosaic, seven CDs). Most jazz critics regard the late Twenties and early Thirties as Satchmo's peak years, but a vocal and steadily growing minority begs to differ. This box set will give them plenty of ammunition. Armstrong had simplified and purified his flamboyant style by the time he signed with Decca in 1935, and no apologies of any kind need be made for the recordings he made with his big band and a delightfully wide variety of guest artists, including Sidney Bechet, Bing Crosby and the Mills Brothers. Put on "2:19 Blues," "Darling Nellie Gray," "Ev'ntide," "Jodie Man," "Jubilee," "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen," "Struttin' with Some Barbecue," or "Wolverine Blues" and you'll get the point instantly. Many of these 78 sides are comparatively unfamiliar, and all have been digitally remastered to gorgeous effect. Dan Morgenstern's liner notes deserve a Grammy, or maybe a Nobel Prize. This one's a must, and then some (TT).
Judith Mackrell, Bloomsbury Ballerina: Lydia Lopokova, Imperial Dancer and Mrs. John Maynard Keynes (Phoenix, $14.95 paper). She was a star of the Ballets Russes whose long list of lovers included Igor Stravinsky and Heywood Broun. He was a world-famous economist, a member of the Bloomsbury circle, and a confirmed homosexual. They were, in short, the least likely of couples--but they fell in love, married, and lived happily ever after, much to the dismay of Keynes' viciously snobbish friends, Virginia Woolf foremost among them. Their story had previously been told in bits and pieces, but Judith Mackrell, the dance critic of the Guardian, has now given us an impeccably well-written book that pulls a half-forgotten ballerina out of the memory hole and restores her to her proper place among the key figures of twentieth-century ballet. Lopokova's marriage to Keynes turns out to have been a full-fledged romance on both sides, and Mackrell describes it with sympathy and candor. Rarely have I read a better dance biography--or a more touching love story (TT).
Van Cliburn in Moscow, Vol. 1 (VAI). The long, barren years of Van Cliburn's retirement from the concert hall have largely blotted out the memory of the young virtuoso who stunned the world by winning the 1958 Tchaikovsky Competition at the height of the Cold War. Few people under the age of fifty know that he was--for a time--one of the finest pianists of the twentieth century. This disc, the first of five drawn from Russian videotapes of concerts given by Cliburn in his prime years, contains 1962 performances of Tchaikovsky's First Concerto and Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto accompanied by Kiril Kondrashin and the Moscow Philharmonic, plus two encores, Chopin's F Minor Fantasie and the Liszt Twelfth Hungarian Rhapsody, a Cliburn warhorse that the pianist never got around to recording commercially. All are played with the expansive yet firmly disciplined romanticism that can also be heard on his best studio recordings. An unforgettable document of a great artist who lost his way in mid-career and spent the rest of his life wandering in the wilderness of celebrity (TT).
The Norman Conquests (Circle in the Square, 235 W. 50, closes July 25). Alan Ayckbourn's 1973 comic triptych--three farces about adultery and its discontents, set on the same weekend in different rooms of the same house--is a jolting combination of laugh-till-you-choke lunacy and deep melancholy. This long-awaited Broadway revival by London's Old Vic does it full justice. The three plays can be seen individually and in any order, but the best way to see them is in a single day-long sitting. Specially priced marathon performances of "Table Manners," "Living Together," and "Round and Round the Garden" take place each Saturday and on May 17 and June 28. Break the piggy bank and go while you can (TT).
Out of the Past
Louis Kronenberger (ed.), The Portable Johnson and Boswell. This one's for OGIC, who's teetering on the edge of reading James Boswell's magisterial but long-winded Life of Samuel Johnson. In 1955 Louis Kronenberger abridged Boswell's Life for the Viking Portable series, filling out the volume with a judicious selection of other writings by Johnson and Boswell. This now-forgotten book, which has been out of print for years and years, is an excellent way to experience the Life without braving its occasional longueurs. Used copies are blessedly easy to find (TT).
Fats Waller, Handful of Keys. Every self-respecting record collection needs a generous slice of the collected works of Fats Waller, the stride pianist and comic singer whose 78s can put a smile on the sourest of faces. Proper Records' imported four-CD box set, originally released in 2004 and readily available in this country, contains ninety-five tracks that come about as close as is possible to covering all the Waller-related bases. A few classics are absent, but if you don't know what they are, you won't miss them. Meanwhile, put on "Serenade for a Wealthy Widow" or "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie" and see if you don't become happier within seconds. No jazz musician--not even Satchmo himself--has ever succeeded in squeezing more joy into a three-minute package (TT).
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Douglas McLennan's blog
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
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Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...
Jerome Weeks on Books
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog
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Archive 5885 entries and counting
A list of new things we've liked (subject to unexpected and wildly capricious updating).
Not new, but still worth a look or listen (and no less subject to change without notice).