William Bailey (Betty Cuningham, 541 W. 25, up through Nov. 24). New table-top still lifes and nudes by the controversial American painter whose “realism” is tinged with subtle but unmistakable touches of abstraction. I wrote the introductory essay for the exhibition catalogue: “Today Bonnard is widely acknowledged as the major master he always was, and Morandi and Diebenkorn seem well on the way to achieving similar recognition. William Bailey will likely prove a harder sell, not just because of the American obsession with ‘cutting-edge’ art but also because his paintings never raise their voice….They give nothing away: you must come to them.” Here’s your chance to do just that (TT).
Archives for October 16, 2007
Sérgio and Odair Assad, Jardim abandonado (Nonesuch). A new CD by two brothers whose guitar playing is so virtuosic and mutually intuitive as to suggest a single musician with four arms and twenty fingers. The fare is ingeniously varied–Debussy, Jobim, Milhaud, Adam Guettel, even an idiomatic transcription of Rhapsody in Blue–and the performances breathtakingly sensuous (TT).
Mark Morris Dance Group, The Hard Nut. Finally on DVD, the 1992 TV version of Morris’ modern-dance Nutcracker, a postmodern, pop-inflected rethinking of the Tchaikovsky ballet. Don’t be fooled by the campy touches: The Hard Nut is funny, touching, deeply felt, and choreographically ingenious to the highest degree (TT).
I returned from my honeymoon last night to find my apartment full of unopened mail and my e-mailbox full of unread messages. What else is new?
I’d have much rather stayed in Connecticut, where Hilary is doing battle with a brutal case of post-marital sniffles, but Mr. Think Denk and I promised long ago to make a joint appearance this morning before a group of NEA Arts Journalism fellows, so I’m in Manhattan and Mrs. Teachout isn’t. Not until this weekend shall the twain meet again. Such are the lives of a busy married couple with two homes!
As for the events of the week just past, I’ll share some of them with you after I finish opening my mail, which won’t be today.
UPDATE: Some of the writers at this morning’s colloquy told me that they’d read my stuff when young and found it inspiring. Talk about having mixed feelings about a compliment…
I’ve written a fair amount in this space and elsewhere about Chris Thile, lately of Nickel Creek, most recently when he and the band performed with Fiona Apple in Central Park. In March I penned the program notes for a Carnegie Hall concert in which Chris and his new group premiered a large-scale piece called The Blind Leading the Blind:
The Blind Leaving the Blind is a 40-minute suite in four movements for voice, mandolin, violin, banjo, guitar, and bass. That’s the standard bluegrass lineup, of course, but The Blind Leaving the Blind doesn’t fit into that familiar pigeonhole, or any other. It’s not a medley-like string of songs, but a through-composed piece in which vocal passages and extended instrumental interludes are woven together into a tightly integrated whole that fuses the song-based structures of folk and pop with the large-scale, organically developed forms of classical music. If Chris were a classical composer, he might have called it a cantata, but that old-fashioned word suggests something far more formal in tone than the surprise-filled musical steeplechase that is The Blind Leaving the Blind….
For all these reasons and more, I was delighted to find the following press release in my e-mailbox when I got back to Manhattan:
Nonesuch Records has signed mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile as well as his new band, Punch Brothers: Chris Eldridge (guitar), Greg Garrison (bass), Noam Pikelny (banjo), and Gabe Witcher (fiddle). The band’s label debut will be released on February 26, 2008.
Thile is perhaps best known as a member of the Grammy Award-winning trio Nickel Creek, with whom he had played since childhood. He formed the band now known as Punch Brothers for his 2006 Sugar Hill record, How to Grow a Woman from the Ground. In a review of that album, the Chicago Tribune said, “After wandering ever further from bluegrass with Nickel Creek and his own solo albums over the past decade, mandolinist/singer Thile charges back to home base with a modernist bluegrass grand slam. Strutting their stuff with the boss is Thile’s cherry-picked crop of like-aged (mid-20s) acoustic virtuosi, including local boys Greg Garrison on bass and Noam Pikelny on banjo,” and the Wisconsin State JournalThe Blind Leaving the Blind, which the band performed at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall earlier this year, as part of label-mate John Adams’ In Your Ear festival.
Thile’s solo records and collaborations also will be released by Nonesuch, beginning with an album with composer/bassist Edgar Meyer later in 2008.
“In the more than two decades I have been at Nonesuch, this is the first time we have made two signings at once. The combination of natural talent, deep musicianship, and hard work has rarely been more obvious in a musical group of any genre than it is with Punch Brothers,” said label President Bob Hurwitz. “And regarding Chris–by the time I had heard him play a handful of phrases, I hoped that one day we might have the good fortune to work with him. He is the type of musician who comes around about once in a decade, and we are thrilled to begin a relationship with him now.”
Thile adds, “I’ve been a Nonesuch fan for years. It seems like every other record I fall in love with has that little ‘N’ on the back. When I found out the boys and I were going to be working with them I felt like I had been drafted by the Cubs. And I can’t imagine being more excited about a project than I am about Punch Brothers. The possibilities are endless with these guys!”
Review copies of the Punch Brothers album will be available later this fall, along with details of early-2008 performance dates.
I can’t wait.
“When the shrivelled skin of the ordinary is stuffed out with meaning, it satisfies the senses amazingly.”
Virginia Woolf, Orlando