Alyn Shipton, Hi-De-Ho: The Life of Cab Calloway (Oxford, $29.95). This is, surprisingly, the first full-length biography of the creator of Minnie the Moocher and Smokey Joe, and it’s a solid piece of work, a bit short on color but thoroughly reliable and informative. Contrary to the received view of snobbish jazz critics, Calloway was a first-rate jazz-flavored pop singer whose vocals were comparable in quality to the brilliant ensemble playing of the big band that he led throughout the Thirties and Forties, and Shipton gives him his due. Must reading for swing buffs, especially in tandem with The Chu and Dizzy Years, Hep Records’ indispensable two-CD compilation of Calloway’s key 78s (TT).
Archives for November 11, 2010
Murray Perahia, Perahia Brahms (Sony Classical). An anthology of Brahms’ finest works for solo piano–the Handel Variations, the B Minor and G Minor Rhapsodies, and the ten intermezzi and other short pieces of Opp. 118 and 119–all played in an understated, unexaggerated style that emphasizes their autumnal virtues. Not only is this the strongest single-disc collection of Brahms’ piano music since Van Cliburn’s My Favorite Brahms, originally released in 1975, but Perahia’s chastely classical playing contrasts very nicely with Cliburn’s expansive romanticism (TT).
As I mentioned in this space last week, Danse Russe, my latest operatic collaboration with Paul Moravec, received its first workshop performance on Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia. Paul and I were both pleased by the results–but why take our word for it? In the following video, shot during the workshop, Paul talks about Danse Russe and Center City Opera Theater performs piano-accompanied excerpts from the latest draft of the score. Take a look and see for yourself:
If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s an earlier interview taped at my apartment two weeks ago in which I talk about the making of Danse Russe:
Here’s my list of recommended Broadway, off-Broadway, and out-of-town shows, updated weekly. In all cases, I gave these shows favorable reviews (if sometimes qualifiedly so) in The Wall Street Journal when they opened. For more information, click on the title.
Warning: Broadway shows marked with an asterisk were sold out, or nearly so, last week.
• Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (musical, PG-13/R, reviewed here)
• La Cage aux Folles (musical, PG-13, adult subject matter, reviewed here)
• Driving Miss Daisy * (drama, G, possible for smart children, closes Jan. 29, reviewed here)
• Fela! (musical, PG-13, adult subject matter, closes Jan. 2, reviewed here)
• Lombardi (drama, G/PG-13, a modest amount of adult subject matter, reviewed here)
• The Merchant of Venice * (Shakespeare, PG-13, adult subject matter, closes Jan. 9, reviewed here)
• Million Dollar Quartet (jukebox musical, G, reviewed here)
• The Pitmen Painters (serious comedy, G, too demanding for children, closes Dec. 12, reviewed here)
• Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps (comedy, G, suitable for bright children, original Broadway production reviewed here)
• Angels in America (drama, PG-13/R, adult subject matter, closes Feb. 20, reviewed here)
• Avenue Q (musical, R, adult subject matter and one show-stopping scene of puppet-on-puppet sex, reviewed here)
• The Fantasticks (musical, G, suitable for children capable of enjoying a love story, reviewed here)
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli plays the funeral march from Chopin’s Second Piano Sonata:
“Only the dead have seen the end of war.”
George Santayana, Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies