MusicWatch Weekly: no leftovers

This week's Oregon concerts, with trimmings

MusicWatch has a confession to make: it seriously overindulged at last week’s holiday table. In truth, MusicWatch has been putting on the preview poundage (the freshman 1500?) quite a bit since leaving parental supervision for its own place, so ArtsWatch paterfamilias Barry Johnson staged a needed intervention, placing MusicWatch on a strict 800-word limit (and eventually 500, but we can’t go, uh, cold turkey right off the bat) until it slims down to the concision of  A.L Adams’s svelte DramaWatch or achieves the noble balanced proportions Jamuna Chiarini’s ample DanceWatch. If you want to add your own garnishes, please do so in the comments section, where they won’t count against the word limit or MusicWatch’s waistline.

Legends of the Celtic Harp
Patrick Ball, Lisa Lynne and Aryeh Frankfurter combine Celtic and English seasonal music (using three Celtic Harps, Swedish nyckelharpa, fiddle, bandura, bouzouki) and stories including A Child’s Christmas in Wales, a chapter from The Wind in the Willows, and passages from Shakespeare, Yeats, and Thomas Hardy.
Friday, Cerimon House, Portland.

Portland Gay Men’s Chorus performs its holiday show this weekend.

Portland Gay Men’s Chorus
Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice and other seasonal songs.
Friday-Sunday, Newmark Theater, Portland.

Portland State’s acclaimed opera program presents a piano quartet operetta of the classic fairy tale concocted from vintage German and French songs. Stay turned for Angela Allen’s ArtsWatch review.
Friday-Dec. 17, PSU Studio Theater, Lincoln Hall, Portland State University.

Oregon Symphony and Andre Watts
Scandinavian sounds by Grieg, Nielsen, Sibelius, and fellow Finn Joonas Kokkonen.
Friday, Smith Auditorium, Willamette University, Salem, and Saturday-Monday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.

Andre Watts performs with the Oregon Symphony.

Soror Mystica
ParaTheatrical ReSearch PDX’s latest ritual music/ theater/ dance/film/performance art creation (See Mitch Ritter’s ArtsWatch review of the company’s earlier Bardoville.) Friday-Sunday, Performance Works NW, Portland.

The annual free concert (with donations benefiting a good cause) features familiar carols with 80 voice choir, a brass octet, taiko drums, kotos and massive organ.
Friday and Sunday, Bethel Congregational United Church of Christ 5150 SW Watson, Beaverton, and Saturday,
St. Peter Catholic Church, 8623 SE Woodstock Blvd, Portland.

Beaverton’s iSing chorus used video in its winter 2013 concert.

“Singin’ in the Rain”
Peg Major directs, Robert Ashens conducts and Caitlin Christopher choreographed The Shedd’s original production of Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s 1985 stage adaptation of their classic film comedy about 1920s silent film stars making the turbulent transition to talkies.
Friday-Dec. 17, The Shedd, Eugene.

“Amahl and the Night Visitors”
For decades beginning in 1951, American composer Gian Carlo Menotti’s beloved one-act opera was a perennial holiday treat on NBC television. Thanks to Menotti’s appealing score and story about three kings, a family, and a series of miracles, Amahl is still the most frequently produced opera in the world — a family friendly holiday performance presented by one of Oregon’s finest chamber vocal groups, The Ensemble of Oregon, composed of top singers from the city’s big choirs.
Saturday-Sunday, First Christian Church, 1314 SW Park Avenue, Portland.

Christina & Michelle Naughton
Along with European classics by Debussy and Ravel (his enchanting child-inspired Mother Goose music), Mozart, Chopin, Schubert, and Tchaikovsky, the award-winning sibling duo pianists play 20th century American music, including delights by wild card Conlon Nancarrow, John Adams’s Hallelujah Junction, and Paul Schoenfield’s Five Days from the Life of a Manic Depressive.
Saturday & Sunday, Portland State University, Lincoln Hall.


ArtsWatch Weekly: Great Graham

Revisiting Martha Graham's potent power of the past; a Wanderlust Mother's Day; Michael Curry's "Perséphone" with the Symphony; Brett Campbell's music picks

Martha Graham created her legendary American modern dance company in 1926, and it’s difficult to imagine, more than 90 years later, just how earth-shattering her early works must have seemed. Graham carved legends out of time and space: intense, pristine, pared to the bone. She created a hyper-expressionist, essentially American style of dance, built on the works of Denishawn and other pioneers but reimagined in the movement possibilities and theatrical impulses of her own body.

She collaborated with many of the great composers and visual artists of her time, which was long and artistically fertile: born in 1894, she created her final dance in 1990, the year before she died at age 96. Her bold, emphatic approach to dance can seem overstated to contemporary audiences. Yet it carries the intensity and hyper-expressionism of the great silent movies, and if you just give it a chance, something of the pure rawness of her glory years comes through, as if it were new all over again.

Martha Graham in “Dark Meadow,” 1946. Reproduced with permission of Martha Graham Resources, a division of The Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance, www.marthagraham.org. Library of Congress.

No company built by a daringly original dancemaker – not Graham’s, or Balanchine’s, or Alvin Ailey’s, or José Limón’s – can survive on memories of its founder alone, and it can be a tricky business to balance the tradition of what was once radical with the need to remain in the contemporary swim of things. The Graham company, under current artistic director Janet Eilber, mixes things up boldly. When the company performs Wednesday evening in Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall as part of the White Bird dance season the program will include works by a couple of high-profile contemporary dancemakers: the Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato, who now runs the Berlin State Ballet, and the Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. But the core of the program will be two of Graham’s own works, 1948’s Diversion of Angels and Dark Meadow Suite, a distillation of an ambitious 1946 work that ran 50 minutes in its original form (the suite is much shorter).


Anat Cohen and Eliane Elias previews: double dose of Brazilian jazz

Two PDXJazz concerts this week showcase fruitful combinations of Brazilian and American music


Fifty-seven years after the birth of bossa nova, Brazilian music continues to stir up listeners with its danceable rhythms, beguiling melodies, and sweet soft Portuguese lyrics. In less than a week, Portlanders will have the chance to hear radically different styles of buoyant Brazilian jazz from two popular artists.

Eliane Elias. Photo: Daniel Azoulay.

Anat Cohen and Eliane Elias are as versatile as their music is varied. Elias sings and plays piano; Cohen plays clarinet and saxophone, though the clarinet will take the lead for this concert. Composers and arrangers as well as performers, both artists are admired for their energetic and appealing stage presences; they usually have audiences on their feet, begging for more.

Both sell out their concerts when they visit Portland (and Elias anywhere she goes, including Japan and London). Cohen plays with Trio Brasileiro May 4 at the Old Church, and Elias performs May 9 at Winningstad Theatre, a venue she filled in 2016 at the PDX Jazz Festival. Both shows are nearly sold out.

Expect to hear lots of cuts from their new releases, including Cohen’s Outra Coisa: The Music of Moacir Santos with guitarist Marcello Goncalves and Rosa Dos Ventos (Wind Rose), recorded with Trio Brasileiro, whom she’ll play with at the Portland gig. Elias’s latest album, Dance of Time, released earlier this spring, is a tribute to the samba.

Anat Cohen: Beguiled by Brazil

Named Clarinetist of the Year for nine straight years by the Jazz Journalist Association, virtuosa clarinetist Cohen lives in New York and grew up in Israel with her musician brothers, saxophonist Yuval and trumpeter Avishai. In the last several years, Brazilian choro music stole her heart. “I disappear inside choro,” Cohen said from New York City earlier this spring. “I am completely in love with it.”

Anat Cohen & Trio Brasileiro perform at Portland Old Church Thursday.

Choro, translated as “cry” or “lament,” is considered the first urban music of Brazil, originating in Rio de Janeiro in the late 19th century. The music usually has a fast upbeat tempo and leaves plenty of room for improvisation. “As a clarinetist, I can be the soloist or join in the counterpoint with the 7-string guitar,” she explains. “As with the style of early New Orleans jazz, choro functions on group polyphony where everyone has a role yet it’s open and free-spirited, with simultaneous melodies happening. It can be groove-oriented like a party, or it can be full of saudade, of longing. It can be demanding and require virtuosity. It is a perfect mix of classical music and jazz, where it demands precision” though each musician can add interpretation.

Now that she has caught the Brazil bug, Cohen visits the country often, performing, recording and jamming. “I fell in love with the Brazilian way of life,” she says. “I feel alive there. When I first went to Brazil, I immediately felt that music there doesn’t just belong to musicians but to everyone, as part of their daily lives. Some people play, some sing, some dance, some clap along. It’s part of the social fabric. I like that.”

Trio Brasileiro (Dudu Maia on bandolim, the Brazilian mandolin, and two brothers, 7-string guitarist Douglas Lora and percussionist Alexandre Lora) met Cohen in Port Townsend, Wash. at the Centrum workshops, a choro-music hotspot. Formed in 2011, Trio Brasileiro is dedicated to performing traditional choro music as well as their own contemporary choro compositions. For their latest album, Rosa Dos Ventos, the four musicians lived together in Brazil for a week, composing arranging and recording.

But the music, wherever played, “is inseparable from the culture,” Cohen insists. “In Brazil, boom, you’re there and the music starts. A little mandolin, a bit of guitar, then the clarinet. You’re just hanging out, having some beers, and someone’s going to take the instruments out and the listeners are going to become part of the scene.”

Eliane Elias: Total immersion 

Eliane Elias has lived in the Big Apple since 1981, but her roots are Brazilian. Born in Sao Paulo, she studied piano as a child. At 17 she worked with singer/songwriter Toquinho and with Antonio Carlos Jobim’s lyricist, poet Vinicius Moraes. Considered one of Jobim’s best interpreters, she will be joined in Portland by her trio with Brazilians Rubens de La Corte on guitar and drummer Rafael Barata. Bassist Marc Johnson doubles as Elias’ husband and business partner.

Elias has been making albums since 1984. On her first, Amanda, she collaborated with her former husband, trumpeter Randy Brecker; they named the album for their daughter, also a musician. She has seven Grammy nominations and in 2016 won a Grammy in the Best Latin Jazz Album category for Made in Brazil.

Her creative process often trumps the details of everyday life. When called for this interview at her New York City apartment after a trip to Europe, where she sold out numerous concerts, she was in the midst of a arranging and composing. Totally immersed in the music, she’d forgotten to eat dinner, among other things.

“The creative process is a great joy of mine,” Elias explains. “And there’s the discipline. When I was young, everyone else was going to the beach or to parties when I was at the piano. I’m no lazybones. Success is is a combination of talent, a strong will to do things, and hard work.”

Her silky, sultry alto has ripened and lowered as she has aged, giving her greater range.“Being born in Brazil, I was classically trained and became an improviser and composer at a young age,” she recalls. “I always have done a variety of music. I’m never bored.”

Neither are her many fans. With more than 2 million album sales, Elias is wildly popular in Europe and Japan, perhaps more so than in the U.S. She has no intention of slowing down on stage or off, she says. “The music is the motivation for everything I do.”

PDX Jazz presents Anat Cohen & Trio Brasileiro, 7:30 p.m. May 4, The Old Church, 1422 S.W. 11th Ave., and Eliane Elias, 7:30 p.m. May 9, Winningstad Theatre, 1111 S.W. Broadway, Portland. Tickets information online  or call 503-228-5299.

Angela Allen lives in Portland and writes about the arts. She is a published poet and photographer and teaches creative and journalistic writing to Portland-area students. Her web site is angelaallenwrites.com.  

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