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STUNNING LINCOLN CENTER CONCERT LAUNCHES FIFTH WEILL SEASON
by Philip Beard
Saturday, October 01, 2016
Happy times in a packed Weill Hall Oct. 1: The insouciant, irrepressible, immensely talented trumpeter / bandleader Wynton Marsalis and his powerful, polished Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra opened Weill’s fifth season with a superb program of jazz classics and classics-to-be that set a high bar for t...
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LATE BEETHOVEN EXPLORED AT MMF CONCERT IN PRESTON HALL
by Paula Mulligan
Thursday, July 21, 2016
The Mendocino Music Festival performance in Preston Hall July 22 was titled “Late Beethoven,” and was the final presentation in the tribute to the composer that was part of this year’s Festival.  Pianist Susan Waterfall has been giving a series of lecture dealing with Beethoven’s life and music, and...
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ANGUISH AND TRIUMPH IN MENDOCINO FESTIVAL'S BIG TENT
by Kayleen Asbo
Sunday, July 10, 2016
The Mendocino Music Festival is highlighting Beethoven this summer, and July 10’s program in the tent could have appropriately borrowed the subtitle from Jan Swafford’s 2014 biography of the composer, Anguish and Triumph. The Festival’s second classical concert paired two Beethoven works wit...
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ARCANE ARENSKY TRIO HIGHLIGHTS NAVARRO'S SEASON OPENING CONCERT IN SCHROEDER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 04, 2015
One would have thought that the glitz surrounding Lang Lang’s 101 Pianists Foundation program Oct. 4 in Weill would have upstaged chamber music at the same time in nearby Schroeder Hall. Not to worry, as the Trio Navarro continues to perform sometimes-neglected gems from the trio literature with a ...
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TRUMPET ON FIRE
by Philip Beard
Friday, September 11, 2015
Chris Botti’s show at SSU’s Green Music Center Sept. 11 was a real barnburner. The highly acclaimed, much-traveled trumpeter--his group is on the road over 300 days a year, playing always to large audiences--was making his second appearance at Weill Hall and Lawn, two years after his sold-out first ...
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GRAND GESTURES IN VIEAUX'S WEILL HALL GUITAR RECITAL
by Gary Digman
Friday, October 18, 2013
Weill Hall is an imposing building situated on the Sonoma State campus, and still has that “new car smell” about it. I was looking forward to hearing guitarist Jason Vieaux’s performance October 18, not only to hear the artist but to experience the acoustics of the hall about which I have been heari...
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BOTTI'S BAND TRUMPETS HIGH-WIRE DERRING DO IN SUMMER-ENDING WEILL CONCERT
by Philip Beard
Sunday, August 25, 2013
No question about it: Weill Hall was the happening place to be on Aug. 25 with trumpeter Chris Botti and his entourage delivering two and a half hours of jazzy, rocky, funky, high-wire derring-do to an audience that loved every minute of it. Almost. The performance was stunning both figuratively an...
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LATE WINTER TURNS TO SPRING IN CREATIVE ARTS SERIES CONCERT
by Michael J. Mello
Sunday, February 24, 2013
A concert of Renaissance and Celtic songs for voice, lute and recorder was presented by soprano and lutenist Doris Williams with the assistance of recorder virtuoso Claudia Liliana Gantivar and mandolinist Mike Bell. The Feb. 24 event in Santa Rosa’s Resurrection Parish Church was part of the Creat...
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MESSIAEN PIANO PRELUDES HIGHLIGHT SMITH RECITAL IN SANTA ROSA
by Beth Zucchino
Sunday, January 27, 2013
Marin Pianist Jean Alexis Smith played a stunning recital Jan. 27 in the first 2013 concert for the Creative Arts Series. In remarks to the Resurrection Parish audience, the pianist explained that although her program has a range of styles from Baroque to Contemporary, all the composers involved wr...
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TANAKA PLAYS AUTHORATIVE MOZART IN CREATIVE ARTS SERIES FORTEPIANO RECITAL
by Richard Wayland
Sunday, April 29, 2012
A pleasant surprise greeted me April 29 when I attended a fortepiano recital at Resurrection Parish in Santa Rosa. The venue was simple, modern, beautiful, and seating was comfortable. The décor reminded me of Pi, a Parisian artist of the fifties. The performer for the season’s final Creative A...
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Jazz at Lincoln Center / Saturday, October 01, 2016
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Wynton Marsalis, trumpet

Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis

STUNNING LINCOLN CENTER CONCERT LAUNCHES FIFTH WEILL SEASON

by Philip Beard
Saturday, October 01, 2016

Happy times in a packed Weill Hall Oct. 1: The insouciant, irrepressible, immensely talented trumpeter / bandleader Wynton Marsalis and his powerful, polished Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra opened Weill’s fifth season with a superb program of jazz classics and classics-to-be that set a high bar for the season’s upcoming concerts.

The evening was important also for some reasons only indirectly related to the music itself, as the new University President Judy Sakaki, in surely what was herlargest public appearance to date, welcomed and acknowledged the Orchestra and several luminaries directly involved in Weill Hall’s emergence as a North Bay cultural mecca. Conspicuously absent from the audience and the printed program were Ms. Sakaki’s immediate predecessor, Ruben Armiñana, and his administrative VP/CFO Larry Schlereth. Green Music Center executive Zarin Mehta was present. Ms. Sakaki received a loud ovation both before and after her measured remarks, which may have come as encouragement for her in light of the announcement two days earlier that the MasterCard pavilion project (championed by Sanford Weill, also present) was being discontinued.

The Band launched into their unannounced opening number with Mr. Marsalis’ stage-front improvised chorus on “What Is This Thing Called Love” preceding the ensemble statement of the Ellington/Strayhorn favorite “Take the A Train”. Mr. Marsalis’ lively, high-reaching solo, replete with trumpet tricks (glisses, “doits”, half-valved fingerings) didn’t give any clue of the switcheroo to follow. Surprise! It was cool to hear the main tune emerging from an improvisation on a different one. The first A-Train solo per se went to another trumpet section member, Marcus Printup, who delivered a bigger, brassier, full-throated interpretation that contrasted refreshingly with the subtler Marsalis opener. Ms. Printup’s rich sound filled the hall and then some, but its more conventional prowess made me appreciate Ms. Marsalis’ tongue-in-eheeky subtleties all the more.

Speaking of full volume: I had been half expecting a cabaret-configuration stage setup with attendant over-amping, as has become the unfortunate norm for Weill concerts of the pop persuasion. Imagine my delight at seeing the conventional open stage, no huge drapes hanging down, the “choir loft” section of seats behind the orchestra not only visible but full of people – and with only the requisite big-band solo mikes in evidence, meaning that we were treated to the kind of acoustical performance the hall was designed for. Whether this choice stemmed from a new attitude on the part of the managers or just reflected Lincoln Center standard practice, I can’t say, but the contrast with the bellowing loudspeakers and cheesy light effects of recent experience was richly appreciated.

The musical program leaned heavily on compositions and arrangements by Lincoln Center Band members themselves, 11 of whom not only perform the group’s repertoire, but help create it. For me the most intriguing such number, composed by saxophonist Ted Nash, was a paean to South Africa’s iconic president Nelson Mandela, consisting of a salsa-style musical backdrop for excerpts from Mandela’s inauguration speech of 1994. Trombonist Vincent Gardner was the sole soloist, plus the reciter of Mandela’s words. The miking was a tad mushy and Mr. Gardner’s imitation of Mandela’s English sometimes difficult to decipher, but the gist came through loud and clear: This number, like the whole Lincoln Jazz “Presidential Suite” that it’s a part of, was about freedom, perseverance, courage, and love. How moving to hear those guiding stars of our collective experience ennobled in a quintessentially American musical idiom.

The evening offered far too many stunning performances for me to detail them all. But a few moments and impressions stand out.

One was the band’s highlighting a couple of compositions by the Duke Ellington, who had been the focus of the kiddie concert earlier in the day. First was the aforementioned “A Train”; second was a riveting alto sax performance of “Isvahan”, from Ellington’s “Far East Suite”, performed by the visually and tonally impressive Sherman Irby. He started with about 15 seconds of bowed-head silence, then introduced an intimate, soulful, sinuous statement that blossomed into a mezzo-forte ensemble bouquet, a background against which Mr. Irby unleashed a bevy of bent notes and bluesy conversational licks, ultimately to return to a mesmerizing pianissimo rendering of the mideast-flavored melody that left the audience dewy-eyed and mute. A quintessentially soulful performance.

Another recurrent high point was the group’s dynamic flexibility, ranging from the softest whisper tones to fulgent fortissimos, undergirded always by the sensitive, supportive beats, crashes, rolls, dings, and skishes of drummer Ali Jackson. It bears repeating: This is the richness that is lost when every instrumental sound is sent through myriad mikes and amps à la rock concert.

An unusual bit of excitement came in Mr. Irby’s arrangement of the lesser-known Thelonious Monk tune “Rhythm-a-Ning”. An upbeat 4/4 chart, it started with a slick drum solo by Mr. Jackson, moved adroitly through its thematic material, then ended with dueling bari and alto sax players first “trading eights” (alternating eight-bar phrases), then fours, then twos, then ones, then – “halves”! I’d never before witnessed this exhilarating variation on the solo-trading convention. Another front-stage solo that left the audience oohing and aahing was soprano saxophonist Victor Goines’ rendition of the Gershwin chestnut “Summertime”. Mr. Goines’ tone resembles that of the storied clarinetist Sydney Bechet, only with a gentler vibrato entirely fitting this group’s polished, genteel persona. His lovely interpretation stayed always within hailing distance of the melody, but stood out for its thrilling rapid passage work that ended with a high note held so long it made you want to cry.

Wynton Marsalis is simply a phenomenal trumpeter, bandleader, storyteller, educator, and cultural ambassador. He spiced the evening repeatedly with tongue-in-cheek asides, stories from jazz history, and engaging didactics, as when he explained at length why we’d see band members laughing with each other mid-chart. Things don’t always go exactly as planned, he pointed out; soloists may get so engrossed in their “blowing” that they choose to go on for a chorus or two longer than the band had practiced, and then the band has to adapt on the fly. And no one’s sure just how the adapting will work out, and that makes things a little tense. So when it works out beautifully, “That’s why we laugh.” The audience loved it.

Saving the best for last, Mr. Marsalis ended this memorable evening with an unforgettable solo, the final of the two encores. Backed by the sax and rhythm sections alone (the brass stayed off stage for the encores), he gave a virtuoso rendering of “hat” technique on a tune I didn’t recognize, playing at various depths and angles into the red-and-white derby “hat” so beloved of 30’s-era big bands, a muting device held in the player’s left hand while he supports the trumpet and works the valves with his right. The subtle tone modulations were delightful.

At a previous live concert and on many recordings I’d heard Mr. Marsalis’ amazingly versatile work with a “plunger”, which works the same two-handed way but produces a more pronounced muffling of the sound when held close to the trumpet bell and an abrupt “wah-wah” effect when moved away. This hat solo, by contrast, was all gentility and nuance, smoothly gliding to shimmering licks in the instrument’s upper reaches, swooping down low as if on a velvet slide, and ending with a fade-out pianissimo that could leave no sentient listener unmoved.

One point of criticism, as given Mr. Marsalis' well-known commitment to civil rights and inclusion, it's jarring that the Lincoln Center Orchestra didn't include a woman musician. But bravo to Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Orchestra! The standard has been set for this emergent fifth-year Weill Hall series.