My new Nation column is called "The Right Loses It Over Russia—Again" and it notes that "Conservative hysteria over Putin's aggression in 2014 is eerily reminiscent of right-wing reaction to a previous Crimean adventure, at the dawn of the Cold War.
Spring Quartet at Rose Hall
Reed and I did not post last week so I have a number of shows to discuss. Two of them took place at Jazz@Lincoln Center. The first was a show of the Spring Quartet at Rose Hall featuring drummer and composer Jack DeJohnette, saxophonist Joe Lovano, pianist Leo Genovese and bassist/vocalist, Esperanza Spalding. The warm-up was Cecile McLorin Salvant and she was wonderful. It’s the second time I’ve seen here at Rose Hall and each time, her goofy sartorial style threatens to overwhelm one’s impression of her but then she starts to sing and the beauty, self-discipline and intelligence of her delivery causes a feeling of near-hypnosis. This was completely uncaptured on the one CD she put out but the way she re-interprets songs you thought you never needed to hear again is awe-inspiring. And in such a large hall at such a young age, well, wow.
As for the headliners, they were a real band despite the generational divide separating the veterans DeJohnette and Lovano from the youngsters, Genovese and Spalding. They communicated wordlessly and mostly effortlessly, switching around on instruments on occasion. It required one to pay really close attention to appreciate this communcation and catch the threads that connected the musicians and the throughts they were articulating—a big risk in such a big hall. This is not a criticism but it is a contrast however, with the alleged opener, who simply commanded that attention.
Jim Caruso's Cast Party
A week later, I returned to Jazz@Lincoln Center, this time to the beautiful Appel Room, which is the Allen Room renamed in honor of a multi-million dollar gift, and for a show called "Jim Caruso’s Cast Party." Apparently, this show has been running for ten years at Birdland where it is more of a spontaneous thing and probably benefits from the alcohol being served, but boy was it fun the night I saw it.
Caruso is an old-fashioned, old-New York cabaret entertainer and, together with the pianist Billy Stritch, they hosted a truly wonderful set of singers on songs from old movies as part of Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series. They were joined by dancer Jeffry Denman, singers Natalie Douglas, Clarke Thorell, Jane Monheit, the wonderfully funny and evocative impressionist Christina Bianco, and the legend, Marilyn Maye.
There were too many highlights to even begin to do justice to them. Bianco’s vocal parodies of divas from Shirley Bassey to Ethel Merman to Babs to Adele were hysterical and powerful at the same time. And what a thrill it was to hear Maye, at 85, at the top of her game showing everybody else how it’s done but with a generosity of spirit and power in her voice.