Experimental and bright
Saxophonist and composer Roscoe Mitchell is best known as a founding member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. But even when he operates outside of this pan-stylistic group, his approach contains multitudes. When I reviewed Mitchell’s concerts at Park Avenue Armory in 2019, I marveled at his heroic solo-saxophone designs and meditative chamber music.
The composer’s latest album, released this week on the Wide Hive label, offers us an even broader vision. Most breathtaking is the 20-minute title track, “Distant Radio Transmission”, performed here by Mitchell and a 33-piece orchestra led by Petr Kotik. Like many of Mitchell’s recent orchestral works, he finds his roots in earlier improvised trio recordings. (After the improvised version of this song was transcribed and partially orchestrated by associates of the composer, Mitchell completed the full orchestration in 2017.)
What was once little avant-garde is now very experimental. The electronics are combined with the harmonies of tangy wind and percussion with tonal resonance during the opening. Baritone Thomas Buckner – a veteran of Robert Ashley’s operas – later brings abstract and ghostly exhalations. Halfway through, when a strip of Mitchell’s striated soprano-saxophone ornaments gives way to pleasant patterns in the larger orchestra, there is a feeling of singular intelligence at work.
It never sounds like easy listening. Although when you focus on the finer details of this “remote radio transmission”, it is easy to be transported by the intensity of the imagination of this broadcaster.
COLTER SETH WALLS
THEATER / TELEVISION
Break a leg
The world of theater can be moving, moving and thought-provoking.
Also vain, backbiting and downright ridiculous.
“Slings & Arrows” captures all these facets in all their splendor. And the Canadian cult series recently became available for streaming on Acorn TV, which has just extended its free trial offer from seven to 30 days (enter the code FREE30).
“Slings & Arrows”, which took place in 2003-2006, is not only the best show ever made on stage: the insightful, biting and very funny series belongs to the canon of television, period.
Each of the three seasons focuses on a different play by Shakespeare produced at the New Burbage Theater Festival (loosely based on the Stratford, Ontario festival). Created and scripted by Susan Coyne, Bob Martin (co-author and star of the musical “The Drowsy Chaperone”) and former Kids in the Hall member Mark McKinney, the series brilliantly weaves behind-the-scenes shenanigans – never underestimates the importance of actors and directors – with a clever glimpse of the dangers and joys of artistic creation. Basically, “Slings & Arrows” is a comedy in the workplace: a community tries to get through another opin ‘, another show while fighting against commercialism and the ego is unleashed.
Bonus: Watch a pre-renowned Rachel McAdams find her feet as an actress in the first season.
Tourist trips to Italy. Ballet evenings. These could be random selections from the long list of pleasures unavailable at the moment. But I can recommend a way to virtually combine the two, and that goes through Denmark. As a gift at home, the Royal Danish Ballet is broadcasting “Napoli” for free on its website.
“Napoli” is a ballet in three acts from 1842 by the great Danish choreographer August Bournonville. On the website of the Royal Danish Ballet, the company’s artistic director, Nikolaj Hübbe, explains the choice to broadcast “Napoli” now by calling it “the most invigorating work” in the Royal Danish repertoire. To put it mildly, it’s one of the most assertive and joyful ballets in a business’s repertoire.
Located in Naples, the tale is a standard of poor young lovers overcoming obstacles – not only a mom after money but also a possessive sea god in the second underwater act. (There was a tradition among Danish ballet regulars to attend this second act in the theater restaurant; online, you can just fast forward.)
This production, filmed during the 2013-14 season, is the update of Hübbe in 2009. He advanced time just after World War II, so there are allusions to cigarettes and the Mafia and a Vespa. Basically, he swapped one southern Italian cartoon idea for another, and it’s a lot of fun anyway.
What is preserved, in any case, is the very good thing, dancing in the Bournonville style. Arms down, dancers rise like geysers, their legs quickly crossing under them. The combination of modesty and effervescence is the special tonic, and this cast delivers it perfectly, especially the magnificent and dynamic Alban Lendorf as a fisherman’s hero.
Urban travel journals
New York City is in the middle of a forced sleep – even the the subways are shrinking. Fortunately for you, three of its lines, the N, the L and the 7, are the settings of the marvelous “Subway Plays”, a trilogy of audio pieces specific to the site of This Is Not a Theater Company. The entire trilogy is available as a mobile phone app for less than $ 5.
Each room is divided into two parts, depending on where you decide to start your trip, and tells stories related to the metro line where they take place. But they also invite the listener to engage with the world beyond the ride using their imagination and their senses. Quite appropriate given the current need for social distance.
History lessons, urban travelogues, plays by Jenny Lyn Bader, Jessie Bear and Colin Waitt, are populated with New York archetypes, including lost tourists, annoyed locals and idiosyncratic passengers.
In addition to being technical wonders (the precise timing of director Erin B. Mee is impeccable, the city seems to work with her at all times), the pieces now look like a bittersweet phantasmagoria. Snapshots preserved in sounds and emotions, of a city that may never be the same again.
Laugh without obscenity
In times of stress, children especially need to laugh well. But if you’re a parent who has already banned Comedy Central, you know that most adult stand-ups are too rude for kids.
Please let me introduce you Billy Kelly. Comedian, singer-songwriter and dad, he specializes in humor that generations can enjoy together. (No stupid jokes.) Embracing an ironic worldview that will be incomprehensible to preschoolers but delightful to audiences 8 to 12 years old, Kelly has just released “This Is a Family Show”, a special 90 minutes from Audible Stories, a new digital library of audio books and entertainment for young people that Audible offers for free during the public health crisis. (The selections also include not-so-noisy titles like “Jane Eyre”.)
Kelly’s comedy, which includes both the stand-up and the song – you can watch a Facebook Live set on Friday at 7 p.m. – evokes discreet provocateurs like Steven Wright. A recurring riff, “Random things I’ve noticed in my life,” includes comments on the honesty of the name Milk Duds and the absurdity of the term meteorologist. (Have you ever heard a forecast for the meteors?) I laughed out loud about how nature had apparently assembled the bats from the remains of other animals.
Never using profanity, Kelly is not above humor in the bathroom. Reflecting on the toilet as an understatement (“I don’t know who we’re trying to cheat on”), he mentions going into the public restroom. “There is signage, said ‘wet floor’,” he recalls. “So I did it.”
The horror genre is in love with runaway lunatics and haunted sanatoriums, so it’s rarely the place to turn for empathetic depictions of mental illness. That is why “They Look Like People, ”a 2016 low-budget independent feature film about Tubi, written and directed by Perry Blackshear, is such a pleasant start – it is as tender as it is terrifying in its portrayal of paranoia and its consequences.
The film begins when two old friends, Christian (Evan Dumouchel) and Wyatt (MacLeod Andrews), reconnect at random in New York. Christian invites Wyatt to live with him, but soon Wyatt’s emotional state worsens as strange visions and unnerving voices transform his reality into a hellish landscape, and he begins to prepare for war with perceived foreign antagonists. Blackshear describes Christian’s response to his friend’s deeply troubling emotional state with a creeping alarm but also with a touching sensitivity that puts compassion on the same level as fear. The film ends with a shocking – and affectionately shocking – final scene that can make you cover your eyes with one hand and wipe a tear from the other.
Instagram users have undoubtedly noticed a spike in the live videos of their friends and the accounts they follow, broadcast in a vacuum to stay connected during our collective quarantine of coronaviruses. The trend is particularly prevalent among standing comedians, who need an audience to thrive.
Mike Birbiglia, with four specials to his credit – the most recent filming his winning Broadway solo show for Drama Desk 2019, “The New One”, for Netflix – transformed his IG account last week into a spokesperson for his funny friends riffing out new material while raising money for licensees to closed comedy clubs across america.
Tip Your Waitstaff started on March 19 with Roy Wood Jr., correspondent for “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah”, creating a GoFundMe for his native club, the StarDome near Birmingham, Alabama, while Birbiglia supported the Comedy Attic in Bloomington , Ind., Where he was supposed to make the headlines. Each afternoon of the week, he welcomes a new comedian and adds two new clubs, with IG Live shows available for viewing for 24 hours. “We started this on a whim and thought that the servers have no money at the moment and that the economy has stopped. Is this the technical term?” Birbiglia said during its broadcast Tuesday with Maria Bamford. “It was screwed up,” replied Bamford.
By Wednesday morning, GoFundMe campaigns had raised almost $ 52,000 for staff from 12 clubs, from Carolines on Broadway near Times Square to Lyric Hyperion in Los Angeles, and between clubs and theaters in Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio and Washington, DC
SEAN L. McCARTHY