Saturday, September 21, 2013

Branford Marsalis and the Colorado Symphony

Branford opened the Colorado Symphony's season with conductor Andrew Litton tonight. I was not as excited as I should have been for the concert, not because I do not like Branford (we worked together on several projects), but because I'm not a huge fan of the Glazunov Concerto, which we hear him play three years ago in Vail with the NY Phil (reviewed here). Branford once again played perfectly; his Classical sound and vibrato are really sounding exceptional. Perhaps I am getting used to the piece but I enjoyed it a lot more tonight.

Context is also different, as tonight his second piece was a mini-concerto from John Williams based on the music from Catch Me If You Can.  This is one of my favorite Williams scores of recent years, and one I thought deserved a lot more recognition than it got. The piece really features three instruments, not just sax, it also features vibraphone heavily, as well as jazz bass (which was completely lost in the acoustics of the hall tonight). The vibes part is at least as challenging and as featured as the sax, so I found it odd that they did not feature the names of the other two in the program. It was a great piece. I'm a little sorry that Branford did not do an encore, but it was a bit of a long program.

The evening had opened with Borodin's Overture to Prince Igor, a piece which was saved by Glazunov and Rimsky-Korsakov. (Borodin was a scientist by trade and wrote music solely for pleasure.) After intermission, the orchestra played the Symphony #10 of Shostakovich. I've always felt his best symphonies are the multiples of five (kind of like the good Star Trek films are the even-numbered one). I hadn't heard this one in a while. It has moments of bombast, but since Stalin had died when he started writing this one, it also has a lot of depth in the first movement that otherwise may have been edited out to keep the Communist party happy. I do still enjoy this work quite a bit. But it did make for a long evening. The orchestra played extremely well, especially the percussion section, and Litton really is an outstanding conductor. He gets the best from the orchestra, just like his predecessor, Jeffrey Kahane.

I do look forward to our next concert in a few weeks.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Last night Stephen Colbert did a nice interview of Billie Jean King to promote her biography on American Masters. Stephen is about the same age as me and referred to many of the same memories I had, including being so young that there was no choice but to root for Bobbie Riggs (I mean, at that age, boys have no use for girls at all, what with the cooties and everything) and not being allowed to watch their match because it was past our bedtime. 

A lot of those memories were rekindled in a very good TV movie about the film in 2001, When Billie Beat Bobbi.

Tonight PBS aired the 90-minute episode, which was quite good, which can also be viewed online here.  Billie is a fascinating character not only because of what she did for sports, for tennis and for women's rights, but what she did for gay rights as well (even though she was forced out of the closet). She had nothing but challenges throughout her life, and she showed a lot of courage by choosing to come out publicly when she did. The story is very well covered in this film, although some of the recreations are a little hokey, especially as they are intercut with real footage as though they were part of a real sequence. 

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Side By Side: Film vs. Digital

SIDE BY SIDE is a documentary produced by Keanu Reeves about the differences between shooting on film and shooting digital formats. After touring the festival circuit, the 53 minute film aired on PBS and can be watched online:

Keanu is also the interviewer and narrator. Don't let that put you off, this is a very good and interesting film. It's also well-balanced. There are plenty of old school folks who argue that film will always be better for various reasons, as well as a lot of other people who like digital a lot. The cast of interviewees is the a-list of directors and cinematographers in the current cinema, so there is a huge wealth of information here.

If you are at all interested in the differences and how filmmakers perceive them, this is worth the time invested.