Posts by Kirk Silsbee

arts•meme contributor Kirk Silsbee writes about jazz and culture, as he has for nearly 40 years. He can be read in many publications including Downbeat, the Burbank Leader, the Glendale News-Press, Downtown News, and Jewish Journal. He makes a mean plate of pancakes and is known to be a terrific kisser.


Wild rhythms of Japan & India to tumble from Ford Amphitheatre stage

Dance · Music
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Ask the average American theater-goer or music listener to describe Japanese taiko drumming and you’ll probably hear a description something like this: solemn men in loin cloths and sweat bands who beat oversized drums in unison — loudly and interminably. Brian Yamami has spent his last 18 years trying to change that perception. He’s a ...

Terence Blanchard’s jazz message, in cabaret seating, at The Soraya

Music
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Trumpeter Terence Blanchard has been visiting this part of the country for years. Starting in the ’80s, he shared the valedictory frontline of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers with alto saxophonist Donald Harrison. Leaving the venerable drummer (“Our father, who art Blakey” quipped trumpeter Valery Ponomarev), Blanchard and Harrison co-led a good mainstream jazz band. They ...

Hitting the mark with Robin Mitchell

Visual arts
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To see the world in a grain of sand is a goal shared by many creative people. In the case of Robin Mitchell, she sees the world in a mark. She’s a non-representational painter and, unlike others who work in that genre, her paint doesn’t sprawl, drip, stain or consist of hard-edge color blocks. Mitchell ...

Electric Miles Davis in the new millennium, at The Soraya

Music
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Miles Davis (1926-1991) was out of the public eye in the late 1970s. The legendary trumpeter and bandleader had changed the course of music—not just jazz—several times, and was half a decade into his electric period, inaugurated by 1969’s Bitches Brew. That epoch rewrote the rules of ensemble interaction, as Miles turned eager young soloists ...

The flickering of truth, by Jasper Johns, at The Broad 1

Visual arts
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One hopes for something resembling truth, some sense of life, even of grace, to flicker, at least, in the work — Jasper Johns When the first survey articles and books on Pop Art were published in the 1960s, Jasper Johns was usually included. The painter, sculptor and constructionist often depicted vernacular objects in his work ...

Bernstein’s gripping ‘Waterfront’ score to surge thru The Soraya

Film · Music
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The American Film Institute ranks On the Waterfront (1954) as one of the best ten movies of all time. The searing indictment of union corruption on the New York docks was a landmark in social realism. Its greatness lies in the collaboration between the towering talents of director Elia Kazan, actors Marlon Brando, Karl Malden ...

Juan de Marcos’s Afro-Cuban beat to pulsate The Soraya

Music
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Cuban music has tantalized and insinuated itself into the United States since the 19th Century. New Orleans-born composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869) was smitten with the Cuban tresillo, cinquillo and habanera, and incorporated those elements into his compositions. Ragtime pianists were subsequently taken with what Jelly Roll Morton called “the Spanish tinge.” Then came the ...

Low-key & tasty: Kenny Burrell’s swinging guitar a generation ago today

Music
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Ed. note: Universal Music continues to mine the Verve catalog for jazz treasures. arts·meme jazz writer Kirk Silsbee shares his liner notes for‘’A Generation Ago Today.’ When Kenny Burrell’s A Generation Ago Today was released in the spring of 1967, a debate was raging in jazz. It was the dawn of the Age of Aquarius, ...

At Zardi’s in Hollywood … with Ella Fitzgerald 1

Music
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Ed. note: Universal Music continues to mine the Verve catalog for Ella Fitzgerald material. arts·meme jazz writer Kirk Silsbee excerpts his liner notes to ‘Ella at Zardi’s.’ ♣               ♣               ♣               ♣ In his enviable career as a jazz entrepreneur, Norman Granz (1918-2001) balanced far-reaching vision and a social change agenda with shrewd business acumen. His ...

Kirk Silsbee’s 2017 holiday-music picks

Music
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During the 1950s, the United States was rebuilding Western Europe and creating the highest standard of living ever enjoyed by the most people in world history. But by year’s end, most Americans just wanted to be with family and friends. It’s ironic how many contemporary holiday recordings still tap that era’s home-and-hearth heritage. The holiday ...