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.


A mid-century moment for LACMA

Reviews · Visual arts
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Most everyone who has lived in Los Angeles any length of time has intersected with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Since its 1965 inception, LACMA has been inextricably woven into the city’s cultural history. Maybe you remember the imbroglio over Ed Kienholz’s 1966 “Backseat Dodge” tableau that had the city council up on ...

Billie Holiday in Los Angeles: the blues were brewing 2

Music
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Billie Holiday and her dog Mister, New York, c. June 1946, William P. Gottleib One of the greatest jazz singers who ever lived had a small voice, never more than 15 notes at her disposal, and recorded many throwaway tunes. But Billie Holiday (1915-1959) was great by virtue of her sure-footed musical gifts: behind-the-beat phrasing, ...

Let ’em dance: Bobby Fuller Four recalled

Music · Reviews
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The Hollywood Renaissance of the 1960s didn’t need the Bobby Fuller Four. That unique conflagration of bands, managers, impresarios, producers, studios, engineers, session players, record labels and executives, radio stations, deejays, and TV shows incubated the Byrds, Sonny & Cher, the Mamas and Papas, Love, the Mothers of Invention, Paul Revere & the Raiders, the ...

Thelonious Monk, dancer

Dance · Music
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Just as James P. Johnson, George Gershwin, Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington took musical inspiration from New York City, it’s impossible to divorce pianist/composer Thelonious Monk’s music from Gotham. In Monk, the erotic and the athletic intertwine at the Savoy Ballroom, subways vibrate with propulsive rhythms, congregational choirs shake church foundations, young girls skip rope ...

The essence of tap is a rhapsody

Dance · Music
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Among the more quixotic ventures one might try, maintaining a tap dance company ranks somewhere between reviving the celluloid collar and loading mercury with a pitchfork. The degree of difficulty—in attracting and keeping good dancers, choreographing for their collective and individual talents, finding sympathetic musicians, securing a worthy facility, mounting shows, and obtaining funding—keeps growing. ...

The jazz strata of Ave Pildas 1

Music · Visual arts
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If you receive photographer Ave Pildas’s weekly e-blasts, you know the prolific nature of his work. His street snaps can be quirky, straightforward, unpredictable, ironic, reverent, whimsical, iconic, or just plain fun. He has an eye for the beautiful and the surreal but the transmissions often time to current events or seasonal observances. They show ...

Fred Astaire’s songs that dance 2

Dance · Film · Music
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If all you know of Fred Astaire is his movie dancing, the new two-CD set “Fred Astaire: The Early Years at RKO” (Turner Classic Music/Sony Masterworks) will be a revelation. With the possible exception of Bing Crosby, Astaire introduced more good songs — first on the Broadway stage, then in his movie musicals — than ...

Backstage intimacy from Phil Stern’s camera 1

Film · Music · Visual arts
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Hollywood photographers have always had to walk a fine line. Their work is contingent on access to the celebrated, but entree hinges on trust and following implicit rules of privacy. Movie studios have always wanted their actors and directors depicted in the best possible light and they’ve rewarded those whose images flatter most. But good ...

Holiday sounds: manger, mistletoe, and martinis

Music
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Every December, a crop of new recordings address the season by celebrating the birth of Jesus, playing up the frivolity of holiday parties, and all variations between. These are some of this year’s CDs. PBS viewers know well the angelic boys choir Libera. A recorded concert at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh soars to heavenly ...

Pianist Dick Hyman, a many-colored chameleon

Music
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It takes an exceptional chameleon to be able to master every piano style of consequence in jazz history.  There have been some good comprehensive players; the late Dr. Billy Taylor comes to mind.  But it takes an extraordinary artist to be able to accurately interpret the work of great pianists in their own respective vernaculars, ...