First lady of nation recognizes first lady of dance

Dance · Film · Music
The freewheeling creativity that flourished in 20th century America spawned three indigenous art forms: film, jazz, and modern dance. The first two on this list (in descending order of magnitude), have functioned relatively adeptly in the market economy. Why? Because entrepreneurs recorded them on celluloid and disc, then packaged, promoted and distributed movies and records. Poor ...

Kyle Abraham makes it or breaks it

Dance · Music
“I got really frustrated when a good song got ‘broken,'” says the soft-spoken young choreographer, Kyle Abraham, chatting over breakfast at Jacob’s Pillow this past weekend. “I’d call the station many times to vote in support [of cutting-edge music the audience didn’t like.]” During my three-day visit to the historic summer dance venue, I enjoyed ...

Love among the geniuses

Film · Music
Read this story on The Huffington Post. Two recent biopics portray the torrid love lives of great artists — one of our favorite subjects. First, Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (2009), a chicly decorated French film about a purported love affair between the stern couturière and the equally rigorous modernist composer — all while Mme ...

John Waters celebrates Johnny Mathis

Film · Language & ideas · Music
Sixties singer Johnny Mathis‘s name has popped up in surprising ways recently. DJ Josh Kun spun the velvet-voiced crooner’s version of “Kol Nidre” at “Get Down, Moses,” Kun’s Jewish/African-American “listening party.” Then, John Waters, the witty, loquacious, and dapper film director, cited Mathis as one of his key “role models.” It happened at an ALOUD ...

Skirball’s “Get down, Moses” listening party

Language & ideas · Music
The “listening party” — a groovy event in which cultural anthropologist Josh Kun spins discs to illustrate the complex historic relationship between African-American and Jewish popular music — had serious naming issues. Kun launched it as “Black Sabbath.” It got changed to “Go Down, Moses.” Then, some genius in the Skirball Center p.r. department tweaked ...

The satin sound of Johnny Mercer

Language & ideas · Music
While I was recovering from knee surgery, my buddy S.V. brought me recuperation DVDs — among them “The Dream’s On Me,” documentarian Bruce Ricker’s film homage to lyricist/composer Johnny Mercer. [The documentary, executive-produced by Clint Eastwood, airs from time to time on TCM.] Mercer, a tireless music maker of the highest order (by the way, ...

BODYTRAFFIC & Barak Marshall fete Israel’s 62nd 1

Dance · Music · Reviews
Haim Saban, the expatriate Israeli entrepreneur who made a bundle in the 1990s manufacturing Power Rangers, threw an amazing and generous party for L.A.’s Jewish community to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaoot, Israel Independence Day, at his newly refurbished Saban (formerly the Wilshire) Theater. Everything nifty about Israeli culture — its youth, high energy, optimism, talent to ...

Meredith Monk, liberator of singers

Dance · Music · Reviews
Multimedia artist Meredith Monk, labeled avant-garde for her reducing of dance, music, and drama to their most basic and powerful elements, gave the great voices of the Los Angeles Master Chorale a remarkable gift: their bodies. Halfway through “Songs of Ascension,” the final work of Sunday evening’s Monk tribute, the singers circulated the stage of Disney ...

Herr Haselböck’s precarious perch 1

Music · Reviews
Musica Angelica’s Palm Sunday performance of St. John Passion at Santa Monica’s First United Methodist Church had us afloat in the infinite beauty of Bach’s musical soundscape. But it also had us glued to our chairs as Martin Haselböck, the orchestra’s music director, balanced backwards on the edge of the stage conducting Bach’s massive score ...

Art, books, talk, music & life … @ ALOUD

Architecture & Design · Music
It’s difficult to separate affection for the Library Foundation’s ALOUD series at Los Angeles Central Library from love of the library itself. The detailing in the original building’s grand rotonda, pictured at left, shows why. It’s gorgeous: where California Mission-style leaves off, art deco kicks in. ALOUD, the program of lectures, book talks, readings and performances ...