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.


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 ...

Influential Brazilian-beat album recreated in CAP UCLA concert, That Bad Donato

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In 1970, two landmark recordings changed the world. On Bitches Brew, Miles Davis infused jazz with the rhythms and textures of cutting-edge pop, exemplified by James Brown and Jimi Hendrix. The fusion genre sprang from that album. Concurrently,  keyboardist and composer João Donato thrust electronics and the cross-rhythms of funk into Brazilian jazz with A ...

Jason Moran, in a Monkish mood @ CAP UCLA

Music
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“The horn is blowing according to what the drummer is playing, you know?” –Thelonious Monk to Hall Overton, 1959 Thelonious Monk’s 1959 Town Hall concert was an artistic landmark and a personal triumph for the iconoclastic pianist and composer. His pieces, conceived for the small ensemble format, had been orchestrated for the evening by the ...

LACMA ‘Found in Translation’ documents Mexi-Cali design dialogue 1

Architecture & Design · Reviews · Visual arts
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From Sacramento to San Diego, California’s Mexican and Spanish underpinnings are as historic as they are pervasive. We often take those connections for granted, but LACMA’s exhibition “Found in Translation: Design in California and Mexico, 1915-1985” offers a fascinating view of the influence and confluence between the two cultures in the 20th Century. It’s part ...

Parks & wrecks: Carlos Almaraz @ LACMA

Visual arts
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The ‘Los Four’ exhibition at Los Angeles County Art Museum in 1974 put the local art establishment on notice that a thriving scene was taking place in East Los Angeles and elsewhere in the Southland. The Chicano art renaissance was represented by four artists — Carlos Almaraz, Beto de la Rocha, Frank Romero and Gilbert ...

Weird scenes inside the goldmine: L.A.’s 1967 rock venues 1

Architecture & Design · Fashion · Film · Language & ideas · Music · Theater · Visual arts
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editor’s note: Harvey Kubernik’s new coffeetable tome, 1967: A Complete Rock Music History of the Summer of Love (Sterling), is a both a scholarly examination and a sensuous immersion into the pivotal year in 1960s youth culture through a mosaic of voices. Kirk Silsbee’s sidebars from his essay in the book, excerpted and condensed here, ...

‘Summer of Love’ in pop-up film-fest

Film · Music
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As a nod to recurring “Summer of Love” fever, the American Cinematheque presents a pop-up 1960s mini film fest. Martin Lewis curated the fondly-recalled “Mods ‘n Rockers” series at the Egyptian Theatre, and he’s chosen a handful of titles to be screened at Santa Monica’s Aero Theatre this weekend. “Mods ‘n Rockers” was great fun ...

Ella at 100: virtuosity, joy and swing 5

Music
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arts·meme jazz critic Kirk Silsbee excerpts his liner notes to the new four-CD set, Ella Fitzgerald: 100 Songs For a Centennial (Verve 2016-00957) At first blush, one hundred songs from any artist seem like overkill. In the case of Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996), whose recordings number in the thousands, one hundred is just about enough to ...

Greek tragedy in Alphabet City: the death of Lee Morgan

Film · Music
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Trumpeters have the most tragic lineage of any instrument in jazz history. Car accidents, mental illness, congenital defects, drugs and alcohol have claimed some of the greatest players. But the murder of trumpeter Lee Morgan in 1972 was a laceration on the music that never healed. That a great but floundering musician regained his footing ...