News, Commentary on Classical Music, Jazz, Theater, Dance & More



EXCLUSIVE: Classicalite Q&A with Colleen >>

Much like myself, french multi-instrumentalist Colleen aka Cécile Schott takes sonic influence from Terry Riley, Arthur Russell, traditional African and Jamaican music and, naturally, the Wu Tang Clan. All of which she delved into on her edition of VF Mix 14, a vinyl-only mix series hosted by The Vinyl Factory, quoting “Bells of War” as her choice Wu cut. These influences trace back to Cecille’s childhood obsession with her parents cassette tape “The Kings of Reggae”, mostly consisting of Lee “Scratch” Perry tracks from 1976 to 1979. In her own work, she uses her voice and the baroque instrument treble viola da gamba to recite intricate tales of the human mind and heart. Her latest release, Captain of None on Thrill Jockey Records is possibly the most experimental album in her repertoire featuring tracks heavily influenced by her Jamaican and African music obsession, embossed bass lines and, new to her, percussive effects. Recorded, mixed and produced entirely by Cecille in her San Sebastian, Spain music studio, Cecille imparted dub production techniques, a melodica, a Moogerfooger and delay pedal and echo effects. Another intricacy of Captain of None: rather than bowing the instrument in a traditional manner, Cecille tunes the viola da gamba like a guitar and plucks it for a fresh perspective on what a string instrument is and can be. I had an e-conversation with Colleen on her Thrill Jockey release, where her love of the viola da gamba came from and the very real struggle for non-American artists to tour in the States.

Matana Roberts

EXCLUSIVE: Matana Roberts Part One: 'COIN COIN', #BlackLivesMatter and Beyonce, Jay Z Baltimore Bailouts >>

For the past eight years Matana Roberts has been at work on her Coin Coin series exploring themes of history, memory and ancestry through narrative, musical and visual compositions. The multi-chapter composition of self-described “panoramic sound quilting” exposes mystical roots and delves into the intuitive spirit traditions from several pockets of American pastoral past. In 2011, Constellation records began to put out the Coin Coin project, now up to it’s third release: Chapter 3 entitled River Run Thee. A set of solo compositions for electronics, multi-tracked voices and her staple saxophone, River Run Thee directly deals with the American waterways and what transpired through nautical transportation in the past interspersed with field recordings and spoken-word passages. From Sticks And Stones in the early aughts to her solo and ensemble work on Constellation and Central Control records, Matana has made a name for herself as an internationally renowned composer, bandleader, saxophonist, sound experimentalist and mixed-media artist. Late last month, Matana presented Coin Coin: The Remix, a redux of River Run Thee at The Kitchen. Joined by drummer and percussionist Tomas Fujiwara with video work conceived by Daniel Marcellus Givens, the performances offered two rare reworked stylings of Chapter 3 in relation to the first two: Coin Coin Chapter 1: Gens des Coleur Libre, and Coin Coin Chapter 2: Mississippi Moonchile. To wit, the two-night residency held the celebratory honor of the series five-year release anniversary. In this two part series we caught up with Matana to discuss The Kitchen performance, life living on a boat and what pop culture means to the Black Lives Matter movement.

EXCLUSIVE: Elliot Goldenthal on 'Symphony in G-Sharp Minor,' 'Othello' with American Ballet Theater and Why Tom Brady Deserves the Berlin Phil Gig

EXCLUSIVE: Classicalite Q&A with Elliot Goldenthal >>

No doubt, you've heard Elliot Goldenthal before. Be it early efforts scoring Gus Van Sant's 'Cocaine Cowboys,' mid-career cues care of Joel Schumacher's 'Batman' reboot or his exquisite contributions to the five feature films of his partner Julie Taymor, yes, Goldenthal's music is heard most often on the big screen. Having studied under American compositional royalty like Aaron Copland and John Corigliano, though, Goldenthal is hardly some Hollywood hack.

EXCLUSIVE: Bruce Brubaker On New Philip Glass Record 'Glass Piano, Talks New England Conservatory and Why Le Poisson Rouge is His Favorite Downtown Dwelling

EXCLUSIVE: Classicalite Q&A with Bruce Brubaker >>

"If there was going to be music on the planet, I wanted to be involved." -- BRUCE BRUBAKER

EXCLUSIVE: Lucas Till on 'Bravetown,' Acting with Josh Duhamel, Laura Dern and Why He Doesn't Regret 'Hannah Montana'

EXCLUSIVE: Lucas Till on 'Bravetown,' Acting with Josh Duhamel, Laura Dern and Why He Doesn't Regret 'Hannah Montana' >>

Lucas Till is on a journey. Having graduated from child actor, that dreaded minefield that has swallowed up many talented actors and actresses, he is now attempting to carve a path in the much safer world of traditional cinema. His new film, 'Bravetown,' is a step along that journey, and it is for that reason he and I gathered to talk.

Classicalite Q&A with Monica Germino

EXCLUSIVE: Classicalite Q&A with Monica Germino >>

"I don't remember actually making a choice to become a musician." -- MONICA GERMINO

Glenn Kotche

EXCLUSIVE: Classicalite Q&A with Wilco's Glenn Kotche >>

As both a modern composer and, of course, the man on the throne for modern rock 'n' roll's last band standing, Wilco, Glenn Kotche is nothing if not maddeningly prolific. With his credits on records nearing the century mark (do check out his most recent work on Missy Mazzoli's 'Vespers for a New Dark Age'), his commissions, too, are coming in fast and furious and increasingly august: Kronos Quartet, Bang on a Can All-Stars, Sō Percussion, eighth blackbird and founding BoAC cellist Maya Beiser. Add to those a national advert for Delta's Touch2O faucets and a drum kit on full display at the Rhythm Discovery Center Museum, and the city of Chicago's best drummer might just be the most heard contemporary composer in America.

Darcy James Argue

EXCLUSIVE: Classicalite Q&A with Darcy James Argue >>

10 years playing with an 18-piece ensemble seems like but a stitch in time for GRAMMY- and JUNO-nominated composer-cum-bandleader Darcy James Argue. Sure, this year was his best for winning, receiving both the Doris Duke Artist Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship. But as bright as those gongs are, 2015 isn't halfway done arguing his can't stop/won't stop attitude, soldiering on with that trademark sound of his nonpareil ensemble, Darcy James Argue's Secret Society.

Q&A with French pianist Cédric Tiberghien on his Symphony Center Debut

EXCLUSIVE: Classicalite Q&A with Cédric Tiberghien >>

Pianist Cédric Tiberghien will open the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s “Reveries and Passions” festival of French music with a solo recital of music by Debussy, Ravel and Szymanowski at Symphony Center on Sunday, May 3 at 3:00 p.m. This Symphony Center Presents program, inspired by the Festival's overall themes of beauty, fantasy and the darkness of night, will open with one of the most challenging solo piano pieces in the repertoire: Ravel's 'Gaspard de la nuit.'

Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band

EXCLUSIVE: Gordon Goodwin on His Big Phat Band, 'Life in the Bubble' Grammy Win and Why 'Whiplash' is Great for Jazz >>

Yes, indeed, the 2015 Grammys proved to be one populist step forward for jazz at-large. Remember Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett's cheeks? Hell, Herbie Hancock and ?uestlove performed right alongside John Mayer and Ed Sheeran. And no one, save for the haters, batted a valve or crossed a string. For Gordon Goodwin and his Big Phat Band, though, their three nominations and an eventual gong for Best Large Jazz Ensemble were more than just plated platitudes and a non-televised soapbox rant. It was a kind of vindication.

EXCLUSIVE: BAFTA-Winning Composer ólafur Arnalds Talks 'Reminiscence' Video and Reinventing Chopin with Alice Sara Ott

EXCLUSIVE: Classicalite Q&A with Ólafur Arnalds >>

Iceland's BAFTA-winning producer Ólafur Arnalds has always appreciated the intricacies and depth of Frédéric Chopin, even when he was pounding out blast beats from behind his throne in metalcore outfit Fighting Shit. But the stolid tradition of "classical recording," not surprisingly, that seemed especially flat for the Broadchurch composer. An iconoclast, perhaps, Arnalds (not to be confused with his singer-songwriter cousin, Ólöf Arnalds) wanted to put a finer point on Chopin's music here in his own digi-age.

Frederica von Stade is Riveting in ‘A Coffin in Egypt'

REVIEW: Frederica von Stade is Riveting in ‘A Coffin in Egypt,’ an Opera Strong in Emotional Impact, Yet Lacking in Musical Variety >>

'A Coffin in Egypt' received its Chicago premiere Saturday night at the Harris Theater, with mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade in the starring role. The new opera by Ricky Ian Gordon is enlivened by von Stade’s emotionally moving portrayal of a woman struggling to deal with her wealthy husband’s infidelity.

PREMIERE: Superhuman Happiness Cover 'Long Black Veil'

PREMIERE: Superhuman Happiness Cover "Long Black Veil" for 'Wall to Wall Johnny Cash' at Symphony Space >>

We've heard a lot of takes on Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin's 1959 quasi-murder ballad "Long Black Veil." True, while not every rendition hence faithfully exonerated Lefty Frizzell's original--itself deliberately more Nashville countrypolitan than Texan honky tonk--there have been fewer still that still stand on their own. For every versatile Burl Ives, The Band's big, pink one or even Diamanda Galás' most, um, unidiomatic reading, there are too many uninspired dronings on from the likes of The Proclaimers, Bruce Hornsby, Daves both Matthews and Gray and, yes, Marianne Faithfull.

R.B. Schlather

EXCLUSIVE: Classicalite Q&A with R.B. Schlather >>

For all the bogus boilerplate about how classical music is dead or even well-intentioned words regarding how she can stay breathing, precious few--performers, ensembles and institutions--are actually doing anything to change both conversation and prognosis. Moreover, when it comes to remounting baroque opera in our digi-epoch, fewer still have the informed perspective, due diligence and, well, cojones to really make a difference. Save for one R.B. Schlather, of course.

Frederica von Stade in 'A Coffin in Egypt'

EXCLUSIVE: Frederica von Stade Uncovers Dark Family Secrets in 'A Coffin in Egypt' >>

Ricky Ian Gordon’s opera 'A Coffin in Egypt,' written for legendary mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, is coming to the Harris Theater in Chicago on April 25, 29 and May 1 and 3. Von Stade will reprise her tour-de-force portrayal of Myrtle Bledsoe, grande dame of Egypt, Texas, in this Chicago Opera Theater production.

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