Tooting His Own Horn

LICORICE STICKLER: woody_allen_plays_clarinet_std.jpgWhatever his other contributions to the world’s store of knowledge and amusement, Woody Allen should also be recognized as one of America’s poster boys for a solid work ethic. Long ago, he settled on the story of his creative life, and has stuck to it, cranking out nearly a film a year for 30 years—mostly of the comic variety, with occasional visits to the dark sides of suspense or existential despair (equipped with escape routes). Lesser known, during that entire period, has been his passionate pursuit of the specific “trad jazz” subgenre of New Orleans Jazz, playing (and publicly practicing) his clarinet in a band which has religiously held down Monday nights in NYC for three decades, first at Michael’s Pub and now the Carlyle Hotel.

Allen’s musical personality heads west for the band’s first wets coast tour, and stops at the Lobero Theatre on Sunday, a fine musical op in a fine old hall. The last time Allen’s name hit a local marquee in any special, Santa Barbara-specific way, it was when his film Melinda and Melinda opened the Santa Barbara International Film Festival two years ago. Unfortunately, most were not amused by the film, a great idea thrown to the wind of a lazy realization. But Allen fans know that something better’s just around the corner in his ever-unfolding filmography. Along came the brilliant Hitchcockian Match Point, followed by this year’s good enough model, Scoop.

The double life of Woody has been kept fairly separate over the years, with periodic exceptions. Occasionally, he’ll include smatterings of ‘20s-era New Orleans jazz music in his soundtracks (although he generally leans more towards Great American Songbook sounds from the ‘30s and ‘40s), and his musical doppelganger persona made a rare big screen appearance in the 1998 documentary Wild Man Blues, covering his band’s European tour. No doubt, that film would have been spicier and more memorable had Allen gone with his original idea for a director, Terry Zwigoff (Crumb, Bad Santa). Alas, Allen’s control freak within denied Zwigoff’s request for final cut. Too bad for all of us. Yes, yes, but how is Woody’s playing? Not bad for a white guy in the 21st century. Passion compensates for his limitations, and he hires very well. Should be a clean, fun period piece musical encounter. FRINGE PRODUCT GIFT GUIDE, PART ONE: yma_sumac.jpgIn its recent Campbell Hall visitation, Pink Martini reminded us of the richer, more musical side of “lounge” music. When theatrical flair, winking irony and squeezable suavity are mixed with solid musicianship, something magical can occur, something beyond mere flippant lounge-ready party favors.

For historical reference, proceed to the supra-rangy exotica legend Yma Sumac, who, in the 1950s, ranked with Martin Denny, Esquivel and Les Baxter as a queen of exotic easy listening. Now, the respected, resuscitated ESP-disc label, former home of Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor, Patty Waters and other fringe dwellers, has just released Sumac’s Recital, recorded live in Romania in 1961 and bristling with musicality and Peruvian colors, not cultural cheese. In all, it’s a moody production number and a sturdy primer of Sumac lore.

THE ART OF MOVING: Forget what springs to mind when you hear the name Stockhausen, as in Karlheinz, breaker of conventions and general 20th century gadfly. By contrast, his son Markus is a marvelous, versatile—blending classical chops, markus_stockhausen_200.jpgjazz and free improv fluency—and abidingly lyrical trumpeter. His recent concerts at REDCAT in Los Angeles and last Sunday, capping off the Other Minds festival in San Francisco, were enough to make converts of doubters. While the concert’s second half involved a group improvisation with L.A.-based players, the real focus was on Stockhausen’s duo called Moving Sound, with clarinetist Tara Bouman.

Their work translates nicely to the recorded medium, as well, and their impressionistic, winter-reverie-suitable CD Thinking About (Aktivraum) is well worth seeking out. Here is ripe music for an introspective, atmospheric but not air-headed evening.

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