In 2012, the world as we know it did not end, and culture was an expanding universe, instead of turning into a diminishing-return situation in the face of post-2008 fiscal cliffhangers. Art and music, apparently, will out, even when CD sales have plummeted to near irrelevance and what we hear on commercial radio rarely represents the best of what the muse is cooking in any given genre. In short, there was no lack of fodder for the obsessive, culture-gorging, year-end list-makers among us.
SANTA BARBARA LIVE: Lucky for our ears, Santa Barbara remains a genuine hot spot and go-to locality for mobile music-makers on the world circuit, especially in the pop and classical realms. Jazz is still suffering from an attrition of touring artists in concert mode in the 805, but the best jazz news of the year comes from the future file: A new six-week jazz summer program run through the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra takes root at Santa Barbara City College in July, bringing top-drawer jazz players/teachers to our burg. Is the jazz buzz picking up in the area?
Here, from a list of roughly 200 live shows I caught in the past year, are memorable moments in darkened theaters and nightclubs, cutting across pop, classical, and jazz lines. The following list is in reverse chronological order, from most to least recent, otherwise, the godly Radiohead would be in position number one, natch.
Poor Moon (Muddy Waters Café and SOhO Restaurant & Music Club)
Punch Brothers (Lobero Theatre)
Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra, Vladimir Martynov’s Come in! (Lobero)
Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, Symphonie Fantastique (Granada Theatre)
Nellie McKay, presented by Sings like Hell (Lobero)
Ensemble Basiani (First Methodist Church)
Dianne Reeves (Lobero)
David Byrne and St. Vincent (Arlington)
Pat Metheny Unity Band (Lobero)
Rake’s Progress, Music Academy of the West opera production (Lobero)
Diana Krall (Santa Barbara Bowl)
Alan Jackson (Bowl)
Ojai Music Festival; Bent Sørensen’s Piano Concerto No. 2 “La Mattina” (Libbey Bowl)
Tierney Sutton, with Hubert Laws and Larry Koonse (Lobero)
Santa Barbara Symphony, Ives’s Second Symphony (Granada)
FILM ON THE BRAIN: The finest American films in 2012 were directed by those magnificent Andersons — P.T. and Wes, and the former’s introspective, soul-searching darkness of The Master (with the year’s greatest performance, from the renascent Joaquin Phoenix) sharply contrasted the latter’s reshuffled child’s-eye fantasyland of Moonlight Kingdom, a soul-search from another plane altogether. Steven Spielberg came on strong with Lincoln, and the artfully edgy Belgian film Bullhead was just one of several memorable films seen at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival that never bothered to show up in a regular theatrical run — all the more reason to plunge headlong into SBIFF’s alternative universe. (The caveat with the list being that some of the more buzzed-about films of the year are still trickling into Santa Barbara theaters as of press time).
The Master (P.T. Anderson), Moonlight Kingdom (Wes Anderson), Bullhead (Michael R. Roskam), Lincoln (Steven Spielberg), Damsels in Distress (Whit Stillman), The Sessions (Ben Lewin), Looper (Rian Johnson), The Queen of Versailles (Lauren Greenfield), Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin), Frankenweenie (Tim Burton).
BAKER’S DOZEN POP AND JAZZ CDs: Cat Power, Sun (Matador); Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (Epic); Poor Moon, Poor Moon (Sub Pop); Donald Fagen, Sunken Condos (Reprise); Rufus Wainwright, Out of the Game (Decca); Diana Krall, Glad Rag Doll (Verve); Swans, The Seer (Young God); Esperanza Spalding, Radio Music Society (Heads Up); Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Slippery Rock! (Hot Cup); Pat Metheny Unity Band, Unity Band (Nonesuch); Ravi Coltrane, Spirit Fiction (Blue Note); Vijay Iyer Trio, Accelerando (ACT); Dave Douglas Quintet, Be Still (Greenleaf).