SERIOUS MUSICAL LOWDOWN: We’ve come to count on Robin Cox‘s fascinating Iridian Arts new music series for injecting much-needed contemporary musical energy into downtown in recent years. More specifically, Cox-a dynamic violinist and ensemble leader in his own right-has put his energies into creating a forum for new-minded string players, especially violinists (i.e. Todd Reynolds and Carla Kihlstedt). Cox also has the good sense to regularly bring talented New Yorkers to our coast for our pondering pleasure.
Sure enough, a New York-based string player arrives this weekend for another of the “Strike Series” shows, sponsored by Iridian and Contemporary Arts Forum (where the concerts take place between exhibitions), but this time the register goes down an octave or three. Famed double bassist Robert Black, a founding member of the influential Bang on a Can All-Stars and a bassist who has been broadening the field for his instrument’s public profile, will present two solo shows, Friday and Saturday. Black has done much to give his chosen instrument an expressive presence, beyond its stereotypical role as a supportive ensemble voice. His recordings include the intriguing and eclectic State of the Bass (OO Discs), CDs of music by Christian Wolff, and, most recently, bass music by the late, great Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi (the latter two CDs on Mode).
At CAF, expect low notes, a forest of timbres, surprising mixtures of acoustic and electronic means, and a general feeling of leaving on a high note.
GRANADA SURF REPORT: The Granada-aptly and officially known as The Granada-has sailed smoothly into life as a glorious, functioning cultural machine in the past month. By day, workers still polish edges and hide dust and equipment away from public spaces, but it’s all for the good. As of last week, the Granada cultural surf report included its very first entry into jazz programming, via Bobby McFerrin, Chick Corea, and Jack DeJohnette, and it was a doozy of an introduction. It remains to be seen whether jazz, which has a healthy but not unlimited local audience, can become a regular player in this 1,500-seat house, but an ecstatic aura hovered in the room as these masters coaxed into being their all-improvised goods, individually, collectively, and with McFerrin’s usual audience participation inducement tactics.
To date, the Granada has hosted recitals by musical theater icons (Mandy Patinkin), easy-does-it pop vets (America), and public radio programs gone live (NPR’sWait, Wait : Don’t Tell Me, replete with a nutty heckler-another Granada first). Coming up shortly on the surf report-the first classical vocal recital (the wondrous Salvatore Licitra on May 8) and, most eagerly awaited of all, the first official concert by a symphony orchestra (Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Los Angeles Philharmonic, May 3), when we’ll hear for ourselves if this house sounds better, orchestrally, than the Arlington, and by how much. We’re all ears for that one.
TO-DOINGS: It’s Fair and Expo time at the Earl Warren Showgrounds this weekend, which means animal aromas in the air, nauseating fun on the fairway, a rotating musical agenda on stages within nose-shot of BBQ, and other reasons to break away from the home entertainment center. Here’s one suggestion: Check out the annual rodeo and Mexican music extravaganza Sunday afternoon in the arena (dubbed the Haight Ashbury in honor of the fair’s hippy kitschy Peace and Love theme). This year’s musical fare on Sunday includes Los Tucanes de Tijuana and Mariachi queen Graciela Beltran, “La reina del pueblo.”
Los Angeles-based tenor saxist Alicia Mangan shows up at tonight’s edition of the Santa Barbara New Music series at Muddy Waters, hosted and opened by Colter Frazier and Rob Wallace. Mangan’s free-leaning resume includes work with the late Peter Kowald and Wadada Leo Smith. Don’t forget about Philadelphia’s Man Man, tonight at SOhO. The madcap and costumed band’s music mixes theatricality and gruff experimental charisma, earning recurring comparisons to Captian Beefheart and Tom Waits.