Classical Music Festivals

Two Major Classical Music Festivals Begin in June

Joe Lovano

CLASSICAL CHANGEOVER SEASON:It happens each year, praises be to the Gods of regional culture: The classical concert season lurches to its inevitable late spring finale, and we soon look forward to the embarrassment of riches of Music Academy of the West‘s summer festival, keeping at bay the ennui that would otherwise befall classical music lovers/addicts in summertime.

It’s the same time of year that our appetites for adventure are whetted by the annual, contemporary music-friendly Ojai Music Festival, a four-day feast beginning next Thursday. The two pillars of the classical music scene in Santa Barbara area (and the backyard/spiritual sister city of Ojai) go by four-letter monikers. CAMA (Community Arts Music Association) brings internationally renowned artists to town, and Ojai’s festival has been graced by some of the greatest names and sounds of the past century. Into the unpretentious, tree-lined splendor of Ojai’s Libbey Bowl during the past six-plus decades, the festival has hosted and toasted such legends as Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland, Lukas Foss, Olivier Messiaen, Pierre Boulez (multiple times), John Adams, and, last year, Steve Reich.

This year’s festival, a more contemporary chamber-sized affair, is directed by committee, being the members of the respected eighth blackbird. A prime contender in the ranks of current, highly mobile, and conceptually flexible contemporary music groups, the ensemble was in Ojai as part of the 2006 festival’s 60th birthday bash. The main events of the long weekend include a world premiere of “Slide,” by theatrical new music figure Rinde Eckert and composer Steve Mackey, and performances of Arnold Schnberg‘s “Pierrot Lunaire” and numerous small ensemble classics.

FRINGE PRODUCT:Joe Lovano has long been deemed one of the most prominent and creatively vital voices among living tenor sax players, and his discography is an almost dizzying journey, through varied groupings and stylistic milieus. With the new Folk Art (Blue Note), from a new group he calls Us Five, Lovano outdoes himself in terms of connecting the multiple dots of his many and varied musical interests. On what may well be the year’s first important new jazz album on a major label, Lovano explores and declares his refreshed aesthetic intentions-aided by a young-ish group, with bassist Esperanza Spaulding, Otis Brown III and Francisco Mela on double-drum duties, and vibrant pianist James Weidman. Lovano pulls together aspects of avant garde, post-Coltrane, world music-esque ideas and the introspective and elastic invention we have heard from Lovano when in the classic trio with Paul Motian and Bill Frisell. Rank this one highly on the must-to-check-out list.

JAZZ TRIPPING:For a musical day trip within easy, scenic driving distance, proceed to the Los Olivos Jazz and Olive Festival on Saturday in the park, from 1-4 p.m. The festival boasts a solid group of Los Angeles-based and elsewhere-based jazz players: pianist Stefan Karlsson is joined by the fine guitarist Larry Koonse-a player deserving wider recognition in the jazz world at large-bassist Tom Warrington, drummer Mark Ferber, and L.A.’s tenor saxist of choice, Bob Sheppard. Sheppard, in fact, was a starring voice in another memorable Santa Ynez valley jazz shindig, in the first annual Solvang Jazz Festival two years back, alongside trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, one of the jazz legends we lost in the past year. Stay tuned for news of the Solvang Festival’s lineup for installment number three, coming this fall.

TO-DOINGS: Choro, the bedazzling and intricate vintage Brazilian musical style that predates samba and bossa nova, has been enjoying an expanding audience, partly thanks to passionate stateside practitioners. Last year, mandolin wizard and advocate Mike Marshall brought his group Choro Famoso to the Live Oak Festival for a hot set featuring some guests from Brazil, and another Bay Area-based group, Grupo Falso Baiano, continues in its way to fight the good fight and play the good song. The band, with Santa Barbara’s Rebecca Kleinmann guesting on flute, returns to SOhO on Sunday, fueled by the continuing momentum of last year’s fine CD, Viajando: Choro e Jazz.


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