ARTEMIS at UCSB Campbell Hall on April 23, 2023 | Credit: Matt Perko

This edition of ON the Beat was originally emailed to subscribers on April 27, 2023. To receive Josef Woodard’s music newsletter in your inbox each Thursday, sign up at

Jazz Fortitude, from the Stronger Sex

The respected jazz sextet ARTEMIS, which delivered impressively in concert at Campbell Hall on Sunday, follows the grammatical scheme of an emphatic all-caps stylization in its name, but it could just as easily go by the lower-key all-lowercase style, given the collective subtlety of the ensemble. Of course, the qualifying hyphenate most likely to identify the group is “all-female,” a rarity when pianist Renee Rosnes launched the project six years ago. That was then, synced with International Woman’s Day and a pivotal period when women finally started getting more attention due in jazz (a lot of catch-up is still in order).

ARTEMIS at UCSB Campbell Hall on April 23, 2023 | Credit: Matt Perko

By now, with the group about to release its finest album yet, In Real Time, it is more appropriate to identify them as a band of strong musicians who happen to be women. Rosnes and trumpeter Ingrid Jensen have been established leaders and strong contenders in jazz for many years, and they held forth boldly here. Their compadres are all top drawer — from drummer Allison Miller to newcomer youngsters Nicole Glover, tenor sax, Alexa Tarantino, flute and alto sax and formidable bassist Noriko Ueda.

The Campbell Hall set waxed, flexed, cooed, and burned in proper proportions, through originals, fresh arrangements of the Beatles (“Fool on the Hill”) and Bacharach (“What the World Needs Now”), and a clear highlight in the form of the Rosnes-arranged take on the late Lyle Mays’ moving “Slink.” Another surprise high point came at the end: Glover played a solo of pure minimalist poetry on the encore of Billy Strayhorn’s “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing,” saying a lot with a carefully-chosen small batch of notes. Her solo was a lovesome thing.

Who’s Afraid of the Avant-Garde?

Sō Percussion with Caroline Shaw | Credit: Shervin Lainez

Santa Barbara, despite her varied cultural riches, isn’t exactly a hotbed for experimental or avant-garde music. This truism paved the way for a satisfying anomaly last week, when two consecutive nights featured musical fare from the new music edge — a kinder, gentler edge zone.Last Friday’s new music spectacular at Campbell Hall offered the return of two heroic artistic forces. Premier contemporary percussion group Sō Percussion returned after bringing us a dazzling concert at the Music Academy last summer, and inspired composer/vocalist Caroline Shaw was appearing, live and in her subtly charismatic persona, after having her music played in town recently by the Attacca and Miro String Quartets.

After a first half of typically diverse, playful and virtuosic instrumental pieces at Campbell Hall, Sō Percussion was joined by Shaw, performing their tantalizing collaborative song set Let the Soil Play its Simple Part. The 10-song cycle, drawn from such sundry sources as Shaw, James Joyce, and ABBA (yes, that ABBA, not the song structure) occupies a creative and also ear-friendly space that would appeal to fans of Laurie Anderson and David Byrne’s more artworld-leaning projects. It was a wholly satisfying and invigorating evening, and also a partly repeatable pleasure: Nonesuch Records released the work in 2021, available now on a digital portal near you.

And what’s this, avant-garde airs in downtown Santa Barbara? Apart from the chancy goings on at Jim Connolly’s small but mighty Piano Kitchen, the phrase “experimental music downtown” is almost an oxymoron. But there it was, in the form of last Thursday’s program “Visual Music,” an hour-ish presentation of integrated computer visuals and music at Community Arts Workshop, presented by the enterprising new Corwin Chair professor at UCSB, João Pedro Oliveira.Oliveira, who just recently won a Guggenheim Fellowship, was responsible for the program’s highlight — his 2017 piece Tesseract, thrumming with abstracted urbanity and fastidious, futuristic detailing on the site/sound fulcrum.

Beethoven Reprises

Credit: Courtesy

Beethoven mania has taken hold of Santa Barbara recently, thanks to the Santa Barbara Symphony’s stirring readings of the master’s great No. 4-related opuses, Piano Concerto-wise and Symphony-wise. The Beethoven focus continues, from a few different angles, with the world premiere of filmmaker Kerry Candaele’s imaginative conceptual documentary Love and Justice: In the Footsteps of Beethoven’s Rebel Opera, at the New Vic on Sunday, April 30 at 2:30 p.m. This is the second in a planned trilogy of Beethoven-themed films for the former Santa Barbaran, who previously followed his passion for Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the documentary Following the Ninth: In the Footsteps of Beethoven’s Final Symphony.

The plot and logistics thickened with his new film which heads down to Valparaiso, Chile. Candaele crosscuts a grassroots staging of scenes from Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio, with a Butoh dance piece based on dancer María Belén Espinosa Peña’s homage to her composer/conductor grandfather, Jorge Peña Hen, who was murdered during the Pinochet coup in 1973. Somehow, the varying pieces of this non-fiction doc come together with dramatic twists befitting the Beethoven spirit.

María Peña will be present for Sunday’s screening and a Q&A.


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