Tag Archives: Music Review

Review: Romanticism and Ferocity

Camerata Pacifica plays the Pasadena Civic.

By CHRISTIAN ARAYA, Contributing Writer
Published: Thursday, January 16, 2014 | 3:26 PM

Camerata Pacifica’s January 14 performance at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium consisted of fine veneer-like works from Haydn, Brahms, Elliot Carter, and John Harbison.

Haydn’s Piano trio No. 43 in C Major, Hob. XV: 27, 1. Allegro began the trickling effects of auditory synesthesia. The mezzo piano arpeggios, reverberating diminuendos, and tantalizing crescendos evoked woodland scenery with picaresque creatures frolicking and being mischievous. All of the Trio’s movements expressed a candor of string and piano virtuosity, but it wasn’t until the third that the violin’s voice paralleled that of the piano, as the cello resonated in between both to channel both themes.

Camerata Pacifica at the Pasadena Civic Green Room.

Brahms’ Quintet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 111 captured the candid twinkling of the night’s sentiment. The splendor of the cello’s theme is as moving as it is touching; as it fights with four voices–two violins and two violas. The ferocity of its willingness to survive amidst stringed chaos is what makes the theme so powerful.

Romanticism pours out like a blossoming orchid in the second, third, and fourth movements. The second introduced a somber mood and viola cadenza, while the third carried a swaying theme reminiscent of Philip Glass’s The Hours movie soundtrack.

The second half of the program opened with Elliott Carter’s Elegy for Viola & Piano,  and ended with John Harbison’s Piano Quintet.

You can hear aural similarities between Brahms and Harbison, but the latter’s quintet suggests a lot more space. This 20th century dedication to the painter Georgia O’Keefe’s abstract sound channels compositions made famous and pioneered by composers such as Arnold Schoenberg.

The collection’s grandeur of fine performances was like watching a cherry blossom branches sway back and forth on a breezy day.

You can find more of Christian Araya’s work at www.christianaraya.com.

Cool Jazz and Coffee

Grace Kelly hits the spot at Coffee Gallery Backstage

by CHRISTIAN ARAYA, Contributing Writer
Published: Tuesday, January 14, 2014 | 12:41 AM

Grace Kelly’s performance at the Coffee Gallery Backstage the other evening, was more than just eloquent and casual—things got funky. The Coffee Gallery is a nice alcove for, you guessed it, coffee and baked goodies, with their back space converted into a cozy sanctuary for jazz and folk.

Grace Kelly at the Coffee Gallery Backstage

Think of an intimate and warm venue such McCabe’s in Santa Monica, except Coffee Gallery Backstage has walls adorned with cargo bags of coffee beans from around the world. It feels like you’re at a small airport in Uruguay, about to take a private plane in an adventure all over South America, with an untested pilot and a busted altimeter.

Back to Ms. Kelly.  Having performed in places such as New York’s Birdland, Carnegie Hall, The Newport Jazz Festival, and many more jazz stages around the globe, she shared her original compositions, and some covers, and also brought with her two talented backing performers—Michael Miller on twangy jazz guitar and Jerry Watts on a funky electric bass.

She would switch off between soprano and alto sax on her various tunes. Her cover of Henry Rollins’ “St. Thomas” was doused with some breezy sub-tropical rolls and raspy sax phrases. Her musical prowess extended into singing as her soft and tender voice told a lovely story in “Walking on Egg Shells”.

Another original composition that really made an impression was “Leaves”—a meandering of warm, breezy, and colorful sax tones which navigated around the stage.

The trio was actually playing together for the first time, but they sounded as if they knew each other for years. Miller’s artillery of pedal board magic created a layered dreamscape for a lot of Kelly’s love songs. His own solos were a labyrinth of harmony and latin staccato. Watts’ created a scat-a-tat dialogue with his bass a lá George Benson. All their individual nuances came together as they ended their set with some funky jazz, which the audience just couldn’t get enough of.

The Coffee Gallery Backstage is at 2029 N Lake Ave, Altadena, CA 91001. (626) 398-7917. www.coffeegallery.com. 

Christian Araya also lives and blogs at christianaraya.com

Blood Orange’s Cupid Deluxe Hits Bull’s Eye

Shut up and take my money, Devonté Hynes a.k.a. Blood Orange does it again!

"Cupid Deluxe"

Cupid Deluxe follows the dance moves of Hynes’ debut album Coastal Grooves which received a lot of attention from low brow audiophiles and press alike. As a whole the albums is tinged with a myriad of artistic collaborations.  It is less linear and more of an abstract painting–like something that Basquiat would put together in a warehouse.

Hynes’ Chamakay creates soft tribal rhythms that sound like tropical rain fall. Haunting yet creamy vocal duets stream across the album’s love-themed sky like comet tails. And if you listen closely you can hear sensual sax lines and echoing hooks.

Beats and synth-grooves (by means of a vintage TR-505 drum machine)  drape most of the album like a downtempo homage to 80’s acid house. Retro slow jams like “You’re Not Good Enough” help paint this picture as the outro exposes you to a jazzy New York background (and the girls in polkadot dresses go doo do doo do doo do do doo…).

Guitar riffs and slap-bass lines keep things pulsing (listen to “Uncle ACE” and you too will get funky). To keep it fresh Clams Casino adds rap production while Despot and Skepta lay down some rhymes. By the time you get to”High Street” you know you’re listening to something dope.

Often times you can hear influences such as those of a young Michael Jackson or Bruno Mars, instilled with the seductive qualities of Marvin Gaye and a vogue Usher. The production style might also remind you of Quincy Jones but the album really does stand on its own. What’s more encouraging is the fact that Hynes concocted the bulk of these tunes on his own then veiled them with angelic voices of singers such as Samantha Urbani and Caroline Polachek.

With songs of this artistic quality and far reaching creativity who needs pop divas?

Rock Royalty Run Amuck at The Avalon

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Chaos with a cause. The Kings of Chaos rock the Avalon

November 18th, 2013–If there’s one thing that is worth fighting for it’s your freedom. But what about those that can’t fight for their own freedom? Should we fight for theirs?

Ric O’Barry might be known as the man behind the ‘discovery’ and training of america’s most loveable finned movie star, Flipper, but he would refuse to be associated with such a memory. In fact, ever since T.V’s most recognized dolphin passed away in his arms he has taken it upon himself to battle an industry of animal abuse and another that keeps dolphins captive for amusement. To do this he started Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project.

He also laid the foundation with 2009’s The Cove documentary. It was at a protest in Taijii, Japan that Ric O’Barry met Matt Sorum (former drummer of Guns ‘n Roses) where they found out that they shared the same cause. Their collaboration ensued as they teamed up for a benefit concert at one of Hollywood’s most historic and lush venues–The Avalon.

Along with Sorum were fellow super group rockers Slash (Guns N’ Roses) , Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses, Jane’s Addiction, Velvet Revolver), Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath), Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour), and Steve Stevens (Billy Idol, Michael Jackson),

Sorum started the set off with a twangy rocker ballad which eased into Hughes playing Deep Purple’s “Mistreated” with gnawing aye-aye-aye’s and high pitched octaves. Then Taylor comes out, and together with Stevens, they take the crowd by storm with tracks like “Rebel Yell” and “Smoke onthe Water.”

There were more head bangs, pelvic thrusts, and fist pumps that you could count on two hands. Next thing you know Juliette Lewis (Natural Born Killers) jumps out, shouts out to all the ladies, tantalizes the gents, and electrifies AC/DC’s “Dirty Deed Done Dirt Cheap.” Afterwards, Hughes comes back out as they regroup and cover some classics like Led Zeppelin’s “Communication Breakdown” and “Immigrant Song.” Just when you think they’re done rockin’ guess who comes a knockin’?

Special guests Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) and Billy Ray Cyrus (“Achy Breaky Heart” and Miley Cyrus) appear. They play Queen’s “Tie your Mother Down” with all the original grit, teenage angst, and rebellion. By the time they play their last song, Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City”, you can’t help but wonder how come the stage didn’t explode with so many rock stars in one place.

Credits: thearroyosecojournal.com, @Dolphin_Project, @kingsofchaosusa