Arts and Entertainment

Walk of life: Noted bassist Robert Hurst offers straight talk to BGSU jazz students

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Jazz performance comes down to conversation. On the stage that means the bass player communicating with the drummer, and both communicating with the saxophonist, explained award-winning bassist and composer Robert Hurst. Off the stand it means listening to records together, and talking about the music. When he traveled with singer Dianne Krall’s band, the musicians would take turns assembling playlists to listen to during long bus trips. It’s about the hang, said Jeff Halsey, the director of Jazz Studies at Bowling Green State University. Hurst, who has played with a who’s who of the jazz world, in the Tonight Show Band and composed for movies, was on campus last week. He performed with the university’s top student big band, and then on Friday held a master class with a couple student jazz combos. Communication also means being clear with yourself, Hurst, 51, said. “Two things I try to ask myself,” he said: “How can I make this groove better? … Are you being a drag?” That applies not just to the bandstand, he said, but life in general. Hurst carries his prominence lightly, not afraid to crack a joke. When saxophonist David Mirarchi said the trio was going to play the standard tune “I Hear a Rhapsody,” Hurst came back at him with “I hear a Rap CD?” He praised the group he heard, but also offered some advice based on his decades as a musician. A solo, he said, should have a theme, a rhythmic fragment or motif. His approach is to work with whatever he plays first in a solo. He also told the young musicians not to worry about being intimidated on the stand. “You have to get used to the feeling of being uncomfortable,” he said. “If you’re going to play this music at a high level, you’ve got to have trust.” When the Detroit native first hit the international scene with the Wynton Marsalis band in 1986, he felt he was the worst one in the band. “I didn’t mind that.” He admitted that he still makes mistakes like at the concert the night before when there was some miscommunication about the bridge on one of the tunes. It’s music, he said. Nobody’s going to die if you make a mistake. Not that anyone in the audience for the Thursday night show was complaining. With a single rehearsal together,…


“The Butler” Author Serves Up History From the Basement

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Reporter Wil Haygood had to watch two episodes of “The Price Is Right” before he could start interviewing Eugene Allen and his wife, Helene. Haygood had come to the Allen home because he was interested in hearing about Allen’s experience as an African-American butler in the White House. In the living room there was little sign of his former employment. A single photo with Nancy Reagan. Only after two hours of talking did Helene Allen turn to her husband and say. “You can take him down now.” That’s when Haygood went down with Allen into the basement. Walking gingerly in the dark, Allen clung to the reporter’s arm, until they found the light switch. When the light went on, Haygood saw what looked “like the most gorgeous room in the Smithsonian Museum.” The writer related all this to an audience last week at Bowling Green State University’s commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Allen’s basement walls were lined with photos and memorabilia from decades of service in the White House. There were presidents and royalty – Duke Ellington for one. There were gifts, including a Stetson hat given to him by Lyndon Johnson, given to Allen by the presidents he had served. Among the items were 20 photo albums. Here was history in all its glory, in the basement of a modest Washington house. Haygood asked Allen if anyone ever written about him. “If you think I’m worthy you would be the first,” Allen replied. “That hurt to hear that,” Haygood said. Here was someone who had served his country faithfully. Here was someone who loved his country, but because of the color of his skin that love was seldom reciprocated. Only later did Haygood learn that Helene Allen had long been trying to interest someone in telling her husband’s story. Now that dream would come true, but too late for her. On Sunday, feeling tired after spending time with her family she retired early to bed. The next morning, a day before the election that would put the first African-American in the White House, her husband woke to find she had died in bed next to him. She didn’t live to see that story Haygood wrote on the front page of the Washington Post — a story that publications around the world published. She didn’t live to read the book that grew…


Suitcase Junket delivers bone-rattling sounds at Grounds for Thought

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The suitcases for musical act The Suitcase Junket are mostly empty. Matt Lorenz, the sole human member of the ensemble, doesn’t need that much luggage to haul his personal belongings. He does share the stage with two old suitcases. A large one that he beats with a pedal operated by his right heel serves as his bass. Another smaller valise props up an old gas can which he strikes with another pedal with a baby shoe attached. Lorenz told the audience at Grounds for Thought Friday night that he’d worn that baby shoe, and his sister had as well. Sharing this familial detail is intended to make the device less creepy. Doesn’t really though. The creepy and the wistful, the otherworldly and mundane, meet in the music of The Suitcase Junket. Among the other members of the band (as Lorenz thinks of them) are a circular saw blade, a bones and bottle caps shaker, a hi-hat cymbal. He plays a guitar that he found on the river bank. It was moldy, he said. No good reason to throw out a guitar. He’s fitted out his musical set up with rescues from the junk shop and dump. And they repay his devotion though during one number Lorenz said his guitar acts up sometimes just to remind him it was “garbage.” Still that acting up, the odd, incidental vibrations and buzzes, all contribute to the “Swamp Yankee” textures of The Suitcase Junket. Lorenz is just as resourceful with his voice, he growls, even croons, on occasion. He does a version of Tibetan throat singing, where he manipulates his voice so tones split to create an eerie, whistling sound. Lorenz also plays a mean mouth trumpet. All this goes into the performance of songs that often have longing at their heart. Old blues about modern relationships. He can rock out like a blues rock band, or be tender. “Wherever I wake up I’ll call my home,” he sings with gentle ambiguity. Will that strange place be his home, or will he call home from that place? The uncertainty adds to the sadness. Then there’s his “Frankenstein lullaby” to a bone which he wants to give wings. Snatching a title from a Buddy Bolden setlist, he makes the existential blues question his own: “If You Don’t Like My Potatoes Why Do You Dig So Deep?” Lorenz fills in…


BGSU student composers offer opera in a nutshell

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent Media If you want to know how daunting writing an opera is, just ask Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon. Speaking last October as the guest composer at the New Music and Art Festival at Bowling Green State University, she said writing her first opera “Cold Mountain” was an all-consuming project that occupied her full time 28 months. With casting and orchestra and staging, an opera is a massive undertaking beyond what a young composer can wrangle. BGSU has an answer though. For several years it has invited student composers to submit proposals to write micro-operas, 20 minutes or less. They use small casts and just a few instrumentalists, and can be staged in a recital hall. Four micro-operas will make their debuts Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall in Moore Musical Arts Center. Admission is free. On the program will be: * Respectable Woman by Kristi Fullerton with libretto by Jennifer Creswell who directs and Evan Mecarello, conductor. * Sensations by Robert Hosier, Ellen Scholl, director and Maria Mercedes Diaz-Garcia, conductor. * Black Earth by Jacob Sandridge, Jeanne Bruggeman-Kurp, director and Robert Ragoonanan, conductor. * The Lighthouse by Dalen Wuest, Hillary LaBonte, director, and Santiago Serrano, conductor. Writing an opera, said Hosier, “is the kind of thing I’d considered before. I actually started writing one but the forces required for a full opera, for one thing … I couldn’t get ahold of them. And it’s a lot to write for.” So he set aside the project aside. Then late last spring semester the call went out from the College of Music to composers to submit proposals for micro-operas. “This seemed more feasible,” Hosier said. So after his proposal was accepted in June he spent the summer composing Sensations based on his own short story. Fullerton drew on the talents of a fellow singer for her libretto. Jennifer Cresswell, who directed the Toledo Opera’s Opera on Wheels program, had experience writing librettos for children’s opera. Together they settled on a story “Respectable Woman” by 19th century southern writer Kate Chopin. Cresswell said the story proved more an inspiration than a strict blueprint. They gave the tale of a woman tempted to stray from her marriage a contemporary twist, reflecting modern attitudes. Fullerton said she became aware of the BGSU micro-opera project when she auditioned for the graduate program. As…


Warm up your ear drums this weekend

  If you love music then you’ll have your love to keep you warm this coming weekend. Several performances are scheduled that will beat the ear drums to a variety of beats. On Thursday and Friday the Bowling Green State University Jazz Program will host bassist Robert Hurst. A master of all media, he has Emmy, Grammys and even an Oscar nod on his resume. He first emerged on the scene as he helped set the pace for early Wynton Marsalis groups. Since then he’s played with Barbra Streisand, Yo Y o Ma and Sir Paul McCartney as well a host of jazz luminaries. He joinied Brandford Marsalis as a member of band for Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He now teaches at the University of Michigan. He’ll share the lessons of his career with students in master classes rehearsals and a concert with the university’s Lab Band I directed by Jeff Halsey Thursday at 8 p.m.in Kobacker Hall. Tickets are $7 in advance and $10 on the day of the concert. On Friday Grounds for Thought, 174 S. Main St. Bowling Green, will host The Suitcase Junket, the one-man band of Matt Lorenz, musician, sculptor and writer. That Lorenz hails from Amherst in Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley is telling. His music is full of ghosts revived in Lorenz’ dark, rough voice, that nonetheless is very much of our time. His work is a kind of spectral scholarship. At www.makingwhatiwant.com, he explains what he means by “Giving Life to Dead Things for 25 Years.” “I see it as an overriding theme in most of the work that I do. When writing songs it is the words that are dead before they are sung into life. The strings of an instrument without a pulse await the fingers to give them voice. A tune tells you how it’s going to be played or written. And when making music in a room the air and walls themselves absorb the sound and change it; responding and reflecting.” While Lorenz touches on ancient sounds, music of the moment will get its chance to shine this weekend as well. Friday doctoral students in contemporary music will travel north to the Toledo Museum of Art for the third Ear | Eye: Listening and Looking: Contemporary Music and Art. Musicians will perform works in the museum’s Wolfe Gallery for contemporary art at 7 p.m. The idea is to find…


Trombone takes center stage at BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Trombone takes the spotlight in two upcoming Bowling Green State University recitals. Sunday at 3 p.m. Brass from Bowling Green State University will be presented in the Great Gallery of the Toledo Museum of Arts as part of the museum’s Sundayconcert series. The concert features trombonists William Mathis, chair of BGSU’s Department of Music Performance, and Garth Simmons, principal trombone with the Toledo Symphony and adjunct professor at BGSU. The trombonists will open the program going slide to slide on Cindy McTee’s Fanfare for Trombone in two parts. Mathis with pianist Cole Burger will perform Sonata for Trombone and Piano by James M. Stephenson. Simmons will close the program with “Arrows of Time” by Richard Peaslee  with pianist Robert Satterlee. Also on the museum program will be the Graduate Brass Quintet performing the classic brass Quintet No. 3 by Victor Ewald. Members of the quintet are: Jonathan Britt and Christina Komosinski, trumpets, Lucas Dickow, horn, Drew Wolgemuth, trombone, and Diego Flores, tuba. On Wednesday as part of the Faculty Artists Series Mathis and Simmons will reprise their duo and solo pieces in a recital with Burger and Satterlee at 8 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall in the Moore Musical rts Center. Mathis will also perform electro-acoustic piece “Can You Crack It?” by Benjamin Taylor, who did his graduate study at Bowling Green State University. Simmons will also perform Fantasy for Trombone and Piano in E Major by Sigismond Stojowski. The concert is free as are all Faculty Artist Series events.


PBS puts accent on American story

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News PBS drama fans will hear new accents Sunday night. After “Downton Abbey” with its familiar British turns of phrase, PBS will premier “Mercy Street” with decidedly American tone. Not only is the setting and accent American, but the production is as well. That’s a major move for public broadcasting which has relied on BBC to provide its drama. In May, 2014 when WGTE hosted Rebecca Eaton, executive producer of the “Masterpiece” franchise, she spoke with regret that there would not be an American equivalent of “Masterpiece.” Now a little more than a year and a half later, thanks to corporate support, we have just that. It also addresses another issue Eaton confronted during her visit, a lack of ethnic diversity in BBC’s offerings. I would hope this is not a one-off. The presence of Ridley Scott at the helm as executive producer, is certainly a good sign. Can PBS recruit top American directors for future series? Set in a hospital during the Civil War, “Mercy Street” explores distinctly American themes. The choice of the Civil War is fitting for this effort. If class distinctions are a British obsession, the Civil War and America’s tortured history of racial oppression, is our country’s own obsession. We alternately ignore it and shout at each other about it. People are still dying. At a recent preview screening at the WGTE studio in Toledo, the station screened a special collection of scenes from the first three episodes. Not the best way to assess a show, but enough to give a sense of what lies in store. “Mercy Street” centers on a Union Army hospital in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1862, a propitious time. The hospital, already jammed with the wounded, disfigured, mauled and festering, is about to get much busier as Union commander George McClellan launches his Peninsula Campaign. Just a few miles away in Washington President Lincoln is preparing the Emancipation Proclamation. But those large events seem secondary to the personal affairs of the characters. The hospital is located in a luxury hotel owned by the wealthy Green family. Cathy Kamenca, WGTE’s TV program coordinator, likened them to the Crawleys of “Downton Abbey.” They are privileged and reluctant to give up their status and honor even under the noses of their Yankee occupiers. Their daughters Emma (Hannah James) and Alice (Anna Sophia Robb) question why they haven’t fled into Confederate-controlled…


Faculty recital series starts at BGSU

Start the new semester with some new music performed by violinist Caroline Chin . She’ll present the first Faculty Artist Series of the semester Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the refurbished Bryan Recital Hall in the Moore Musical Arts Center on the Bowling Green State University campus. She will perform BGSU colleague Guggenheim Fellow Mikel Kuehn Mikel Kuehn’s “Crosstalk” for Flute and Violin and with Dr. Conor Nelson, flute. This is the piece’s wrld premiere. Chin will open the concert with Anton Webern’s 4 Pieces for Violin and Piano. She’ll be joined by Dr. Laura Melton, piano. Chin and Melton will close with Camille Saint-Saens’ Sonata No. 1 in D minor for Violin and Piano. Chin joined the BGSU faculty last semester. She’s an avid performer of contemporary chamber music and has played with tap dancer Savion Glover and the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra. Photo courtesy of carolineevachin.com Originally published at: medium.com/@ DavidRDupont