Monthly Archives: November 2009

Monday night at Joe’s Pub: Clearly a Passing Strange family gathering

You can see the intensity in Paul Oakley Stovall's eyes.

Thanksgiving is a time when families come together. But this year, the Monday night after Thanksgiving is family day for Strange Freaks — people who love Passing Strange, its creators, its cast, and all the people inextricably linked to each other through the fantastic musical and movie. Monday night is when Joe’s Pub at NYC’s Public Theater turns into Strange Freaks Central with shows involving Stew, Colman Domingo and special guests during two shows that evening.

First there’s a performance of Clear, a new musical experience by Paul Oakley Stovall. Paul is the tall, striking young NYC-based singer who linked up with the Passing Strange crew during auditions for the show.

He’s an amazingly talented singer, who’s been heard before at Joe’s Pub, most memorably  on a bill with PS creators Stew and Heidi Rodewald and PS cast members. His show-in-the works, Clear, is the latest offspring of  PS, since Stew wrote some of the music. (Paul also has a day job working for the Obama administration. For a revealing interview with Paul in The Advocate, click here.)

Clear is being billed as an “opera poem” that will take you from the South Side of Chicago to the rooftops of Stockholm, from an ER in Minneapolis to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.  Paul wrote the book and lyrics, and collaborated with  Stew, Tom Kitt and others on the music. It’s produced by Steve and Ruth Hendel.

It is directed by Krissy Vanderwarker.

The  cast features Joshua Kobak, Yassmin Alers, Chris Anderson and Brad Simmons.

Check out a track from the show on the Joe’s Pub web site.  It sounds like a winner to me. Click here to listen.

Here’s Paul’s take on the piece, from an interview by Tonya Pinkins:

Clear was inspired by a piece I was working on about Bayard Rustin. Google him folks. He’s too deep to summarize. Stew and I wrote some great music. That piece went in a different direction (and we are still working on it together) but I had all these songs about a strong Black man, who was gay, passionate, political and, among many other things, a survivor. I began to rework lyrics, pull some songs from my other songwriting ventures and collaborators and create this semi-autobiographical piece about our universal human desire to rise out of our self-created fogs and live a life that is CLEAR. It will be told in a very unique way. Sort of mix between Sandra Bernhardt, Passing Strange, and Mario Cantone’s Laugh Whore. Structured, but freewheeling. And I’ve got the most amazing people on stage with me. So, I’m very much looking forward to finding out how people respond to this “pop poem opera” as I am starting to call it.

Clear, a concert reading. 7:30 pm on Monday, Nov. 30, at Joe’s Pub, 425 Lafayette Street, Manhattan. Tickets, available here, are $20.

Colman Domingo is celebrating his 40th birthday with a performace at Joe's Pub on Monday night.

Then, at 9:30, right after Clear, the amazing Colman Domingo, to whom regular readers of this blog need no introduction, will flex his musical and thespian muscles in a show that celebrates his 40th birthday (which actually falls on Saturday). Colman promises lots of special guests and surprises. Proceeds will benefit Save the Children.

I’ll let Colman explain the deal to you in his own words. And if you don’t recognize the names he drops, you just haven’t been paying attention. I’m guessing that Paul and his crew are likely to stick around for this one:
Celebrate my 40th Birthday with me at Joe’s Pub on November 30th. Anika, De’Adre, Eisa, Ari, Daniel, Jon and more will perform with me. Together we will sponsor children in need this year. That would be a great gift. Buy your ticket today.
Colman Domingo’s BIG ASS 40th Birthday Party, 7:30 pm on Monday, Nov. 30, at Joe’s Pub, 425 Lafayette Street, Manhattan. Tickets, available here, are $20.

Jay-Z, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith join Team Fela!

Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith


It’s official! Rap-world entrepreneur Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and Hollywood actors Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith are stepping up to support Fela! The A-listers now have their names over the title of this thrilling Broadway musical after joining the team as producers. They’ll also attend the opening night performance next Monday.

I saw this intense musical in previews last night, more than a year after seeing it twice in its off-Broadway incarnation. The show has made a very successful transfer to the Great White Way. The music is strong, the cast has gotten stronger. Saycon Sengbloh as Sandra Isadore, Fela’s American lover and the woman who introduced him to Black Power, is an amazing addition to the cast. And Kevin Mambo, who alternates with the amazing Sahr Ngaujah in the title role, offers a slightly more serious, less impish portrayal.

It’s a fantastic evening of hot African music and does a decent (if sanitized) job of conveying the story of who Fela Anikulapo Kuti was.

Check out a video sampler from the show after the jump. Continue reading

Asphalt Orchestra marches back to Lincoln Center!

It came from underground: Asphalt Orchestra marches out of the subway for its debut in August. (Photos copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

That’s right, the fantastic Asphalt Orchestra, the avant-garde marching band that made its debut during Lincoln Center Out of Doors this summer, is making a comeback tomorrow for a free public preview of Lincoln Center’s newest space, the David Rubenstein Atrium.

Asphalt Orchestra with its inimitable, off-kilter marching band aesthetic kicks off tomorrow’s festivities at noon. And that’s just the beginning. There will be food and other performances well into the evening.

For the full schedule and more photos of Asphalt Orchestra, click through to the jump. Continue reading

New Music’s next wave


Remixer Dennis DeSantis, in the shadows, left, with the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble at (Le) Poison Rouge. (Photos copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

I saw and heard the future of New Music on Sunday night, and I am happy to report the future is bright.

ICR Sax Solo

A saxophone solo opens the performance of "In C."

The Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble, which burst onto the scene with its fabulous 2007 performance (and followup recording) of Steve Reich‘s “Music for 18 Musicians”, filled (Le) Poisson Rouge last Sunday night with the sounds of another 20th Century classic — Terry Riley‘s “In C.”


Radio Lab host Jad Abumrad was master of ceremonies.

Riley’s piece is more of a challenge than Reich’s because it is less structured, more mutable and highly shaped by the musical personality of the performers. The 15 talented players in GVSUNME — most of them students — played an engaging version that they made their own with the use of electronics and flourishes like a saxophone solo  to open the performance.

Sunday’s concert was a celebration of the release of In C Remixed, GVSUNME’s double-CD recording of In C and 18 remixes by 16 artists. The ensemble’s recording of “In C” clocks in at just over 20 minutes. For Sunday’s concert, the group played for about an hour. That’s the other major variable of the piece — it’s written in such a way that it can be as long or short, within certain limits, as the players want it to be.

Continue reading

Celebrate Julia Wolfe’s new album with four free concerts tomorrow


Composer Julia Wolfe

Bang on a Can co-founder Julia Wolfe‘s new CD, Dark Full Rid, is coming out tomorrow on Cantaloupe Music. Anyone who follows Bang on a Can closely will know most, if not all, of these pieces. The title piece is a blistering percussion suite that stands as one of my all-time favorites. It’s high time a recording became available.

To celebrate, Bang on a Can has organized a series of free concerts at four locations in Manhattan. If you are lucky enough to be able to make it to all four locations, you’ll have the honor of hearing the entire contents of the CD live on the day of release.

The shows are all free and open to the public. Here’s the full schedule:

11 am – “LAD” for 9 bagpipes
Matthew Welch plays live with eight recorded bagpipes
Roulette, 20 Greene Street (between Canal and Grand)

NOON – “Dark Full Ride” for 4 drumsets
Talujon Percussion Quartet (David Cossin, Dominic Donato, Michael Lipsey and Matt Ward).
Dauphin Human Design, 138 West 25th Street, 12th Floor (between 6th and 7th Avenues)

1 pm – “Stronghold” for 8 double basses
Robert Black and the Hartt Bass Band.
Chelsea Art Museum, 556 West 22nd Street (corner of 11th Avenue)

darkfullride.ocard.012:30 pm – “my lips from speaking” for 6 pianos
Lisa Moore, Lisa Kaplan, Blair McMillen, Timo Andres, Kate Campbell, Isabelle O’Connell on piano. Conducted by Sam Adams.
Faust Harrison Pianos, 205 West 58th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues)

For more information about the album, click here.

Jad Abumrad to host In C Remixed live


WNYC Radio Lab host Jad Abumrad is MC for the In C Remixed show at (Le) Poisson Rouge on Sunday evening.

If you haven’t booked tickets for the In C Remixed show at (Le) Poisson Rouge tomorrow evening, here’s another incentive: the innovative radio host Jad Abumrad will be MC for the evening.,

Jad is host of WNYC’s Radio Lab, a program that Ira Glass of This American Life has called Jad’s program “the best show on radio.”

Jad is the perfect choice of hosts, as he’s one of the artists who remixed the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble‘s recording of Terry Riley‘s 20th Century classic In C for inclusion on the ensemble’s new In C Remixed CD.

With Jad as host and an opening set by the Slow Boys (Todd Reynolds and Michael Lowenstern, who also have remixes on the CD), it’s shaping up to be a memorable evening.

But if you really can’t make it, not to worry. The show is being recorded by WNYC/WQXR and will be available for listening on WQXR’s Q2 stream.

In C Remixed, featuring the GVSU New Music Ensemble and the Slow Boys is at (Le) Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker Street, Manhattan. (212) 505-3474. Doors at 6:30 pm, show at 7:30.  Click here for more info or here for tickets. $15 in advance.

New Care Bears on Fire video: “Barbie Eat a Sandwich”

Check out this wonderfully entertaining animated video by one of my absolute favorite young bands, Care Bears on Fire. It’s called “Barbie Eat a Sandwich,” and offers some wry commentary on the pressures young women face in modern Western culture. It’s also just a really cool song and a great video, directed splendidly by Daisy Edwards.

Grace Hilbig, the charming actress who plays Barbie, is also quite a find. She does a lot of improv and also has her own daily video channel,  Daily Grace, which you can check out by clicking here.