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February 26, 1978 - Image 5

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1978-02-26

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The Michigan Daily-Sunday, February 26, 1978-Page3

Jazz teamwork thrills


ROM THE very beginning of Friday
night's concert, the Woody Shaw
Ensemble showed itself to be a
swinging group of artists. They elec-
trified a near-capacity crowd at Hill
Auditorium with deft displays of team-
work and flexibility, providing an ex-
citing evening of incisive jazz music.
The rhythm section, comprised of
drummer Victor Lewis, bassist Clint
Houston, and pianist Onaje Allen Gum-
bs, was a beauty. Gumbs, who has
recorded with Norman Conners as well
as Shaw, proved to be a very adept
drummer, supplying complex and con-
sistent rhythms.
With b is equipment, Lewis could beat
out prominent tempos in compositions
like "Love Dance" or an obscured beat
in numbers like "The Legends of Kia."
But Lewis cannot be understood outside
the total textural design that he creates
with Houston and Gumbs, for these
three seem to form a trio all by them-
Forward, Two Steps Backward" fur-
nished a showcase for their talents. On
his keyboard he pumped out rapid ar-
peggios and chord progressions,
leaving enough space for Houston's
bass to comment. The bass lines were
exceptionally clear and articulate;
Houston and Gumbs managed to ease

, r



tones quavered and trembled even as
he was pursuing a melodic line. Jimmy
Vass, who doubled on alto saxophone
and flute, produced shrieking, in-
voluted tones that complemented Jef-
ferson very nicely.
clarinet, showing his versatility on
"Woody and Boo." Steve Turre, who
played on Shaw's LPs Moontrain and
Love Dance, was the sole trombonist.
His phrasing was sporadic, his
modulation extensive, and his pitch
control marvelous.
My favorite tune of the evening, "A
Theme for Maxine", from Shaw's for-
thcoming album, was a good
illustration of Shaw at work. A slow
rhythm builds to a climax, then the
brass enters with the theme. Shaw con-
trasted soft-loud pitches fluctuating
over wide intervals amid many shifts in
movement and tempo.
I wondered why Shaw did not do more
solos. After more than thirty albums as
a sideman and five as a leader, Shaw
has developed a sharp, agile style of his
own. In an interview, Shaw once
repeated an early criticism Art Blakely
had made: "Where are you going?
Take your time. . . start down, way
down, tell a story."
For an encore, the group played
"Sunbath" from Love Dance. The
crowd agreed Woody Shaw can tell jazz
stories very well indeed.

their instruments into harmonic duet at
one moment and into a chase at the
next. The effect was like hearing two
old friends talking to one another.
The ensemble's performance in-
cluded a number of selections from
their upcoming Columbia album
Rosewood. The title song from this
record reminded me of Herbie Han-
cock's "maiden Voyage"; the brass

chorus at the opening of each com-
position is surely similar. But there the
comparison stops. For one thing, Gum-
bs isn't Hancock. And while
"Rosewood" featured a moderate tem-
po beneath prominent harmonies, the
individual characters of the horns
made it decidedly different.
Carter Jefferson lent his tenor
saxophone a kind of biting quality. His

Woody Shaw

'Wilderness poet'

has mellowed

T HE LAST TIME Gary Snyder read
at Ann Arbor, he whispered his
poetry in the grip of laryngitis. But last
Friday night, at Rackham, the
celebrated poet gave quite a different
reading. Snyder opened the evening
with a lengthy introductory talk about
his poetry and his lifestyle - a welcome
change of format from the typical
poetry reading in which the reader
plunges directly into his poems.
Called a "nature poet" by the critics,
Snyder admitted that the term is vague,
as no one knows what that's supposed to
mean. He went on to say that when he
was growing up he was taught that
Wordsworth was a "nature poet". But
Wordsworth wrote about "sheep and
people - domesticated animals", not
about Snyder's themes. Snyder iden-
tified himself as a "wilderness poet", a
term which incorporates both the con-
cepts of "wild" and "free".
From this he turned his attention to
speaking at length on the places people
choose to live, calling on his knowledge
of Japan (where he studied Zen at the
monastery in Kyoto from 1956 to 1964)
and of his native California. This led the
poet into a sort of apology-explanation
for his present home in the back coun-
try (the title of one of his books of
poetry) in the foothills of California
where he has lived for eight years.
WITH SOME understanding and a
sense of communion thus established,
the audience was eased into a pleasan-
tly casual evening's reading, despite
the large size of the crowd. At first
reading a few of his older poems such
as "Song of the Taste" and a couple of
selections from his book Turtle Island,
Snyder gradually reduced his commen-
tary until he entered into the body of
newer poems that comprised the larger
part of the reading. The first of these,
"The Bath", a description of the poet
and his family in a sauna, demon-
strated Snyder's unique oral inter-
pretation as each of the several men-
tions of "is this a body?" was rendered
with a different inflection.
The poems ranged over all aspects of
the poet's present experience and a

wealth of knowledge, from building
fences with bad wood to trucking (he
said that he learned a lot from the Zen
masters in Japan but nothing about
trucks), from classical Chinese and
Japanese to classical Greek and
Throughout the night, the distance
and melancholy silence so charac-
teristic of much of Snyder's poetry was.
not as prominent as one might expect.
He seemed to want to show how he is
moving from the moods set by earlier
poems such as 'The Snow on Saddle
Mountain" or "Four Poems for Robin"
in the direction of a toying playfulness.
on such topics as all the great figures of
myth and history that would be barred
admittance to an ice cream parlor
bearing a "No shoes, no shirt, no ser-
vice" sign, or a playful word
manipulation of Caesar to Sherry. One
three-line poem about mananita trees,
"Shady Lady", was :sung. Even the
anticipated Oriental influences were
light, resulting in such odd combin-
ations as "Two Haiku on the Subject
of the Word Through" or a poem in the

Chinese mode entitled "Talking Lade
With the Governor About the Budget"
(Snyder is on the California Arts Cou,-
cil and is a friend of the governor cf
There were some poems more typidA
of Snyder's style. One of his older opt
ing selections dealt with skinning a for.
Among his last choices, one was
poignantly reminiscent of the Gild
Snyder - moody, quiet, and distant,
describing the sound of antlers rattliak
as two bucks engage in combat in datp-
celike splendor beneath a full moon
Still, the overall mood was light anti
Snyder's final selection of the eveninO,
a playful poem entitled "For All", writ
an excellent conclusion. The poem cap-
tured the tone of the evening withoit
losing the nature of the poet in all
facets. "I pledge allegiance," he reas.
"to the soil of Turtle IsLand . . . with i
terpenetration for all."

Join the
A rts Staff


Daily Photo by JOHN KNOX
Jacob Miller, left, and Bizzer Hertzberg, right, appeared in the RC Players production of Brecht's "The Baby
Elephant", part of an evening of ode-act plays presented February 23-25 in the Residential College Auditorium.
RC one-acts lack acting talent

40%o off
,ebruary 27th thru March 4th ' -'

ACCORDING TO Susy Elder, the di-
rector of "Poetic Justice," the
bulk of Residential College (RC) acting
talent is involved in an upcoming
production of Chekhov's The Seagull.
This helps to explain the high school
level of virtually all the performances
in the three one-act plays presented by
the RC-players last week.
Elder's tempered direction and a
moderately interesting script by RC
graduate Tom DeKornfeld almost
managed to save the first spectacle,
Three One-Act Plays
'Poetic Justice" ............. Tom DeKornfeld,
directed by Susy Elder
"The Carrot Speech" ........Stephen Friedman,
directed by Walter Bilderback
"The Baby Elephant"........... Bertolt Brecht,
directed by Walter Bilderback
"Poetic Justice". "Justice" relies on a
single comedic technique, that of
mixing period speech with contem-
porary banter. But a play needs more
than a single gimmick to work.
Of the players, only Diane Duvall and
possibly Bob Camuto should even con-
sider making a career out of the.
It all adds
G~ 6~& &

theater. Even these two, though, have
long lapses of severe incredibility.
Camuto has an annoying habit of
gaping, awkwardly posed, while other
actors speak their lines. He should stop
listening so loudly.
"THE CARROT Speech" is a short
and sweet preamble to "The Baby
Elephant" by Bertolt Brecht. In it, con-
testant Michael Gold delivers a ram-
bling discourse on Brepht's life and
works to a game-show panel of "in-
tellectuals." The panel judges Gold's
erudition by raising and lowering huge
paper carrots.
The skit makes a pungent point about
America's treatment of Brecht, as the
judges frown and lower the carrots
wheneverthe contestant refers to the
less savory aspects of Brecht's pasts,
such as his interlude with the Com-
The players' final effort of the
evening was "The Baby Elephant."
Apparently the company thought that
this mess would constitute the show's
highlight. Director Walter Bilderback
seems to have gone on vacation while
his actorshbrewed a boring, 45-minute
vision of chaos.
"Elephant", according to the direc-
tor's notes, was supposed to convey its
main message through a play-within-a-
play. But the incomprehensibly mud-
died hatchet job done on that part of the
action directed attention to the more

focused interaction between the
playgoers (within-the-play) and the
players. The effect was a very broad
and obvious swipe at theatergoers and
their insistence on being entertained at
the sacrifice of genuine art. It did not
sustain 45 minutes of monotony.
Before the RC Players embark on
another dramatic voyage, they should
see what they have to work with. It is a
crime to put complete novices on
display in major roles, especially when
enough acting talent exists to forge at
least adequate presentations. Maybe
next time.

549 E. University

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