The Michigan Daily
Saturday, December 1, 1984
Marsalis oozes oodles of creativity
By Eric Mattson
a NO PRESSURE no hype, just good
-old-fashioned American jazz.
Lights? Lasers? Dancing? Nope,
this isn't a Spyro Gyra nightmare, it's
Wynton Marsalis: trumpet zeus.
Marsalis, appearing at the Michigan
Theatre Thursday night, proved once
and for eternity that you go to concrts
not to listen to music, but to experience
it. The 23-year-old phenomenon dazzled the
crowd with an unpretentious com-
bination of understatement and
raucous belching (of tthe musical
variety, of course).
From the first untitled piece, Mar-
salis and crew blew away their opening
act, Fast Tracks. Don't get me wrong.
It's not that Fast Tracks was utterly
abysmal, it's that Wynton and his
brother Branford overwhelm you with
the sheer goodness of their playing.
Even President Reagan acknowledged
this when he said, "Wynton and his
group are hip cats. They are the focus
of good in the jazz world."
With Larry manning the ivories,
Charnett Moffett on bass, and Jeff Wat-
ts on drums, the whole shebang was
almost too cool for thishumble reporter
to put into words.
Well, not quite.
One of the most refreshing parts of
the concert was Moffett's straight-
ahead rhythm on bass - a real stand-
up bass, not one of those portable jobs
those rock groups play. During "Black
Nile," Moffett was out of control during
his five-minute solo, bobbing his head
and setting the stage on fire. The dude
You had to feel kind of sorry for
Willis, Moffett, and Watts. (You don't
really have to pity them; it's sort of a
free country.) Wynton and Branford
got to walk off stage during their
comrades' solos while the other three
had to sweat it out on stage. Ah, well.
That's life in the medium-sized city.
Wynton, the New Orleans-born
master of jazz and classical music, was
overwhelming with his under-
statement, and sly with his splats,
shakes, glissandos et al. The do-be-do-
WOT (pregnant pause) be-do-be do-
wot of one piece had the audience
shoutin' and stompin'. The '50s-style
suits epitomized coolness, and Wyn-
ton's farewell ("Y'all be cool") was
cool as the morning grass in a tampon
There were three disappointments:
the encore number was anticlimactic,
the wine the theatre served tasted like
fetid scum (not that I've tasted fetid
scum), and Branford's sax playing
wasn't quite up to par.
Sure, he was pretty good, but he
didn't stand out as much as the other
The opening act was surprisingly
good, but was nevertheless discom-
bobulated by the Marsalis brothers.
They didn't have the glitz of Spyro Gyra
or the down-to earth-stuff that Mar-
salis' group practically oozes.
New member and saxophonist Tim
Reis, who used to be part of Maynard
Ferguson's band, played well, but like*
Branford, that intangible edge of mind-
boggling creativity was missing. Wyn-
ton sure had it.
*COM INGSOON ! tM-
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Daily Photo by DAN HABIB
Wynton Mursalis kicks some brass at the Michigan Theatre Thursday night.
Ladies visit the Michigan
By Dennis Harvey
THE LONG-RUNNING Broadway
musical Sophisticated Ladies,
based on the work of Duke Ellington,
will travel to the Michigan Theatre for
performances on this Monday and
Tuesday, December 3 and 4, at 8:00.
Ladies was one of the first in what has
turned out to be a long recent line of
musicals drawing on the works of a
particular composer (often, as here, a
black composer) and fitting them into a
loose format somewhere between
cabaret and convention book-show.
The pleasures of these shows are
mostly in the thrill of re-discovery - in
finding out just how much depth and
range we'd forgotten about in the work
of the particular composer
Duke Ellington is, however, hardly a
forgotten name in music. In fact, the
last few years have seen him gain,
perhaps alone among black music-
makers in any genre, a widespread
respectability as a 'serious' American
composer - like George Gershwin, this
judgement has been a rather long time
in coming because of the "non-serious"
connotations of jazz and show music.
By NOW Ellington is more or less
routinely held alongside Copland, et al
as a true 20th Century American great.
Yet there's been a small disadvantage
in this too - we're now so accustomed
to hearing Ellington pieces instrumen-
tally that few remember how many
familiar tunes originally had lyrics.
Sophisticated Ladies presents many
Ellington favorites like "Mood Indigo"
with their original, popular-song-form
lyrics restored, and no doubt the
touring Broadway company will have
fine voices to punch them across.
Leading the cast at the Michigan
Theatre will be Detroiter Freda Payne,
who had the hit pop record "Band of
Gold" a few years ago and has ap-
peared in New York in Lost in the Stars.
Hanoi rocks Detroit
Uchida to play with DSO
Finland's Hanoi Rocks will be
making an area appearance tonight
at Detroit's Traxx,. marking the
commencement of what their label
hopes will be a major commercial
onslaught in the U.S. after several
years of popularity in Europe. Their
new Coumbia LP Two Steps from
the Move might just do the trick,
with its hard-edged yet melodic
tunes that make perfect sense for
your AOR tastes out there.
If anything's working against
them (Beyond difficulties in getting
across sentiments like "We're here
ta rock ya Detroit!" etc. with Fin-
nish accents), it may be their
peculiar image. This sort of Duran
Duran/Culture Club frilliness,
defined by lead singer Mike'
Monroe's (2nd from left above)
pouty-lipped androgynous pret-
tiness, seems a bit incongruous with
the lightened-up heavy metal the
band plays. Tickets are available at
the usual outlets and at Traxx.
- Dennis Harvey
By Neil Galanter
T HE MOST enjoyable thing about
Thursday evening's Detroit
Symphony Orchestra concert in
Ford Auditorium was hearing a Mozart
Piano Concerto played by Japanese
pianist Mitsuko Uchida.
It made driving all the way to Detroit
entirely worthwhile in every sense. The
35-year-old Uchida is one of the leading
Japanese musicians of her generation
and she is increasingly being
recognized throughout the world as a
distinguished interpreter of the classical
piano repertoire. After hearing her play
Mozart, it is easy and facile enough
Everything Uchida did in inter-
preting the Mozart on Thursday was
right on target every step of the way.
She handles Mozart and the "Stein-
way" with extreme ease, grace and
shining personality. From the first
bars of the piece with her opening
statement in the E Flat K271 Concerto
she simply, yet firmly stated what good
Mozart playing is all about: Fresh,
clean and pure music with no added or
unnecessary dramatic frills or taxing
luxuries at the expense of the music.
Uchida has gleaming articulation at the
keyboard which shone through super-
bly in the concerto and her playing was
always blooming thus producing a true
"peaches and cream" complexion. She
knows the true style of Mozart and it
was evident throughout the performan-
ce. Even in the more operatic and
dramatic parts of the piece, such as in
the extensive middle movement, she
never got carried away with the
possible opportunities to make
noticeable overtly theatrical im-
pressions as some pianists might do in
similar cases. She knew the limits and
she worked well within them, giving us
viously the orchestra was still warming
themselves up because this piece just
did not flow evenly together at all. It
was excessively detached and not very
convincing musically as a "whole."
Bloopers from the strings included
their suffering from poor intonation
resulting in sometimes being in tune
and then sometimes not. The perfor-
mance was not in the true style of Han-
del, which was also a problem. That
bold and striking, yet smoothly con-
trolled playing that is necessary just
was not there.
After intermission, things were in
better shape. The orchestra performed
Czech composer Bohuslav Marinu's
Symphony No. 1, and with a reasonable
amount of success too. Guest conductor
Jiri Belohlavek felt more at home here
I think, which resulted in making this
symphony a much stronger product.
Belohlavek is the conductor and artistic
director of the Prage Symphony Or-
chestra in Czechoslovakia, and he is
one of the country's leading conductors.
It was evident that he knows his Czech-
music quite well, and he led the or-
chestra in a performance which was
highly enjoyable and very easy to listen
to and to digest.
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