The Michigan Daily Tuesday, February 19, 1985 Pagel
Arthur Blythe,what happened?
Daily Photo by ALISA BLOCK
All the way from Liberia!
Kapingbdi, a group billing itself as African jazz, was amongst the highlights
of the evening at last night's WCBN benefit bash. Dick Siegle separated the
sets with some very entertaining solo work, and the fundraiser was one of
the most successful ever.
oyal il1arlm oni*C
By Aaron Bergman
F OR THE last several years, Arthur
Blythe has been one of the most for-
ceful and innovative of the young
saxophonists. His recordings have
shown rhythmic sensibilities, humor,
and a love for the past without being
dependent on it. Add this to the talented
musicians he often plays with, and he
can always be counted on to produce in-
teresting and exhilirating music.
His previous few recordings have had
an eclectic line-up: Bobby Battle, a hot
R&Bdrummer, Kelvyn Bell on guitar,
Bob Stewart on tuba, and Abdul Wadud
on cello. Blythe, also a jazz historian,
chose this instrumentation with great
care. He looks at jazz' development as
linear, with each aspect remaining
relevant. In his early days, the tuba
was used primarily to keep time, along
with the drums; the bass was unknown
as a rhythm instrument. The cello, at
the other extreme, is just beginning to
make itself known as an important
voice in jazz.
This combination may seem quirky,
but somehow, in Blythe's care it sounds
like the only band who could keep up
with his ideas. Each instrument com-
plements the other, often seeming as
one voice. Each player, though, has
plenty of room to breath.
In such an atmosphere Blythe's
music can be raucous and joyful, such
as the tune "One Mint Julip" on the
Elaborations album, or mysterious yet
playful, like "The Lower Nile" on the
It can also be thoughtful and precise,
as can be heard on his brilliant inter-
pretations of Thelonius Monk's com-
positions on "Light Blue."
One consistent thing about Blythe has
been his ability to stimulate his
listeners intellectually, to open their
ears to new possibilities. He puts
everything that is important to him into
his playing. Even when an album is of
questionable success, such as "Blythe
Spirit", it is at least interesting, almost
assuring the listener that the next
album will be worthwhile and
If this can be the standard by which
his albums can be judged, his newest
release, Put Sunshine in it (Columbia
FC 39411), must be viewed as a bit of a
disappointment. It is a lovely record.
Unfortunately, it is quite dull.
A general rule in reading liner notes
on the album jacket is that the more the
writer seems like an unabashed
cheerleader, the more mundane the
music inside will be. Ken Smikle, who
wrote the notes for this album is a
prime example. He gushes, Arthur has
journeyed, once again, into unexplored
territory and has discovered new
possibilities for his energetic music.
Put Sunshine in it proves that he can
conquer any new soundscape with his
mastery and distinctive voice. If
Smilke had paid attention to such
pop/jazz artists like Grover
Washington Jr. he would have realized
that this much vaunted territory had
been explored years ago, but perhaps
without as much skill or sensibility.
He has abandoned his old combo for a
slicker and more restrained syn-
The musicians are virtually without
personality or warmth. Their playing,
though technically adept, is uninspired
and artificially cordial.
Blythe is the only soloist. His playing,
as usual, is impeccable. However, the
absence of stimulating musicians
behind him has prevented a breaking
away from the pedestrian grooves that
begin the volume.
Todd Cochran, who masterminded
this project, has taken a magnificent
musical talent and used it for making
the aural equivalent of oatmeal. It is r.
pleasant and easy to digest but not
something anyone looks forward to.
Having Blythe play in a situation like
this is like buying a Bang and Olufson
stereo in order to listen to the weather
The music lacks any sort of edge or
intensity. "Uptown Strut" is a
meaningless shuffle without the grit or
guttiness that "Uptown" implies. Just
compare this to his blistering tribute to
the Harlem jazz scene, "Lenox Avenue
Breakdown", of just a few years ago.
Every player on the album,
especially the musicians on the syn-
thesized instruments, seems afraid to
break into a sweat, to let themselves go,
to take chances.
Everything is very very clean and
neatly wrapped. The only track with
any power is the last one, "Sentimental
Walk," the theme from Diva. Blythe
loosens up a little and attacks the upper
registers like few others can. For a few
moments he seems like the Fat Arthur
of old, ready to challenge and delight.
There is nothing wrong or offensive in
the album. Unfortunately, it seems
geared to a wider audience unwilling to
strain itself to receive greater
pleasure-thinking, or even paying
close attention is unnecessary.
In all fairness, Blythe's first son was
born when this album was in production.
He was deeply affected. However, gid-
diness is no excuse for diminished ar-
A touch of irony. Smikle wrote of this
album, "The results, as always, are
uniquely beautiful." A quote by Charles
Ives on Blythe's previous album states,
"Beauty in music is too often confused
with something that lets the ear lie back
in an easy chair."
Blythe would do well to reread this.
He is too good an artist to continue to
produce such mediocrity. He should get
rid of Cochran and his arsenal of syn-
thesizers, and get back with his old
group. He needs competent, real
musicians who can cajole him to the
limits of which he is capable. Anything
less would be a waste.
By Neil Galanter.
UST THINK about a man who not
only has mastered one craft to a
beautiful polished shine, but two crafts.
His name: Yehudi Menuhin, his talen-
ts are innumerous and his accomplish-
ments are virtually infinite. Menuhin
was a child prodigy at the violin and has
gone on to be one of the foremost
violinists of this century, and now has
mastered the art of the baton as well.
Menuhin will be our guest in Ann
Arbor along with a top notch world
class orchestra, namely, the Royal
Philharmonic of England, in an evening
of rich symphonic repetoire at Hill
Auditorium on Tuesday at 8 p.m. It
will be a combination of both consum-
mate artistry and an unusual program of
music. The night will feature works by
such musical greats as Rossini, Delius,
Tchaikovsky, and rightfully in place,
Englishman Sir Edward Elgar.
For those of you who are musical
history buffs, some background con-
cerning the Royal Philharmonic I'm
sure will be appreciated. No major
treatise or dissertation, but the
Philharmonic does have an interesting
and unusual history which is worth
1 In 1946 a young conductor named Sir
Thomas Beecham gathered together a
.few players to form an orchestra to per-
form a particular concert which he
wanted to create. The spectacular thing
about it is that he began rounding up his
musicians only three weeks before the
eperformance date he had chosen. The
concert was a success and within two
~years The Royal Philharmonic had
established itself as one of the finest or-
chestras in the world. Their history
continued with a very successful tour of
America which made-them the first
major British orchestra to appear here
in over 40 years. Beecham led them on
to many more extremely successful
performances and in latter part of 1952
Beecham, feeling that his career was
nearing an end, invited Rudolf Kempe to
become conductor of the orchestra.
Kempe accepted the position but even-
tually ended up resigning his post only a
few years later. -
Since then, the ensemble has had a
list of illustrious conductors serve as
their musical advisors including such
giants as: Antal Dorati, Walter Weller
and now Andre Previn, who will of-
ficially assume the post in June of this
year. Maestro Menuhin, who will con-
duct the orchestra at its Ann Arbor ap-
pearance and who serves the capacity of
President and Associate conductor, is
now on the rise as a major conducting
Ifigure. He has led many of the world's
;leading orchestras including those of
Berlin, New York, San Fransisco,
Washington D.C., and the English
Chamber Orchestra, and he continues
to accept conducting engagements all
around and about. The name Yehudi
Menuhin owns many other talents in
addition to - virtuoso violinist and
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conductor. He is fluent in German,
Russian, French, Italian and Spanish
and he is also very well versed in Yoga,
which he finds to be the ideal form of
mental and physical exercise.
During World War II Menuhin
amazingly performed more than five
hundred concerts on his violin, in
recognition of which he . was awarded
the French Legion of Honor and Croix
de Lorraine Awards, among other
prizes. After having played so many
concerts on his fiddle, he decided in 1963
to establish a boarding school for young
musical violin talent. By founding the
Yehudi Menuhin School at Stoke
d'Abernin in Surrey, he felt that the
continuation of the great art of violin
:playing would be ensured.
Menuhin has chosen some unique and
lesser known orchestral works for this
evenings's program including Rossini's
"La Gazza Ladra" Overture, Delius'
"On Hearing the First Cuckoo in
Spring", Elgar's Enigma Variations
and a major fortress in orchestral
repetoire: The 'Pathetique' Symphony
Tickets are still available today
during the University Musical Society's
business hours at Burton Tower (9 till
4:30) and student rush tickets will be
sold at the box office of Hill Auditorium
between 4 and 4:30 p.m. for $5. Regular
tickets range in price from $8 to $18 and
the Musical Society can fill you in on
their availability and give you any
other information you may need. Call
665-3717, and . . . see you at the sym-
SAT SUN. FIRST SHOW ONLY $2.00
j NEW TWILIGHT SHOWS .
* MON. THRU FRI..
" $2.50 TIL 6 P.M. "
f 'g with this entire ad $1.00 j
" .UU offany $4.00 admission.
" FF 1 or 2 tickets. Good all
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" "BEAUTIFUL AND
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WINNER BEST DIRECTOR
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