Friday, April 29, 2011

Cleveland Orchestra: Dee Dee Bridgewater: A Tribute to Ella Fitzgearld

The Cleveland Orchestra with Dee Dee Bridgewater (with Edsel Gomez, piano; Kenneth Davis, bass; Jaz Sawyer, drums; Howie Smith, sax). Sasha Makila, conductor.

I have to admit from the outset that jazz -- like heavy metal -- is one of the few genres of music that I feel virtually no draw to, partially because I've found that it (unlike heavy metal) is particularly well suited to lulling me to sleep without engaging me. (As an aside, I've found on red-eye flights back from visiting my parents in California, if I take a sleeping pill, a glass of red wine, and queue up some jazz on my iPod, I'll be out in 15 minutes and stay soundly asleep, waking up just in time to see the night lights of Chicago pass below my seat in the sky, yielding to the darkness of the Great Lakes, Detroit, and finally Cleveland).

Technically, the concert left nothing to be desired -- Ms. Bridgewater's Quartet's sound seemed to be a natural fit for The Cleveland Orchestra under Mr. Makila's baton. Ms. Bridgewater seemed to be a bit unprepared for the concert -- forgetting Mr. Makala's name, scatting to cover lyrics (and on a few occasions seeming to reference notes). As Ms. Bridgewater started her first song (Cole Porter's Let's Do It) I couldn't help but to imagine a dark, smoke-filled lounge. Though Ms. Bridgewater has a wonderful voice, I felt that that pieces or portions of the pieces that were instrumental had more character, were more lively, and generally more fun to listen to.

You can probably guess by this point that my two favorite pieces from the evening's program were the two without any vocal component whatsoever. As with the last -- and first -- concert that I heard Sasha Makila conduct (at CIM) the entirety of the strings sounded absolutely wonderful. The Act I overture, Gershwin's Strike up the Band had a particularly wonderful color. The Act II overture, Gershwin's Overture to Girl Crazy was compelling, as were the solos from the members of Ms. Bridgewater's quartet during Cotton Tail.

With the exception of the two Gershwin pieces, regretfully, I have no strong desire to hear any of the pieces again.

Outside of the hall it's worth noting that The Severance Restaurant was open for post-concert drinks and deserts--something I wish were an option more often. Despite an excellent sales pitch from an orchestra staffer, after an 8 hour staff meeting at work, a violin lesson, and a jazz concert I couldn't see myself staying awake... I hope this will be offered after future concerts.

The full program, as announced from the stage, and as I scribbled it down in the blank spaces of the program:
Act One: Strike up the Band (Gershwin); Let's Do It (Cole Porter); Lush Life; When You Speak Love (Curt Vile); How High (Quartet only); My Heart Belongs to Daddy; Stairway to the Stars.
Act Two: Overture to Girl Crazy (Gershwin); My Favorite Things; Prelude to a Kiss (Ellington); (illegible); Cotton Tail; Shadow of Your Smile; My Ship
Encore: Come Sunday

I'm taking my lady friend to tomorrow evening's Orchestra concert...


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