Giacomo Puccini created stunning music and synched it precisely with unfolding drama. He drew characters with staying power — after he revised and revised. Even world-weary music critics love his work, and love it over again when the opera is well done. Madame Butterfly, winding up this week with final Portland Opera performances Thursday and Saturday at the Keller Auditorium, sold out both previous performances this week because the piece is among the best-known and beloved in the canon, but also because it has heartbreakingly lyrical music, a heartbreaking story — and because of Butterfly. She is a helluva character. She’s tough. She’s sweet. She’s complex. Read More
Peter Yarrow of the former culture-shaping Peter, Paul and Mary still sings, still protests, and still believes in music’s power to change the world. Read More
There was exuberance – the kind among families who all know the same joke — Saturday afternoon on the Crystal Ballroom. stage as the 3 Cohens lit up the big, airy Portland music space with their new-wave originals and updated standards. A new, and yet unnamed CD, will follow soon, and it was clear some of the pieces we heard came from that. Read More
How were we to know that Portland would be the first audience to hear SF JAZZ Collective’s interpretation of the great Stevie Wonder, who as vibes man Stefon Harris says, “played the sound track of my life.” Read More
Gary Houston has been hand-pulling silkscreen collectibles since he began Voodoo Catbox in 1995 in Portland. It was born from his 8-year-old graphic design and screen-￼printing business, so he was poised to find a place in the rock ‘n’ roll poster world. He doesn’t use a computer. He does everything by hand – from lettering to drawing to silk-screening. Many of his posters go for $30, but some bring in $450. He’s sold one piece for $600. The Chinese invented screen-printing 2000 years ago, he says, and nothing much about the craft has changed. He calls the work hands-on, physical, creative and romantic. “It’s leaving a little bit of history.” Read More
Portland’s long-lived and much-loved Nu Shooz has turned its band into an orchestra and its musical talents to its newly released CD, “Pandora’s Box,” a mix of tunes described as “James Bond meets James Brown.” Expect a lot more than that — including a honeyed version of the 1955 jazz standard, “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most.”
ndeed the recording is packed with surprises, musical leaps and 14 tunes, many originals by Nu Shooz’ songwriter John Smith, who happens to be lead singer Valerie Day’s husband. Day is the face and the voice of the two-decades-plus-old group, who burst on the scene with its breakthrough mid-‘80s hit, “I Can’t Wait.” An anniversary edition of that song is the final cut on the new CD.
I talked with Day to find out what’s up with the new and the old Shooz. Read More
Tony Starlight’s Supperclub & Lounge, 3728 N.E. Sandy Blvd., hunkers down in a fitting location — Hollywood. The one in Portland, not the place with the big sign on the hill near LA.
Nee and aka Brett Kucera, Tony Starlight opened his namesake place in January 2007, determined to bring Portland a nostalgic entertainment venue it didn’t have. Not a jazz club, a New York City-style piano bar, high-end resto, nor a concert hall, his room would be a supper club with a variety show, starring himself as Dino, Tom Jones, Frankie, Neil Diamond and made-up characters. He’d make people laugh, connect with the audience, get to know the community — at least the ones who showed up at his nightclub.
What’s odd is that by now the club has become all of those things. Read More
Seattle Opera lacked a crucial element since lauded general director Speight Jenkins has run the show for 27 years. Until now, he has never commissioned an opera.
With Amelia, which made its elaborate two-hour world premiere in May, operagoers should have even firmer confidence in Jenkins' vision. Beginning in 2002, when he sorted through contemporary composers' works with director Stephen Wadsworth, settling on Daron Aric Hagen's music, he never looked back from his original intention to make an American opera with American themes. Read More
Lucky for us, Bill Beach rose from the dead Benson Hotel's basement and went to Brazil.
This spring the pianist released his energetic Brasil Beat (yes, Brazilians spell it that way) on his label, Axial Records. Six of the 12 tracks feature Beach's breathy baritone-bass shaping original Portuguese lyrics. Cross-checked with Portuguese linguists, the lyrics are precisely articulated and beautifully phrased. Beach is a stickler for details and authenticity, as relaxed as his vocals sound. Read More
Portlander Ben Darwish and his quartet stepped it up a notch at the caramel-corn-scented Palace Theater as part of the Silverton Wine & Jazz Festival. If you missed this gig, you lost out on the most innovative of the day, though certainly the sexy mid-century couple of bass genius Glen Moore and the inimitable crooner/scatter/partner Nancy King, accompanied by pianist Dan Gaynor, attracted a way bigger crowd later in the evening. Read More