Tag Archives: William Bolcom

On the corner of jazz and Tin Pan Alley

By Bob Hicks

One of the signs that a town is turning into a city is that it can’t squeeze everything into a box. So, for instance, while the newest Portland Jazz Festival kicks into high swing (and bop), some terrific jazz is popping up in spots that aren’t connected to the festival at all.

Andy SteinWhile the likes of jazz festival headliners Regina Carter, Joshua Redman, Poncho Sanchez, Maceo Parker, Dave Frishberg and the newly Grammy-fied Esperanza Spalding are picking up a whole lot of highly deserved attention in Puddletown, they aren’t the only games in town. You might also have spent Saturday night at an under-the-radar gig with about 75 other people at TaborSpace, in the company of Andy Stein and Conal Fowkes.

Pianist Conal Fowkes with clarinetist Woody AllenWho’s that, you ask?

Stein is a violinist, a fiddler, an old-time jazz guy with his feet also planted in classical music and rock ‘n’ roll. He’s recorded with Perlman, Domingo, Marilyn Horne and Von Stade; toured with Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen; played with Dylan, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Tony Bennett, B.B. King and a whole lot more. And he has a special affection for the music of Joe Venuti, the granddaddy of jazz violin.

Fowkes — born in Zambia, raised partly in Mexico, an Englishman now living in New York — is a pianist with equal affections for early New Orleans jazz (he’s a stalwart of Woody Allen and His New Orleans Jazz Band, which is led by banjoist Eddy Davis and features Allen on clarinet) and the traditions of Tin Pan Alley, the great American songwriting system that runs parallel to jazz, routinely jumping the tracks to interlace with it along the way.

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Sergiu Luca: bon vivant, goodbye

By Bob Hicks

I remember Sergiu Luca in the steamy July heat of a makeshift concert hall at Reed College, sweating with the audience and instrumentalists through a little gem of a summer music festival he’d begun in 1971 called Chamber Music Northwest.

Sergiu Luca, dead at 67.I remember him beaming above the breakwaters at Cascade Head on the Oregon Coast, a glass of good wine in one hand and the other sweeping through space in accompaniment to a robust story.

I remember him meeting and greeting people at the even littler Cascade Head Music Festival he began in the tiny town of Otis and later moved to Lincoln City after Chamber Music Northwest became too much of a production, smiling and joking with people ranging from local fishermen to high-powered musical figures such as Joan Morris and William Bolcom who’d come to the beach to sing and play with their old friend.

Most of all I remember Luca with a fiddle in his hand — a very old and rare and beautiful fiddle, which he played with the light and grace and airiness of a man who had not just the right but the joyous responsibility to own and play such a wondrous concoction of wood and glue and string. With a violin tucked beneath his chin, Luca created music that was much more than precise and correct. It had swagger and pleasure and verve. If you wanted to call it classical, OK, but you could never call it boring or musty: it was a living, shifting, up-to-the-minute thing.

Sergiu died Monday night in Houston, where he was even better-known than in Oregon. Sarah Rufca has the story on Culture Map Houston. The Oregonian’s David Stabler has this report on Oregon Live, and Allan Kozinn has this obituary in the New York Times. Things Rufca revealed: Luca was born in 1943 in Romania, and began to learn the violin at age 4 from a Gypsy, and made his debut at the Haifa Symphony in Israel when he was 9. He died of bile duct cancer, and there is little doubt that, although he died too young, he lived a rich life and enjoyed pretty much all of it.

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