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Concert remembering Russert

Most felt like they knew him, and nearly all adored him.

We're talking about the late Tim Russert, former host of NBC's "Meet the Press" who passed away just over a year ago.

While his following is decidedly less national than Russert's, jazz guitarist Tony Scozzaro has amassed an almost equally impressive list of accomplishments .

Scozzaro, Russert's brother-in-law, played a memorial concert to the national icon at East Aurora's Roycroft Inn on Friday night. The concert celebrated the release of Scozzaro's new CD,"A Special Musical Tribute to Tim Russert," a three-track acoustic set that includes "Amazing Grace," "Born to Run," "Rainbow" and a bonus video track of Scozzaro's moving performance at the Kennedy Center during a memorial service in Washington remembering Russert.

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Ruminski & Co.


Opera fans have a lot to talk about after this weekend. On Friday and Sunday, North Tonawanda's Riviera Theatre played host to Rossini's "The Barber of Seville," the first production of Nickel City Opera.

Nickel City Opera is the brainchild of Buffalo bass-baritone Valerian Ruminski, pictured above in the lobby of the recently restored Riviera. Last week, I got to interview Valerian last week about the project. You can read about him here.

It was also a pleasure to review the opera, which was quite the musical success. Here is the review.

Here is Ruminski starring in the chilling final scene of Mozart's "Don Giovanni" in a production by Ottawa Lyric Opera. Marvelous! I could not resist including it even though it cuts off at an awkward point.

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Monsters of Nature and Design

"Monsters of Nature and Design," a performance art project headed by University at Buffalo professors Gary Nickard and Reinhardt Reitzenstein, has caused a good deal of public confusion -- and in some circles, outrage. (Read today's ArtsBeat column on the project here.)

That's owing, mostly, to the fact that the first two "Monsters" performances involved the very public ritualized smashing of pianos (see this 2008 ArtsBeat blog for more), a glimpse of which you can see in this video of the first "Monsters" performance at Babeville in 2007:

I asked Nickard for a little clarity on the issue, and he sent along an essay he wrote on the intellectual basis for the project that makes a reasoned (though practically impenetrable) analysis of the relationship between James Joyce and Wyndham Lewis. But his e-mail explaining the impetus behind "Monsters" is far more illuminating. I'll post it in its entirety after the jump. Giving it a read might just change your mind about whether Nickard's project ranks, indeed, as a piece of art. And then again it might not. 

Either way, please share your thoughts in the comment section. And if anyone was at Friday's performance, chime in!

--Colin Dabkowski

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The Best Picture Oscars -- Now Twice the Size

When is the last time the Motion Picture Academy actually had a certifiable 24-carat good idea?

It's been so long that frankly I don't even remember when it was.

Well, bless them, they had one Wednesday — or at least that's when they announced it to the world. That's when they told us they decided to double the number of Best Picture Oscar nominees from 5 to 10. Under such a system, for instance, there's no way on God's green and glorious earth that "The Dark Knight" and "WALL-E" would have been left out of the Best Picture contest last year.

I'll have more to say on this in my column in Tuesday's Buffalo News.

In the meantime, what's your take on the newest wrinkle in Oscar-dom?

--Jeff Simon

The Tuesday jazz jam

I stopped by McGee's lastnight in University Plaza and caught Danny Hull's jazz jam. If you are in the neighborhood of UB's South Campus, that is a great thing to do on Tuesday nights.

Last night Hull, on drums as usual, was joined by a trio of Eastman students led by Christopher Ziemba, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing for The Buffalo News a couple of months ago when he appeared on Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz radio show. Ziemba and his buddies, led by a talented trumpet player, played great throughout their two sets, which included standards like "You Stepped Out of a Dream" and "Alone Together."

I believe "Alone Together" was a song Ziemba mentioned he played on the McPartland show.

Caldwell The audience lastnight included such prominent local musicians as pianist and vibes ace Wally Jedermann and pianist George Caldwell. Caldwell came to town a few years ago to play at Studio Arena in the show about Alberta Hunter, "Cooking at the Cookery." He married Connie McEwen, who was then the publicist for Studio Arena. So now -- ta da -- though George tours a lot and plays often in New York City, Buffalo is his home base.

That is a picture of George Caldwell at left. He sat down at the bar next to my mom and we were all talking and having fun and I was thinking how lucky we are, having a hang like McGee's. That is how Danny Hull always puts it, a hang. It is great to have a place where you know there will be jazz every Tuesday and the performers vary from week to week and musicians show up just to relax.

Wally Jedermann was wishing he had brought his vibes, which he does from time to time when we are lucky. He was thinking he would bring them next week. I am planning on showing up again in hopes that he does. He is a monster on those vibes.

There is a kind of cover charge at McGee's, but it is just $5 and includes a drink.

The jazz jam begins every Tuesday at 8 p.m.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

Women at forefront of Iranian protests says Nafisi

Iranian born literary scholar Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran and the new memoir Things I've been Silent About says women have been at the forefront of Iranian election protests because they've suffered the most under the fundamentalist turn of Islamic rule by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and stand to lose the most under any further crackdown by his regime.
Nafisi, who is currently a professor at John's Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and will visit Buffalo next March to appear in the Babel Series, spoke with WBUR in Boston's Robin Young on the NPR program "Here & Now" on Monday.  You can stream audio of the 14 minute interview at Rundown 6/22 | Here and Now
Among highlights of the interview are Nafisi's discussion of two women who are likely to be forever associated with the protests and Iranian government's brutal response to it: Neda Agha-Soltan, a 26 year old philosophy student at Tehran's Azad University who was targeted and shot in the chest by a pro-government militia on Saturday and whose last moments on earth were captured in a horrific amateur cell phone video that has been seen by tens of millions of millions around the world, and Zahra Rahnavard, the wife of presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, whose visibility in her husband's campaign and achievements as a scholar and chancellor of Alzahra University in Tehran were attacked as an inappropriate model for Islamic womanhood during the campaign by Ahmadinejad.

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Stop, look and Listen to new magazine

ListenWho says print journalism is dying? A slick new classical music magazine is on the scene, called Listen. It is the brainchild of ArchivMusic, which I understand is now owned by Steinway. Here is how it describes itself: "Listen is America's bimonthly magazine about classical music in our daily lives. It's a lifestyle publication covering people, places and events; recommendations of recordings, books and film; and all the many ways our lives are touched by classical music."

You can read subscription info and the current table of contents here.

The May/June issue of Listen, pictured above, has a glamorous portrait of pianist Arthur Rubinstein on the cover. The Rubinstein story, called "Remembering Arthur Rubinstein" is disappointing. It's just a brief essay and four pictures. I wanted more! But the magazine had a lot that was interesting.

A big interview with conductor Valery Gergiev is very involved, with Gergiev talking shop about opera, the new Mariinsky CD label, etc. "Instead of watching some really terrible movies, where people go in and kill each other for two hours, I much prefer my daughter or my sons to see another 'Nutcracker.'" That is one thing Gergiev said that I liked.

There is also a lengthy essay in honor of Haydn, "Music's Greatest Innovator." And a big feature on "33 Variations," the Broadway play starring Jane Fonda and exploring Beethoven's "Diabelli" Variations. And a story called "East Coast/West Coast" about young lion conductors Gustavo Dudamel and Alan Gilbert.

A glossy full-page Naxos ad featuring JoAnn Falletta jumped right out at me.

I like how Listen treats classical music as something everyone can understand. The many profiles of musicians take a human-interest slant. I never knew that the violinist Hillary Hahn carried a mini Crock Pot with her on her tours! But I guess she does. The magazine even gives you her Asian chicken soup recipe. It's great to see a music magazine with a cooking column.

The back of Listen has a few pages of CD reviews and book reviews.

Listen is colorful, pretty and informative, and I'm looking forward to the next issue. Future issues, by the way, are set to spotlight Joshua Bell, the great pianist Richard Goode and, as a city spotlight, St. Louis. I see no reason Buffalo could not be a city spotlight sometime. Hmmmmm...

-- Mary Kunz Goldman


"Poets at an Exhibition" Sunday at Artpark

Summer typically lures the writers' community off campuses and away from familiar urban art spaces to some notably more picturesque venues.

One such site is the Buffalo Society of Artists Gallery in Artpark, which has been hosting a series of Sunday programs on the "Eye, Ear, and Mind of Art" all this month at its location at 450 S. FourthStreet in Lewiston.  This Sunday's program, called "Poets at an Exhibition," begins at 3 p.m. and is inspired by works of the Buffalo Society of Artists currently on exhibition in the Gallery. The lineup of poets and prose writers scheduled to read is particularly impressive.  
UB Poetry Collection Curator Michael Basinski, freshoff his success in opening "Discovering James Joyce: The University at Buffalo Collection" exhibit this past week at UB Anderson Gallery, will read from his always-heady and entertaining mix of conceptualist and improvisatory poetics. Joining him will beanother venerable community figure, Brother Augustine Towey, the founder and director emeritus of both the Artpark Repertory Theatre and the internationally recognized Niagara University Theatre. 

Longtime Slipstream magazine co-editors Robert Borgatti and Dan Sicoli are on the bill too, as are children's author and young adult novelist Norah Perez andLewiston librarian Michelle Kratt. Buffalo-based poet George Grace and veteran Niagara Falls writer Robert Baxter will also read from their work, as will poet Bob Gianetti, the proprietor of Bob's Olde Books in Lewiston, which organized and is co-sponsor of the series. 

The Sunday Programs in June at Artpark Gallery conclude at 3 p.m. June 28 with "The Mind's Eye and the Eye's Mind," a panel of artists, poets and prose writers reflecting on visual and verbal expression though readings and performances.
--R.D. Pohl

Telegram from Beckett to Joyce among treasures of UB Collection

At first glance, it's so yellowed and ephemeral, you might overlook it--a tiny wisp of postcard size paper locked into a display case of Finnegans Wake miscellany in the "Discovering James Joyce: The University at Buffalo Collection" currently on exhibit through September 13th at the UB Anderson Gallery.
It's a 1929 telegram from a then 23 year old Samuel Beckett to James Joyce clarifying the difference between the infinitive and substantive forms of a Greek phrase that would later find its way into Finnegans Wake.   When it caught my eye at the opening reception for the exhibit on Saturday, you could have knocked me over with a feather.
Like many Joyce fans, I knew that the young Beckett had acted as something of a research assistant (see his Our Exagmination Round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress) to the then 47 year old Joyce, whose Ulysses (1922)  was already recognized as the most ambitious, most praised and reviled, most controversial and censored English language novel of the 20th century, a position from which it would not be dislodged in subsequent decades.  Seeing evidence of how Beckett's dark, cryptic intellectualism (he once said that wrote most of his later work in French--his second language--to avoid the pitfalls of "style") would come to supplant Joyce's lyricism in the postwar, post Holocaust, postmodern era right in front of you in a display case, however, is enough to take your breath away.

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Cleveland takes a peek at Buffalo

Martin house pavilion Marti     

The Darwin D. Martin House in March. Photo by Harry Scull / The Buffalo News.

Steven Litt, the Cleveland Plain Dealer's excellent art and architecture critic, had an illuminating piece on Buffalo's cultural assets in Sunday's edition. Litt, like others who've lately come to witness the city's successful and burgeoning efforts to build a tourism trade around our art and architecture, was impressed with the progress that's been made on the Darwin D. Martin House and other ongoing projects in East Aurora, the newly minted Museum District and elsewhere.

An excerpt:

Guilt and shame may have something to do with the city's high performance. In 1950, to its eternal regret, the Buffalo countenanced the demolition of Wright's first monumental office building, the Larkin Administration Building, which figures prominently in textbooks and college art history courses on the rise of Modernism. The building was removed to make way for a parking lot.

The city is atoning for that sin by making itself a model of historic preservation, cultural tourism and economic development. Specifically, the Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau is heavily promoting the work of nonprofit preservation groups and cultural organizations that are stewarding the region's riches.

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