Category Archives: Arts and Music

Jazz is Alive

“Jazz is restless. It won’t stay put and it never will.”
– J.J. Johnson

8232Along with baseball and barbecue, jazz is considered one of America’s greatest cultural exports, and one of its most adaptable. Since its inception in New Orleans in the early 20th century jazz has spread around the world, drawing on different regional, national and ethnic cultures for inspiration and spawning a bewildering variety of styles: New Orleans jazz, Kansas City jazz, Gypsy jazz, Dixieland, big band, ragtime, swing, be-bop, free jazz, modal jazz, Latin Jazz, Afro-Cuban jazz, cool jazz, smooth jazz, jazz-rock, etc., etc. As a result jazz, though ubiquitous, is difficult to define; Louis Armstrong remarked, “If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.”

UC San Diego’s Jazz Camp, an annual intensive summer program inaugurated in 2003, reflects the diversity of the jazz idiom in its faculty, student body, and repertoire. Jazz musicians ages 14-adult work in a variety of styles with professional jazz artists, honing their compositional, performance and improvisational skills. The goal of the Camp is to prepare students for life as a musician through immersion in jazz history, theory, techniques and genres.

First and foremost, jazz is about live performance. The five-day workshop culminates in a free Finale Concert featuring student ensembles presenting a program of standards and new compositions under the direction of faculty musicians. Several of the Camp’s alumni have gone on to pursue studies at such prestigious institutions as Yale, Juilliard, and the Berklee College of Music, and the Finale Concert affords the public the rare opportunity to hear future jazz luminaries at the start of their career.

Watch the UC San Diego Jazz Camp: Finale Concert Highlights 2015.

Browse other programs from past seasons of Jazz Camp.

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Roll over, Tennessee Williams, and tell Erskine Caldwell the news.

8232Yes, it’s true: as a general rule we video types will happily shoot anything that moves. That said, I believe there are few things as satisfying as shooting and editing dance, and if comes in the form of dance theatre, so much the better.

“Dance theatre,” much in vogue in the dance world these days, may be defined as the theatrical representation of a story that is set to music and performed by trained dancers. In much the same way that opera is drama expressed through music, dance theatre (also known as “concert dance” and “dance drama”) uses movement and gesture to define characters and propel the narrative.

29782John Malashock, Artistic Director of San Diego’s Malashock Dance, is an accomplished practitioner of dance theatre whose past work in the genre includes two collaborations with UCSD-TV (and Your Humble Correspondent), “Soul of Saturday Night” and “Love & Murder.” In “Snakeskin” Malashock has teamed with Krishan Oberoi, Artistic Director for the acclaimed choral ensemble SACRA/PROFANA, to present a piece inspired by the work of Tennessee Williams, in particular Williams’ 1957 play “Orpheus Descending.” “Snakeskin” tells the story of a small Southern town whose surface placidity is disrupted by the arrival of a drifter in a snakeskin jacket. His presence arouses (ahem) unseemly passions in several of the town’s womenfolk, and as you might expect the tale unfolds in the best Southern Gothic tradition.

29781All of the members of SACRA/PROFANA are singers as well as instrumentalists, and Oberoi’s original music and lyrics range through a variety of influences, from neo-baroque to folk-rock to Stravinsky. Malashock’s choreography is equally diverse, by turns lyrical, combative, and athletic. The Forum Theatre at UC San Diego proved to be the ideal setting for a work that relies on intimacy for its impact (and it’s an excellent video venue in the bargain).

“Snakeskin” is a cogent illustration of the artistic maxim that “there is universality in specificity.” Though the inspiration, costumes and stage design speak of a distinct period and setting, this oft-told story achieves freshness through the interplay of sound and kinetics, and acquires a near-mythic status as it plumbs themes of bigotry, class, small-town isolation, chauvinism, and sexual jealousy. Tennessee Williams would be so proud.

Watch Snakeskin – Malashock Dance + SACRA/PROFANA and browse more programs from Malashock Dance.

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Contributed by John Menier, Arts & Humanities Producer

 
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Fourth Season of Script to Screen a Big Success

8232The UCSB Script to Screen series just completed its fourth and most successful season to date. We hosted three special Academy screenings (Whiplash, The Theory of Everything, and The Grand Budapest Hotel) where we connected Oscar nominees with students and the Santa Barbara Academy/Guild community. We also expanded our series to include a focus on television with our 10th Anniversary of Lost with Executive Producer/Director Jack Bender. This season our guests of honor shared key lessons about the importance of personally connecting to the material as well as having a family-esque support system to help bring the script to the screen.

Here are some special quotes from our guest artists:

29040The Theory of Everything with Oscar-nominated screenwriter Anthony McCarten:

“In 2004, that was the real catalyzing moment for me when I read Jane Hawking’s auto-biography. Everything I thought I knew about Stephen Hawking was displaced by everything I didn’t know. This was a unique, emotional insight into his private life. This incredible love story, very much one of a kind, unprecedented in some ways, challenging, heartbreaking, triumphant. I thought if I can get the rights to that book and marry it with the public world and what we know of Stephen and his public story, you know we would really have something special.”

29315Whiplash with Oscar-nominated writer/director Damien Chazelle:

“I was a drummer when I was in high school, and I had a teacher that was very much in this mold. It was the sort of thing where drumming had been this sort of hobby for myself that I did not take that seriously. As soon as I got in the orbit of this conductor/this teacher and his big band that he ran, he suddenly felt like life or death everyday. I felt the worse thing possible would be to screw up a hit or a beat. I just remember the daily dose of dread that I would feel during that time. I don’t play that much anymore, but you get a lot of fodder from that sort of emotional experience. It occurred to me that there might be a subject for a movie there.”

28922500 Days of Summer with screenwriter Scott Neustadter:

“This was very much a cathartic thing. I’d been broken up with, didn’t understand why, could not accept that it was just that she didn’t feel the same and then a minute later she got engaged, and I was like, What in the world? I was writing to put it all out there.”

The UCSB Script to Screen series returns in October 2015 for its 5th season. This coming year we will be expanding to include more actors on the stage with the screenwriter. Plus, we are currently planning a major event with a frontrunner to the 2016 Best Picture nominee and with a very special guest.

Browse all programs in the Script to Screen series.

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What Happened to Klimt’s Golden Lady?

8232Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds tell the story Hollywood-style in “Woman in Gold,” but if you want to know what it really took to get Klimt’s masterpiece back to its rightful owner, watch this!

The real Randol Schoenberg gives a riveting account of his work on behalf of Maria Altmann that makes their eventual triumph in Austrian courts all the more satisfying.

Watch What Happened to Klimt’s Golden Lady? with E. Randol Schoenberg on The Library Channel.

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The Rhythm of the 20th Century

8232It’s been said that jazz is one of America’s most significant and lasting cultural exports. The style that became known as jazz originated in New Orleans in the late 19th century, and grew rapidly in popularity and influence. By the beginning of the 20th century this musical genre had firmly established itself in Memphis, Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago, New York City (specifically in Harlem) and other American cities. But it took a cataclysmic event to propel jazz “across the pond,” where it quickly established a firm foothold in the European cultural landscape.

The primary agent of that intercontinental expansion was Lieutenant James Reese Europe, a black officer and bandleader who volunteered in 1918 for service in World War I with members of his celebrated Harlem Society Orchestra. Because the U.S. Army was not yet integrated, their newly-formed 369th Regimental Band fought courageously alongside the French, who nicknamed the 369th “the Hellfighters” and awarded the Band the Croix de Guerre in recognition of their valor and contributions to morale.

In addition to their exploits on the battlefield, the Hellfighters brought jazz to several European cities — most notably to Paris, where several of the 369th’s musicians remained following the war’s end. In the ensuing decades Paris became a mecca for jazz practitioners and aficionados, as more Americans musicians emigrated to the City of Lights.

For the 19th Annual Lytle Scholarship Concert at UC San Diego, internationally renowned pianist and Department of Music Professor Emeritus Cecil Lytle is joined by a stellar array of jazz musicians from Los Angeles, San Diego and Tijuana in a concert entitled “Harlem Hellfighters: Jazz Goes to War.” Through narration and an eclectic selection of music this program relates the history of, and pays homage to, those brave soldiers and jazz ambassadors of the 369th Regimental Band.

“The music of this concert is the story of jazz,” Dr. Lytle notes, “a story of liberation ‘over there’ and back here… Not only did the Harlem Hellfighters fight for their country when they did not have equal rights at home, but they brought jazz to Paris and soon united generations of people around the world-young and old, rich and poor, black and white, friends and foes-in what would become the rhythm of the 20th century.”

Watch Harlem Hellfighters: Jazz Goes to War, a Lytle Memorial Concert.

Contributed by John Menier, Arts & Humanities Producer

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