It seems that everybody and his/her brother has a Top 10 list. Well so do we! However, our Top 10 list will be much better than all the others. Why? Because it is from your Renaissance Brothers. It will also be better than others because we are writing the Top 10 list while sitting in the new Upland Brewery Tasting Room in Indianapolis. Upland is hands down one of the best microbreweries in the world (in mda’s humble opinion, it may just be THE BEST).
But we digress. The Top 10 of 2009. This list will discuss the 10 best live classical and jazz performances that one or each of the Renaissance Brothers have had the pleasure of enjoying in the greater Indianapolis area. We both enjoy live performances and tend to see quite a few shows each year so we feel we can create a good list for the city. Without further ado…
– Wagner Das Reingold Indy Opera/ISO at Clowes Hall
You can NEVER go wrong with Wagner. This was a very interesting production as it was ‘partially staged.’ What does this mean? Well, the orchestra (the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra) was on stage throughout the entire opera. The acting in the opera was done with a video screen for scenery and the vocalists performing on scaffolding. Sounds strange? Well, it really wasn’t. The Indy Opera brought in quite a few well-known Wagnerian vocalists for this production and we are glad they did. Great stuff right here…plus RBD played in the orchestra.
– Higdon Violin Concerto with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
This was a world premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s Violin Concerto that was performed in February 6th, 2009. Commissioned in conjunction with Curtis Institute of Music and the Baltimore Symphony, the first performance was indeed here in Indianapolis. Played by the great violinist, Hilary Hahn, this concerto started with a bang and never, ever, let up. What was truly amazing is that Hilary played this FOR MEMORY! This night was truly a once of a lifetime experience and I congratulate the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra for programming such a wildly adventurous piece and am still in awe of the piece itself and Hilary Hahn’s virtuosic performance of the concerto.
– Leisure Kings Big Band Show at The Jazz Kitchen
The Leisure Kings is a two-man operation. They take 80’s popular music (gangster rap, hair/metal music, Kenny G…you know the usual) and ‘loungifies’ them. It is one of the most hilarious things one will ever witness. Now let’s add a 16 piece professional big band to support the hilarity! That is what happens twice a year at The Jazz Kitchen (generally June & December).
– Marcus Miller at Indy Jazz Fest
So I (mda) have been a Marcus Miller fan for quite a while. Granted, some of his music becomes a little too ‘smooth’ for me, but damn the man can play. I originally heard his stuff from the Miles Davis albums but really first got into his music from a Michel Petrucciani-Marcus Miller live album on the Dreyfus label out of France. Great stuff. The group he brought to Indy Jazz Fest on Sunday blew away everything else from that day (sorry RBD, who played that day as well). I set included a great mixture of originals, Miles Davis tunes and even a tribute to the King Of Pop, Michael Jackson.
– Joshua Redman at Clowes Memorial Hall (to begin Indy Jazz Fest)
It seems the new trend for a lot of major jazz artists (especially tenor players) is to work within a trio (tenor, bass and drums). This trend is nothing *new* per se, just consider Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker’s piano-less quartet. A small jazz group sans piano really opens up the harmonic structure that the jazz artists have to work with. (Would it be too cynical of me to also suggest that it is cheaper not to worry about one more person on a tour and finding a nice piano for the pianist to play…?) Well, at any rate, Joshua Redman was at Clowes Hall September 19th to kick-off the 2009 Indy Jazz Fest. Along with Josh (on tenor sax) was Greg Hutchinson on drums and Matt Penman on bass. It was easy to tell that this trio has been playing together for a while because they were TIGHT! Playing jazz standards together is a wonderful thing. Playing jazz standards in awkward meters like 7 or 5 tightly is a different story all together! My mouth dropped open at the first downbeat and stayed open for a full 75 minutes! The energy was palpable. The connection between the three musicians was visible. Moments of that performance have been imprinted on my brain and I am happy to say that I will carry those memories until the day I die.
– Les Claypool at The Vogue
OK so this is not really a classical or jazz show per se. However, the show was amazing and Claypool’s playing is always very improvisational. His band is an odd collection of top session players in the jazz and rock world and the music is as good as it can get. Les Claypool defies all genres.
– Frank Glover and Claude Sifferlin at The Chatterbox any Thursday
Frank Glover and Claude Sifferlin have performed together for over 20 years. They are two musicians that would be on top of the jazz world if they were located in NYC. Their performances are bordering on sheer genius every Thursday night at The Chatterbox jazz club in downtown Indy. Frank is releasing a new album in 2010 on the Owl Studios record label. This is with his new group Kilho and features a 25-piece orchestra. This WILL BE one of the best albums of 2010.
– Ariade auf Naxos at Clowes Memorial Hall
The Indy Opera company is a hidden treasure in Indianapolis. The 2009-2010 season is unfortunately one opera short due to the economy. However, the economy has not hurt the quality of the operas being performed. Ariadne auf Naxos is a great, late opera from Richard Strauss. It is a great mixture of comedy and drama. Of course with the music of Strauss, one knows the opera is going to be great. The production is especially significant because it featured Indianapolis native, and opera diva Angela Brown.
– Bach B minor Mass at St. Pauls Episcipalian Church
Bach is pure. Bach is beautiful. Bach was a nice nightcap to my 2009. On November 13th, 2009, mda and I (RBD) and our buddy Eric (trumpeter) went to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church for an experience that we will not soon forget. Some say that the acoustics at that church are poor, but I simply loved this performance. All of us in attendance were all impressed and comforted that this performance happened in Indianapolis. The Indiana University Chamber Orchestra and Choir, conducted by Professor William Jon Gray, performed this piece and the audience, at that point in time, the luckiest people on the planet. Such peace and goodwill flowing through the sanctuary was almost overwhelming. Everything was so clear and (dare I say) perfectly executed there were nothing but smiling people leaving that building on the night of November 13th, 2009.
– APA afternoon concerts at Christ Cathedral
The American Pianists Association has a great piano competition for up-and-coming young pianists, which takes place right here in Indianapolis. The competition included a chamber music portion at Christ Church Cathedral on the circle of downtown Indy where each finalist performed with the Parker String Quartet. Taking place every day for a week during the noon hour (FOR FREE!), this might have been the best concert series in Indianapolis for 2009. The level of musicianship was absolutely amazing.
– Magic Flute IU Opera in Bloomington
Opera…you either love it or hate it, or maybe ambivalent about it. Either way, people have opinions, and some of those opinions are about Opera. I (RBD) really enjoy Opera. I’ll always go into it with a positive attitude. Early opera is not my thing, and Mozart is really not THAT early, but still, you know what I mean. I’ve played the Magic Flute twice while at IU so I knew what I was getting into. BOY WAS I WRONG!!! This production was so exciting! The production was done in conjunction with the Atlanta Opera and will be premiered down there in April of this year (2010). I was mesmerized by this production and was sad when the opera concluded. The fact that the music was sung in German and the dialogue was in English was at first jarring, but you soon got over that! I am continually amazed at the production value of the IU Opera Department and was thoroughly thrilled at The Magic Flute!
– Fareed Haque CD release party at The Jazz Kitchen
Fareed Haque was recently awarded the Best World Guitarist of 2009 by Guitar Player Magazine. He released Flat Planet in March on the Owl Studios record label. The album received rave reviews, including being top on the JazzWeek world music radio charts and a feature interview on PRI’s The World. Fareed traveled through Indianapolis for a CD release party at The Jazz Kitchen and blew the roof off the place. Certainly take advantage of Fareed’s tours around the world. He always puts on a great show.
– Freddie Hubbard Tribute at Madame Walker Theater (Indy Jazz Fest)
With a line-up that includes Steve Allee on piano, Rufus Reid on bass, Donald Edwards on drums, Rob Dixon on tenor sax, James Spaulding on alto sax and 4 incredible trumpet players: Randy Brecker, Nicholas Payton, Derrick Gardner and Pharez Whitted, one would think that this concert would be easily in our top 10 and not in an ‘Honorable Mention’ category. Although this concert was great consisting of wonderful solos by world-class jazz musicians and incredible new arrangements by David Baker, Steve Allee and Derrick Gardner, the concert was L O N G!!!!!! I mean, really long! We’re talking easily 3.5 hours! Now THAT’s a lot of trumpet! We knew it would be a long concert when each player took 10-14 choruses EACH on the first tune, all trying to outdo the other! Whew! It was a journey, with a lot of playing, but sometimes you want to leave the audience wanting more…