Saturday, January 10, 2004

LA Scene: Mark Taper Forum

Like Jazz

(Sixth in a series of occasional posts on Los Angeles life)

Hello Kari:

Los Angeles has been said to be a cultural desert. I suppose some New Yorkers and San Franciscans may still feel that way about Los Angeles? How do Kansas Citians view the fruits and nuts of Southern California?

Downtown LA has some of my town's venue for the arts. In a handful of blocks, going from north to south, there is the Catholic Cathedral, Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion , Walt Disney Concert Hall and Museum of Contemporary Art.

I recently, finally, went to a show at the Mark Taper Forum to see the musical, Like Jazz which tells the story of jazz through a narrative device of a guy trying to explain jazz to the uninitiated. Woven around his moments of talking to the audience are various musical numbers with singing and a small amount of dancing.

The musical introduces the audience to some of the instruments commonly used. As you might guess, the trumpet was highlighted in several numbers as was the saxophone. One number that really got the crowd going was when lead singer Patty Austin did scat singing in response to solos from several instrumentalists. Just amazing.

Another angle they took was the venues where Jazz is played. There was a number showing the lone saxophonist in a club, another with the pianist providing a nearly ignored background soundtrack in a restaurant and one highlighting the street corner musician. But in the end for the average listener, what makes it work is that it introduces the emotional richness of the genre.

I dare anyone to see the show and not find oneself tapping the feet to the music, inspired to clap along with the peppy pieces and moved by the emotional range of music from melancholy to humorous to exuberant love of life.

I'm a novice fan of Jazz and several friends (like you) have introduced me to different noted performers and some of the concepts behind it. I recommend the show highly. My only nitpick is that at times the band overwhelmed the singers. Also, I think they should give the solo musicians a little more of the stage.

It is in its premier run and it will be interesting to see if it gets picked up for Broadway or any other major cities. Like Jazz's Los Angeles run will end January 25, 2004.

Be well,
Rene

P.S. A small hint for Los Angeles readers and visitors, if you are on a budget, try the public rush option. I got my seat for $12. In calling the box office, they say Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday performances tend to be the ones where rush is successful. Of course if you have the money, go ahead and by the tickets outright at full price!

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