Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Live Music, Power Emitting and Permitting + Music to Weather the Storm

The good news about the October storm is that New Haven seems to be unscathed and that Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street, will continue its Fall 2011 Concert Series Friday November 4 with a visit from Rudresh Mahanthappa & Samdhi.  Alto saxophonist Mahanthappa has been on quite a creative tear over the past several years, releasing CDs with fellow alto saxophonists Bunky Green and Steve Lehman, working alongside guitarist Rez Abbasi, trumpeter Amir El Saffir and pianist Danilo Perez.  His tart tone and rapid-fire lines combine the intelligence of Charlie Parker and Indian classical music.

Samdhi is the saxophonist's "electric" quartet;  the band features guitarist David Gilmore, electric bassist Rich Brown and drummer Damion Reid.  Their self-titled debut CD, released on ACT Music, is quite exciting and wonderfully musical, with melodies that rush forward like waves breaking on the shore during a storm and solos that leap from the speakers. 

Samdhi plays 2 sets, 8:30 and 10 p.m.  There's a waiting list for both sets (no surprise) so call 203-785-0468 to put your name on it.  For more information, go to

The blur to the left is guitarist Sean Clapis performing at The Buttonwood Tree, 605 Main Street, in Middletown. He and pianist Noah Baerman were scheduled to make a return appearance to the performance space in late August but their plans were curtailed by Hurricane Irene. This week's snow-ice storm has paralyzed the Middletown area but it looks like Main Street is back in business so Clapis and Baerman, who first played together a decade ago when the guitarist was a student in the Center for Creative Youth summer program at Wesleyan (Baerman was the instructor), will perform Saturday night at 8 p.m.  I saw their first Buttonwood gig in 2010 and really enjoyed the duo's give-and-take.  Over the last year, they have played a number of times and are building a strong repertoire.  To reserve a seat or 2 (I recommend that you do), call 860-347-4957 or go to

There are certain pieces of music that help to heal during times of duress and, for me, Johann Sebastian Bach's "Goldberg Variations" is one on those magical works.  Composed in 1741 and consisting of an "aria" and 30 "variations" using the same chord progression, the work, written for harpsichord, was popularized in the 20th Century by Canadian pianist/conceptualist Glenn Gould.  There have scores of recordings over the past 4+ decades (Gould alone recorded the "Goldbergs" 4 times) by the likes of Peter Serkin, Keith Jarrett, Murray Perahia, Roslyn Tureck, Simone Dinnerstein, Anthony Newman and Pierre Hantai.

On November 8, Sunnyside Records will release a splendid recording of the "Goldberg Variations" by pianist Dan Tepfer.  The 29-year old Tepfer adds his own twist on the piece by adding improvised "variations" on the original "variations" - make sense?  His improvisations use the same chord progression but stretches those chords in many fascinating directions.  Of course, when Tepfer plays the piece live, his "variations" will be different each time.

"Goldberg Variations/Variations" is quite lovely yet it may be challenging for some when Dan Tepfer plays his more "modern" takes on the 270-year old chord progressions.  But, challenging in a good sense.  He certainly plays the original with both dexterity (some of the passages are incredibly fast) but his improvisations help to bring out the emotional and melodic richness of the work. One hears joy, melancholy, pride, a touch of sorrow and, most certainly, the kind of beauty that is created from love of creativity. and follow the instructions.

Self-recorded (the pianist was granted use of the Yamaha Artists Services Salon in Manhattan in the middle of the night), Dan Tepfer approaches JS Bach's composition, a work that many consider timeless, and makes the music sound "new" again.  Find this recording - play it when you are happy and your spirits will rise even higher.  Play it when your life has turned dark and your spirit will be caressed.  To find out more, go to

If you are quick enough, the website is streaming the recording.  Click on the link and follow the instructions.

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