Reviews of shows from the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts and other local venues published by the Los Cerritos Community News. The writer and paper are in their twentieth year of covering these events.

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Location: Fear City, Ca., United States

"My name is Addison DeWitt. My native habitat is the theater. In it I toil not, neither do I spin. I am a critic and commentator. I am essential to the theatre - as ants to a picnic, as the boll weevil to a cotton field." George Sanders in "All About Eve"

Monday, September 18, 2006

Australian BeeGees Tribute- Stayin' Alive September 16, 2006

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Bee Gees Music Nostalgia Takes Over Cerritos

By Glen Creason

Most certainly, it was the remembered music of their beloved BeeGees and recollection of mega-hits past that drew a capacity crowd to the Cerritos Performing Arts Center for a tribute concert by the genuinely Australian group calling itself “Stayin’ Alive” on Saturday evening. The audience came to rock and received a fairly full serving of the songs they cherished from the brothers Gibb and their four decades of recordings. The most amazing component of the BeeGees mystique is the fact that they managed to reinvent themselves several times; from the Beatles clone of the 60’s to the frontrunners of the disco scene to a rather sophisticated and romantic harmony group in their later stages of the twentieth century. The central part of the sound always was the falsetto/vibrato of lead man Barry and the tight harmonies of twin brothers Maurice and Robin. Along the way the BeeGees racked up an astounding number of platinum hits, several dozen successful albums and one sound track, “Staying Alive” that will certainly be called classic for as long as music flows out of speakers.
The tribute saluted the music and the songs the clamoring audience begged for were sent forth in bunches. There was early stuff like “Holiday,” “I Started a Joke,” “New York Mining Disaster,” “To Love Somebody” and “One Minute Woman” that sent us back to our bell bottoms and crash pad memory banks for some groovy vibes. There was also the white suit, big-hair and platform shoes sounds of the great disco moments of “You Should Be Dancing’,” “Saturday Night Fever,” and the richly percolating thunder of “Stayin’ Alive” which most certainly was the highlight of the show.
Along the way, many more great tunes came back from the past including “Jive Talking,” “I’ve Just Gotta Get a Message to You,” “Words,” “Tragedy” and the “Grease” centerpiece “What Are We Doing Here.” There was also the key romantic component which was shown with slow, shows of open-shirted machismo including “Always Alone,” Emotion,” Lonely Days, Lonely Nights,” and “How Deep Is Your Love” which seemed a little pale in comparison to Barry’s wailing vocals. The best of the journey down memory lane on this night were a tasty “Massachusetts,” the energetic “Islands in the Stream,” the smooth harmonies of “One” plus most of the disco which held up very well. The problems came with the group “Stayin’ Alive” that demonstrated a sincere and powerful appreciation for the body of BeeGees work but not near as much of the talent of the originals. In the large halls some of the vocals failed to reach their target, the guitar was pretty wan and the energy lagged somewhat in the ballads. The gray cells stirred and the tunes rang true but the desire to get up and dance did not strike everyone. However, in the latter stages couples popped up around the hall, recalling their disco heydays and the crowd sunk their teeth into the songs and seemed to forgive any shortcomings from the earnest yet most certainly imitators on this night.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Bobbi Humphrey, Roy Ayers September 8, 2006


Bobbie Humphreys and Roy Ayers Fill the Stage at CerritosBy Glen Creason

Two of the founders of jazz fusion came to Cerritos over the weekend and brought with them a large, vocal support group and enough energy to light up Las Vegas for a week. Certainly, there were elements of Vegas in this show featuring flutist Bobbi Humphrey and vibraphonist Roy Ayers with the stage crowded with colorfully dressed performers and the sounds coming in thick, pulsating waves from the hefty ensembles. One half of the show was pretty much on target and showcased marvelous mastery of an instrument and the other went everywhere but to the point. Yet the large crowd seemed to love most of it and said so over and over again. There are those who call Jazz Fusion Acid Jazz and others who term it Jazz F@*&! That side of the story was evident also.
The eppervescent Ms. Humphrey provided instant energy and appropriately opened the proceedings with Lionel Richey’s pop tune “Hello.” As was the case throughout her engaging, energetic set the tunes flowed around her marvelous, mercurial flute solos. When little Miss H puts her lips to that flute magical things happen within the context of the melody. She also lent generous time to a fine band anchored by a drummer, keyboardist and strong bass man whose names where obscured by the steady stream of inebriated patter from audience section-mates. She followed with a swinging “Do You Have Any Sugar” in homage to Stanley Turrentine that had a nice bite to it. The charming and effusive lady upped the voltage with a rollicking Herbie Mann composition then ventured into the mystic with John Coltrane’s “Equinox” that was a fascinating, long journey in sound. Each piece was held together with lengthy soloing and a strong center held by Bobbie Humphrey, especially in her finishing kick of the funky “Home Made Jam” and the dreamy but punchy “Harlem River Drive.”
Roy Ayers on the other hand and half of the show was somewhat perplexing. Certainly, the hall was filled with devotees and the big band onstage seemed to be having great fun. However, Ayers is one of the truly great jazz instrumentalists but his vibes seemed buried in this review. He beamed as he strode around the footlights as “Baby You’ve Got It” bounced off the back walls but the ensemble clowned so much and depended so much on back-up singers and the physical comedy of sax man Ray-Ray. It seemed like the group was channeling the Floaters and Slim and Slam instead of giving help to the master musician. “Sweet Tears” once again seemed misdirected as Ayers sang instead of played and gave up most of the time to others. Simply stated, there just wasn’t anywhere enough electric vibes and too much romantic vocalizing. It was like going to see Luciano Pavarotti and seeing him strum a ukulele. Despite the fact that Ayers fairly sizzled when he put his mallets to the vibes this flash with little substance seemed to go on and on through the fun of “Everybody Loves the Sunshine,” and even Dizzy Gillespie’s classic “A Night in Tunisia” which set a groove that continued toward hither and thither soloing while Ayers looked on approvingly. Yet, the crowd seemed to enjoy the direction and indeed begged for more after a healthy helping of this brand of Jazz Fusion. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Judy Collins August 31, 2006

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Judy Collins Fills the Center with Greatness

By Glen Creason

You never mention a lady’s age but Judy Collins made her initial mark when a tank of gasoline was three bucks and the term folk-music was freshly minted. In the ensuing forty-odd years she has established herself as one of the pre-eminent songstresses on the planet and a truly admirable human being. She is the epitome of class, not just for her magnificent voice and quality of repertoire but for her beautiful mind and humanitarian selflessness. When Judy Collins comes to town the curve of humanity is bent upwards.
At a Cerritos midweek concert the great hall was packed to the rafters in testament to local good taste and the undying spirit of music that touches the heart and challenges the intellect. Looking wonderful with her snowy mane piled stylishly upon her pretty head, La Collins gave the Performing Arts Center more than their money’s worth on this night. Mixing fascinating stories and song with sharp humor and musical history she had the place eating out of her hand at the ten minute mark. She did not take it easy and sang for over an hour and a half, choosing demanding material and using her powerful voice to bring insight and emotion to some classics of fine songwriting. Opening with her hit from back in my salad days Judy Collins sang “Both Sides Now” with a clarity and power that took you back to vinyl comforts and followed that with the sweet ode to friendship “Song to Judith.” It did not take her long to strum the heartstrings and when she busted out Ed McCurdy’s classic song for peace “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream” that was truly was like ice cold water for the parched soul. It was nice to see peace back in fashion, at least for one night.
Songwriters were at the forefront and the choices were delightfully eclectic from Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle” to George Gershwin’s “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” to Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” to Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans.” Yet, some of the best writing was by the lady herself, especially the exquisite “Since You’ve Asked,” the deeply evocative “My Father,” plus the pop sounding “Drops of Jupiter.” There was more contemporary work in the tear-jerking tribute to the martyred Firefighters of 9/11 titled “Kingdom Come” and a shout out to Katrina survivors, “Saints and Angels” which finished to a hall where only the wiping of eyes was heard. Then there were tunes where the voice was on display, such as the perfectly done “Kerry Dancers,” a dreamy “the Moon Is a Harsh Mistress” and a dear, stately old friend from the 60’s “the Albatross.” Still, the crowd could hardly contain themselves when the great lady topped off this extraordinary evening with a stunning encore of “Send in the Clowns.” Judy Collins is so busy trying to make the world a better place; it appears father time just can’t catch up to her.
The show was opened by a very fine; young songwriter from New York City named Kenny White. White wowed the Collins crowd with tough and insightful songs like “Never like This,” “Until You Learn” “Might as Well Leave” and the really potent “5 Girls” that deserves a place on every Ipod. His gutsy political statement “How Long” was enthusiastically received by about 68% of the audience. Overall, White showed extraordinary songwriting skills and mastery of the guitar and piano. Kudos to Judy Collins for spreading the good word on a musical find named Kenny White.