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, August 25, 2008

Tribute to Benny Goodman August 24, 2008

Benny Goodman Tribute Good and Plenty at Cerritos

By Glen Creason

Some things will always be cool and the young will accept and love parts of popular culture each and every turn of the generations. This certainly includes part of the 30’s and 40’s including the horn section harmonies of orchestras who stirred big crowds of youngsters for decades. Big Band music heard live is one of those evergreen traditions that will put a spring in the step of baby boomers who may have never heard Glenn Miller or Tommy Dorsey swing the Avalon ballroom back in grandpa’s day. These sweet sounds from the Swinging years have a life of their own and when played by the masters can be as good as music gets. This was certainly evident at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts on a Sunday matinee where the Terry Myers Orchestra sent up a sterling tribute to the Big Band royal, Maestro Benny Goodman in front of a packed house of lovers of the genre, many of whom were just little shavers when Goodman recorded the legendary concert at Carnegie Hall in 1938 that marked him for greatness. Other whippersnappers, like myself just love the sound of Mr. Goodman’s clarinet and the beauties from the American songbook that he once embraced.
The superb Terry Myers Orchestra takes the responsibility of playing these wonderful songs very seriously but the leader’s banter makes it all seem effortless and fun. There was plenty to enjoy on this afternoon as the show featured almost two dozen hits from the heyday of Big Band and there was not a sour note heard in the two hours of fine sounds. The orchestra is filled with seasoned pros who know their way around the vigorous charts set before them and in songs like “Let’s Dance,” “One O’Clock Jump” “Flying Home” “Avalon” and the incredibly potent “Sing, Sing, Sing” they darn near took the roof off the big hall. There was plenty of romance too in songs like “the Very Thought of You,” “My Funny Valentine,” and “the Man I Love” sung perfectly by vocalist Connie Brink. Ms. Brink added some spice to the mix in songs like I’m Going to Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter,” “You Made Me Love You” and “And the Angels Sing.” Not only does she have the voice for the classics but her mannerisms and attitude were classy yet sassy. Yet, as it is in any fine band this is a team effort and Terry Myers holds the group together with his Goodmanesque solos but never hogs the spotlight. There were too many fine solos to single out but the tenor battle on “Avalon”and the Gene Krupa sounding drumming on “Sing, Sing, Sing” were really out of this world. More than just a tribute to Benny Goodman, this concert was a tribute to the entire genre and the dedication of Terry Myers to keep it alive and well. While the audience was mostly veterans of such sounds there was a mix of younger fans who left happily humming some great old songs.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

On the Road in Lyons Colorado

On the Road in Search of More Music

By Glen Creason

If you wonder if there is any place on the planet where the optimism and hope of early folk music still exists in full flower you must visit Lyons, Colorado for the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival. Music lovers would do well to go to any lengths to experience this very special slice of lyrics-rich nirvana in the beautiful red-rocks canyon amphitheater on the St. Vrain River. Lyons is a magical place on its own, nestled in the mountains outside Boulder. When filled with some of the greatest musical talents in America and several thousand die-hard "festivarians" it manifests a real life Camelot in tie-die and red mud-caked boots. This being the 18th year of such revelry the event has gained such notoriety as a musician's music festival that the young talent overflows for a dozen hours a day with little drop in quality from one wonderful performer to another. The Folks Festival runs for three lovely days each year and improves, it seems, each and every turn of the Summer Season. With workshops, a songwriting showcase and terrific shows in the secondary venue, the Wildflower Pavilion this is most certainly an embarrassment of mind and soul expanding riches. This year, everything about the event was challenged by seriously inclement weather which dumped unremitting sheets of rain on the opening day but it just gave perspective to the next two glorious gifts of truly memorable music.
We stayed and got soaked to our chonies on day one but will never forget the magnificent Patty Griffin's enchanting hour of sweet song poetry while buckets poured over our tightly gripped poncho in the press ring up front. Songwriter powerhouses Shawn Mullins, Josh Ritter and Dar Williams joined with Patty Griffin and Amos Lee for the really rain inflicted sets, playing on for committed fans, creating remarkable scenes of music in the mud. While the stalwarts spread blue tarps and popped umbrellas the songs rang out true and pure in the gray afternoon as the words reached us through the sweatshirt hoods and vinyl. Williams one of the sweetest voices in song gave us an inspired set while her audience wiped water off their glasses and Josh Ritter touched the heartstrings when he took on the elements and won out. Finally Amos Lee took the baton at the finish and left the middling crowd more than happy as he rocked them out of their chilled souls in decidedly Fall like weather.
Day two was almost tropic in comparison with a steely gray sky offering balmy temps above the sixties and a really amazing variety of sounds that stretched way beyond the normal definition of folk. This festival was heavy on female talent and Sarah Sample, Susan Werner and the doubly delicious Waifs showed that the sisterhood is mighty powerful at Lyons. The Great Lakes Swimmers were uniquely fine and Todd Snider along with Greg Brown produced moments of true greatness. When Snider sang
“ Enjoy yourself, it's later then you thinkEnjoy yourself, while your still in the pinkThe years go by, as quickly as a winkEnjoy yourself, Enjoy yourselfIt's later then you think” he set the tone for the ever-growing crowd to do just that. Probably the most under-rated songwriter in America Todd Snider set the bar mighty high in the late-afternoon on Saturday but the grand master Greg Brown kept it wild and wooly in the penultimate set of the day. One of the very best parts of the festival is the overall camaraderie and cooperative humanity of the gathering of like-minded souls. Part Woodstock, part family picnic and part glory in the sweet music, the Folks Festival is one of the greatest tonics available for twenty-first century despair. When Greg Brown asked the assembled “Peace on earth, when will it ever be in sight? This old world is everybody's beautiful home So why can't we treat each other right.” the positive answer he got from this audience really gave you goose bumps of joy.
Day three was the usual, perfect day in the mild Colorado sunshine, albeit with some sticky mud left over from the early downpours. Highlights for me were certainly the uniquely incredible “Mountain Goats” from our own So. Cal., the infectious groove of Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, and the instrumentally peripatetic and optimistic Tim O’Brien. Yet, it was once again it was the ladies who shone the brightest. Young Missy Higgins provided one hour of some of the best songwriting, singing and pulchritude while KT Tunstall assumed the serious responsibility of closing the magnificent feast without disappointing a soul out on the tarps. Just a humble suggestion to our own Cerritos talent scouts that Missy Higgins now resides in nearby Silverlake and Tunstall seemed to have packed the place with rabid fans.
On a personal note it might not light up the radar of memory for all others but as I sat with my family, on the tarp in the dark and heard the old pro Nanci Griffith close day two with the wonderful “Last Song to Mother” and heard the lyric “And if I promise not to cry/ Please look me in the eye/ And say you've truly known me/ Tis the sweet sound of goodbye /Amazing grace how sweet the sound” there was precipitation but not from the clouds overhead. On the road in musical America you will not find better quality of performer or better feelings amongst humanity than this Rocky Mountain Folks Festival.