Monday, March 4, 2019

The Salon Wrap-Up for March 3, 2019: "Water"

Mother nature was on board tonight for the theme of last night's Salon, "Water," dripping snowy rain outside. But inside it was as warm as Spring, with Rick Jensen as our Co-Host (which makes sense since his CD is called "Spring Harvest"). Rick is an accomplished singer, arranger, pianist, and former co-host of The Salon - but this was the first time he did it as a songwriter. Coming from the landlocked state of Minnesota, NYC to him was all about discovering the sea, the shore, and he couldn't wait to see the ocean. He thus opened the show by performing by himself at piano, singing the first song he wrote as soon as he hit the Eastern Seaboard of New York City - "Coney Island," a rock piece filled with locales and romance and hopes of NYC and Rick's belted vocals and thrilling piano skills. For the second act opening, water turned to snow as he told us about his time growing up in the snow; practically every new winter event has it's own holiday, like the first Blizzard Keg-er of the year. He then went into a hilariously original song about partying a little too hard: "Hi Ho! That's the Jensen Way," for which all names were changed to protect the guilty and key changes rose as fast as alcohol levels. He went into another original about his little hometown experience, the piano ballad "Amanda Sang." Rick then flowed into the final song of the set, the powerfully supportive "Harbor." To complete the evening, he sang a song he's known since the 80s, "In Passing Years" which he eventually shared with the late, great Nancy LaMott; in fact, they opened the Don't Tell Mama room together many years ago, so it was a lovely homecoming.

Rick Jensen

Salon Spotlight

Speaking again of Nancy LaMott, she introduced Rick many years ago to an up and coming singer, Barbara Fasano, and it's been a creative romance ever since. Two CDs and many shows later, they continue to sing together; in fact, the evening's "Water" theme came out of Barbara's CD "The Girls of Summer," so as our Spotlight, she performed three songs from said CD with Rick at the piano. She started out with Peggy Lee and Johnny Mandel's love theme from the film "The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!" Luckily it's called "The Shining Sea," and it was a beautiful, free-flowing number that had us all fall in love with Barbara's rich alto and expressive emotional melody control, perfect for the 1966 melody. She then went into her volatile Italian Catholic (pardon the redundancy) family and her need for escape. She regaled us with her experience as a teenager in the 1980s, driving her 1960s Camaro to Robert Moses Beach and experiencing true freedom with a passionate rendition of "Thunder Road" by Bruce Springsteen. Nancy LaMott had previously sung the final piece, which Barbara had never sung before but wished to give her friend her due: a beautiful rendition of  "Moon River," which started out solo until Rick took a verse. She then she sat at the piano bench with Rick to travel down that river in a gorgeous duet together. 

Quick Wrap - Classical Corner

The topic of water in Classical music...hmmmm....Mark could have talked for an hour or two on how water inspires Classical musical. And while he didn't, there was so much wonderful material he went into that I had to get it all down. Mark started by going went back to his youth playing one movement of Handel's Suite, which was originally written for a huge party on the Thames for King George's son on July 17, 1717. The party took place on one barge, while the musicians performed on a 2nd barge, and both floated up and down the river all day long. In the Classicism/Baroque eras, music was more abstract until Beethoven 6th Symphony; he broke with tradition in one movement where you actually hear raindrops and the rolls of wind and thunder into a deluge of rain - depicted for the first time in classical music. Later in the Romantic era, composers would really relate their music to real objects, concepts, and things. Mark went into one of Chopin's "Barcarolle" movements, reminiscent of the movement of a boat. A Barcarolle refers to a rolling motion motif that flows back and forth throughout a piece. In Chopin's work, double trills on both hands are interesting features, perhaps to shimmer like the sun upon the water. 

In lieu of no recordings in the Classical period, most people would learn music on their own at home, from orchestra reductions down to simple one, two, three, or chamber ensemble arrangements. Mark then played a bit of the waltz king Johann Strauss' own arrangement of "The Blue Danube Waltz," which a family member might have played for her family members on one wet and wintery evening. Mark pointed out the art of transcription reduces it to a very simple rendition, but any good pianist would know how to expand upon the sheet music - adding flourishes, additional octaves, and a better heartfelt extension of the original notes. Adolf Schulz-Evler (1852-1905) is a lesser-known composer who wrote 52 pieces, mostly unknown or lost to history. However, his most famous work is an Arabesque on the theme of "The Blue Danube Waltz" with added jazz harmonies, very Gershwin-esque, with stunningly ebullient ornamentation in the melody - Mark played a recording by Marc-Andre Hamelin virtuoso pianist. (You can hear it via YouTube here).

A page from Schulz-Evler's Arabesque on "The Blue Danube Waltz"
The Impressionist era is even more about finding the images within the music: Ravel's "Gaspard de la nuit" is about a mermaid/water sprite and the shimmer of the light on the water, with the voice of the mermaid emerging from the fast-paced motif, and Mark played a bit of it gorgeously. To finish the corner, Mark played Debussy's "10th Prelude: La Cath├ędrale engloutie," which evokes a sunken Cathedral emerging from underwater. Murky and ghostly sounds of ringing bells and undulating currents running through it's broken windows as it sinks back into the deep. Finally, Mark played Chopin's last C minor "Ocean" Etude, which is literally written on the page in a wave of notes - the challenge is not to turn it into a samba but to flow in 4/4. It moves quickly, and it was a thrill to hear. 

Roster of performers for the evening (in order of appearance):
Click link to visit the performer’s website or other links, when available.
All piano accompaniment by Mark Janas unless otherwise noted.

Co-Host: Rick Jensen (self on piano)
Bob Diamond (with Rick Jensen at the piano)
Mary Sue Daniels (with Rick Jensen at the piano)
Katie McGrath (with Rick Jensen at the piano)
Susan Mack (with Takaaki Otomo at the piano)
Tim Cahill (with Jim Harder at the piano)
Renee Katz (with John Cook at the piano)
Deborah Stone (with John Cook at the piano)
Conchetta Butera
Salon Spotlight: Barbara Fasano (with Rick Jensen at the piano)
Classical Corner

Co-Host: Rick Jensen (self on piano)
Tanya Moberly (with Rick Jensen at the piano) 
Joanne Halev (with Rick Jensen at the piano)
Dawn Derow (with Rick Jensen at the piano) 
Patty Ruttner
John Trujillo
Josh Bennett
Richie Eisenberg (self on piano)
Co-Host: Rick Jensen (self on piano)

Special thanks to musicians Mark Janas, Rick Jensen, Jim Harder, Takaaki Otomo and John Cook. More thanks to David Ballard on lights and sound, and the astounding waitstaff including Josh and Leo and management at Don't Tell Mama. Finally, thanks to Ruben Olvera for his Videography!

Ongoing Shows:

Wednesdays-Sundays: Adam Shapiro is performing in Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish at Stage 42, 422 W 42nd St, NYC.

Upcoming Shows:
Tuesday, March 5th, 2019 (6:30pm): Janice Hall and Sierra Rein will be performing in Decadence Weimar Cabaret at The Friars Club, 57 E 55th St, NYC.

Wednesday, March 6th, 2019 (7pm): Sierra Rein brings her solo debut show "Running in Place" to a new home at Don't Tell Mama with Bill Zeffiro as Music Director, Matt Scharfglass on bass and Rex Benincasa on drums. James Beaman, Director. Don't Tell Mama, 345 West 46th Street, NYC.

Friday, March 22, 2019 (7pm): Susan Mack's encore of "Nobody Else But Me" with Director Marilyn Maye at Don't Tell Mama, 345 West 46th Street, NYC.

Friday, March 22, 2019 (8pm): David Ballard and Reuben Olvera will perform with the NYC Gay Men's Chorus in Big Gay Sing: Body & Soul in NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, 566 LaGuardia Place, NYC.

Friday, March 23, 2019 (8pm): David Ballard and Reuben Olvera will perform with the NYC Gay Men's Chorus in Big Gay Sing: Body & Soul in NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, 566 LaGuardia Place, NYC.

Sunday, March 24, 2019 (5pm): David Ballard and Reuben Olivia will perform with the NYC Gay Men's Chorus in Big Gay Sing: Body & Soul in NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, 566 LaGuardia Place, NYC.

Monday, April 1st, 2019 (8pm): Tanya Moberly directs "A Life Behind Bars" at City Winery, 155 Varrick St, NYC.

Thursday, April 18, 2019 (7pm): Katie McGrath, with Rick Jensen, will be the "Aunt of the Year" at Don't Tell Mama, 345 West 46th Street, NYC.

Sunday, May 5, 2019 (4:30pm): Concetta Butera in "Coming Home to Me" at Don't Tell Mama, 345 West 46th Street, NYC.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019 (7:30pm): Renee Katz will perform as part of "All The Things You Are: Celebrating Jerome Kern" at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, 154 W 57th St, NYC.

Friday, May 31, 2019 (7pm): Sierra Rein - as part of Marquee Five - performs "8-Track Throwback" with Dan Pardo on piano, Matt Scharfglass on bass, and Rich Huntley on drums, at The Laurie Beechman Theatre, 407 W. 42nd Street, NYC.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019: Joanne Halev with Alex Rybek at Birdland Jazz Club, 315 West 44th St, NYC.

NEXT SALON: March 10th, 2019
"Acceptance" is the Theme this upcoming Sunday, so whether that's regarding reality, self-love, or inclusion of people from all walks of life, it's sure to be a heartwarming and supportive evening. Our Co-Host will be composer Scott Evan Davis, and on hand to sing his work will be Emily Ellet, Sierra Rein, Adam Rennie, Marta Sanders and Analise Scarpaci. Just accept it, you're gonna love his work! See you then.

- Sierra Rein
Blogette for The Salon
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