CCM Jazz to honor John Von Ohlen

John von ohlen provided
Provided photo: John Von Ohlen, co-founder of the Blue Wisp Big Band, was an adjunct instructor of jazz drums at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music.

I’m sharing this note I received from CCM director of Jazz Studies Scott Belck:

The CCM Jazz Orchestra proud to present Stan Kenton’s “West Side Story” Sunday night,  November 4th. The band will be paying homage to the thrilling music of the Stan Kenton Orchestra’s first Grammy Award winning album, all of the magnificent arrangements by Kenton stalwart Johnny Richards.
This concert will be dedicated to the memory of distinguished faculty member and Stan Kenton alumnus, John Von Ohlen.
Special guest conductor, Vaughn Wiester, a veteran of the Woody Herman Band and a Stan Kenton scholar, will also be presenting a Pre-Concert Lecture entitled: “Three Outsized Personalities.”
Belck says he expects this prestige event to sell quickly, so get your tickets soon.
Von Ohlen died early this month. Read more about his achievements in the jazz world in John Kiesewetter’s tribute on WVXU.
What: Stan Kenton’s “West Side Story”
CCM Jazz Orchestra
Scott Belck, music director
Vaughn Wiester, guest conductor
When: Sunday, November 4th at 7pm
Corbett Auditorium
CCM Jazz Orchestra , Scott Belck, musical director/conductor
Vaughn Wiester Pre-Concert Lecture “Three Outsized Personalities”
6:15 in Corbett Auditorium
Tickets: $20 general, $15 non-UC students, UC students FREE
CCM Box Office:  ccm.uc.edu/boxoffice
Phone: 513-556-6638
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In memoriam: John Von Ohlen

Legendary jazz drummer John Von Ohlen, “The Baron,” died on Oct. 3 following a long illness. He was 77.

He was a drummer, bandleader and recording artist. You could only marvel at his effortless technique, his musicality and his seamless communication with his fellow musicians. Small wonder he was the drummer of choice for Rosemary Clooney, Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Tony Bennett, Benny Goodman, Mel Torme and Perry Como. He toured and recorded with Kenton for two years.

Von Ohlen was one of the last big band drummers of his era.

“Performing with and discussing music — and philosophy — with John Von Ohlen has been one of the great joys of my life,” said Rick VanMatre, saxophonist and former director of Jazz Studies at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. “Asking John to join the CCM jazz faculty in 1985 was the best decision we could have made for the students, the faculty, and the legacy of the Jazz Studies Program.”

Read More »

Xavier Piano and Jazz Series to have virtuoso lineup

Christian McBride. Photo provided

Polina Bespalko, artistic director of Xavier University’s Piano and Jazz Series, has a fascinating lineup of artists coming to Gallagher Center Theater at XU this year. The season opens this Friday Sept. 21, with a free concert by a piano virtuoso who won the silver in the Liszt International Competition.

“This roster this year is top-notch,” Bespalko said. “And in jazz, they are all connected in some way.”

Xavier Jazz Series opens with bassist Christian McBride on Oct. 27. McBride has worked with everyone on this list, as well as legends from Herbie Hancock to Sting and even opera soprano Kathleen Battle.Read More »

Cincinnati Song Initiative wins ‘Stand for the Arts’ award

Cincinnati Song Initiative participants around the piano (L-R): Alex Hurd, Ahyoung Jung, Samuel Martin, Ivy Walz, Kenneth Griffiths, Marie Marquis

America’s only arts network, Ovation TV, in partnership with Spectrum, has awarded Cincinnati Song Initiative a 2018 Stand for the Arts award. The award includes $10,000 in funding. Officials will hold a formal award presentation in Cincinnati on Oct. 8.

Cincinnati Song Initiative is a three-year-old concert series devoted to art song. The project, led by founding artistic director Samuel Martin, presents beautifully-sung, well-researched programs on themes such as American song, the French group, Les Six, and the art song of Spanish-speaking nations, “Alma de España,” which kicks off the third season on Sept. 22.Read More »

Opera is changing, and Cincinnati is at the forefront

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Eisenhower’s words are projected above the cast in a scene of “Another Brick in the Wall” that drew audience applause. Provided/Philip Groshong

This month at Cincinnati Opera, audiences are seeing an opera based on a Pink Floyd rock album and another, “As One,” on a transgender topic. The company is commissioning “Blind Injustice,” based on the Ohio Innocence Project at the University of Cincinnati, to premiere next year in CO’s 99th season.

Last week, the chamber group concert:nova presented a “rock opera” based on sci-fi stories from “The Illustrated Man” by Ray Bradbury. (Here’s a column I wrote about it.)

It’s no secret that opera can no longer lure audiences with just the traditional canon of the ABCs – “Aida,” “La Boheme” and “Carmen.” Around the country, opera companies are embracing diversity and programming new American opera on a range of topics.

For the last couple of decades, new opera has addressed timely social issues – such as Jake Heggie’s and Terrence McNally’s “Dead Man Walking,” based on the book by Sister Helen Prejean about the death penalty. As opera embraces the vernacular – with the aim of making it accessible to all — the whole art form is blurring the lines between traditional opera, pop and musical theater.

A case in point is “Another Brick in the Wall,” based on the acid-rock Pink Floyd Album, “The Wall.” To me, the production emphasized the visuals – the projections, the scenic design, the spectacle – leaving an impression not far removed from a night at the theater seeing “Les Miserables” or “Miss Saigon.” (Read my review here.)Read More »

Summer season: Opera reviews and more

A scene from “La Traviata” to open Cincinnati Opera’s seasons. Photo provided/Philip Groshong

This is a reminder to readers that many of my reviews can be found at bizjournals.com/cincinnati/topic/arts — thanks to a new initiative to cover the arts by the Cincinnati Business Courier and a grant from the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.

Click here to read my review of Cincinnati Opera’s “La Traviata.”

I’ve reviewed Olga Kern at Art of the Piano here.

Here’s the review of opening night of Monteverdi’s “The Coronation of Poppea.

Read more about countertenors here.

And today, the Ansel Adams photography exhibition opens at the Taft Museum. Read about it here.

In memoriam: Theater critic Jackie Demaline

Attending Cincinnati Opera’s The Barber of Seville with Jackie and Polly Campbell, right, in 2005. Photo courtesy of Jeff Swinger

This was my favorite photo of Jackie, taken at exactly this time of year — opera season — in 2005. You can see Jackie’s exuberance at being there. She did everything exuberantly. She approached her cancer and the final months of her life fearlessly. To echo many of those who knew what she went through, she was the bravest person I know.

Jackie died early this morning at age 68.

Here is my tribute for the Business Courier.