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Tuesday, February 20, 2007
The Sublime and the Quotidian

Vocal Works, the Crescent Super Band, a Maynard Ferguson tribute, and a church talent show.

(That's thrice.) (See below.)

The last two weeks, almost, have included some interesting musical and other cultural activities for your humble blogger. Most of them somehow involve American Fork.

"If Music Be the Food of Love"

(No, I don't know what that means.)

On Friday, February 9, I went for the first time to a recital in American Fork's historic, newly-remodeled City Hall. The upper floor, where City Council meetings are held, seats about 80 people comfortably -- and there were about 78 there. The hall really is unforgiving, as I predicted, in the sense that any significant amount of talking, crying, or other noise on the lower level is audible to the audience above. (This was only irritating once, and that was due to some unusual circumstances.) Otherwise, it is a visually and acoustically pleasing recital venue.

The performers were local composer and baritone M. Ryan Taylor's VocalWorks troupe, singing a well-chosen program of "classic songs for lovers": some classic Broadway, some newer Broadway, some "more serious" works. These singers are professionals whom I have heard and praised before, at Christmas, Halloween, and a summer concert. Apparently, I am not the only one who has enjoyed their work. Judging by the near-sellout crowd, word is getting around. Next time they may need to add a second performance or find a larger hall. (The former, I hope.)

Only Tony could improve this. If -- as my date (MFCC) noted -- Tony's Italian Deli would stay open late when there is a concert downtown, concertgoers could stop there for those paradisiacal Italian donuts and some herbal tea after the concert. The evening would be essentially perfect.

The Incredible Crescent Super Band (Among Others)

Last Friday, MFCC and I sallied forth to BYU's de Jong Concert Hall for a BYU Crescent Jazz Festival concert. The headline groups were the Crescent Super Band and a big band of professionals, including numerous Maynard Ferguson alumni. The concert was billed as a Maynard Ferguson tribute, which mostly described the second half.

All else being equal, the professional band which played the second half of the long concert was clearly the best band of the evening. The tribute was quite authentic, to be sure. I played trumpet (including jazz) for several years and have long been a Maynard Ferguson fan (within limits, and not including the shirts they sometimes wore in the 1970s, which we saw in a video tribute at the concert). My appreciation for squealing, stratospheric trumpet work exists but is not sufficient for an actual, full-length Maynard Ferguson concert, as I learned some years ago. Friday I learned that it is not sufficient for a half-length Maynard Ferguson tribute concert, either. It was very much the same -- that's my tribute to the Tribute -- only shorter. That said, the band -- including several former lead trumpets from Ferguson's own band -- was so good generally that I enjoyed the concert to the end. Besides some of the excellent trumpeting, I especially enjoyed some solo work by baritone saxophonist Denis DiBlasio.

The pros were great, but I enjoyed the first half of the concert more. It included other ensembles and some fine soloists, but featured the Crescent Super Band, which is sponsored by The Music School in American Fork. I've listened to them on CD for some months now and have praised them before (here and here). This didn't prevent my absolute astonishment at hearing them live for the first time. Forget Provo; I think I'd drive to Nevada or Colorado to hear them again.

The favorite moment for me and for the audience at large was the latter part of a chart (piece) they played with two trap drummers instead of the usual one. Toward the end, their own drummer and professional Gregg Bissonette traded eights (I think it was eights) for more than a minute, before sharing a few bars to finish. (See this explanation of trading fours and eights.) The Crescent Super Band's drummer held his own against the pro. (I say "against" because it's a traditional contest of jazz one-upmanship.) The crowd was sufficiently well-versed in jazz to appreciate what they were hearing; they went wild. When the chart ended, the pro grinned broadly, gave the high school kid a high five, shook his hand, and hugged him.

I'm generally cynical about standing ovations; I think audiences pass them out like pretzels. But the Crescent Super Band's standing ovation before intermission was absolutely appropriate and well earned.


Now We Come Back Down to Earth

My ward (LDS, or Mormon, congregation) had a talent show Saturday evening. A few of the performances and displays were quite professional. Others were less polished, and that's okay. You might think it would be difficult, jarring, or unpleasant to experience such sublimity one evening and return the next evening to the unmistakably quotidian. (I have to use that word twice a year, or my soul and/or dictionary will shrivel.) But I actually enjoy the quotidian (there, that's twice) somewhat more when I'm also enjoying a reasonably regular diet of the sublime. The temptation to compare the two is easy enough to resist anyway, and recent brushes with the sublime minimize my temptation to groan (though I know better), "Is this as good as it gets?"

Here's a thought. My ward has an unofficial (so far) cowboy poet laureate. Does yours? Would it be silly to make ours official?

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