About Last Night...

I think all this focus on Iowa is ridiculous, but it ends up mattering because (almost) everyone agrees that it matters. Though how it matters is awfully tricky. Just ask Presidents Robertson, Huckabee and Santorum, As I understand things, last night was almost all bad news for a Democratic presidency and good news for Republicans. On the Democratic side, Hillary needed either to win or lose. Had she won, she would have looked "strong." Had she lost, she could have appeared humbled, which I think would have been a good thing for her, image-wise. Instead she is claiming a victory that does not exist and Sanders' side is both empowered and angrier. That will make a final (strong) resolution a bit more difficult in the end, especially if Bernie wins a strong victory in New Hampshire.

But the really bad news was on the Republican side. I hold the widely shared belief that Marco Rubio is the only Republican who can both get the nomination and beat Hillary Clinton in the general election. (And if he picked Kasich to run with him, oy vey!) Most of the members of the mainstream media are desperate for the Republicans to stop acting like children and get with the Rubio program. Trump was the biggest threat to that on Monday, but today it is Cruz. So long as they keep going back and forth, Rubio can clean up with everybody else and emerge as the "sane" alternative to the two unelectable crazies. It's still a toss-up that whether the grass roots will go along with all this, but I think they will, eventually, and painfully. If they don't, I see a chance of a brokered convention with Paul Ryan emerging as the nominee. (Ryan could also emerge as president in the unlikely event of a Bloomberg candidacy -- via election through the House of Representatives.) So let's all worry, at least for another week...

My Stuff:

Danny Goldberg and I did a podcast together for the show he has been doing on spirituality in people's lives and should you want to listen, you can find it here.

The whole archive is here.

Live Music:

The Jazz@Lincoln Center Orchestra
Fred Hersch and Friends
Loudon Wainwright III
Lead Belly Tribute Show plug

"Noises Off," "Fiddler on the Roof," and Mad Jenny.
At the movies...

The theaters at Jazz@Lincoln Center were quieted for the past season as they called in the construction crews and shut down the Appel Room and the Rose Theater. Everything is back in order now, however and the 28th season is now underway. I've seen three shows, not including an American Songbook show, and once again, the programmers have succeeded in doing what they do best, which to blend the traditional with the contemporary and create something unique.

Over the past couple of weeks, I caught the entire orchestra doing to programs. The most traditional of these, was an all-Gershwin evening called "Our Love is Here to Stay." What was most impressive, though not actually surprising, was the newness brought to these compositions, many of which are nearing their hundredth birthdays.

Trombonist Chris Crenshaw and multireedist Victor Goines served as the music directors, though the arrangements were parceled out to members of the orchestra. They had over 800 (written between 1916 and 1937 from which to choose and they did a nice job of mixing the obscure (Realto Ripples" arranged by Crenshaw) with the well known ("Rhapsody in Blue" in a Billy Strayhorn arrangement).

The second full orchestra show of the month was called "Jazz in the Key of Life." It was the first time I can remember in the orchestra's history in which they devoted themselves exclusively to pop music (unless you include the benefits where they played their guests' hits, as they did with say, Crosby, Stills & Nash not long ago). This show found them doing jazzy versions of some gems of seventies soul, especially Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, and The Jacksons, though not necessarily the songs you'd expect. Directed this time by trombonist Vincent Gardner, it was a wonderfully inventive evening and the songs ranged from the above to an incredibly version of "Eleanor Rigby" and another of "Wooden Ships," (co-authored by recently deceased Paul Kantner, with David Crosby and recorded by both the Airplane and CSNY). I loved hearing the songs of my youth done this way but I'm not sure how the purists felt about it. Then again, I've always considered Wynton Marsalis among the purest of the purists and he seemed to be having a good time, having ceded the leadership of the orchestra for a few nights and just playing, masterfully, in the band.

Earlier that weekend I caught an incredibly relaxed show in the Appel Room called "Fred Hersch & Friends: Intimate Moments" which featured clarinetist Anat Cohen, guitarist Julian Lage, vibraphonist Stefon Harris, and pianist Sullivan Fortner Hersch, who began as sideman to the likes of Joe Henderson, Art Farmer, and Stan Getz is one of the most admired musicians in jazz. In 2006, he became the first solo pianist to perform a full weeklong engagement at the Village Vanguard. In 2010, he fell into a two-month coma, and then emerged to do it again. This show, as I said, was incredibly relaxed. Musicians were introduced who had not arrived yet. Song selections were made on stage. Hersch stayed offstage for about half of it. I think most people very much enjoyed it -- in part for its intimacy -- but I do think one would have had to be prepared...

I also want to give a shout out to Loudon Wainwright, who did a charming one man American Songbook show in the Appel Room. Loudon is Loudon and he too, has found a nice place where he mixes the songs he wrote a half century ago with ones he wrote last week, along with a few from his own personal American songbook. Stephen Holden did a nice review in the Times, here. I particularly liked the new songs about the Wainwright family trip to Alaska and Frank Sinatra. I could do without ever hearing the one about dog shit again though. His "Love Hurts," however, was weirdly straight-forward and incredibly moving. No funny faces, just sad and beautiful sentiments. I never thought Loudon could choke one up, but there he does...

Finally, on the live music score, I want to give a heads-up about an important show this week at Carnegie Hall in honor of Lead Belly. Carnegie is the site of his final show in 1949 and this week's show, led by Buddy Guy and Eric Burdon has a wonderful lineup, which will be a challenge to keep moving. The concert will support the Association to Benefit Children and Project ALS and in addition to above, will also include Josh White Jr. Tom Chapin, Kenny Wayne Shepard, Edgar Winter and Marky Ramon -- if you can imagine that. I can't but I'm looking forward to it, to say nothing of the great cause. It's all here.


I saw three shows last week and I'm also eager to recommend all three. The new production of Michael Frayn's 'Noises Off' at the American Airlines Theatre is absolutely brilliant. It contains some of the most impressive physical comedy I've ever seen -- I say impressive because the tightness of the timing required was astounding, but it was all there. It's really a nearly perfect comedic production. It has nothing to say about the world or Donald Trump or anything. It's the purest of escapist entertainment, but works perfectly as such. And Megan Hilty in that outfit for the whole show, well, it's got some visual attraction as well. Andrea Martin is a riot as well. According to the New Yorker review, "The play "Noises Off" derives its thrill from carefully choreographed chaos."

The new production of "Fiddler on the Roof" at the Broadway Theater, has some of the most impressive choreography I've ever seen, and of course, many of the most moving songs ever written for a Broadway show. (This is especially true if you are a middle aged father of a daughter who is about to leave home.) It must have been quite a challenge to make Anatekva feel new again, but, thanks in part to dancing--and also to the wonderful Danny Bernstein and Jessica Hecht, as the patriarch and matriarch respectively, literally nothing drags and the sentimentality does not overwhelm. I will admit to crying quite a bit during the second act--but its the songs in the first act that feel as if they've existed for hundreds of years. (It opened originally in 1964 but given the worldwide refugee crisis, in this case, what is old is sadly new again.)

And finally, finally, I traveled deep into the East Village, or maybe even deeper than that to a really cool performance space called "Dixon Place" to see a cabaret by led by one of those "legendary" downtown personalities, "Mad Jenny," the brainy provocateur of downtown cabaret." It was called "Love und Greed" and some of it was in German, and not all of it was in good taste, but it was thougtful and piercing in places and pretty damn fun. It has a Weimar feel to it. and some great guest stars, though my guess is that these will change with time, as the show moves to Pangea on March 7, also down there, on the first Monday night of each month, for a while. Some of the songs, amazingly, were written in the Theresienstadt concentration camp and translated by MJ, but some were also performed by Blondie, so don't worry about it being too heavy...For more, go to www.madjenny.com

At the movies:

So the 25th annual New York Jewish Film Festival (NYJFF) presented b the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Jewish Museum has come and gone. I did not make it to many of the films. The two I did see were not new and also not worth staying through so I won't name them. I could not make it to the film that looked the most exciting: Natalie Portman's directorial debut, a filming of Amos Oz's memoir, A Tale of Love and Darkness, one of the most moving and powerful books I've read in years, which was the closing night film, but that's ok because it will open soon. Sorry if you were depending on me for notice about the rest. Another major highlight of the season, to which I always look forward, is the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, presented by the Film Soci y with UniFrance. The 21st year runs March 3-13 and this year's schedule looks terrific You can find it here.