Rafi Zabor’s Updoc, Friday 3/4 & Tues 3/8

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After a bluesy opener from Christian McBride’s gobsmackingly excellent big band there’s a lot of twang in the first half of this week’s Updoc—Friday at 8PM and noon next Tuesday, Uptown Downtown time—much of it featuring the always welcome Bill Frisell, playing movie themes and such with his own band, and with Charles Lloyd and Willie Nelson dreaming an end to war; interpersed with that I’ve curated some selections from Brad Mehldau’s four-CD set of solo piano concerts, especially including a remarkable, uncharacteristically bluesy version of Monk’s Dream. Americana continues with Roy Harris’ 3rd Symphony, secure in the national pantheon and still a wake-up call from start to finish. I tried hard to find an alternative version but settled back with Leonard Bernstein’s 1966 recording, unbeatable even by the one he waxed for DGG twenty years later. The show’s second half takes a measureably darker, more intense turn—though among old friends—first with a fleet 20 minute pursuit of Impressions by the John Coltrane Quartet at the Five Spot in 1965—a rarity, but you may have heard it before; even so, be ready to be seared on both sides—and then a live performance of Shostakovich’s 2nd Violin Concerto by its dedicatee and greatest interpreter, David Oistrakh: in 1968, at the height of the Cold War, Yevgeny Svetlanov conducting the USSR State Symphony Orchestra at London’s Royal Albert Hall—George Smiley was in attendance—when few in the West knew the realpolitik in q. or that Shosta was smuggling his soul out between the notes. This performance surpasses in intensity anything anyone has achieved on the (master)piece by anyone, ever, in a studio. You can breathe out, afterward, with two piano dazzlements from Martha Argerich, and emerge a better, larger, wiser human being for the experience (par ma foi)

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