All posts by Isabelle von Lockner

Bill Frisell: a Half Century of Genius

Pictured above: Frisell and Williams at Royce in 2015

Bill Frisell. An iconic name, and even more iconic mind.

Having guest appeared alongside Lucinda Williams (2015-16 Season), with Charles Lloyd and with Lucinda again (2016-17 Season), and performing his original score for Bill Morrison’s film “The Great Flood” (2012-13 Season) it’s safe to say this Friday, December 5th will not be Frisell’s first rodeo with us.

A leading jazz guitarist since the 80’s, Frisell hasn’t limited himself to one genre or wave of music. As part of the early downtown New York music scene with Naked City bandmates John Zorn, Fred Frith,Wayne Horvitz and Joey Baron, a composer of film scores for documentarian Bill Morrison and silent films of Buster Keaton and his forays into Americana and country music, Frisell has revolutionized what it means to be interdisciplinary. 

But I pause here to bring up the concept of “collaboration.”

A seemingly common trend among those in the arts world, collaboration is important for creative growth and networking. But Frisell takes collaboration to a whole new level. Having worked with extraordinary artists in duos, trios, quartets, and quintets, Frisell opens doors into a groundbreaking concept that is not traditionally seen: diverse and cross-genre work. 

Allow me to delve deeper: the Bill Frisell Trio is renowned for their spontaneous performances of music derived from Frisell’s entire musical repertoire on the fly, while other niche collaborations push Frisell into specific, ethereal corners of music and art. Frisell’s work on The Great Flood, alongside Bill Morrison, depicts the tragedy of the 1927 Mississippi River Flood that displaced multitudes of sharecroppers to northern cities. This work was conducted in a thoughtful manner, supplemented by a completely original score created by Frisell in place of dialogue.

The two pieces described above merely scrape the top of the deep and vast world of collaboration and focus in which Frisell has led his work in the past. Driven by improvisation and a sense of play, Frisell’s 40 years of experience adds fresh new flare to all the music he creates. 

Rock or jazz, country or blues? Which will he explore next? We are thrilled to bring back Bill Frisell to play alongside Julian Lage on the Royce Stage on Friday, December 5th!

Until then, let the wise words of Frisell inspire you in your approach art and creativity:

“ I hate labels; the problem is that if you say you’re one thing, it’s hard for people to imagine you as something else. Music is way more complicated than that. In so many ways, it feels the same now when I play as the very first time I picked up the instrument.”

Avery*Sunshine: A Name with a Story

Downtown Los Angeles. A bustling urban center where the classic rolling hills and palm trees of LA halt to make way for skyscrapers, fire escapes, and vintage theaters. One such vintage venue, The Theatre at Ace Hotel, shimmers with light in the evening dusk and the name “Avery*Sunshine” glows above the entrance, suggesting the presence of the pop/soul icon who will take on the stage this Saturday, November 23rd.

I pause to think of all the times I’ve read the names on vintage theater marquees throughout my time in L.A. On every street corner there is seemingly another niche band or artist performing “TONIGHT ONLY. SOLD OUT”… and in that moment a name I had never recognized becomes my most recent search on Spotify or Apple Music.  A new world of art opening before me.

But, the name Avery*Sunshine. Now those are 5 syllables that changed things.

Avery*Sunshine is the stage name of Denise Nicole White, a Philadelphia-born singer and performer. According to Sunshine, her parents named her after Denise Nicholas, a famous black actress. When Avery*Sunshine’s Spelman College sister got cast in The Color Purple on Broadway, leaving Sunshine to finish their record alone, her manager and writing partner Dana scored the opportunity for Sunshine to travel to Japan to promote her new song, “Stalk You.”

At that moment, Dana muttered words that would pivot the trajectory of Sunshine’s career: “You have an opportunity here, what do you want your name to be?”

Without even a moment of hesitation, “Avery Sunshine” was muttered — a combination of two of Sunshine’s true loves and favorite characters, Shug Avery from The Color Purple and Sunshine from Harlem Nights.

Just like that, Avery*Sunshine was born and her career has sky-rocketed ever since.

So when you step foot before The Theatre at Ace Hotel this Saturday evening and see the glowing letters of her name above you, I challenge you to take a moment to think about what your stage name might be. How does your stage name disclose your niche preferences and qualities?

Once you’ve done that, scurry on into the historic theater and enjoy the show!

See you there.

Swan Lake (Loch na hEala) ft. Michael Keegan-Dolan!

We are excited to bring Ireland’s Teaċ Daṁsa to the Royce Stage to perform Loch na hEala (Swan Lake) under the direction of Michael Keegan-Dolan!

The name Swan Lake alone evokes sentiment among audiences, the classic tale being prolific in literature and entertainment. The ballet is a popular choice among dance companies, providing a complex narrative and character arcs for dancers. Further, many film adaptations have been produced based on Swan Lake, including films from Columbia Pictures, the Barbie franchise, and Japanese writer Hirokazu Fuse.

Given the pathos that audiences may associate with the classic tale and ballet of Swan Lake, those in attendance for Michael Keegan’s adaptation this weekend will be met with a stimulating and thought-provoking interpretation.

Keegan’s Swan Lake takes place in a small town in modern-day Ireland, providing a relatable context for the dark and comedic entities of the story to blossom into fruition. Michael Keegan-Dolan is renowned for his ability to bring Irish wit to life through unique choreography, and coupled with the new score from the Dublin-based band Slow Moving Clouds, the combination of Nordic and Irish traditional music with minimalist and experimental influences is sure to be moving.

Keegan-Dolan’s incredible career has been praised globally, and his ability to touch on political issues through dance continues to move audiences. What a treat this Saturday evening will be to all!