Category Archives: Live Wire Blog

Brotherhoods and Sacred Sounds

Next Saturday night we are so very proud to host two of the most astonishingly talented and deeply generous artists in modern American music— pedal-steel guitar player, bandleader and producer Robert Randolph and multi-instrumentalist and trance-blues progenitor Otis Taylor.

Both of these artists are releasing albums this month that harness their distinct artistry in honor of musical collaborators who have greatly inspired them.

“Robert Randolph presents The Slide Brothers” hits stores next Tuesday. It is the first album for the enduring and beloved Slide Brothers–Calvin Cooke, Chuck Campbell, Darick Campbell and Aubrey Ghent, each of whom was raised worshiping and performing “Sacred Steel” in The Church of the Living God. They were an ad hoc family, traveling and learning from the other dominions in their communities in cities from Nashville to Chicago to Newark. They’ll join us here in Royce Hall with Randolph as part of a triumphant tour in support of their first-ever studio release, decades in the making.

Since hitting the scene in 2000, Randolph himself has been instrumental in proselytizing the Sacred Steel tradition to modern audiences with his engaging Family Band.

He counts The Slide Brothers as a major influence and an inspiration.

“I was born with these guys,” Randolph says. “I look to them the same way I look to blues greats like Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson. Aubrey Ghent and Henry Nelson, Aubrey’s dad, and The Campbell Brothers; they all shaped this Sacred Steel tradition inside the churches but they weren’t allowed to leave the church until now.”

The Slide Brothers’ album includes 11 tracks and features some of the most dynamic electric slide guitar playing ever recorded. Inspired by Randolph to finally emerge beyond their respected positions within the Sacred Dteel community, the Slide Brothers tackle rock, funk and even the deepest blues with a ferocity that will startle fans of Duane Allman, Derek Trucks and even Muddy Waters.

The Slide Brothers shift easily between genres, incorporating both traditional gospel repertoire as well as and secular material. To underscore the album’s diversity, a stirring instrumental version of the spiritual classic “Wade in the Water,” is followed by a vibrant and bluesy cover of Fatboy Slim’s 1999 trip hop hit “Praise You” (featuring vocals by blues queen Shemekia Copeland and backing by Robert Randolph & the Family Band). Jimmy Carter of the famed Blind Boys Of Alabama joins Aubrey Ghent to provide lead vocals for “My Sweet Lord.”

“It has long been a vision of all of ours to be able to this,” says Chuck Campbell. “Robert was able to pull together the top steel players from different generations. It is truly an honor to be a part of album that brings together so many wonderful people such as [Jimi Hendrix bassist] Billy Cox, Shemekia Copeland, and the Blind Boys Of Alabama. Instead of us meeting at a church convention we were able to get everyone together in a recording studio to play secular songs and religious songs with the same conviction. We feel blessed that we have finally been able to do this.”

Meanwhile, on Feb. 12, Otis Taylor’s 13th album arrived with “My World is Gone.” With his powerful and unique blend of roots music and narrative poetry, Taylor explores the struggles of Native Americans, with contributions from guitar virtuoso Mato Nanji, frontman of American blues-rock band Indigenous.

The central theme of “My World Is Gone” was fueled by Nanji.

“Mato inspired the entire direction of this album,” Taylor said. “We were talking about history backstage at a Jimi Hendrix tribute concert that Mato had just played, and, in reference to his people, the Native American Nakota Nation, he said ‘My world is gone.’ The simplicity and honesty of those four words was so heavy, I knew what I had to write about.”

Taylor had already begun composing new tunes with other themes for his follow-up to 2012’s critically heralded Contraband. Three of those — “Green Apples,” “Gangster and Iztatoz Chauffeur” and “Coming With Crosses” — appear on “My World Is Gone.”

But inspired by Nanji — who also plays electric and acoustic guitars on six tracks and joins Taylor on vocals for several songs — and by his own understanding of Native American culture developed in part through dealing in Indian art as a young man, Taylor embarked on a soul-searching journey into the past and present, and into the psyche, of America’s indigenous people.

“I’ve written songs about slavery, but here in America that’s considered part of the past,” Taylor explains. “What’s happened and what’s happening to Native Americans is still going on. A lot of people forget that. This is a reminder.”

When the Circus Came to Town….

We had an exuberant and exhausting experience last week. We joined the circus! It’s a latent dream that just seems to comes to life when the circus comes to town.

The Circus Oz cast and crew hit Royce Hall last Wednesday to start setting up for their cheeky and yet utterly elaborate circus show. Several members of the mob joined us VERY early that morning to warm up local KTLA audiences for the weekend’s forthcoming antics. Entertainment reporter Allie MacKay’s slightly warped wit and natural comic timing fit right in with the group. (Seriously, I half expected them to give her a costume and rig her up for circus flight.)

The generosity of these performers was amazing. In a very short time they brought a real verve and vibrancy to our program and the communities we seek to engage. Thursday afternoon a group of performers, including company artistic director Mike Finch, musical director Carl Polk and several others met with UCLA arts students for a inspiring and free-wheeling discussion about the art of circus and Circus Oz’ uniquely collaborative creative process in developing both an exciting stage show and the truly amazing live soundtrack that goes with it.

Friday morning, 1,200 elementary-schoolchildren from across Los Angeles filed excitedly into Royce Hall for a DFS Demonstration Performance. It was quite chilly outside but the rain held and the cold didn’t stop the Circus OZ crew from getting the fun started as the kids lined up outside and worked their way into the hall.

If you joined us for the performances you well know by now just how delightfully talented these performers are and there is an underlying sense of welcome and warmth in everything they do. They dedicated each performance to the concepts of compassion and human kindness. (What kind of fruit are you by the way? Did you catch a glimpse of Godzilla in the background during intermission? Give us a shout on Twitter with the tag #capuclaoz)

Check out our Flickr gallery of Circus Oz performing in Royce Hall.

The circus is one of those things that just captures your imagination and takes hold. The obvious camaraderie of the performers and the clear trust they hold in one another is a subtle glue that runs through the comedic antics, flashy displays and truly death-defying stunts.

We asked schoolchildren across the city to tell us what they would do if they were to join the circus. We also invited audience-goers at each performance to take up a blank sheet of paper and draw us or tell us a story about their own circus dreams… and we decked out Royce Hall with the answers.

Thanks to everyone who was part of this amazing experience. Today, Royce Hall feels very empty, but we’re so pleased Circus Oz left such an indelible mark on our program, our space and in our imaginations.

See you under the big top!

New Branches and Deep Roots in Malian Music: Vieux Farka Touré and a Tribute to Ali Farka

By Eric J. Schmidt

“It is a time to celebrate the musical traditions of our land,” explains Vieux Farka Touré. The Malian guitarist is at the end of a brief tour in Africa before he heads to Los Angeles to perform at UCLA’s Royce Hall, and if he’s not already exhausted from a busy performance schedule, he’s probably weary from the challenging year that he and his compatriots have just been through. But the latest news is a source for cautious optimism: a coalition of French, Malian, and other African troops in just the past few days liberated many of Mali’s celebrated cities, including Timbuktu, from religious extremists who wrested control of the country’s desert north from a secular separatist movement in the spring of last year. It seems like a return to normalcy might be on the horizon for Mali, and for musicians in particular, this is a cause for celebration.

Vieux Farka Toure

Named for the medieval Mali Empire that once ruled this region and amassed immense wealth through trans-Saharan trade in gold and salt, Mali is a diverse country whose borders were more or less artificially established through French colonization in the 19th and 20th centuries. When it became an independent state in 1960, the Malian nation confronted a sort of identity crisis that was shared by many of the new countries in post-colonial West Africa: how does one establish a unified nation where previously had been dozens of different peoples separated by ethnicity, language, and way of life? One solution was to establish national and regional performing arts ensembles, such as the Ensemble Instrumental National du Mali, which brought together the music and dance traditions of these various populations in a single setting.

It was during this period that Vieux’s father, Ali Farka Touré, first gained professional music experience, directing the regional ensemble from his hometown Niafunké during the 1960s and early ’70s. Although he always insisted that his primary profession was farming, Ali Farka began performing and recording in Europe, and discovered through his own listening that American blues guitarists like John Lee Hooker employed techniques quite similar to those of Malian string musicians. In time, Ali Farka began collaborating with American bluesmen like Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder, recording albums such as The Source (1992) and the Grammy-winning Talking Timbuktu (1994) that stirred international interest in the historical connections between Malian music and American blues.

There is another important factor to bear in mind about Ali Farka, one perhaps of greater significance in Mali than his international fame alone; after all, global stardom is not entirely rare in a musical powerhouse like Mali, which has produced scores of internationally popular artists including Salif Keita, Oumou Sangaré, Toumani Diabaté, Amadou and Mariam, and Tinariwen. It is the geographic factor: Ali Farka’s hometown of Niafunké is located along the Niger River near Timbuktu, roughly positioning him in the middle of Mali and straddling a widely perceived north-south cultural division in the country. In this environment, Ali Farka became not only multilingual but multi-musical as well, familiar with the traditions of many Malian peoples from both halves of the country.

When I ask about his father’s legacy, Vieux proudly echoes these points. “My father helped to show the world that the blues comes from Africa, and more specifically, from Mali. His music touched millions of people around the world and opened their minds to our world. He showed the world that Mali is a land of beauty, of peace, and of deep tradition. So, the nation of Mali is very proud of him and [his] legacy.”

This leaves Vieux some pretty big shoes to fill. But he’s done more than simply continue in the same vein as his father. He has boldly made a name for himself as an artist in his own right. Unlike Ali Farka, Vieux proudly proclaims himself a professional musician, although his background is as strongly rooted in Mali’s richly diverse heritage as his father before him. Whereas Ali Farka directed the regional ensemble from Niafunké, Vieux trained as a percussionist at the Institut National des Arts in Mali before beginning to play guitar in secret. (His father preferred that he make a career in the military, but eventually Vieux earned Ali Farka’s blessings to pursue music).

“I am of the new generation,” Vieux explains. “My music is based in the same traditions…but it is one generation further into modernity. My father was pushing the boundaries by playing the electric guitar, by playing with American blues musicians, …and by taking [Malian] music out to the world. For me it is an extension of that work. I am taking Malian music into rock, into reggae, into funk music. I am working with all different kinds of artists from all over the world. But you see, it is really just the next branch of the same tree, with the same spirit and the same heart.”
Indeed, Mali is a different place today than when Ali Farka was getting started in the 1960s. But for a country recently shaken by internal political divisions, with half of its territory just beginning to reemerge from a period in which musical performance was strictly forbidden, the music of Vieux Farka Touré might be just the right ingredient to invigorate a reunified Mali: diverse, modern, and globally engaged.

In fact, Vieux will be releasing a new album this spring that is a tribute to his home country. “With what is happening there, it is more important now to make sure that people hear and understand the true identity of Mali, and the best way for the people of Mali to get their messages across is through their music.” Undoubtedly, this message will be heard loud and clear when Vieux and special guests Fool’s Gold play a tribute to Ali Farka Touré at Royce Hall.

I invite you to join us in this celebration, to listen for these messages, and to respond unequivocally: we hear you, Mali.

The Art of Intention

As a presenter of ephemeral art, we talk a lot about “purposeful intent,” and how it is the engine that drives our mission.

We started 2013 with that mission in full effect and have also been fortunate to spend this New Year surrounded by the purposeful intent of some truly astonishing artists.

Cheek by Jowl’s early-January performances of a 400-year-old and yet still utterly shocking work of English drama illuminated just how powerful intention can be. It is companies like Cheek by Jowl who keep ancient words and thoughts and language very much alive and give them shape and form. Classic theater texts like John Ford’s would not live on the way they do without the purposeful intent of artists like the performers, directors and crew of companies like Cheek by Jowl and we were honored to host the final performances of the ever-controversial “‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore.”

Avant-pop violinist Amadeus Leopold brought us a fascinatingly purposeful look at his own highly theatrical approach to classical music. In an oddly compelling blend of bondage gear and blood capsules, he confessed to “the murder of Hahn-Bin,” rising anew as the one-and-only Amadeus Leopold and treated us to a recital that straddled virtuosic skill and highly intentional imagery.Just two weeks ago, a tiny but by no means diminutive, force of nature blew through our lives as Meredith Monk and her acclaimed vocal ensemble prepared for the world premiere of her “On Behalf of Nature.” As the name implies, this deep, profound and meditative piece was incredibly purpose-driven. It is not in Monk’s nature to outright preach or create a work of abject activism. But there was a wistful sadness, and an elegiac longing in the intricately staged theatrical moments of “On Behalf of Nature,” deftly woven into the beautiful vocal and instrumental compositions. We were meant to leave that space ruminating on our own interpretation of our place in nature, our power as humans to either destroy or preserve it, our responsibility to it and to ourselves.

Leading up to the performances, Meredith re-visited the work she began with students last spring as CAP UCLA’s first resident artist, working with them to craft a subtle and highly-individualized pre-show installation that those students (and a few art-loving non-students!) performed in the courtyard of the Freud Playhouse prior to every showing of “On Behalf of Nature.” It was simultaneously conspicuous and understated in a way only Meredith could create and it set an incredibly appropriate tone for the audience before they even entered the theater.

Watching these students interact with Meredith Monk in those days before the performances, it was clear that part of her purpose as an artist is to pass along elements of her craft to a new generation, and it is clearly something that will echo long into their futures. These students and members of our campus community quite literally, as they rehearsed in uncharacteristically frigid Los Angeles temperatures, warmed to Meredith like moths to a flame.

I watched her sit within a circle of them as they rehearsed a brief vocal refrain, turning her head from one to another, smiling with approval and almost, it seemed to me, in blessing.

Meredith Monk performing “On Behalf of Nature” Freud Playhouse Jan. 18-20

It was a beautiful moment to witness and a beautiful one for the students involved to experience. But you don’t have to take it from me. Read first-hand from one student-participant’s perspective.

Just last weekend we were incredibly proud to be a home-away-from-home for Australia’s Back to Back Theatre, in the company’s first visit to Los Angeles. Their truly compelling and uniquely crafted original work “Ganesh Versus the Third Reich” was moving and stimulating as it challenged us to consider who has the right to tell a story and how.

These tireless storytellers approach the world from a different point of view. As performers with intellectual disabilities, their worldview often comes from a place of marginalization, and almost always from a sense of “otherness.” The actors and creators here last week were incredibly generous with our audience and our community, sharing their work and insight into their creative process with high school students from across Los Angeles, with students on this campus, and with our own audience Saturday night in a candid Q&A session. We were enthralled company’s bold creativity and intentional mission to set askew our own notions of power, stories and art itself.

It serves us to be intentionally set off our axis once in a while, I think. And many of our visiting artists did that in varied ways this month.

I will wind this long-windedness up with a closing thought about this Friday night, and a bit of a challenge.

Coming up Feb 1, is a concert from “the Hendrix of the Sahara,” Vieux Farka Touré who will perform in tribute to his legendary father Ali Farka Touré. LA’s own afrobeat collective Fool’s Gold opens the show.

Typically this would be just another amazing Royce Hall music moment from another amazing musician.
But, this Friday night serves another purpose–to shine a spotlight on the heartbreaking situation in Ali and Vieux’s homeland of Mali, where the rich culture of music and art came under attack by Islamic fundamentalists.

It’s an unfathomable situation, and one that has only recently started to improve, slowly. Still, it remains somewhat under the radar in U.S. media coverage and general public attention. But Mali matters.

Mali and its rich musical history matters to Fools Gold. The group has been greatly inspired by the artists and music from this part of the world, and is looking to help affected people in the area. They have partnered with an organization called African Sky, which sends humanitarian aid to Mali.

Come to Royce Hall Friday night, hear some amazing music both directly from and inspired by Mali, and check out the limited-edition T-shirts designed by the mission-driven design collective
Upperatus, which will be on sale at the Fool’s Gold merch table. Proceeds from the sale of these T-shirts will go to African Sky.

Many thanks to all of you who joined us for a January filled with artistic riches. And there is so much more to come. We hope to see you soon!

Wishing You Cheer, Tradition and Many Not-So-Silent Nights of Joy

The McGarrigle-Wainwright clan is upstairs sound checking for tonight’s performance.

I just popped up for a minute and caught a few strains of “Silent Night” being sung in German and it finally felt like the Christmas season is actually here. It was a nice moment of stillness in a time that’s not very still. It’s such a pleasure to be able to share these two special holiday performances with our audience this weekend and I hope you find a similar moment of stillness tonight and tomorrow night.

We can’t promise silence though, it will be a very not-so-silent night of great music and joy.

It’s been a busy couple of months at CAP UCLA and an extraordinarily busy year. So much has changed, including our name, but there’s also quiet confidence in knowing that the way we value the work and influence of great art and artists remains a constant.

It made me think about the holiday season in general and how much this time of year is simultaneously about tradition and change.

We nostalgically embrace old traditions even as we invoke new ones.

The world changes every year. We age, we lose people we love, we revel in the experiences and moments and people that inspire us—those things that buoy us during times of hardship and loss and add a special glimmer to the good times.

We’ve lost a few artists we love this year, most recently Ravi Shankar, who changed the world with his unique voice and innovation around ancient traditions. For so many decades, he touched so many fellow artists’ lives that his influence permeates the entire culture of music. Ravi performed in Royce Hall in the 1980s and his great spirit will undoubtedly continue to be felt here by the performers who come next.

More tragically, we also said goodbye this year to the stunning young jazz musician Austin Peralta, far too quickly after we said hello to him in his October 25 performance at Royce Hall. Still, his burgeoning talent and great presence lingers in the music he left behind and the people who were and will continue to be awed by him.

Rufus and Martha Wainwright and their family and friends upstairs are gathered in celebration of tradition and change, the tradition of joining together as a family to honor the season through song and also to lovingly remember their late mother Kate McGarrigle, whose lack is a change that is still keenly felt.

We’re very proud to be a part of this special event that really encapsulates what the holidays are about.

We’re also proud of the changes we’ve gone through as an organization in 2012 and we’re proud of the traditions we’ve kept and built upon.

There’s much more ahead, many more artists and traditions to discover and perpetuate and we can’t wait for what’s in store in 2013.

In the meantime, our hope for you is that your holiday season is filled with joy, wonderment and many exchanges of kindness.

Cheers to 2012 and see you next year!

Passing Through

“This world is not our home. We’re just passing through.” Charles Bradley, tears streaming down his face, said this to an emotionally enraptured Royce Hall audience Thursday night. The words came after Bradley’s heartfelt imploring of everyone in sight to choose love as a religion.

Charles Bradley opened his heart and soul to the Royce Hall audience Thursday November 29, 2012

And indeed, from the moment the man took the stage the whole evening felt a bit like church. And if love is Bradley’s religion, it’s clear from every word and gesture to the audience Thursday night, he practices what he preaches.

It was unlike anything I’ve witnessed in Royce Hall to date and it was a beautiful thing. The crowd was on its feet for his entire set. Hands reached for him as he performed and continued to after he departed the stage.

It was revelatory, and joyful, even as Bradley shared his stories of struggle and hardship.

Bradley began his set with a song he wrote about his brother’s death, called “Heartaches and Pain.”

It made me think about life and how it is full of both heartaches and pain…and also joy. If we’re lucky there’s more of the latter and the the former doesn’t spiral us into despair. Tramadol features a super-powerful active component that promotes pain relief and guarantees its long-lasting effect. The only secret to a successful therapy is following the safety instructions at

It also made me think of another revelatory artist who passed through our lives recently–Austin Peralta. He’s been on my mind since the shocking news of his death last week at just 22 years old.

Members of the local music community who knew and loved this astonishing young talent well have been rocked by heartache and pain this week, at the same time they remember the great joy that Austin and his profound ability brought to the lives of his friends and fans of his music.

Today at 1 p.m. Austin’s friends and family are gathering for an open memorial service at Crossroads School in Santa Monica. His parents have asked that it be a moment of joy, requesting that musicians bring their instruments, that friends bring stories and laughter and that attendees eschew dark and dour colors in favor of Austin’s favorite color of orange.

It’s hard to celebrate while wading through heartaches and pain, but it’s also really the only way to pass through this life without succumbing to despair.

Charles Bradley learned that throughout his difficult life and is focused on joy and love and deep gratitude despite the struggles he has endured.

Last month Austin Peralta brought us great joy as he lit up the Royce Hall stage. He talked about how thrilled and grateful he was to perform here, and sharing a bill with Taylor McFerrin, who he introduced as “his brother.” He delighted fans who already knew his work and impressed people who hadn’t yet heard of him.

Austin Peralta was gleeful as he thrilled Royce Hall audiences Oct. 25, performing on his 22nd birthday as the lead opener for the Robert Glasper Experiment.

Austin left us last week, leaving behind heartaches and pain.

Thursday night, Charles Bradley shared his own tales of heartaches and pain, and yet also managed to leave those in attendance with a sense of abounding joy for life.

And perhaps that’s as it should be, since we’re all just passing through.

We’re grateful that both of these artists passed through our lives recently.

Rest in peace Austin and thank you Charles.

On Thankfulness, and the Indefatigable Charles Bradley

Hopefully like us, you’re all taking a pause this week to marvel at the many things we have to be grateful for.

We’re grateful for the artists who have already added so much joy and inspiration to our lives this season and are looking forward to even more on the horizon. (And, were sharing the love with you, via a one-day-only, buy-one-get-one-free ticket offer on upcoming performances good from 8am-midnight on for Cyber Monday Nov. 26. Check our website on Monday!)

One of the emotional highlights of our season comes on the heels of Thanksgiving this year, with the November 29 performance from Charles Bradley and the Menahan Street Band.

Charles Bradley, now in his 60s and having spent decades as a struggling James Brown impersonator dubbed Black Velvet, just released his first major album in 2011 with “No Time for Dreaming.” Four years in the making, it is full of hope and heartache. This amazing performer is no stranger to suffering, his biography spans stories of drug abuse, homelessness, poverty and a great deal of loss.

And yet, somehow, by all accounts, he is an incredibly grateful, gracious and hopeful individual.

I had the opportunity recently to speak with Poull Brien, the director of Soul of America, a biography on Charles Bradley that is currently touring the festival circuit and will hopefully hit theaters next year.

Poull was deeply moved by his experience getting to know Bradley, with whom he formed a close bond during filming. He began to feel like a brother to the singer.

But that’s not a rare thing, he says.

“Charles is the most unguarded person you will ever meet,” Brien says. “He doesn’t have secrets, he is 100 percent about understanding you and opening up communication with people, and love and finding new friends and it is that open attitude is what I think separates Charles from other artists.”

Brien said one of the many things he took away from his experience with Charles Bradley is a profound sense of the importance of gratitude in this life.

“If it did nothing else for me it taught me that no matter how bleak things seem you just keep going and that the level of thankfulness that you carry with you, that alone can change your life. For Charles, it was that little hope that he had that kept him going for all these years. The guy really embodies that attitude of thankfulness and gratitude and never taking anything for granted.”

“If there’s a lesson to be taken from Charles, it’s that it’s not just about perseverance, and he has had incredible perseverance over the years, but that alone is not enough. It’s the gratitude and love that you have to have in your heart that makes all the difference.”

That’s what Charles Bradley taught Poull Brien, and that’s undoubtedly what he’ll bring to the Royce Hall stage Nov. 29 in a way only he can.

Have a safe, happy and reflective Thanksgiving and please join us next week to revel in the presence of the one and only Charles Bradley.

In the meantime, check out the trailer for Poull’s film Soul of America.

Jazz in the City of Angels

Experiencing jazz in Royce Hall is really something special. Sure the acoustics are perfect, it’s a big hall with a small vibe, especially if you’re really into the music , but it’s also jazz lovers and listeners who help make it so special.

They are truly among the coolest audience we see every season. Our jazz events always rank as season highlights and generate powerful memories every year. I’m really not saying that just because I work here. I was only a marginal jazz listener until I began experiencing the jazz artists we bring to the program in this space. My first experience with free jazz was Ornette Coleman’s appearance here and it broadened (and blew) my mind. I (semi-sheepishly) confessed that in an email exchange after the performance with one of the best jazz writers in town. He said: “You picked a great one to start with. Be careful, this is how jazz addictions start…I speak from experience.”

Side note: Jazz writers amaze me. It’s like they know how to use words in exactly the way the artists they write about seemingly effortlessly use the notes surrounding them to create this utterly unique and thought-provoking picture of the world. No one describes music like jazz writers.

I think there’s jazz just steeped into the walls of Royce Hall. All the greats have played here, Thelonius Monk, McCoy Tyner, Alice Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Sonny Rollins, Keith Jarrett…the list goes on and on. It will continue to go on and on.

And there’s definitely plenty of jazz addiction in Los Angeles, you don’t even have to look very hard to find it.

This season we’re incredibly proud that Royce Hall will play host to the grand jazz proselytizers of Angel City Jazz Festival. Our presentation of Bill Frisell and Bill Morrison: The Great Flood Oct. 13 and An Evening with Vijay Iyer Oct. 14, mark the culminating performances of this multi-venue annual celebration of jazz.

These guys really do it right. Every year they thoughtfully curate a seasonal theme and seek to introduce Los Angeles to new talent, or thrill them with legends of the craft. This year, in conjunction with the beloved Jazz Bakery (which is on a “moveable feast” adventure for the present while their new home gets built in Culver City), they’re doing both with the theme “Artists and Legends.” Check out the lineup, shows starts October 5.

Angel City was a natural and welcome partner for CAP UCLA, because like us the organization is committed to bringing jazz to the masses. Angel City is also investing in the future of jazz in L.A. with its annual Young Artists Competition, which invites young jazz performers (often high-schoolers) to showcase their talent and get feedback from working pros.

You can see this year’s finalists tomorrow night in action as they perform short sets at The Blue Whale in front of a panel of judges consisting of legendary jazz performers and educators. (Stick around afterward for the fabulous Christian Scott Quartet). The winners get a gig as the opening ensemble for Angel City Jazz Festival’s opening night at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on October 5, 2012.

And definitely don’t miss Bill Frisell and Vijay Iyer. They’ll most certainly be adding their indelible stamp to Royce Hall this year.

Desperately Seeking Poetry

We’re kind of obsessed with poetry around here these days. One of the first things our new artistic director Kristy Edmunds started talking about when she arrived was this concept of poetry in our lives…the need for it, the existence of it, the search for it.

We’re interested in nuance. Intrinsic evocative details of life are unearthed through art and through language, but nuance tends to disappear, or become overwhelmed in our modern technological world. We shorten language, we avoid language, we allow language to keep us apart, when we can and should be using it to come together.

The thought evolved into a fairly simple initial question — Who is the Poet in Your life?

Of course, that question (purposely) inspires a host of others. IS there a poet in your life? If not, why not? Do you want one? How do you get one? What is poetry anyway? Where can we find it?

That last question has been floating to the forefront for me of late. I feel like I’ve been finding poetry everywhere, in places big and small, from an amazing Instagram shot a friend took, to a tiny and innocently profound inscription my 10-year-old niece wrote in a scrapbook we are making for my soon-to-be-sister-in-law. (“Your imagination counts. Every single thought counts.”)

I’ve even found some on the streets of Los Angeles. Yes, literally. There is a spot downtown near 7th and Fig. called “Poet’s Walk.” I didn’t know it existed until this summer. It’s a confluence of public art and original poetry, most of it created and installed more than 20 years ago.

I got wrapped up in one piece in particular, called Portals to Poetry. It’s a series of interconnected door-like structures made of steel, bronze and found objects by George Herms articulated with poems written by Charles Simic and set in bas relief on the structures. I love the idea of pairing poetry with doors. Doors open, doors close, there’s a poetry in the idea of opening ourselves up to new experiences and places by walking through a door and also a bittersweet poetic sensibility when we close a door on a part of our lives that has perhaps run its course or isn’t serving us.

It’s kind of amazing the thoughts that bubble up when you start thinking about poetry in your life.

Go ahead, walk through that door with us. Start by sharing a though about a poets or poem that speaks to you on our Poet in Your Life tumblr. We’ll be asking more of you and sharing more with you on this thought as our season progresses.

Portals to Poetry

Summer in LA: Love the Free-Concert Frenzy

It’s hard to believe that summer’s so close to over. Los Angeles becomes a veritable playground of free music during the summer and we’ve enjoyed every moment of it. A few of us even took a field trip downtown one day last month to catch a Brookfield 7th and Fig afternoon concert just because we’re suckers for some good Flamenco guitar.

It seems like more free concert series crop up every year, in increasingly unique venues and artist pairings. James Murphy merged seamlessly with the crazypants visuals of MOCA’s unique and funky Transmission L.A. installation early in the summer. Last month, EDM statesman Moby merged not-quite-as seamlessly with the Annenberg Space for Photography, which was clearly not emotionally or logistically prepared to handle the frenzied loyalty of the man’s Los Angeles fan base. Still, once settled, a great time was had by all who made it in and all the kinks seemed to have been worked out by the following weekend’s albeit tamer frenzy for the bombastic groove of Portugal the Man. CAP UCLA’s student arm SCA hosted this up-and-coming group in Royce Hall in May in a show that surely inspired some lifelong fandom.

Moby at Who Shot Rock N Roll by Leslie Kalohi via Flickr

Tonight’s another interesting pairing with Zola Jesus and Active Child at MOCA. I’m heading down there myself, hoping to make the trek from the Westside to downtown in time to catch some quality weirdness from Ariel Pink’s DJ set.

That’s another thing I love about this summer phenomenon, it forces us gleefully out of our usual routines and neighborhoods and into situations and locations where we might not normally interact. I’m a decade-long Westsider who rarely roams east of UCLA (except for concerts) and judging by the Thursday night Santa Monica traffic battle in the summer, seems like the reverse is true when it comes to the Twilight Concert series on the pier.

Tomorrow night’s another great one that will probably set me roving eastward—Fool’s Gold at Levitt Pavillion Macarthur Park. We’re thrilled to have Fool’s Good on the bill this year with Vieux Farka Touré. They never disappoint. And dancing in the grass to a singularly danceable sound? What better way to spend a Saturday night.

The summer concerts may come to an end soon, but the great weather will last for a bit, so let’s all take advantage of this amazing place we call home, maybe hit up a few Hollywood Bowl shows before the season ends?

Happy Friday, go out and play.