Wendy Moten ascended to the Birdland stage with a smile and charm that lit up the room. From her first words and the comfortable swing tempo of her first song, All of Me, Moten emerged as a poised, expressive, and consummate artist. She conveyed her passionate insights with a beautiful, clear voice and through her ability to command any genre she desired.
Reviews & Articles
For the first time in 35 years, Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts returned to the stage. Envisioned initially by Ellington as a “Festival of Grace,” provenance for Sacred Concerts is informed by a broad spectrum of jazz, classical and choral music, spirituals, dance, gospel, and blues. Ellington’s compositional product in this venue consisted of a triptych of 34 songs originally recorded in 1965, 1968, and 1973 respectively. It can be argued that an august Ellington facing his mortality considered his Sacred Concerts among his most significant works.
Blake Allen’s Insomnia is a cerebral, enigmatic, and mystifying artistic creation chronicling a night of an insomniac narrator. Based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story “Sleep and Waking” (1934), Allen mobilizes the power of music to dramatize and intensify the import of the conflicting tensions of the restive, lone sufferer.
Benjamin Franklin the man emerged as a frowzy, flawed, and crafty roué, relentlessly attempting to seduce the married Mme Brillon. Franklin deftly engaged and modified his façon de parler and wits to enamor the charming Brillon while also initiating, to no avail, games of chess with personal stakes to tarnish Brillon’s marital honor.
Wendel’s songs are strikingly original, expressive, and extraordinarily inventive. His ideas and improvisations are freely chromatic, virtuosic, and organic, and he employed subtle be-bop idioms when it suited him. His facility is so commanding that he regularly reaches into the stratosphere of the tenor saxophone’s extended range. Notably, he can express ideas with the restraint of Lester Young while employing the pyrotechnics of Charlie Parker.
The performance of Mozart’s Requiem, K526, was glorious and ecstatic. The sui generis admixture of rich sounds from soloists, chorus, and orchestra was superb. At the same time, the sumptuous luminosity of the famed Lacrimosa was almost more than an emotive listener could process without soulful introspection.
With the production’s delights of flamenco dancing, passionate arias, magnificent costuming, staging, lighting, soaring melodies, and powerful drama, we ultimately gasp in awe at the power of Bizet’s Fate theme, akin to the tragedy of the last act in Mozart’s Don Giovanni with its piercing melancholy. Carmen’s impact is profound, in part due to Bizet’s launching of the verismo school, where contemporary characters live true to life.