Review: SoLo in TiME

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It may be that my girlfriend is into dance, it may be that I am beginning to appreciate dance more, since I’ve been working as an accompanist, but whatever the reason, I went to see Savion Glover‘s SoLo in TiME at the Joyce Theater.

As a musician, I think it is easier for me to dial into tap as opposed to other forms of dance. I can close my eyes and appreciate tap. I can listen to it like listening to a drummer.

The first time I saw Savion Glover is around the same time that most of America saw him, in Tap with Gregory Hines. He was only 15 or 16 at the time, but for many people, he stole the show. Later, I hear he was on Broadway in Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk. Thereafter, it was on the big screen again in Bamboozled.

Sunday was my first chance to see him live. The performance SoLo in TiME is a combination of tap and Flamenco. Though I am no dance expert, I can appreciate the work involved. The interplay between music and movement is something special. A performance like SoLo in TiME, though it may have intricacies I may never appreciate, was wonderful to watch. I would highly recommend it for a dance novice or armchair appreciator.

The show features Savion and two other dancers, Cartier Williams and Marshall Davis, Jr.. They danced in unison, took solos, and at least to my ears and eyes did some spontaneous improvisation. Taking the center of the stage on three platforms, the dancers (or Hooferz, as Savion likes to say) were flanked by three musicians, Arturo Martinez on guitar, Carmen Estevez on percussion, and Andy McCloud on bass. The format changes from piece to piece. Sometimes, one dancer and  multiple musicians are on the stage, other times, the dancers perform solo. Flamenco dancer and vocalist, La Conja also came out for a few numbers.

Was the performance a successful amalgamation of Flamenco and tap? I have no idea. Is this a revolutionary fusion of styles? You are asking the wrong guy. I do know that there are no dead spots in the approximately 90 minute show. It keeps moving, not to say that all the pieces are fast, but even the least sympathetic could feel the energy and emotion coming off the stage.

Tickets for this performance are reasonable, between $19 and $50. The Joyce is intimate enough that you can purchase the $19 tickets and still get a great view and hear everything clearly. Only at the space for a few weeks more, I highly recommend carving out some time to enjoy this event.

Additional Links:
NY Times Review of SoLo in TiME
Star Ledger photos of SoLo in TiME

Bit of Video

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A little video from Ross Byron.

Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad, Ghost-Writer?

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I am surprised that some people are still shocked by major-label artists not writing their own songs. I thought the veil had been completely taken off with shows like American Idol. By now, I thought it was obvious that you don’t need to know a lick of music theory to be a big star.

This is not to suggest that the artists selling millions of records are not without talent. Some can definitely sing, some can write, some do ensure that their butt stays tight as a banker’s smile for the next music video. Even with the most vapid and talentless of singers has to have some level of commitment, be it to body image, learning dance moves, making public appearances and keeping an appropriate image, or actually singing. Let’s face it, when we say “artist” we’re only talking about the people behind the microphone. American Idol does not feature instrumentalists (at least from what I’ve seen).

Why all the shock at singing stars not writing their own material? If you found out that your favorite artist did not write his own song, is the CD going to land in the trash? Will you run over their entire catalog with a steamroller? (Remember, even if your favorite artist is singing on the album, their voice may have undergone pitch correction and other tune doctoring.)

My next question is: Why is all the anger directed towards the artist? Why is it not directed at the record company? Take a few minutes to read Steve Albini’s excellent article “The Problem with Music”. It should have really been called, “The Problem with Major Label Music”. I think more honest practices are still employed on the outskirts of the music/CD industry. If you were an artist, looked at these numbers, wouldn’t you want to hedge your bets by getting a proven hit-maker on your side? If getting a certain producer might get you a few more radio-plays, why not hire him on. Artistic integrity is a beautiful thing, but people have to eat.

The mainstream music industry is all about image. No one is making a hit song without a video. Popular songs today usually fall in one of five categories:

1. Listen to what I’m going to do tonight.
2. So-and-so broke my heart.
3. I’ve got lots of money/fame/beauty so everyone wants to screw me.
4. Everything sucks and that makes me sad.
5. God bless somebody/something.

Our big stars look good in bikinis. Even in a band, there is one star.

I’m not attempting to say, “All mainstream music stinks. It’s a sham. People should listen to real music made by [fill in blank].” My suggestion is to lighten up. Understand that your popular music is a carefully crafted product that may be more false that it appears on the surface. The hits of Artist A may be written by the same people that wrote the hits for Artist B. There is very little integrity in any part of the music industry, mainstream and independent alike.

Still angry? Still saying, “The person who wrote the music should be making the big money, going to the awards shows, getting all the fame.” I pose you this question: Do you really think Cee-lo Green would have made a big hit out of the song he penned, Don’t Cha?