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David Keymer "David Keymer" RSS Feed (Modesto CA)
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Realistic Joneses, The
Realistic Joneses, The
by Will Eno
Edition: Paperback
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4.0 out of 5 stars LIFE GOES ON, May 4, 2015
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This review is from: Realistic Joneses, The (Paperback)
Two couples occupy adjacent homes. Both men suffer from an obscure degenerative disease. The women try to cope with the effects of it on their marriages and aren’t finding it easy. Nor do the men help. The one man seems to have lost affect: he either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care what his wife is going through as life closes in on them. She remembers a better past between them but it isn’t there any more. What should she do? For the duration of this play, which presents a slice of their life, not their whole life, she drifts between temptation and duty. At the end of the play, it’s not all that clear which side she’s come down on, but probably duty. The other couple is more bohemian but not all that much: social conventions weigh in on all these people. So there’s a little almost-flirting, nothing much happens, and at the end of the play, things are pretty much like they are at the beginning. But isn’t that the way most of life is? Along the way, using ordinary, not poeticized, language, playwright Eno produces affecting images of loss.


Grasses of a Thousand Colors
Grasses of a Thousand Colors
by Wallace Shawn
Edition: Paperback
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4.0 out of 5 stars AN ODD AND QUIRKY RIDE, April 26, 2015
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I have only read two of Wallace Shawn’s previous playwriting efforts, Aunt Dan and Lemon (1985) and the amazing script –if it was written rather than wholly improvised on the spot –of the movie, My Dinner with Andre (1981). Neither prepared me for this startling work. It has not so much a sequential plot (although there sequence of events of sorts occurs across it) as a phantasmagoria, a surreal fantasy, a stream of sometimes scary, sometimes revolting happenings, as in a nightmare dream. Sex is a preoccupation in it –more often deviant than straight, and unceasing at times in place of intermittent. Brutality intervenes too, as do the normal/abnormal relations of marriage and lover-and-mistress relationship, and there is a weird, not quite clear love and sex relationship that involves a cat. Behind it all lurks Shawn’s idiosyncratic but powerful sense of humor, a one-off kidding approach not to be found elsewhere on today’s stage. Two names came to my mind in reading it: the absurdist playwright Alfred Jarry and the surrealist painter Max Ernst. In its way, this play drops a bomb on the theater much like Jarry’s Ubu Roi did when it first was performed 119 years ago to a startled and uncomprehending audience in Paris and the mood of the play is like what a surrealist painting might look like of Ernst had taken a walk with Kraft-Ebbing before sitting down to paint. Does it tell a story? Yes, but not one you can recapitulate easily.


Partitas Bwv 825-830
Partitas Bwv 825-830
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5.0 out of 5 stars WONDERFUL, April 26, 2015
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This review is from: Partitas Bwv 825-830 (Audio CD)
Having enjoyed Levit’s recording of late Beethoven sonatas, I decided to try this double album as well. It’s wonderful! I don’t quite know how to describe Levit’s approach, which applies to the former album as well as this one. There’s passion in it but basically he’s anti-Romantic in approach, which means there are no gusts of emotion. And the music helps: Bach’s keyboard works, and particularly these ones, play out in impeccable logic, each note a new building block in one of his ornate but inevitable structures of sound and play. “Play” –that’s a good word for it. Even when solemn in tone, these are playful pieces as well as structures of logic –they sound like fun to play if only one were good enough a player. It’s no surprise they’re interesting to listen to as well –even the simplest lines complicate, retrack, embellish and go down alternate pathways, keeping the listener entranced and wondering what happens next. One last comment before these remarks degenerate into babble. Levit is very sparing in his use of pedals is sparing: notes hang in the air a short time after being struck, long enough to build continuity but not so long as to distract from new and emerging lines in the piece. This is very good music, played by a master musician whose strengths as an artist seem completely apposite to the music being performed.


The Blue Room: A Play in Ten Intimate Acts
The Blue Room: A Play in Ten Intimate Acts
by David Hare
Edition: Paperback
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4.0 out of 5 stars SOME PLAYS NEVER GROW OLD, April 22, 2015
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In 1900, Arthur Schnitzler circulated a series of dramatic sketches he had written entitled Reigen. He claimed he hadn’t written them to be put on the stage. He felt they were unstageable, largely because of their rawness. They were closet drama, to be read and appreciated by the enlightened, not the prudish. Reigen were a series of sketches: in each one a man and a woman met, talk and have sex, but the actors (there are only two, a man and a woman; they play the different characters in the scenes in sequence) rotate in circle from beginning to end so that at the end of each love-making, one actor leaves and the one left behind moves on to sex with another person. The open sexuality of the play was shocking to the people of Schnitzler’s time, but no more than the cynicism about love it displayed: these weren’t plays about love but about sex, and betrayal and deceit (including self-deception) cam along with the lovemaking. The play was finally presented on stage in 1921 and it created the very stir Schnitzler had feared it. In 1950, the great French filmmaker Max Ophuls made a movie of it, under the title La Ronde and that’s the title it’s usually known by today.

Hare says of his version that he “freely adapted” it from Schnitzler. It’s been a long time since I read La Ronde, but this version seems to match up –in content and tone—with what I remember from the original. This is a hundred-and-ten-year-old play that still shocks, it’s still to the nth degree, the perfect antidote to the American love comedy. How many plays for you know that have that effect so long after they’re written? Lear, Woyzeck, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, but what else? Brrr!


Constellations: A Play
Constellations: A Play
by Nick Payne
Edition: Paperback
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5.0 out of 5 stars WHAT IF? IF? IF....., April 22, 2015
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This review is from: Constellations: A Play (Paperback)
Constellations comes with praise from high quarters: John Lahr called it “a singular astonishment” (The New Yorker), two different reviewers in the New York Times waxed ecstatic over it (Matt Wolf: “The nearest I’ve come across in ages to a play that feels heaven-sent.” Ben Brantley: “[It] gets in your head and under your skin with an immediacy that sometimes tickles and often hurts.”). It won the London Evening Standard award for best play.

What makes Constellations exceptional is its combination of emotional warmth and experimental form. There are two characters, Marianne, a physicist, and Ben, a beekeeper. They meet, dance around each other, either fall in love with each other or don’t, either stay together or don’t, and things happen to Marianne that puts all that has gone on before at risk. The play unrolls like a film clip that can be pulled back and run again, and can be altered, old lines leading to new consequences. Marianne’s starting speech is said three times over in the first five minutes on stage, with different follow-up each time, and so on and so on till the very end of the play. The ending too cycles back and you’re left unsure what’s going on between Marianne and Ben or what it will lead to and if the ending of it all has to be sad or not. This is a very good play.


Masterpieces in Miniature
Masterpieces in Miniature
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3.0 out of 5 stars 3-1/2* GOOD MUSIC LOVINGLY PLAYED BUT OVER ALL DULL, April 22, 2015
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3-1/2*
All of the music performed on this album was recorded in concert at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco between 2010 and 2014. All twelve compositions are short --between 5:29 to 7:39 minutes—and the earliest composed (by Schubert) is from 1823. Each piece is interesting enough in its own right and all are played well by Thomas’s orchestra, which he has by now welded into a virtuoso machine. The hallmark of the performances is the orchestra’s unselfish facelessness –no storms of emotion, just as much feeling as is needed to bring out the musicality inherent in the pieces. As to mood, they range from quirkily jaunty and quirky (the scherzo from Henry Litolff’s Concerto Symphonique, Yuja Wang on piano) through lyric, even rhapsodic (Mahler, Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise, Delius’s On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring) to moody tone picture (Ives/Brant: “The Alcotts” and Sibelius’s almost creepy Valse triste). My favorites on the album are the selections by Ives, Sibelius and Grieg, but this is good music throughout. It is however too much of a good thing, like eating twelve puff pastries in a row. Each pastry is good but taken all in one sitting, it’s surfeit. By the end of my listening to this recording, I wanted to hear something with more muscle or sequential structure. Another problem is that the works fall largely in the middle zone: nothing too dissonant or challenging (the Ives piece is the exception). In short, we have here an album of good music lovingly played but over all, it makes for somnolent listening.


By David Hare Skylight [Paperback]
By David Hare Skylight [Paperback]
by David Hare
Edition: Paperback
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5.0 out of 5 stars SUBTLE AND MOVING --THE WORK OF A MASTER PLAYWRIGHT, April 18, 2015
David Hare employs the same framing device in this 2009 play that he did three years earlier, in The Vertical Hour. The woman character (Kyra, played by Carey Mulligan in the 2014 London revival) engages in dialogue with another character (in this case, Edward, Tom’s son), who only appears in these framing scenes, at the front and back end of the play. When the play has ended, these conversations enrich our understanding of what has gone on, not in spoken words but in the subtext of feelings and relationships, in the main part of the play.

Skylight isn’t one of Hare’s political plays (of which there are several). It’s about a personal, failed relationship. Tom (played by Michael Gambon in the original 2009 production and Bill Nighy in the revival –the quality of the actors tapped to play these roles tells you something about how well the play is written) and Kyra were lovers –for six years. They worked together, lived together. So did- the living part, that is—Tom’s wife Alice, all three living in the same house, Alice oblivious for six years that she has lovers under her own roof. When Alice found out, Kyra left. Just like that, with no warning or excuse –the house, the business. She’s changed since then. She teaches –difficult children in a difficult school—and she lives modestly in a rundown flat in London.

Then one evening, Edward, Tom’s wayward son, shows up at her door. They talk. Edward says how hard his dad is finding it since his mum died –cancer—and won’t Kyra at least see him. He’s a different man, says Edward. Edward leaves. Tom shows up. Conversation is worse than awkward but all sorts of emotions spill out. There’s still something there. (There better be –they have sex.) But Tom is still Tom: insensitive about other people’s feelings, needs, even talents, an aggressively pushy businessman type who has no sympathy with –can’t understand in the least—the choices Kyra has made. He doesn’t get the gushy mushy stuff. And so he leaves, this time probably for good. Edward shows up again –with food! They eat, laugh. The play ends.

It’s hard to show in a review –with straight prose narrative and no bodies present to bend toward each other and eyes to register each other’s smallest gestures—it’s hard go convey how moving and human this play is. Hard too to convey how subtly its message is presented.


The Library at Mount Char
The Library at Mount Char
by Scott Hawkins
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.26

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5.0 out of 5 stars ABSOLUTELY FIRST-RATE FANTASY FICTION --A WINNER!, April 18, 2015
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“Carolyn, blood-drenched and barefoot, walked alone down the two-lane stretch of blacktop that the Americans called Highway 78.” That’s the first sentence in this hell-for-leather fantasy novel, and it doesn’t let up ever.

There are twelve children in this very odd family. David kills people –well, not just people, anything living will do—he has become “the slave of murder.” Margaret dies –deliberately kills herself-- and then after she’s decayed for a while, they bring her back from death. This strange life doesn’t bother her as much as it used to: she no longer screams herself awake at night but she’s developed this irritating giggle. Michael has immersed himself so in the ways of animals that he can barely speak a human tongue anymore and besides. And what of Carolyn, the protagonist of this story? Carolyn’s a Librarian, the most bookish of them all. What she does is learn languages. The last time she counted, she knew fifty, but that was long ago. Some are live, some dead, some are human tongues and some are not. She knows, for example, the language of storms. And then there’s Father. He isn’t really their father but he’s the one who, long ago, adopted these twelve children and he’s the one who’s trained them to be the strange powerful creatures they now are. He’s not a kind loving father, oh no, not at all! When any of his ‘children’ disobey, or even when they disappoint, he punished them. His favorite punishment is a giant barbecue shaped like a bronze bull: he pops them inside and cooks them until all that’s left of them is charred bones. And then he resurrects them. If they don’t get the lesson, he does it over and over until they’re, as a management trainee might say, sufficiently ‘incentivized.’ They all live together on “Mount Char.” Don’t you see? “Char”! Isn’t that funny?

Father’s missing now and the children want to find him. Not because they miss him but because he is powerful –power-filled—without him around, the world is even more dangerous than it was with him in it. Especially because of the Library. That’s where Father has recorded all the secrets he’s discovered in his eons’ long life. If they don’t find Father, or find a way to take over the Library on their own, even scarier creatures may take over and make them suffer.

This weird, utterly original masterpiece reminds me a bit of the free-wheeling works of Neil Gaiman –the crumbling of our assumptions about how things work in the ordinary world, the feeling that utterly creepy people may still make sense somehow, a peek into a universe tangential to our own and utterly its own self’s, and not ours. This is a very good book, not just as a debut novel, but as a novel, period.


His Octet & Quintet
His Octet & Quintet
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4.0 out of 5 stars INFECTIOUS HAPPY SWINGING JAZZ MUSIC, April 14, 2015
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This review is from: His Octet & Quintet (Audio CD)
Originally recorded in 1955 with CT, bass tpt; Harry Edison, Conrad Gozzo, tpt; Richie Kamuca, ten sx; Matt Utal, alto & bari sx; Russ Freeman, Pete Jolly, p; Leroy Vinnegar, b; Chuck Flores, dr; Johnny Mandel, Ernie Wilkins, arr.

In 1955, I was still a young sprat, second year of college, and soaked all the way through in West Coast jazz, which was, at the time, the only ‘modern’ style jazz I knew. Some time around then, as a ploy to sell their records, Pacific Jazz put out a $1 sampler record. It was filled with great stuff: Gerry Mulligan, Lee Konitz, Chet Baker, Bud Shank and Laurindo Almeida, Bob Gordon (was he playing with Jack Montrose?), Zoot Sims, even a Clifford Brown cut. But the two cuts that hit me were by musicians I’d never heard before: pianist Richard Twardzik with bass and drums (both throwaway in caliber) playing his weird and original “A Crutch for the Crab” and an octet led by bass trumpeter Cy Touff, then in the Woody Herman band, playing a Jonny Mandel Basie-like original, “Keester Parade.” I bought Twardzik’s recording as leader, half of a Pacific Jazz album entitled Trio. (The other half of the album was the Russ Freeman trio –it was good too but not brilliant like Twardzik.) I never picked up the Touff album because I could never find it back in those days of physically present record stores. Twardzik died soon after –in Europe, on tour with Chet Baker, 24, with a needle in his arm. Touff recorded more but I never came across it in the stores and so never heard it.
Well, it’s sixty years later and now I own both those recordings on CD, Twardzik and Touff. As uneven as the Twardzik recording is –half of it is home recorded from practice sessions—Twardzik still sounds brilliant. Who knows what he might have been capable of playing if he’d still been alive at what age? –30? 35? 40….?

AndTouff’s group? It doesn’t sound original. It sounds like good quality Basie-ish, kind of like the better versions of Shorty Rogers and His Giants or Shelley Manne’s groups at the Black Hawk. The timbres of his horn allow Touff to sound at times like a conventional but slightly lower voiced trumpet and at others closer to a mellophone. As to his solo work, he swings and he has ideas, though not terribly original ones. In short, it’s fun to listen to him play. The other solo trumpeter is Sweets Edison, which means good. Edison was for years the mainstay of threw Basie horn section and he never, ever failed to swing in groups. The third major horn soloist is Richie Kamuca on tenor sax: he was a very good, mainstream soloist, always played well, at his best sounded like a slightly less muscular Zoot Sims (which is a very good thing to sound like). Both pianists –Freeman in octet, Jolly in quintet—were accomplished West Coasters and play like it, and Leroy Vinnegar was probably the best walking bass player on the West Coast, maybe in the nation, at the time. As you would expect, Mandel’s arrangements are solid, and so are Wilkins’s. Both men were pros.

In short, this is a thoroughly enjoyable recording. Nothing on it breaks boundaries or sets new records for anything. It’s just good music in a well settled genre. And that’s not a bad thing to be, in my opinion.


Horizons - Leif Ove Andsnes
Horizons - Leif Ove Andsnes
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3.0 out of 5 stars SOLIDLY PLAYED BUT ULTIMATELY BLAND, April 14, 2015
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This is a collection of twenty-two piano encores, running in length from a little over a minute to just under 5 minutes.

These pieces are all well played and they’re pleasant enough but as a whole, as a composite listening experience, this collection falls decidedly flat. There isn’t enough muscle, crispness, and given how short the pieces all are and how disparate the composers, no sense of unity or direction (musical development) to the album. It’s just a collection of nice short classical pieces (with one exception, the Charles Trenet song) played well. There were pieces I found more interesting –both pieces by Mompou, the Antheil toccata, Shostakovich’s quirky take on the polka, the composition for violin and piano by Halvorsen, adapted by Andsnes for piano alone, both of the Chopin pieces. But that‘s it. Claire de lune is a lovely piece but I’ve heard it so often and played with more refinement by other pianists. Cyril Scott’s Lotus Land seemed light to me and the Sibelius etude was interesting only because I’ve never heard a piece by Sibelius that sounded like that –I’m more accustomed to swirls of emotion and drama, as in the symphonies and the Lemminkaenen tone poems.

Andsnes is a notable pianist but I kept reflecting back on the astonishing six encores Gregory Sokolov includes on his 2008 Salzburg recital –two pieces each by Scriabin and Chopin, and one each by Rameau and Bach. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been listening to crisper, less soulful pianists and pieces recently –Sokolov playing Mozart and Chopin, Igor Levit late Beethoven and Bach. Compared to those –many of the parts of which are not much longer than the pieces played here—I find a crispness and muscularity that is sorely lacking on this pleasant but ultimately bland album.


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