Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Ziggy and Stephen Marley

Ziggy and Stephen Marley closed their annual Bob Marley Roots Rock Reggae Festival tour at Wolf Trap on Sunday, and while it celebrated their father's life, it also highlighted how unenviable it is to try to compete with their pop's prodigious talents. Stephen and Ziggy are very likable as individual artists, but you can't help but compare them to Robert Nesta Marley -- and in that light, they suffer from the blazing sun that is their dad's legacy.

Perhaps because nobody knows the music from his long-delayed forthcoming CD, "Mind Control," Stephen stuck primarily to his dad's catalogue, including "No Woman, No Cry," "Could You Be Loved" and "Buffalo Soldier." Or perhaps Stephen is just more attuned to the real reason why the crowd turns out for this festival.

Stephen may sound and look eerily similar to his father -- his stage movements are especially haunting -- but it's Ziggy who's had the greater commercial success as an artist. But the eldest of Bob's sons didn't play any Melody Makers hits, preferring to concentrate on tunes from his mediocre new CD, "Love Is My Religion." Ziggy's recent songs are so-so at best, ignorable at worst, which is something you can't say about the Bob Marley compositions that his son covered, including "No More Trouble," "Forever Loving Jah" and a concert-closing version of "Get Up, Stand Up" featuring Stephen Marley and Bunny Wailer.

In fact it was Bob's old Wailers band mate Bunny who put on the best performance of the festival, which also featured the funk band Ozomatli and the singer- songwriter Jon Nicholson. Decked out in a white military-like suit decorated with silver spangles, the great Bunny looked like the captain of the good ship Rasta as he joyously danced and sang his way through classic Wailers songs such as "Simmer Down" and "I'm the Toughest" as well as "Cool Runnings" and "Rootsman Skanking" from his own rich solo career.

-- Christopher Porter

Smithsonian Chamber Players

The National Gallery of Art, the Philips Collection and the Corcoran Gallery all contain performance spaces for fine musical offerings. Add to that list the Smithsonian American Art Museum, whose recent renovation provides yet another destination for live music, the Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium.

Sunday's concert at the 346-seat auditorium by the Smithsonian Chamber Players gave both musicians and audience a first taste of chamber music in the new hall. The rather dry acoustics in the attractive but boxy space made precision paramount, and violinist James Stern, cellist Kenneth Slowik and pianist Audrey Andrist rose to the occasion in meticulous performances of piano trios by Haydn, Beethoven and Mendelssohn.

Andrist nimbly put the McEvoy's piano -- a newly restored 1940s Steinway grand -- through its paces, dancing through the presto of Haydn's Trio in C. Her remarkably clean and musical technique anchored the music throughout the recital.

Beethoven's Trio in E-flat, Op. 70, No. 2 was solid and sensitive without being flashy. Stern made the most of the lyrical lines in the third movement, and the three stirred up real excitement in the finale.

Mendelssohn's Trio in D Minor was a crowning success. Slowik set the mood in the passionate opening melody. The andante was perfect salon music, and Andrist gave the psalmlike lines a subtle twist of melancholy. All three whipped through the fast-paced figures of the scherzo cleanly, setting a truly delightful precedent for chamber music at McEvoy Auditorium.

-- Gail Wein

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