At George Mason University
The reputedly cutting-edge Eos Orchestra delivered a surprisingly conventional program at George Mason University's Center for the Arts on Saturday. Granted, Aaron Copland's amalgam of Hollywood scores, "Music for Movies," and the suite from his film score to "The City" are seldom-encountered works. But unlike his thornier early scores, or his late-career experiments with atonality (all even harder to find on concert programs), his film music is as comfy and familiar as an old wicker rocking chair.
The open chords and lonely wind solos were there in spades, and truth be told, the threshing-machine segment from "Of Mice and Men" didn't sound a whole lot different from the factory of "The City." But the lean, beautifully balanced sound that conductor Jonathan Sheffer drew from the New York-based orchestra played up the evocative tone-painting in music from "Our Town," and found a proto-minimalist charge in the traffic-clogged streets of "The City." (The latter score was accompanied by dimly projected portions of the film.)
Why Sheffer felt compelled to thicken the texture of Copland's "Appalachian Spring" by adding strings to what otherwise would have been the rarely heard 13-piece chamber version of the piece was as puzzling as it was frustrating.
The one non-Copland work of the evening was composer-novelist Paul Bowles's droll, punchy, busily inventive Suite for Small Orchestra. It's a shame that more of Bowles's engaging (and almost never heard) music could not have found a place on this program.
-- Joe Banno Jon Lucien at Blues Alley Wearing an aqua shirt and looking as if he'd just stepped off a Caribbean cruise ship, singer Jon Lucien opened his performance at Blues Alley on Saturday night with a simple request: "Bring on the sunshine!" Still bundled in layers of padding, the capacity crowd erupted with cheers. "St. Thomas in the house!" shouted one fan, clearly homesick and winter-fatigued.
Lucien, who grew up in St. Thomas, then created a warm refuge for weary souls. The balladeer certainly hasn't lost his flair for charming audiences with his mellifluous baritone and his ever-growing collection of self-penned, unabashedly sentimental ballads. He's a romantic through and through, and though some of his own tunes amount to little more than sweet nothings, he's right up there with Johnny Mathis when it comes to wooing an audience with a love song. Suffice it to say that his reprises of "Rashida" and "Sempre Maria" were thoroughly crowd-pleasing.
Unlike some of his previous visits to town, however, this one found Lucien collaborating with three jazz musicians who prevented lulls from setting in. Pianist Bill O'Connell, who is well versed in both straight-ahead and Latin jazz, was in particularly good form when several familiar pop tunes, including "The Look of Love" and "Night and Day," came into focus. Bassist Lincoln Goines and drummer Kim Plainfield, meanwhile, adroitly juggled funk rhythms and swing propulsion. The result was a performance offering listeners something more than melodies evoking sunny climes, though one suspects the audience would have been happy to settle for that.
-- Mike Joyce