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NAMM Day One - From the Sublime to the Sublime

January 16, 2009

As I was headed for a press conference today at NAMM I turned a corner and my eyes confirmed what my ears had already been telling me: Dr. Lonnie Smith was at the Hammond organ, giving Billy Strayhorn's Chelsea Bridge his incomparable treatment.

I waited around, hoping the good Doctor would go down on hands and knees for his trademark funk-bass solo (by hand, but on the pedals, of course)—I have seen him do it in concert. But not today. But I took his picture:


A couple of years ago he told me the story about getting wedged between bench and organ during the famous bass solo, not being able to get out and back up, and trading endless fours with the drummer, to frenzied applause from an audience that had no idea about his predicament... He's a national treasure.

Also sublime: Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the L.A. Philharmonic's tour de force performance earlier tonight at the fabulous Disney Hall, with soprano Dawn Upshaw, dancer Michael Schumacher, and the Los Angeles Master Chorale, in Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho's La Passion de Simone (composed 2006).

Saariaho is an alumna of the IRCAM institute for musical research in Paris, where electronic music and orchestral music have a symbiotic home, and she treated the orchestra like it was the biggest synthesizer there is, which, when you think about it, is just exactly the way it is in the hands of the best orchestrators. Colors, timbres, nuances—it was breathtaking, and the level of singing and playing was simply sublime.


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Kef America

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