Visions of Johanna still haunting after 50 years

May 17, 1966 – Bob Dylan performs Visions of Johanna, solo acoustic

Imagine, if you can, someone hearing this song for the first time, rendered by Dylan in top form

Love songs have been a part of music since, well, forever. Many are light or even trite, while some others can be truly moving.

But when it came to popular music in modern times, there were songs about falling in love, falling out of love, being a teenager in love, or a teenager being dumped, occasionally letting someone down easy, or telling them to “hit the road, Jack.”

And then there came Visions of Johanna.

Read the full essay and hear the song HERE

Dylan 1966 Visions of Johanna concert

photo: Mark Makin who took the only photos from the concert, getting “about nine usable shots” from a roll of film, according to the BBC.

Duluth, Minnesota 1891 – Monday Map

50 years before Bob Dylan was born there

On May 24, 1941 – 75 years ago

Monday Map Duluth 1891

Although he denied his actual origins and place of birth at first, in an effort to create some mystery and an image associated with intrepid figures like Woody Guthrie and Billy the Kid, Bob Dylan was born in Duluth, the Great Lakes port, before his family moved to the North Country mining town of Hibbing, MN when he was 6 years old.

Hibbing, Minnesota in the 1940s

Hibbing Minnesota north of Duluth 1940s

Hibbing Minnesota train to Duluth 1940s Bob Dylan

His mother grew up there, and his father worked for the family electrical supply shop. The young Bob Zimmerman had a normal merchant-class upbringing, and like many teenagers he wanted to play the electric guitar in a rock and roll band.

And that is something he did to revolutionary effect, when he first toured with an electric guitar, in 1966, 50 years ago.

In fact, his double album Blonde on Blonde was released on May 15, 1966, and he performed the infamous “Judas” concert in Manchester, England on May 17.


Tennessee Williams Inspires New Music

Bushwick Book Club features Tennessee Williams

Monday, March 21, 8 PM, at Superfine, 126 Front Street, Brooklyn

This coming Monday, musical compositions will be performed, based on Tennessee Williams’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

A traveling musical performance event, Bushwick Bookclub invites songwriters to create new pieces of music inspired by various literary works. Be it in Seattle or New York City, or wherever, each event features a different novel or play.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof starred Ben Gazara and Barbra Bel Geddes, winning the Pulitzer in 1955. It was later adapted for the screen and starred Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor.

I am pleased to announce I am among the songwriters invited to take part for this particular installment and shall be accompanied by various members of the Highland Shatners and Spoonville.

Superfine is a mighty fine restaurant in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn, just under the Manhattan bridge. The York Street stop on the F line is the nearest subway.
Bushwick Book Club Website

Alan Lomax Music Archive Going On Line

For half a century, musicologist Alan Lomax recorded and preserved priceless cultural treasure.

Thousands of recordings have been digitized for posterity, discovered in the coal country of Kentucky to the cane fields of Haiti, including many legendary voices who would have toiled in obscurity and been forgotten.

With 2015 marking the Alan Lomax centennial, the Association for Cultural Equity is making these recordings available for free.

Read more about that and HERE

Working alongside his folklorist father, John Lomax, the young Alan traveled through the South and West, shining a light on local musicians, allowing the wider world to discover the blues of a prison inmate known as Leadbelly and the ballads of an itinerant laborer named Woody Guthrie.

Those are just two of the voices first recorded by Alan Lomax, out of thousands, and tens of thousands of songs and tunes now preserved for and us and future generations.

The 2002 New York Times Obituary of Alan Lomax is found HERE

Association of Cultural Equity’s website is HERE

The Lomax Family Collection at the American Folklife Center is HERE


Don Carlo Expects the Spanish Inquisition

An unlooked for side effect at the dress rehearsal of Don Carlo

ghosts of tech weeks past

As I entered the empty house at the Metropolitan Opera and walked down the aisle, I was hit with sudden pangs of tense anxiety and adrenaline when I saw them. There was the lighting board and stage manager’s station set up in the middle of the orchestra. Only now it is, of course, a lighting computer.

I haven’t directed a play for almost 20 years, but in an instant I was reflexively steeling myself for the exhaustion of techs and dress.

Without realizing why, I was compelled to walk back out and get a cup of coffee from the hoity concession stand for $5. But really, it was very good coffee.

I quipped that I would probably start having the dreams again too. And sure enough, I had the endless tech rehearsal disaster dream last night.

Times Change and So Do Sets

I must wonder how many of the old opera buffs there were ruffled by the modern sets of the Met’s Don Carlo, the tale that answers the musical question, ‘Will sacrificing all chance of personal happiness for the sake of duty and honor save you from the Spanish Inquisition?’

They’ve used these sets for some years now, but it takes a long time for hardliners to except change at the Met as anything but heretical.

I thought Bob Crowley’s designs were effective and quite clever, with a touch of Max Reinhardt about some of them, even if I also wonder what the Met’s grand old ultra-realistic sets might have been like.

I must confess, some relief came from knowing I had not the responsibility of making sure none those many performers bumped into the furniture.

DonCarlo at the Metropolitan Opera

photo: Metropolitan Opera

Tickets for Verdi’s Don Carlo start at $27, with 8 performances beginning March 30, through April 25.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin conductor, Nicholas Hytner production.

Starring Carlo Yonghoon Lee and Barbara Frittoli, with Ekaterina Gubanova, James Morris, and Ferruccio Furlanetto reprising his portrayal of King Philip, and a One Man’s World special mention for the charismatic baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky singing the role of the Marquis de Posa.


NYYS Masters Scheherazade’s Mysteries – Concert Review

And Beethoven’s Many Moods

With Joshua Gersen conducting,  guest star Elena Urioste shone bright in Beethoven’s violin concerto, opus 61, followed by an NYYS ensemble rendition of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, op. 35, full of memory, passion, and promise. I couldn’t have been more delighted.

“I have no idea whose credenza Urioste was interpreting at the end of the first movement, but it was punctuated by dramatic double stops, with fluid runs up the neck, and heart-piercing tone in the lengthy sustain she achieved time and again in the highest notes, clear and poignant as tears in sunlight. And all of it crowned by a marvelous passage where she accompanied her own trebly melody with a sonorous counterpoint across the lower strings….

During the interval, the stage lost the featured soloist, and gained considerably more orchestra members, including a second row of bassists and the full complement of percussionists required to achieve the depth and splendor of Rimsky-Korsakov’s lavish tone poem…Their performance across all four movements was magnificent.”

Read the Full Review

Nels Cline and Jules Lage Live

Somebody’s been practicing with a metronome! And its Julian Lage and Nels Cline.

A mid-sixties Gibson Barney Kessel model (Nels Cline) and a Manzer Bluenote (Julian Lage) together in some amazing space jam Jazz.

I must confess I only knew of Cline as a guitarist in the progressive folk country phenomenon Wilco. What a great and unexpected turn of the ear. Tasty and oh so impressive.

Their collaboration is available on the record Room, available at iTunes and other music outlets.

Best $20 ticket in NYC – this Sunday, 2 PM, Carnegie Hall

All of yous.

Yes every single one of you in the tri-state area.

Yous needs to do yousself the favor and go to Carnegie Hall this Sunday at 2pm for the New York Youth Symphony Orchestra’s concert.

Bring the kids.

They are so spectacular you will not believe they are all 20 or younger.

AND the program includes Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, Op.35!!!

If you have never seen a live orchestra concert, or not in a long time, or your kids haven’t, go see it. Every seat is $20, at Carnegie Hall!  It is the best $20 ticket in NYC.

Get Tickets

Joshua Gersen, conductor
Elena Urioste, violinBeethoven: Violin Concerto, op. 61
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade, op. 35

Guest Artist

Elena Urioste

Recently selected as a BBC New Generation Artist, Elena Urioste has been hailed by critics and audiences for her rich tone, nuanced lyricism, and commanding stage presence. Since making her debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra at age thirteen, she has appeared with major orchestras in the U.S. and abroad, including the London and New York Philharmonics, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Boston Pops, and the Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and National symphony orchestras. Elena has collaborated with acclaimed conductors Sir Mark Elder, Keith Lockhart and Robert Spano; pianists Mitsuko Uchida, Christopher O’Riley, and Michael Brown; cellists Carter Brey and Zuill Bailey; and violinists Shlomo Mintz and Cho-Liang Lin. She has been a featured artist at the Marlboro, Ravinia, and La Jolla music festivals, among others.


Joshua Gersen

The New York Philharmonic has announced that Joshua Gersen has been appointed the orchestra’s new Assistant Conductor, commencing with the 2015/16 season.

Gersen will continue to serve as music director and principal conductor for the New York Youth Symphony concurrently with his newly appointed position at the Philharmonic.

Congratulations JD!

Carnegie Hall