May 8, 2019

DEPLOYED TO FRANCE: Newlyweds J.R.R. Tolkien (Nicholas Hoult) and Edith Bratt (Lily Collins) are soon separated by his deployment during World War I. Bratt was Tolkien’s muse and the inspiration for some of his characters, as told in “Tolkien.” The film focuses on the fantasy writer’s early years. (Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures)

By Kam Williams

J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) was a British fantasy novelist best known for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. After being orphaned at an early age, he attended King Edwards, an exclusive boarding school where he forged close friendships with classmates which would endure over his lifetime.

There, he first referred to this semi-secret association of writers and artists as a “fellowship,” a term which ostensibly influenced the unique lexicon of his fictional work. He was also very sensitive about the pronunciation of his surname to the extent that he even complained about it to the school administration, emphasizing that it was “een” as opposed to “in.” more

May 1, 2019

When a friend, reading his manuscript, asked what a certain word meant, Fitzgerald said, “Damn if I know, but doesn’t it fit in there just beautifully?”
—Andrew Turnbull, from Scott Fitzgerald (1962)

By Stuart Mitchner

The most notorious of the May Day uprisings that shocked New York and other American cities 100 years ago today erupted in Cleveland Ohio, where a march by the Socialist Party sparked riots resulting in two deaths and numerous injuries. In the chronicles of 20th century American literature, however, the dateline May 1, 1919 belongs to “May Day,” a long story by Scott Fitzgerald that first appeared in The Smart Set in July 1920 and was reprinted in Tales of the Jazz Age (1922).

In Paradise Lost (Belknap Press 2017), the most recent of numerous biographies, historian David S. Brown suggests that although Fitzgerald “always considered himself politically on the left and self-identified as a ‘Socialist’ in Who’s Who in America,” his “critque of capitalism” grew out of “a primarily conservative impulse.” For an example, Brown cites an observation by one of Fitzgerald’s first biographers, Andrew Turnbull: “Fitzgerald’s political thought, like all his thought, was emotional and impulsive, general ideas being for him little more than a backdrop to his fiction.”

An All-Night Binge

Turnbull’s biography locates the impetus behind “May Day” not so much in the attack on a Socialist newspaper as in Fitzgerald’s all-night binge with a fellow Princetonian following a Yale fraternity dance at Delmonico’s. Fitzgerald’s wild night began in Child’s Restaurant on 59th and Broadway, where “the dance crowd was sobering up,” but not Fitzgerald, who sat off by himself  “mixing hash, poached eggs, and catsup” in his companion’s derby before approaching various Yale men with hostile designs on their fried eggs or shredded wheat. “Soon food was being thrown and Fitzgerald was kicked out,” though he tried to “sneak back in on hands and knees each time the restaurant door opened.” more

By Nancy Plum

Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, who has been in residence at Princeton University for this academic year, finished his year-long stay on the campus with a jammed-packed week of multicultural events featuring performing talent both local and international. In a residency centered on “Uniting our World through Music,” Dudamel focused the April activities on exploring art and nature, with particular emphasis on art, politics, and society. The final week of April, which concluded Dudamel’s residency, featured a film screening, performance by international chamber musicians, conversational lecture on The Artist in Society, concerts of El Sistema-based instrumental ensembles, and a culminating event of Dudamel leading the Princeton University Orchestra and Glee Club in two performances reaching more than 2,500 people. Demanding the same expectations of Princeton University musicians as he would the LA Philharmonic professionals, Dudamel set a very high musical bar for the close of the academic year. more

“AN AMAZING TALENT”: West Windsor High School South senior Joseph Hsia is the violin soloist in a joint concert by the Capital Philharmonic of New Jersey and members of 30 area youth orchestras on Saturday, May 4 at Patriots Theater at the War Memorial in Trenton. Daniel Spalding, the CPNJ’s music director, praised Hsia for his skill and musicality.

When Daniel Spalding heard young violinist Joseph Hsia perform at a music competition last year, he knew he was witnessing something special. The event was the Global Music Partnership International Competition, held at the 1867 Sanctuary in Ewing.

Spalding, the music director and conductor of the Capital Philharmonic of New Jersey, subsequently  invited Hsia, a West Windsor Plainsboro South High School senior, to join the orchestra at a concert being held this Saturday, May 4 at 7:30 p.m. at Patriots Theater at the War Memorial in Trenton. Hsia is one of 30 young musicians taking part in the performance, which is titled “Celebrating Our Youth.”

“He is an amazing talent,” Spalding said of Hsia on Monday. “We just had a rehearsal last week, and he’s playing like a real professional.’” more

EXPLORING MUSIC AND LITERATURE: Princeton Symphony Orchestra’s “Mango Suite” Project brings together author Sandra Cisneros, right, and composer Derek Bermel at Richardson Auditorium. (Photo courtesy of Derek Bermel)

The Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) explores cultural identity in literature and music through two separate, yet linked events making up its Mango Suite Project: the Saturday, May 18, 3 p.m. author event with 2015 National Medal of Arts winner and author of The House of Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros and the Sunday, May 19, 4 p.m. world premiere performance of Derek Bermel’s Mango Suite by the PSO. Both events take place at Richardson Auditorium.

Centered on Cisneros’ book and Derek Bermel’s recent work, the Mango Suite Project has captured the interest of the Princeton community with the Princeton Public Library, Princeton University Art Museum, and Labyrinth Books helping to spread word of its events. According to PSO Executive Director Marc Uys, “The Project allows us to demonstrate how artistic mediums can combine to bring into focus important issues like cultural identity.” more

50TH ANNIVERSARY SEASON: Princeton Summer Theater celebrates a milestone June 20-August 18 on the Princeton University campus. Pictured is a recent production, “Tick, Tick, Boom!”

Daniel Krane, artistic director of Princeton Summer Theater, has announced the organization’s 2019 season, which will run from June 20-August 18 and consist of four mainstage productions, as well as the world premiere of a new children’s play.

Founded in 1968, Princeton Summer Theater is a semi-professional summer stock theater company located in Princeton University’s Hamilton-Murray Theater. It recently won the 2019 People’s Choice Award for “Best Small Theater.” Notable alumni include Tony Award-winning actress Bebe Neuwirth (Chicago), Tony Award-winning producer Geoff Rich (Avenue Q), and Hollywood actor William Hootkins (Star Wars, Batman).

This year’s season includes William Finn’s Falsettos, Ira Levin’s Deathtrap, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog. The season will also feature the world premiere of a new children’s play by Bennett, with a title to be announced.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

“MOTISA”: This work by Atisha Fordyce is featured in “Split Ends,” running through May 25 at BSB Gallery in Trenton. In the exhibit, artists Fordyce and Quinci Baker illustrate the settling of roots and creation of home in lands unknown in a collaboration of multimedia works and installation.

“Split Ends,” a collaboration between artists Atisha Fordyce and Quinci Baker is featured at BSB Gallery through May 25. more

“LAMBIE”: This junk mail collage is featured in “Re:fuse,” Aurora Robson’s solo exhibition running at the Hunterdon Art Museum May 19 through September 1. An opening reception and gallery talk are scheduled for Sunday, May 19 from 2 to 4 p.m.

Sometimes one man’s trash isn’t just another man’s treasure. For Aurora Robson, it can be art.

Robson’s solo exhibition “Re:fuse” opens Sunday, May 19 at the Hunterdon Art Museum, with a reception from 2 to 4 p.m. Everyone is welcome to the opening, which will include a gallery talk by the artist and refreshments. The exhibit runs through September 1.

Robson is a multi-media artist known mostly for her meditative work converting plastic waste into art. Robson’s art challenges our perception of matter. “Can artists serve a significant role in terms of solving environmental and societal problems? The answer is yes,” says Robson. more

JAZZ MAN: Gary Carr stars as Buddy Bolden, a cornet player whose genius as an early jazz pioneer has been mostly forgotten by history. His story is imagined in “Bolden.” (Image courtesy of King Bolden LLC)

By Kam Williams

Buddy Bolden (1877-1931) was born in New Orleans, where he took up the cornet at an early age. His unique approach to the instrument involved a novel form of improvisation while playing a combination of gospel, blues, and ragtime.

Well before the emergence of Louis Armstrong, Buddy was a popular bandleader credited with creating a new genre of music: jazz. Sadly, this genius has mostly been forgotten by history because no recordings or arrangements of his songs survived. more

April 24, 2019

By Stuart Mitchner

Let’s say you’re a publicist crafting a blurb for a book that scored a million dollar advance only to be greeted with negative reviews, including one that gives you a workable sentence: “Although this is an overwritten, derivative, deeply flawed travesty of reality, the deluded author seems to think it’s the great political novel the world has been waiting for.” Cut the first part, capitalize the “t” and you’ve got “[T]he great political novel the world has been waiting for.” You can get away with this trick as long as you cover your tracks with that handy little bracket around the “T,” thus transforming a total trashing into a cause for celebration. And in the unlikely event of a lawsuit, one small, well-placed punctuation mark has given the publisher legal cover.

Last month the attorney general of the United States employed an almost identical act of typographical subterfuge to sabotage a crucial sentence in the Executive Summary of Volume 1 of the Mueller report. All he had to do was cut the first part: “Athough the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.” By deep-sixing the incriminating reference to Russia’s perceptions and the Campaign’s expectations with that sly “[T]” for a “t” sleight of hand, Willliam Barr gave the hungry media a bogus, anodyne headline: “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in election interference activities.” Having found no punctuation mark with which to mask the damning “no exoneration” conclusion, the AG simply dismissed the obstruction of justice issue, setting the stage for a “total exoneration” celebration. Break out the champagne!  more

RICHARD III: Performances are underway for “Richard III.” Presented by Theatre Intime and directed by Naomi Park ‘21, the play runs through April 27 at the Hamilton Murray Theater. Richard III (Paige Allen, left) persuades Lady Anne (Miranda Allegar, right) to marry him, despite the fact that he has murdered her first husband: Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales. (Photo by Naomi Park ’21)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

Theatre Intime, whose cast and production team consist of Princeton University students, is presenting Shakespeare’s Richard III. Director Naomi Park has opted out of drawing overt parallels to political events outside of those that occur in the play; this sleek production evokes the 15th century without being constrained by it.

The play is a fictionalized depiction of the bloody rise to the throne, and downfall, of King Richard III of England (1452-1485), the former Duke of Gloucester. It is believed to have been written in the early 1590s; the New Cambridge edition of 1999 conjectures that the play was written in 1593, with the premiere possibly having taken place in 1594. It was published in the first Quarto in 1597, and was included in the First Folio (Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories & Tragedies) in 1623.

“I am determined to prove a villain and hate the idle pleasures of these days,” Richard confides to the audience at the beginning of the show. To gain the crown, Richard schemes to pit his brother, King Edward IV, against his other brother, the Duke of Clarence, by having the latter arrested on a trumped-up charge of treason, and murdered while imprisoned in the Tower of London. This places Richard in a position to serve as regent until Edward’s son (and namesake) is old enough to be crowned. more

ROGERS AT RIDER: Rider University students (from left) Allie Wiatrowski, Samantha Flahive, Forrest Filiano, and Etta Grover will appear in Rider’s production of Will Rogers Follies Thursday, May 1 through Sunday, May 5 in the Theater in the Bart Luedeke Center on the Rider University campus in Lawrenceville.

Rider University Musical Theatre presents Peter Stone, Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Cy Coleman’s musical Will Rogers Follies May 1-5 in the Theater in the Bart Luedeke Center on the Rider University campus in Lawrenceville. Robin Lewis is the director and choreographer and Nathan Hurwitz is music director.

Will Rogers is famous for his saying, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” This revue contains snippets of his famous homespun style of wisdom and common sense, and tries to convey the personality of this quintessentially American figure. The show touches on issues that are just as current today as they were in Will Rogers’ era: the environment, politics, diversity, and #MeToo. These topics will be explored in a special panel discussion following the preview performance on Wednesday, May 1. Panelists include Dr. Michael Brogan, Dr. Donna Clovis, Melissa Grennberg, Robin Lewis, Pamela Pruitt, Frank Rusciano and Rider theatre students.

Director and choreographer Robin Lewis is a faculty member in the musical theatre department at Rider University. His Rider credits include Bonnie & Clyde, White Christmas, Catch Me If You Can, All Shook Up, The Full Monty, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and The Producers. His film credits include choreography for Bernie and performances of Fosse and at the Tony Awards. Broadway credits include Fosse, Beauty and the Beast and A Christmas Carol. His tour credits include The Producers, A Chorus Line, Hello, Dolly!, Beauty and the Beast, Where’s Charley? (Kennedy Center) and Jubilee (Carnegie Hall). more

Jazz at Princeton University presents Grammy Award-winning drummer Terri Lyne Carrington with the Creative Large Ensemble directed by Darcy James Argue on Saturday, May 11, 8 p.m. at Princeton University, Richardson Auditorium. The concert features a rare performance of Jim McNeely’s Tribute to Tony Williams Lifetime.

Tickets are $15 (students $5). For information call (609) 258-9220 or visit

Carrington started her professional career at 10 years old, being the youngest person to receive a union card in Boston. She was featured as a “kid wonder” in publications including People, Ebony, and Modern Drummer. After studying under a full scholarship at Berklee College of Music, she worked as an in-demand musician in NYC and later moved to LA where she was late night TV drummer for Arsenio Hall and Quincy Jones’ VIBE TV show. more

“BOB FELLER”: This portrait by James Fiorentino is featured in “Spring Training: People, Places, Play,” a multimedia exhibit on view through June 14 at D&R Greenway Land Trust, One Preservation Place, Princeton. An opening reception is April 26, 5 to 7:30 p.m.

Linda Ruth Tosetti, granddaughter of baseball legend Babe Ruth, will make a special appearance at the opening reception of D&R Greenway Land Trust’s newest exhibition, “Spring Training: People, Places, Play.” This wide-ranging collection, on view through June 14, involves the urban, the rural, and the wild as outdoors settings for play.

An opening reception is April 26, 5 to 7:30 p.m. Sports artist and D&R Greenway trustee James Fiorentino will unveil his newest portrait, The Great Bambino, evoking Ruth. Original digital prints of this work, signed by both Tosetti and Fiorentino, may be purchased, supporting D&R Greenway’s mission. Both guests will share personal perspectives on Babe Ruth, seven-time World Series champion.

Multimedia artwork involving sailing, swimming, fishing, strolling, kayaking and beyond is being exhibited by Hana Aviv, Lisa Budd, Kate Leigh Cutler, Mike Dziomba, Bernie Hubert, Sean Kane, Jack Quinn, Laura Renner, and Ewa Zeller. more

SUNFLOWER: This creation is among the works of hand-crafted glass created at Sunflower Glass Studio, which will be open to participants in the third annual self-guided Hunterdon County Artists’ Studio Tour held on May 4 and 5.

The third annual self-guided Hunterdon County Artists’ Studio Tour will be held on May 4 and 5, with open studios throughout Hunterdon County. Hours for each day are 10 a.m. to 6 pm. Among the 90-plus artists participating at more than 30 locations is Sunflower Glass Studio, which will again be open throughout the weekend showcasing their creations in Delaware Township, between Sergeantsville and Stockton, New Jersey. more

“APOCALYPSE”: A detail of one of Tallur L.N.’s installations in “Interference Fringe | Tallur L.N.,” coming to Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton May 5 through January 20. The exhibit brings together more than 25 sculptures in a range of media including found objects, carved stone and wood, cast bronze, and works embedded in concrete and coated in oil.

In May, Grounds For Sculpture (GFS) will present the work of multinational conceptual artist Tallur L.N. in his first survey exhibition in the United States. On view May 5 through January 5, 2020 and filling two multi-level galleries, “Interference Fringe | Tallur L.N.” brings together a survey of over 25 sculptures created during the past 13 years in a range of media including found objects, appropriated industrial machines, carved stone and wood, cast bronze, and works embedded in concrete and coated in oil.

The exhibition includes the premiere of a new work and the exhibition’s partial namesake, Fringe (2019), a towering 18’-tall site-specific installation coated in bone meal, bone char, and crushed bone, which was inspired by historic Indian temple fragments in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Also on view is the debut of a video work, Interference (2019), inaugurating Tallur’s use of film as an artistic medium. This slow-motion video captures smoke-like plumes of dust being beaten out of a historic rug from the collection of the Junagagh Museum in Gujart, India, and obscuring its intricate pattern. more

BECOMING: Violet Valenski (Elle Fanning) becomes a world-class talent in director Max Minghella’s film “Teen Spirit.” (Photo courtesy of Interscope Films)

By Kam Williams

Violet Valenski (Elle Fanning) is a 17-year-old living with her single-mom (Agnieszka Grochowska) on a modest family farm on the Isle of Wight. She secretly dreams of becoming a pop star, but has no time to pursue it between school and several part-time jobs. Besides attending to animals at home, she waitresses at a pub and clerks at a convenience store.

Violet’s fortunes change the day that the producers of Teen Spirit visit town in search of the next singing sensation. Teen Spirit is a reality-TV series similar to American Idol, The X Factor and other talent competitions. more

April 17, 2019

…the consensus today is that the universe is speckled with black holes furiously consuming everything around them.
—Dennis Overbye, New York Times, April 11, 2019

By Stuart Mitchner

The black hole has become Dennis Overbye’s muse. He holds it to the light like a diamond flashing metaphors and analogies. Thanks to Overbye, the grim morning ritual of the New York Times became a joyous reading experience last Thursday. For a glorious half hour, his word-drunk response to the phenomenon consumed the gloom of the Trump-driven news cycle and put the universe back in balance.

The day began with a cat, a sixteen-year-old black and white female who expects me to sit on the chaise by the window with her every morning and read to her from whatever book is handy, W.S. Merwin’s poetry, Green Eggs and Ham, King Lear, she doesn’t care, she’s not picky as long as I read quietly and her stomach gets rubbed, gently, gently, at the same time. On the morning in question, the book was Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and as fate would have it, I was reading the first paragraph under the heading “On the Afterworldly.” Which is how I went from Nietzsche’s view of the world as “the work of a suffering and tortured god” to the Times’ front page photograph of “a cosmic abyss so deep and dense that not even light can escape it”; from the Overman’s “colored smoke before the eyes of a dissatisfied deity” to the  Overbye’s “smoke ring framing a one-way portal to eternity.” Says Zarathustra: “Good and evil and joy and pain and I and you —  colored smoke this seemed to me before creative eyes …. Drunken joy it is for the sufferer to look away from his suffering and to lose himself.”

A few minutes later it’s drunken joy for the sufferer of the news of the day to read of “Monster runaway stars,” “the behemoth of nothingness,” “the doughnut of doom,” and “the unknown forces that reign at the center, where theoretically, the density approaches infinity and smoke pours from nature’s computer.”

Thus spoke Overbye, and on the facing page of the Times a feast of subheads: “A black hole is a hungry beast,” “Black holes can sing,” “Black holes are stellar tombstones,” “‘A black hole has no hair,’” “A black hole is not forever.” more

The Westminster Conservatory at Nassau series will continue on Thursday, April 25 at 12:15 p.m. with En famille, a program designed to observe the centennial of the death of Claude Debussy. The recital includes a spoken monologue, readings, and selections from Debussy’s music for piano, performed by Westminster faculty member Mary Greenberg.

The recital will take place in the Niles Chapel of Nassau Presbyterian Church, 61 Nassau Street, and is open to the public free of charge. To avoid a conflict with Holy Week observances, this recital takes place on the fourth, rather than the usual third Thursday of the month. more

“GOLDEN BUDDHA”: Helene Plank’s button and bead mosaic will be featured in the “Mercer Family and Friends 2019” art show at the Lawrence Headquarters Branch of the Mercer County Library System. The show runs May 2 through May 30, with a reception on May 5 from 2 to 4 p.m.

The Lawrence Headquarters Branch of the Mercer County Library System will feature the exhibit “Mercer Family and Friends 2019” from May 2 through May 30. A reception is scheduled for Sunday, May 5, from 2 to 4 p.m. The library is located at 2751 Brunswick Pike (Route 1) in Lawrenceville, at the corner of Route 1 and Darrah Lane.

The common thread among the artists in the exhibit is that all of them were associated with Mercer County Community College. The show features the watercolors of Clara Sue Beym and Margaret Simpson, along with Giancarla Macaluso’s sculptures. Helene Plank’s jewelry and button mosaics will be on display. Margaret Woo will also be exhibiting her jewelry. Connie Cruser will display her works in paper filigree and other mixed media. The show will also feature acrylic paintings by Bill Plank and John A. Brecko Jr.

For more information, call (609) 883-8294, email or visit

“MANHATTAN SKYLINE FROM THE RIVER”: This watercolor by John Marin is featured in “Becoming John Marin: Modernist at Work,” on exhibit at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University through May 26.

The artistic evolution of an iconic American modernist is the focus of an exhibition now open at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers. “Becoming John Marin: Modernist at Work” explores the artist’s intuitive draftsmanship and innovative work in watercolors. A revelatory look at Marin’s work, the exhibition affords a unique opportunity to vicariously watch an artist inspired by his surroundings and responding through drawing.

“Drawing was central to Marin’s artistic process, and he made thousands throughout his career,” said Ann Prentice Wagner, Ph.D., curator of drawings at the Arkansas Arts Center, who organized the exhibition. “These working drawings give us invaluable insights into Marin’s creative process. The on-the-spot sketches are priceless. They capture the artist’s initial ideas about subjects he went on to paint or depict in prints — like the Brooklyn Bridge and the New York skyline.”

“The works featured in ‘Becoming John Marin’ provide both beautiful and exciting examples of Marin’s rigorous drawing practice, and visitors will delight in seeing how he translated familiar regional sites into dynamic compositions,” added Christine Giviskos, Ph.D., curator of prints, drawings, and European art at the Zimmerli. more

FINDING REDEMPTION: In “The Mustang,” a violent criminal (Matthias Schoenaerts) learns to tame his anger by participating in a program that pairs inmates with wild mustangs. (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

By Kam Williams

Roman Coleman (Matthias Schoenaerts) has too quick a fuse to think before he acts. That’s why he’s done a dozen years and counting in a maximum-security prison for impulsively delivering a brutal beating that left his victim permanently brain-damaged. 

Even while incarcerated, Roman never learned to control his temper. Consequently, he’s voluntarily spent the bulk of his time in solitary confinement.

A shot at rehabilitation arrives when Myles (Bruce Dern), a salty old horse whisperer, offers Roman a spot in his program pairing inmates with wild mustangs. The hope is that each participant will learn to tame his own raging inner soul while bonding with his stallion. more

MOVING ON: “I’ve had many wonderful and loyal clients over the years. It has been a great experience, and although Chelsea Crimpers is closed, I still plan to work at what I enjoy doing.” Bob Lovuolo, longtime owner of Chelsea Crimpers hair salon, is proud of his years at the salon, and looks forward to some time off while still being involved in the hair industry.

By Jean Stratton

For more than 45 years, Chelsea Crimpers on Spring Street helped scores of customers look their best. Whether a special style, cut, or color change was needed, owner Bob Lovuolo and his staff could be counted on to provide expert service.

After so many years, Lovuolo decided to close Chelsea Crimpers and take a semi-retirement. “I had an opportunity to sell the building,” he says, “and after all these years, it seemed like a good time to make a change. I still plan to keep my hand in however, and I will be affiliated with the EYStaats & Company Haircutters at 10 Moore Street. I’ll be available for my clients at least two days a week, on Tuesday and Thursday.”

His longtime associate and stylist Armida Bella will also join him at EYStaats. more

April 10, 2019

By Stuart Mitchner

My life has a happy ending.
— Dexter Gordon (1923-1990)

It’s that time of year, Princeton’s in its glory, baseball’s here again, and I’m driving with the windows down listening to Dexter Gordon, a player for all seasons. I can choose from postwar wonders like “Dexter Rides Again,” where Long Tall Dexter comes charging, guns blazing, out of the box, or it might be the headlong post-penitentiary euphoria of “Daddy Plays the Horn” and “Stanley the Steamer,” or the sound of his early 1960s New York renaissance in Go, surely the only jazz album to make it into a Swedish novel in which a character who hears it feels “blessed, clear-headed and strong,” for when you’ve listened to Dexter “you tell nothing but the truth for a long while.”

That quote from Svante Foerster’s novel is among the riches in Maxine Gordon’s Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon (Univ. of California Press), which was the subject of a lively, jazz-ambient conversation late last month at Labyrinth Books between Maxine and Richard Lawn, the author of Experiencing Jazz, and All About Jazz’s Victor L. Schermer. The only thing  lacking was a set of speakers so that everyone present could hear samples of the tenor saxophonist’s massive sound; instead, people happily settled for the story of the fan who fainted when he heard the real thing in person.  more

By Nancy Plum

Boheme Opera NJ is marking its 30th anniversary this season, and the regional opera company is not celebrating quietly. In this past weekend’s productions at the College of New Jersey’s Kendall Mainstage Theater, Boheme Opera NJ took on a blockbuster from a master of Italian dramatic opera in Giuseppe Verdi’s monumental Aida. An opera in four acts (the last two are often combined), Verdi’s 1871 Aida was a departure for the composer in that there were no show-stopping arias of vocal fireworks for superstar singers; rather, the technical demands were evenly spread among all performers. The principal singers assembled by Boheme Opera NJ for Friday night’s performance (the production was repeated Sunday afternoon) consistently demonstrated their mastery of Verdi’s rich harmonic score and musical drama. Against a simple set leaving much of the locale depiction to a digital backdrop, the performers in this production were able to easily captivate the audience throughout the poignant story.

The timeframe of Aida is deliberately vague and open to interpretation, described only as during the “Old Kingdom of Egypt” (covering a good four centuries), and  Boheme Opera NJ placed the story “during the reign of the Pharaohs,” with virtual set artist J. Matthew Root’s digital scenery showing settings of Luxor in Upper Egypt and inner tombs of pyramids while the opening orchestral prelude was played. The orchestra assembled in the pit, and led by Artistic Director and Conductor Joseph Pucciatti, began the opera to the digital accompaniment of the Nile River flowing by as lean violins and graceful wind solos moved the tempo along as smoothly as the Nile. more