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MUSIC: Ventura County | SOUNDS

Cancellation Woes

Concert of renowned composer's works falls victim to slow ticket sales.

April 09, 1998|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

This column was to have included coverage of last Sunday's provocative-sounding "Indonesia Alive!" concert, featuring the music of and commentary from world-renowned composer Lou Harrison.

It promised to be one of the highlights of Ventura County's cultural season, a celebration of non-Western influences on serious music, an issue nicely addressed in the "New Musics Alive!" series.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the down beat. The concert was canceled, abruptly. Some of us were stunned.

The host, the New West Symphony, noting slow advance ticket sales, decided to cut its perceived losses. The symphony's fiscal woes have been in the news of late, with dwindling resources and perhaps short-sighted management invoking an apparent cost-cutting frenzy.

That necessitated a program change in the next symphony concerts, swapping an orchestra-film version of Prokofiev's "Battleship Potemkin" to the more modest production of Charlie Chaplin's charming "City Lights."

That change, however, wasn't nearly as distressing as the Harrison tribute cancellation, which indicates a sad trend in the musical world, which pays lip service to contemporary music but just as often leaves it in the cold.

Is this a case of a resorting to pragmatic decision-making in a time of dire need or has new music again become a sacrificial lamb when the going gets tough?

Ironically, in an interview for the story slated to run last week, Harrison was asked if this concert was an example of the healthiness of musical life outside the mainstream. He replied, "What mainstream? After all, the music of Europe is only one part of the world. There are a lot of mainstreams."

Yes, but apparently the European-dominant one still prevails.

One-Upping the Pirates: Like many a musician with an international following, blues-jazz guitar hero Robben Ford has dealt with the frustrating reality of bootleg recordings on the market. Instead of stewing in resignation over the problem, Ford, of Ojai, did what a few other artists have done: He made an official bootleg album.

Called "The Authorized Bootleg" (Red Bridge/Blue Thumb), it's a fine addition to Ford's growing discography. It's distinctive from his other albums in that it's both a live recording (crisp and clean, in contrast to the spotty quality of bootlegs) and a rare document of the guitarist, unplugged.

Ford has mostly established himself as an electric guitarist with a signature touch and a singing tone. But he brings something unique--a swinging, sophisticated sense of jazz phrasing--to acoustic guitar, as heard on his softly jazzy, nylon-string playing on Rickie Lee Jones' "Pop Pop" and on his soulful steel-string work on this album.

The eight-song set was recorded in December 1995. Ford is joined by his regular bandmates, bassist Roscoe Beck and drummer Tom Brechtlein, and guest pianist Bill Boublitz, and the mood is relaxed, easing into blues-based tunes such as Ford's "Start It Up" and "Tired of Talkin'."

Chamber Season: Those in search of well-honed chamber music have come to savor the concerts presented by Camerata Pacifica, and its season continues tonight and Friday with a program of Mozart and Dvorak.

BE THERE

Camerata Pacifica, Thursday at Music Academy of the West, 1070 Fairway Road, Santa Barbara; Friday at Santa Barbara City College, 721 Cliff Drive. 8 p.m. $23. (800) 557-BACH.

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