The celebrated Spanish tenor Jose Carreras has built a solid reputation in the alternate cultural reality of the opera world over the past 25 years. But the general public may now know him best for his pop-cultural appearances as the slender third of the Three Tenors, who have just released another recording, "Live in Paris."
Since they first performed for the World Cup in 1994, this vocal super-group, with Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo, has been beloved by audiences and generally dismissed by critics as a marketing novelty. But no one can dismiss the act's widespread popularity and Herculean sales figures, usually reserved for arena rock acts. It's a bona fide cultural phenomenon.
Carreras will perform in the area tonight as just one tenor, in an exclusive Southern California appearance at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.
The recital program will be well-stocked with arias from prominent opera composers, including Bellini, Puccini, Scarlatti and Leoncavallo, as well as music of the 20th century Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera.
American Song Heritage: Jazz makes its presence known on a regular basis in the Ford house in Ojai, where noted blues-jazz guitarist Robben Ford and his wife, actress-singer Anne Kerry Ford, live. By natural extension, the musical menu includes show tunes, an ongoing seedbed of the standards that jazz musicians play off.
But when Anne digs into the repertoire of show tunes, there's nary a blues riff in sight or a whiff of jazz scatting. Her milieu is all about the clean, improvisation-free expression of tunes, with a burnished tone and smartly deployed vibrato. Her second CD project, "Something Wonderful," has just come out on the LML Music label, and, like her debut of last year, it's a solid, no-nonsense showcase for American songs, suitable for listeners of all ages and genre tastes.
The conceptual thread this time has to do with the creative lineage extended from the venerable Oscar Hammerstein to the younger Stephen Sondheim, who have a sturdier connection than might be expected.
The set is framed by two Sondheim songs--"Something's Coming" from West Side Story and "With So Little to be Sure Of" from "Anyone Can Whistle." Hammerstein tunes such as "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'," "Edelweiss" and the album's title track, if more sentimental than Sondheim, have a comparable blend of sophistication and warmth.
The production aesthetic here is simple but effective, a good vehicle for her empathetic vocal treatments. Mostly, she is joined by her keyboardist accompanist, John Boswell, with occasional guest appearances by Robben on acoustic guitar, bassist Nico Abondolo--using arco for a cello-like effect--and accordionist Brian Mann.
Since committing to explore American song in the last few years, Ford has been performing in clubs and cabarets, including the Gardenia Room in Hollywood and the Triad in Manhattan, where she performed last month. The intimacy of the supper-club atmosphere is captured in two tunes recorded live in San Francisco's Plush Room.
The not-so-lost art of the show tune is something of a thriving subculture. Ford continues to carry the torch with passion and precision.
* Jose Carreras, tonight at 8 p.m. at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd. in Thousand Oaks. 449-ARTS (449-2787).