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Summer Splash | AGUSTIN GURZA

A Family of Diverse Tastes

May 25, 2000|AGUSTIN GURZA | Agustin Gurza is a Times Metro columnist

Could this be my 25th summer in La-La Land? Already? Have I spent a quarter century living in exile from my City by the Bay?

I kept vowing I would return some day to Northern California. Call it San Francisco snobbery. We had class; L.A. was crass.

Then one day my son turned into a teenager with a permanently appended skateboard and a die-hard allegiance to the local beach cities he called home. He kept vowing he'd never leave.

"I love L.A.," he would say.

"Well, you know where I left my heart," I'd retort.

On a balmy, carefree afternoon in the Bay Area, I got my first kiss on a backyard swing. I was in the seventh grade, but the girl belonged to my older brother. We had to stop, in the name of love.

Later, I developed my own tastes and passed other milestones. I attended my first rock screamer (the Beatles at Candlestick Park). Took my Mom to my first musical ("Kiss Me Kate" at the Curran Theatre). Found my own girlfriend and took her to my first antiwar demonstration capped by a free concert in the park (Crosby, Stills & Nash at Golden Gate Park).

Hot town! Summer in the city.

At home, the entertainment was more traditional. My father had Lawrence Welk on the television and Perez Prado on the new stereophonic console made by Curtis Mathis. My mother listened to Italian opera on her bedside radio and adored the sermons by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, a pioneer televangelist.

They both loved Mexican music.

If they were still with us, I'd bring them to visit me this summer. There's something for all of us on this year's multicultural calendar.

My dad used to say you couldn't find a great mariachi in San Jose, our hometown. So he'd probably let out a yell to find several on one stage during the Mariachi USA Festival at the Hollywood Bowl (June 10-11). There was nothing like it in his day, so I'm sure he wouldn't mind the excesses. Besides, he had his corny side, just like this annual show does.

I wonder if he'd appreciate the contemporary ranchera stars who appeal to me. Ana Gabriel, at the Universal Amphitheatre (July 22-23), has a raw, raspy voice that's ideal for the heartbreak of Mexican country music. By contrast, Pepe Aguilar, on the same stage (Aug. 20), will croon finely crafted ballads in a honey-smooth style. He's much more mellow than his father, Antonio, the singer-cowboy my father would have known.

My mom's tastes were always more refined. In pop music, she liked the late Agustin Lara and Pedro Vargas. But her real love was classical.

She must have been playing Beethoven while I was in the crib; his symphonies always rang familiar to my ear. I'm sure my mother would enjoy the "Ode to Joy" at the climax of the complex Ninth Symphony performed by the YMF Debut Orchestra at the Bowl (June 29).

I'd bring Mom back to Hollywood's outdoor amphitheater for a reprise of a show we took her to see on one of her final Christmases. Who can tire of the San Francisco Ballet dancing "Swan Lake" (Sept 2-3) during the "Tchaikovsky Spectacular?" (I inherited her Tchaikovsky albums.)

Regrets? Wish I had thought of this summer visit while my parents were still alive. Earthly time is so short. Makes me want to plan something with my son, although outings with Dad are not so cool at a certain age.

Perhaps I'll just buy two tickets for my 18-year-old and a friend to see the Dave Matthews Band at Glen Helen Blockbuster Pavilion (July 29). That's my thanks to him for turning me on to Matthews' intense live CD, which he plays perpetually in his room down the hall.

And now for the true teenage test: How much does my son really love L.A? Enough to join me for the world premiere (June 2) of "The Education of Randy Newman"? We'll have a month of chances to catch together the witty songwriter's show at South Coast Repertory.

But wild horses couldn't drag my boy to some other shows I'd love to see.

The soulful Cesaria Evora, who's from Cape Verde, at the Greek (June 30); South African Miriam Makeba paired with Cuban-born diva Albita at the Bowl (July 16), part of World Festival 2000. And as a special treat to satisfy my thirst for jazz-tinged American standards, crooner Tony Bennett and sultry singer-pianist Diana Krall with the L.A. Philharmonic (Aug. 4)--and that's my very last stop at the Hollywood Bowl.

"The loveliness of Paris seems somehow sadly gay. . . ."

That would never work as a salsa song, even for Marc Anthony, who's had a big year. The wiry Nuyorican will surely wow fans at the Greek Theatre (June 19-20), as he did me last year at the Mayan. But for my money, the most exciting salsa/jazz show will be the rare appearance of Canadian saxophonist Jane Bunnett and her Spirits of Havana. She beat Ry Cooder to Cuba by several years and found much more progressive musicians to work with.

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