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Marimba Magic

Chamber concert will feature the rarely heard percussion instrument.

February 09, 2001|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

This week's entry in the Camerata Pacifica season of fine chamber music concerts features one of the dimly illuminated corners of the instrumental world.

To put it plainly, the marimba hasn't exactly set the classical world on fire, but one of its master performers, Robert van Sice, would like to get a bit of equal time.

Composers such as Steve Reich have recognized the power and beauty of the instrument, a type of xylophone, and well-known percussionists such as Evelyn Glennie have helped give it more exposure. And Van Sice, who heads the percussion department at Yale University and performs to acclaim around the world, is doing his share to spread the gospel.

Van Sice will be the guest performer on a program that includes Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu's "Toward the Sea" and Thierry de May's "Musique de Table." He will also be one of three percussionists playing Telemann's "Tafelmusik," with a table as an instrument.

Also on the program is the premiere of Stephen Ridley's "Chamberism," and, for good minimalist measure, the concert will end with Reich's classic "Sextet," with three percussionists and assorted instruments.

DETAILS

Camerata Pacifica, tonight at Santa Barbara City College, 721 Cliff Drive in Santa Barbara; Saturday at Serra Hall, San Buenaventura Mission, 211 E. Main St. in Ventura; and Sunday at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza's Forum Theater, 2000 Thousand Oaks Blvd. All performances are at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25; (800) 557-BACH.

*

WHITHER JAZZ? "A Night of Jazz" at the Lobero Theatre on Monday should not be confused with the Lobero's ongoing jazz concert series, which continues Thursday with pianist Billy Taylor.

In fact, "A Night of Jazz" might be a bit of a misnomer, in that the real focus is on the controversial, easygoing sound of "smooth jazz," as represented by trumpeter Rick Braun, vocalists Jonathan Butler and Marilyn Scott, and veteran jazz hybridizer Tom Scott (no relation to Marilyn). This is the second annual affair, put together by guitarist Tariqh Akoni as a benefit for the Endowment for Youth Committee. The event also memorializes Akoni's father, Abdulhamid Akoni, an avid supporter of community projects.

Akoni has made impressive inroads in the professional music world, having performed with Chaka Khan, George Duke and, most recently, as a new member of the Backstreet Boys. But it was Akoni's connection as the regular guitarist with Tom Scott, saxophonist and founder of L.A. Express, that brings Scott to Santa Barbara.

As humble and crowd-pleasing a player as Scott is, he has played an important role in developing a certain avenue of jazz in the last few decades.

Along with creating an early form of pop and funk-influenced jazz with the L.A. Express in the early 1970s, Scott has brought jazz elements to bear in his work with Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan. Scott started his career in a mainstream style and has occasionally returned to that mother lode, as with his early '90s album "Born Again."

"I started out as a straight-ahead jazz player," Scott said. "That's what I did. That's what I loved. There was no niche in music for contemporary or more popular, melodic sort of jazz then."

He has trod mainly in the more pop-lined jazz vein, up through his last album, 1999's "Smokin' Section." Scott has almost finished a new album, although the recent folding of his label, Windham Hill Jazz, has put a crimp in his release plans.

Scott, who unwittingly helped lay out the plans for what has become the broad "smooth jazz" market, sees his role in music as an unapologetic populist.

"I've always performed the kind of music that made me happy and also made the audience happy," he said. "I'm not a person who likes to perform music and the audience be damned. I've always perceived that there's a middle ground between what I enjoy and what the audience enjoys."

DETAILS

"A Night of Jazz," 8 p.m. Monday at the Lobero Theatre, 33 W. Canon Perdido St. in Santa Barbara. Tickets are $35-$43; 963-0761.

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