music, technology & life in pasadena, california

Short Takes II

Jon Herrington plays some of the best guitar I’ve heard in a long time on Donald Fagen’s latest CD, Morph The Cat. His website is full of great info for guitarists and gear heads, plus his own CDs are available along with preview tracks. Morph The Cat has been in constant rotation in my car along with Mark Knopfler’s latest, Shangri-La.

Does anyone else think that GM’s $1.99-a-gallon-gas-for-one-year offer in order to move their biggest gas-guzzlers, like the Chevy Suburban and the Hummer, is totally irresponsible?

I’m beginning the last week of the LA Opera’s Grendel performances and I have to say that it’s been an interesting engagement. Reviews have been very favorable but none of the critics have focused on the music as much as I would have thought. Costumes, dancing, puppetry, lighting and direction get a lot of mention but Elliot Goldenthal’s music seems to get lost in the shuffle in these reviews. Opera is about many things, but first and foremost it’s the music. In 100 years, will we remember anyone but the composer?

I got a chance to meet Elliot early on, before orchestra rehearsals began. He wanted to meet with the two guitarists (Mitch Holder was my partner in crime for this month-long pit party) and discuss style and sounds. He’s a pretty inventive guy who wants to check out all options available to him. He had some great ideas and solicited suggestions from us as well. There were some pretty rocking parts, totally raw, which caused some heads to turn in an orchestra pit filled with 100 players.

Anyway, it was hard to put a finger on the musical style of the opera because it was such a moving target. It ranged from tonal to atonal, rock to punk to funk, with even some jazzy interludes that sounded straight out of 1970s TV detective shows. But I thought the music was at its best when he tweaked the more traditional classical style on its ear in such beautiful pieces as “The Queen’s Eyes” and “Flight of Fancy”. Elliot’s talent is far-reaching and very broad. It covers every base and that’s why I’m looking forward to hearing his next project. Besides, how can you not love a guy who writes for not one, but two screaming electric guitars in an opera?

Once again, via the LA Times, we have the latest news from the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas. The Broadway show, Avenue Q, which was a main attraction at the hotel, closed after a short nine-month run. I wonder what this could mean for the Wynn’s upcoming production of Monty Python’s Spamalot? Down the street at the Luxor, Hairspray closed after just a four-month run with disappointing ticket sales. It may turn out that Vegas fans just aren’t into mixing Broadway shows with their gambling and other debauchery.

And finally, if you’re in the neighborhood of Raymond and California Avenues here in Pasadena, check out Jones Coffee Roasters. They roast their own over there, and when they do, the incredible aroma settles over a five-block radius. You almost don’t even need to order an espresso to get the full effect but you’ll be glad you did, especially now that a few of the other local standbys seem to be off their game lately.

June 12, 2006 | Link to this entry


Paul Viapiano is a guitarist working in film, television and live performance based in sunny Pasadena, California.

You can email me here.

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