Jazzin’ It Up, Turtle Style 🎻 Turtle Island Quartet @ VPAC

Turtle Island Quartet with Cyrus Chestnut (VPAC)userpic=ucla-csunLast night was one of those rare mid-week concerts. We normally don’t schedule mid-week, but the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) is almost walking distance, which makes it possible. This concert was advertised as a string quartet that was doing a program based on Jelly Roll Morton, Theloneous Monk, and Ragtime. This is the type of jazz I like (Morton), and the type of jazz my wife likes (Monk), so it was a no brainer. It ended up being a thoroughly delightful evening.

This production was part of the “on-stage” series, meaning that the audience is limited to 250 people, and we sit on-stage with the performers, looking out at the empty hall. This brought a wonderful intimacy to the show; one could watch closely how the performers were fingering, as well as their expressions as they got into the music.

The Turtle Island Quartet (FB) plays what is called Jazz Violin, meaning they can go anywhere from normal string quartet fare with a jazz flair, to bluegrass-tinged jazz, to full-on jazz. I kept thinking they would be great for the Woodsongs stage, with their odd range and high quality. Although they did a few solo numbers, for most of their numbers they were joined with Cyrus Chestnut on piano. I didn’t keep a complete list of the numbers, but there were a few Jelly Roll Morton numbers, a large numbers of Theloneous Monk numbers, some Scott Joplin, some Jazz Debussey, and a number by Bud Powell. There was also a jazzy version of Tea for Two.

Shows such as this demonstrate why one goes to live performance: much of the program was improvised: what we saw will never be seen or heard again. It was a shared experience of 255 people, plus ushers. We come home the better for it.

We also came home with one of their CDs. Live performance: you come home with music and memories.

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Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I had been subscribing at three theatres:  The Colony Theatre (FB), Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), and REP East (FB): but all have gone or are going dark (update: Cabrillo is coming back!), I just added a subscription to the  Hollywood Pantages (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: This weekend brings the penultimate show of this Cabrillo season: “Children of Eden” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on April 10. The following weekend’s theatre is on Thursday, because the weekend brings our annual visit to the Renaissance Faire (Southern). The Thursday show is Stella’s Last J-Date at the Whitefire Theatre (FB). The fourth weekend in April is is Pesach, but the Indie Chi Productions dark comedy Dinner at Home Between Deaths at the Odyssey Theatre (FB) sounded so interesting I’ve booked Sunday tickets. The last weekend of April will be the Four Clowns (FB) production of Lunatics and Actors at the LA Shakespeare Center on April 30. May starts with Endgame at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB). We then run off to the Bay Area for our daughter’s graduation from Berkeley. While there, we are seeing the Landmark Musical Theatre (FB)’s West Coast Regional Premiere of The Boy from Oz (but pay no attention to that production behind the curtain — if they start the same day, they are simultaneous premieres and both have equal bragging rights). May 21 has a hold for Los Angeles: Then and Now, a new musical at LA City College (FB) from Bruce Kimmel. The last weekend of May has holds for the MoTAS Outing to the Jethawks, and Armadillo Necktie at The Group Rep (FB). As for June? It’s the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve started to hold dates for the following shows: All Aboard the Marriage HearseAll The Best Killers are LibrariansQaddafi’s Cook — Living in Hell, Cooking for the DevilSqueeze My CansTell Me On A Sunday   Toxic Avenger: The Musical  ✨  Vintage BoxEinstein Titus Andronicus Jr.The Old Woman Sweet Love AdieuMy Big Fat Blond MusicalAlien vs. MusicalHamlet (Las Vegas Style) ✨. But that’s just a small percentage; there are over 200 shows listed now.  We thought about Love The Body Positive, but then again… no. Can’t be scaring people.  As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.