Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Chick Corea, Chom Chom, an 8-gallery spectacle at The Met & more ...

This past weekend (May 17th-18th) Jazz at Lincoln Center mounted a fete to NEA Jazz Master & 16-time Grammy award winner, Mr. Chick Corea. And well they should, as, according to one spot-on (anonymous) source, Chick Corea has attained "living legend status after four decades of unparalleled creativity and an artistic output that is simply staggering."

Friends of Chick Corea
And, what's more, Jazz at Lincoln Center seems to have devoted all of its resources (and two of its venues) to celebrating the inimitable Chick, in his capacity of composer, musician (pianist), and, well, "friend."  We were, in fact, on hand for the Saturday show (the 2nd, 9:30, show) at The Allen Room (a truly magical venue overlooking Columbus Circle) for the tribute entitled "Friends of Chick Corea: Musicians of the Future."

The concert featured two outstanding young jazz pianists - Beka Gochiashvilli (from Tbilisi, Georgia) & Gadi Lehavi (from Tel Aviv), both friends & proteges of Mr. Corea - as well as Ravi Coltrane (tenor sax), Wallace Roney (trumpet; & Miles Davis mentee), John Patitucci (bass) & Marcus Gilmore (on drums). A varied assortment of Chick's music was on display at this event, including a newly orchestrated selection from his "Three Quartets" album (1997).

Chick on Drums!
But, most memorable - and a true highlight of the  evening - was an appearance by Mr. Corea himself (having just concluded a set in the Rose Theater across the hall, with Wynton Marsalis & the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra) ... jumping around the Allen Room stage, bubbling with his inimitable energy, and enthusiastically promoting great good will among the attendant musicians & members of the concert audience amassed before him.

Seems everyone just had a grand time celebrating the musical "life" & work of this treasured virtuosic pianist-composer, and his decades long presence in & impact on the international jazz scene!

Chom Chom

Just prior to meandering a few blocks over to this Jazz at Lincoln Center event, we (two couples) took some time out for an opportunity to dine at Chom Chom (at 40 W. 56th, between 5th& 6th; tel. 212/213-2299), which offers what they (self-) identify as "modern" Korean cuisine. The food does, indeed, tend toward the modern (in N.Y. Korean terms), is varied in portion sizing & degree of spicy-ness, and tastes just wonderfully appealing throughout all reaches of a very extensive menu, including the small plates and those at the entree size. I might note, also, that the menu neatly divides into, roughly, 7 principal areas - salads; soups/stews; rice entrees; modern kapas (tapas, Korean-style); noodles; homemade dumplings; and dinner entrees. We sampled a batch of interestingly & delicately prepared items from the kapas section, from the rice & dinner entrees areas, as well as a plate of homemade ("handmade with love") shrimp dumplings from ... you know (now) what area of the Chom Chom menu.

Miso Black Cod
Perhaps our tastiest & most piquant dish proved to be the Kalbi Jjim, an entree composed of braised beef short ribs slowly simmered over low heat to a "tender & sweet finish" (@ $30).  We also very much enjoyed the extremely tender & succulent Miso Black Cod ... comprising pieces of miso-marinated black cod served with a red wine balsamic reduction ($15). 

Dolsot Bibimbap
Two other plates we all deemed memorable were the Dolsot Bibimbap ($17), a rice entree with sauteed seasoned vegetables cooked & served in a hot stone bowl, along with "house" chili pepper paste, topped with Bulgogi beef & a "sunny-side up" egg; and Asparagus Shitake ($10), a dish of lightly done asparagus & shitake mushrooms sauteed in a sweet soy reduction.

Two of us washed all of this food down with glasses of Soju Sangria, an infusion of fruits, red wine & traditional "soju" [a  Korean distilled beverage] ($10/glass), while the other two of us quaffed two bottles of a very flavorful lager-style Korean brew, OB Beer ($7), along with our portion of the dinner.

Indeed, Chom Chom provides a unique dining experience in a friendly, attentive & comfortable mid-town environment. If you're anywhere near 5th (or 6th) Avenue & anywhere in or around the west 50s - and have a hankering for (Asian) food in the growing Korean "modern" domain - I urge you to give this resto a try. If you do, and love it ... well, we'll just keep that our secret!

During the past few seasons, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 5th Ave., at 82nd St.) has curated several truly spectacular shows in the sector where art reflects fashion (couture) & fashion (couture) parallels and, sometimes, metamorphoses into art. 

Currently, "Impressionism, Fashion & Modernity," is just such a show, just such a spectacle, well worth a visit ... a must see that is ending, regrettably, next week. If you make your way to The Met soon, you will witness eight galleries replete with fabulous modernist/impressionist paintings, sculpture & fashion items, for example, that are well known (e.g., by Manet, Renoir, Degas) and others that are, simply, new to you.

"The Swing"
The notion - the point of view - that fashion is art, is reflected in art, or underlies certain themes & content of specific paintings, while not new at all ... is, again, spectacularly on view here in these 8 galleries, in numerous paintings, sculptures, photographs, fashion plates & assorted preserved period pieces (including everything from summer dresses for the park, to evening wear, to hats, scarves & accessories of all sorts, and even men's suits, shoes & les chapeaux).

The Black Dress
Summing up - according to The Met's online description of this show - you will see the major role that fashion played "in the works of the Impressionists and their contemporaries." You will explore "the vital relationship between fashion and art during the pivotal years, from the mid-1860s to the mid-1880s, when Paris emerged as the style capital of the world." And, finally, you will witness the celebrated writers & painters of the then current Parisian avant-garde (Monet, Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Zola) as they "turned a fresh eye to contemporary dress, embracing la mode as the harbinger of la modernité."
By the way, before you leave the museum, you might want to rest your now weary legs for just a bit and sit down to have a look at Street (running through May 27th), a new & unique video by James Nares. Shooting with a camera from a car moving almost randomly throughout The City, at a remarkably scaled down pace, Mr. Nares explores the streets - and faces "peopling" the streets - of New York City, very literally, indeed.  

(If you should miss this idiosyncratic, 3-D-like video now showing at The Met, be on the lookout for Street to surface again; you can bet it will turn up soon at some other city venue.)

Federico Garcia Lorca
And, finally, if you have some spare time, an hour or so, and find yourself near The New York Public Library (The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, 5th Ave. & 42nd St.), stop in to see the important new exhibit entitled "Back Tomorrow: Federico Garcia Lorca, Poet in New York" (through July 20th). 

Letter to His Sisters
Organized jointly by the Fundacion Federico Garcia Lorca, NYPL & Accion Cultural Espanola, this small but painstakingly curated exhibit on Lorca's 1929 nine-month visit to New York City (followed by three months lecturing in Havana) fully documents the period during which he composed Poet in New York, the unique collection of his poems inspired by New York City & published posthumously in 1940 after a long period of time missing ... "mysteriously disappeared, lost to scholars."

Lorca Self-Portrait w/Black Beast
Ostensibly in New York to study English at Columbia University, Garcia Lorca devoted his time to the creation of the poems that would, ultimately, comprise Poet in New York. The NYPL exhibit brings together, for the first time, an unusually complete compendium of drawings, photographs, letters, mementos, typescripts & manuscript pages, tracing the genesis of, & basis for, Poet in New York " ... and of New York in a poet." 

If you are in the area, visit NYPL (soon) and have at least a brief look at the life of the poet behind this masterful collection of poems!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Renata Adler at The Center for Fiction, Darbar, New York City Ballet & "Hannah Arendt" at Montclair Film Festival - Part 2

In order to round out & fill in this follow-up (and 2nd) portion 
Jerome Robbins

of my most recent post - a synoptic view of a few Metro Area cultural events attended - I'll present and discuss just a few more memorable events ... dance performances (The New York City Ballet ... offering up an all Jerome Robbins program of upbeat, seemingly casual & sophisticated, relatively contemporary balletic theater pieces); more food (Brasilina, featuring a line-up of authentic Brazilian delicacies); and cinema (Margarethe von Trotta's feature film, Hannah Arendt). 

Here goes ...

Morton Gould
A part of Lincoln Center's American Music Festival, the May 4th, Saturday evening all-Robbins program (performed at the David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center Plaza) was assembled, according to the NYC Ballet "official" (Playbill) program, to honor the centennial of the birth of Morton Gould, the Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer who was a long time colleague of both George Balanchine & Jerome Robbins. Thus, two of three ballets performed (and choreographed by Robbins), featured two of Gould's better known musical works for the ballet: Interplay and I'm Old Fashioned.  

Interplay, which had its New York City Ballet Premiere in
December,1952, is a bouncy, colorful, upbeat, and playful sequence comprising four unified and unifying movements with titles like "free play" (showcasing the full cast, and the interplay between and among eight quirky but spunky dance personae, 4 male, 4 female); "horseplay" (a single male dancer rhythmically & emphatically just, well, horsing around the stage making his "solo" masculine case and fortified with an ego supported by very strong, sound movements); "byplay" (a light & lyrical, "bluesy" pas de deux); and "team play" involving the interplay, once again, of the full cast ... with lots of rhythmic movement, male-female (or, better, really, girl-boy) pairings, and the kind of quick & intense dancing you might find in a Broadway musical like Oklahoma, but reflecting a more refined, controlled & delicate moment in the "action")

Apparently, the ballet depicts the interplay of classical and more popular (i.e., "vernacular") choreography and Robbins is said to have "experimented with choreographic patterns and the interactions of [his] dancers in various formations." (Note the photo.) The 3rd section of the ballet, "byplay," the bluesy pas de deux mentioned above, and showcasing Lauren Lovette & Taylor Stanley, reflects a stark contrast - from within Robbins' plan & Gould's score - with the "joyfully competitive spirit of the [whole] ballet." During this performance of Interplay, kudos, it should be noted, must go to the orchestra's solo pianist, Ms. Susan Walters, whose work clearly complemented the production, while accentuating its lyricism. 
I'm Old Fashioned (with music, again, by Morton Gould, after a  Jerome Kern  song, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer) is Robbins' rich &  wonderful tribute to Fred Astaire. The central dance sequence - the glamorous waltzes - constitute the motif throughout the ballet & are reprised almost cinematically leading up toward the finale by the full dance troupe with dancers, male & female, in stunning, sophisticated black garb recalling Mr. Astair and Rita Hayworth who waltz crisply in a projected scene from the film - You Were Never Lovelier - toward the beginning of the ballet and another at the very end. 

The whole ballet, and certainly the last few minutes, is danced in a relatively smooth and slow waltz ... and the whole production takes on a semi-magical, fairy-tale (Hollywood!) aura contrasting the steps of the cast of the New York City Ballet - waltzing slowly - with the larger-than-life figures of Fred Astair & partner projected on the screen, just above center stage.

Fancy Free

Fancy Free is all Robbins & Bernstein - upbeat, lyrical, clever, full of emotional content (affect) ... percolating with lots of rhythm, pseudo-dramatic speech & body language, and balletic pyrotechnics from all three "sailor"-dancers looking for action in a we've-come-
Fancy Free
ashore-in-New-York-City narrative ... and an inspiration for the full-length musical you all know well, On the Town (with Gene Kelly & Frank Sinatra). Fancy Free is a great deal of fun, a fine ensemble piece, with moments of spectacular solo/individual dancing, funny, sad, competitive, naturalistic, whimsical! 

Note:  If seeing a ballet performance, or two (or three), at Lincoln Center kindles your taste buds, or, on the other hand, if you feel the need to eat before attending such an event, the Lincoln Square Business Improvement District has now published exactly what you need: its most recent (2012-2013) Restaurant & Bar Guide. Entitled "Where to Eat in Lincoln Square," the guide is free & available at Lincoln Center. It is a compact & rather comprehensive pamphlet listing establishments for food & drink of every kind & category in the immediate area, from "cheap" to "very expensive," even providing you with a street map of the locality & appropriate headings - "American (New & Traditional)," "Cafes, Bakeries & Sweets," "Bars & Lounges," "Quick Casual," "Mediterranean" - for easy reading/scanning and, perhaps, texting or tweeting your favorite dining companions about your final choice!
We selected Brasilina, at 55th & 9th Ave. (836 9th; 212/969-9970) a resto just outside the bounds of the Lincoln Square guide, but just a quick seven-block trot to the David H. Koch Theater & the NYC Ballet. This impressive medium-size quirky resto - producing & purveying a rich selection of Brazilian delicacies - might just hit the spot for you ... especially if you feel like concentrating on "belisquetes" (appetizers/small plates) such as the ceviche de vieiras (scallop ceviche, citrus pickled red onions, bloody Mary "dices" & a side of French baguette toasts, served in 3 individual shot glasses; @ $15); their spunky (somewhat fiery) take on traditional guacamole (@ $6); or the salgados (assorted Brazilian croquettes, including chicken "Cosinha," beef "kibe" & codfish "Bolinho de Bacalhau"; @ $9).
To this list of small plates noted above I must add one outstanding entree:  the galeto organico ... an organic free range Cornish hen, plated along with a cup of "creamy" corn & spring rice ... a crispy-skinned tender, juicy & flavorful bird simply grilled to perfection (@ $24). Brasilina offers beer & wines by the glass and they have a very diverse wine list, from which we chose a moderately priced French rose (2010; Estandon, Cotes de Provence, @ $30) ... and did that twice! 

From Haute Cuisine
And, finally, to cinema (as promised up above) and a brief mention of the 2013 Montclair Film Festival (2nd annual, April 29th-May 5th) - presenting more than 80 films in all kinds of categories & genres, with special events, seminars, talks, directorial & critical insights, post-film Q & A sessions, and much more ... with something for just about any taste, orientation or subject matter preference. They've even curated a new category, "Culinary Cinema," offering up, for example, such imports as Haute Cuisine (2012; directed by Christian Vincent; & sold out early!), a comic narrative film inspired by the modest actual "provincial chef who was summoned in the 1980s" to serve as "personal cook for French President Mitterand." Hopefully, the film will open shortly in The NY Metro Area (or, perhaps, already has by now) and we'll have a chance to view it. After all, the provincial chef, Daniele Delpeuch - and the politics & difficulties surrounding her situation in the Elysee Palace kitchens - had been profiled in some depth recently in a "Saturday People" column in The New York Times.

But, among the numerous top-notch films offered at this festival, the one we really wanted to see was Hannah Arendt, a film by Margarethe von Trotta (2012) that presents a fairly comprehensive portrait of Arendt - her ideas (e.g., the "banality of evil" that evolved out of her Eichmann coverage & analysis); her publications; her circle of "expat" friends, lovers, interlocuters & enemies ... in New York, Jerusalem & Germany. 

Arendt at Eichmann Trial
The film events take place primarily during the period of the Eichmann trial which Arendt covered eagerly & relentlessly, beginning in the Jerusalem District Court in April 1961, in a series of in-depth, severe, indiosyncratic, analytical articles for The New Yorker, under assignment by the then editor, William Shawn. She was, it turned out, praised in some quarters for her Eichmann trial articles (& her book-length compilation entitled Eichmann in Jerusalem) and savaged & pilloried in others for purporting to present Holocaust survivors & European Jewish leaders, in general, as not only victims but, in some sense, accessories to, complicit in & masters of, the insidious & horrendous "manufacture" of the death of European Jewry. An enlightening, multi-perspective Q & A took place following the film, featuring various responses by Roger Berkowitz, Academic Director of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics & Humanities at Bard College in New York's lower Hudson Valley (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY). The film is engrossing throughout, the acting extremely fine & subtle all around ... with kudos, particularly, to Barbara Sukowa (as the brilliant German-Jewish emigree, Hannah Arendt) & to the director, Ms. von Trotta.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Renata Adler at The Center for Fiction, Darbar, New York City Ballet & "Hannah Arendt" at Montclair Film Festival - Part 1

During the past few weeks we've attended a batch of noteworthy events - both large scale & small format - that we'd just like to single out (below) in this synoptic overview ... just a few events, that is, out of numerous readings/presentations, dance performances & films seen in and around the New York Metro area.

Renata Adler
Center for Fiction

On April 16th, a petite, rather thin,75-year-old Renata Adler - idiosyncratic journalist, novelist &, well, tendentious film critic - appeared at The Center for Fiction to a standing-room-only crowd in conjunction with the reissue by NYRB  "Classics," the book-publishing arm of The New York Review of Booksof her only two published (short) novels: Speedboat (1976; winner of the Ernest Hemingway Award for Best First Novel) and Pitch Dark (1983). Typically, during these sorts of events, Ms. Adler  read from her two most celebrated novelistic works, and from other sources (a new novel, some reviews) ... and generously answered questions, both of a personal and professional nature. Still quite the character, Adler also submitted to a lengthy interview, posted online at The Center web site where she spoke of "creating sentences, weathering controversy, dealing with the necessary annoyance[s] of computers," as well as admitting to her feelings of awe when facing the likes of master fiction writers such as Isaac Babel & Henry James - and, surprisingly, in facing Oprah.

According to The Center for Fiction event handout & thorough online publicity, Ms. Adler was born in Milan and raised in Connecticut. She received a B.A. from Bryn Mawr; an M.A. in Comparative Literature from Harvard (working under I.A. Richards & Roman Jakobson); a doctorate from the Sorbonne where she studied philosophy, structuralism & linguistics under the tutelage of Claude Levi-Strauss; and a J.D. from Yale Law School, along with an LL.D. (honorary) from Georgetown. Adler became a staff writer at The New Yorker in 1963 and, except for a year as the chief film critic of The New York Times, remained at The New Yorker for the next four decades. Her books, in addition to the two reissued novels mentioned above, include A Year in the Dark (1969); Toward a Radical Middle (1970); Reckless Disregard: Westmoreland v. CBS et al., Sharon v. Time (1986); Canaries in the Mineshaft (2001); Gone: The Last Days of The New Yorker (1999); and Irreparable Harm: The U.S. Supreme Court and The Decision That Made George W. Bush President (2004). 

The reading/presentation proved interesting, even galvanizing in spots, and Ms. Adler's face & her voice will be etched in our collective memories for some time to come. She graciously signed the colorful new NYRB paperback editions of Speedboat  ("a novel, a memoir, a lyric essay?") & Pitch Dark ("a book of questions, questions that bedevil" the protagonist, Kate Ennis ... which adds up to [according to The Boston Globe] "a moving, infuriating, tantalizing book") amidst enthusiastic guests, with their cups of wine, who had just composed the rather full & involved audience.

Just so you know, The Center for Fiction, located at 17 East 47th, between 5th and Madison (tel. 212/755-6710), offers numerous programs, focusing on writers (short story writers, memoir writers); writing processes; seminars & master classes; literary fiction writing, crime fiction, novels, novelists ... and many of the events are freeDo check out  their web site and you will find, for example, that the celebrated novelist, James Salter, will be reading from (and signing) his new novel, All That Is, on the evening of May 15th at 7:00.  Might not be too late to reserve tickets & attend!
If you do check out their web site, you will find out immediately that The Center for Fiction - which was founded in 1820 as the Mercantile Library - "is the only organization in the United States devoted solely to the vital art of fiction." The Center's stated mission consists in encouraging "people to read and value fiction and to support and celebrate its creation and enjoyment."  They go on to state that ...

   With all our resources, including our exceptional book collection, our beautiful  
     reading room, our expanding website, and our ever-growing array of creative 
     programs, we seek  to serve the reading public, to build a larger audience for    
     fiction, and to create a place where readers and writers can share their passion for 

The Center for fiction is the only not-for-profit literary organization in the U.S. exclusively dedicated to "celebrating fiction" ...  working "every day to connect readers and writers." And, The Center is clearly growing, cultivating an audience for its varied & various programs and, in my view, is indeed succeeding in creating a nexus where writers & readers can share their passion for literature

The Center - Bookshop
Finally, it might be to your advantage to visit The Center Bookshop, on the ground floor of their historic building (again, at 17 East 47th St.) to witness the large selection of new and used volumes and "gifts for readers at great prices." The Center reminds us that beyond the web-based  bookstore, "we still maintain an old-fashioned bookshop where visitors can find exciting new voices, undiscovered gems, beloved classics and books signed by many of the leading writers who are appearing at The Center, along with lit t-shirts, note cards and more! We stock all reading group books, and all of our stock is 25% off the cover price, with an additional 10% off for members. Used books start at just $2!"

M. Proust
I look forward to becoming acquainted with fellow fiction enthusiasts at The Center where we can chat about, listen to - and indulge in - the work of such varied writers as Claire Messud, Jim Shepard, Jamie Quatro, James Salter, Sam Lipsyte, Rivka Galchen, Don DeLillo, Louis Begley, Roxana Robinson, Luis Alberto Urrea,  William H. Gass, even Marcel Proust ... and many, many more!

If you plan on attending an event at The Center for Fiction, I'd suggest a visit to nearby Darbar (for lunch or dinner; at 152 E. 46 St., Tel. 212/681-4500), an Indian resto & lounge, with friendly service that is, according to Zagat, "dependably delicious as well as affordable."  It is, indeed, a friendly spot, with an attentive & helpful wait staff delivering "the goods" from a kitchen adept at preparing extremely tasty Indian delicacies - from appetizers to Tandoori breads, Tandoori entrees to chicken, lamb & goat mains, as well as fish courses and succulent vegetable main plates, like Eggplant Korma (cubed eggplant prepared in a creamy sauce; @ $11.) or Eggplant Bhartha (baked eggplant sauteed with onions & tomatoes; @ $11).   

On this particular visit, three of us ate quite a lot of food - a few appetizer plates, an entree each, an order of Garlic Naan, coupled with plentiful Basmati rice, a few glasses of cold Indian beer, and a glass or two of Malbec) - all adding up to a small feast for less than $30. per person!  The best dishes proved to be the Chicken La Jawab (or chicken cooked with ginger, garlic, tomatoes & chilies and sprinkled with fresh herbs, ginger & spices; @ $13) ... and the Chef's Special Chicken Malai (chicken simmered with aromatic spices in a cream sauce; @ $13).  
Garlic Naan Bread

Two of the appetizers proved superbly tasty:  the Crab Cake (a chunk of Maine crab flavored with curry leaves & ginger; @ $10) and the Gobi Manchurian (cauliflowers sauteed with ginger, garlic & soy sauce; also $10).  Indeed, there is much on the rich Darbar menu to explore upon a return trip!