Jurassic rock: Dinosaurs in the arenas
by Seth Rogovoy

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., September 12, 2002) -- With the recent addition of Bob Dylan to the arena circuit in November, the fall tour season is overwhelmingly dominated by baby-boomer acts from the 1960s and ‘70s. Joining the 61-year-old Dylan – who stops at the Hartford Civic Center on November 17 – on the long and winding road this fall are Neil Diamond, 61 (Albany’s Pepsi Arena, September 21), Aerosmith, the Rolling Stones (Sir Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are a sprightly 59, drummer Charlie Watts is 61, coming to Hartford on October 5 and returning to Boston on January 12, 2003), Elton John, 55, and Billy Joel, 53 (together in Boston on September 20), Bruce Springsteen (turning 53 in a little over a week, in Boston on October 4 and Albany on December 13), Willie Nelson, 69 (at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., on September 20) and Mr. Long and Winding Road himself, Sir Paul McCartney, 60 (in Hartford on September 27 and Boston on September 30 and October 1).

James Taylor, 54, kicks off his “October Road” tour in the Midwest in November. On what she promises will be her final tour, Cher, 56, performs through the end of the year, coming to Boston with Cyndi Lauper on November 3. Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee have been performing together for 33 of their 49 years as the band Rush (in Boston on October 28), and the Moody Blues, still touring this fall, show no signs of stopping after 38 years.

Former Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant, 54, ends his comeback tour on the West Coast this weekend. Pete Townshend, 57, and Roger Daltrey, 58, of the Who continue their memorial tour in memory of late bassist John Entwhistle, hitting the Midwest through the end of this month – call them Who’s Left. The Other Ones -- or what I like to call the Night of the Living Dead – are the surviving members of the Grateful Dead, coming to Albany’s Pepsi Arena on November 16. The granddaddy of them all, blues singer/guitarist B.B. King, turns 77 on Monday -- bless his heart – and continues his never-ending tour, criss-crossing the U.S. through the end of the year.

And wait, there’s more. Hitting the road next spring are the 50-something members of Fleetwood Mac.

What does it all mean? It depends on your point of view. Maybe it means they don’t make them like they used to, and that there aren’t many younger bands or performers who can consistently attract crowds to 15,000-seat arenas.

Or more likely, maybe it means that Clear Channel, the corporation that overwhelmingly dominates the concert touring business, has discovered that baby-boomer acts command top ticket prices. By recycling old gray rockers who command upwards of $100 a ticket for many of these shows – sometimes three or four times that -- Clear Channel is positioned to capture a tidy profit.

Of course, what this means in the long run is anyone’s guess. But B.B King aside, it’s unlikely that many of these performers will still be rocking out in 10 years. The question remains, with hardly any younger bands being groomed for the long haul, who will take their place?

Recomposing Mahler

Jazz musicians have mostly looked to the blues form and popular standards for the raw material for their improvisations. But for the last few years, pianist and bandleader Uri Caine has turned to the classical repertory for the source of his musical wanderings. In particular, Caine has “recomposed” works by Wagner, Schumann and Bach, using his “Goldberg” Variations as a starting point for his own variations arranged for horns, strings and a DJ.

But Caine – who the New York Times called “an interpretive musicologist” -- is perhaps best known for his imaginative work riffing on Gustav Mahler. Caine’s ongoing exploration of Mahler is documented on two recordings, including the terrific “Urlicht: Primal Light” (Winter and Winter), with a third based on a Mahler song cycle due later this year.

In Caine’s hands, Mahler is alternately a klezmer musician, a Brazilian bossa nova dancer, a free-jazz improviser, a punk-rocker and a gospel singer. Caine digs into Mahler, finding his suppressed Jewish spirit, his dizzying sense of humor and his eclectic, modernist outlook.

Caine is not the first jazz musician to approach European art music from a jazz point of view -- Duke Ellington drew from classical motifs, and Gunther Schuller consciously encouraged the meeting of jazz and classical in his “third stream” music. Nor is he the only musician of his generation doing this sort of work – similar efforts can be found by Don Byron, Dave Douglas and John Zorn.

But Caine’s Mahler work is widely recognized as the most successful and sophisticated jazz approach to classical music. Caine brings his “Reimagining Mahler” program and his ensemble to Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., on Saturday, for a concert in Olin Hall at 8. Caine will also present a free lecture demonstration at 4 in Bard Hall. For more information call 845-876-7666.

Strang music

Picking up where the David Grisman Quintet leaves off, Canada’s Zubot and Dawson plays a unique hybrid of acoustic instrumental music with one foot in traditional country and bluegrass and the other in jazz and jam-rock. The result, as heard on the duo’s second album, “Tractor Parts: Further Adventures in Strang” (Black Hen), garnered the group a Juno Award nomination – the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy Award – for best roots/traditional album.

The duo’s instrumentals are strongly melodic, emphasizing the storytelling inherent in the best Irish music and blues -- thus it’s not surprising to learn that guitarist Steve Dawson got turned onto delta and country blues while studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Jesse Zubot, who plays fiddle and mandolin, was raised on classical music and old-time dance tunes. The group now tours with a bassist and percussionist, and performs at the Iron Horse in Northampton (1-800-THE-TICK) on Wednesday.

[This column originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on September 12, 2002. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2002. All rights reserved.]

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