The cultural highlights in our region this weekend include a cutting-edge sound installation, a jazz piano genius, a new look at Elvis Presley … plus a whole lot more…
The Auditory After Hours series at MASS MoCA in North Adams continues this month with three Saturday nights featuring a recorded soundscape to accompany a visit to the museum’s galleries by cutting-edge indie-pop duo Sylan Esso. The husband-and-wife team recorded a live modular set incorporating sounds from past albums, creating a vibrant, tailor-made sound installation. Advance, timed tickets are required.
World-class pianist and composer Kenny Werner was awarded the 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship Award for his seminal work, No Beginning No End - a musical journey exploring tragedy and loss, death and transition, and the path from one lifetime to the next. Werner is also known for his series of stellar duos with harmonica virtuoso Toots Thielemans, and collaborations with guitarist John Scofield, bassist Dave Holland and saxophonist Joe Lovano, all the while—for more than 20 years—working as arranger and accompanist for singer and Broadway legend, Betty Buckley. Catch the musical visionary in an intimate solo concert at the Falcon in Marlboro, N.Y., on Sunday at 7 p.m.
Had he lived, today would have been Elvis Presley’s 86th birthday. The King is the subject of a terrific new book by Great Barrington author Roselle Kline Chartock called “The Jewish World of Elvis Presley,” in which the author explores Presley’s life to learn what accounted for his deep affinity for Jews? Why did he wear necklaces and wristwatches with Jewish symbols? Why was Elvis a major philanthropist to Jewish organizations in his hometown of Memphis? How does one account for the fact that half of the members of the Memphis Mafia – his running gang of friends, helpers, and hangers-on— were Jewish? How did this son of a raving anti-Semite wind up to be a philo-Semite? The answer may have had something to do with his mother, but I don’t want to give away the store. I highly recommend the book, but you can also catch Roselle Chartock discussing the Jewish Elvis Presley in a free Zoom discussion presented by the Berkshire continuing education group OLLI, today at 3 p.m.
I recently read two new books about the Beatles. As the title indicates, “The Search for John Lennon,” by British journalist Lesley-Anne Jones, digs deep into the life and person of the group’s founder. Lennon comes through as a complicated and at times tormented soul, traumatized by the emotional abuse – inadvertent or otherwise – of his childhood and teen years. He took some solace in the brotherhood of the Fab Four and the inner circle surrounding them, but this natural control freak also curiously surrendered more than just control, but even the boundaries of his personhood, to intimates throughout his life and career – most notably to Paul McCartney, who practically took over the band the day Lennon hired him, and of course Yoko Ono. In the end, Lennon comes across as a sad, tormented genius who never fulfilled his promise, and not only because he was gunned down in his fortieth year.
The other Beatles book I just finished is a guilty pleasure for all serious Beatles fans. “150 Glimpses of the Beatles” by British journalist Craig Brown is written in short standalone chapters, sometimes just one or two pages, sometimes a bit longer, that explore various moments and incidents throughout the Beatles’ lives and careers. For those looking for a more entertaining and easier read than one of the many lengthy band bios, this is a book that rewards readers with gleaming insights into what made the Four Fab.
Seth Rogovoy is editor of the Rogovoy Report, available at rogovoyreport.com
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