By Bradley Bambarger <2016>

David Bowie was on a roll — again. The rock icon had begun his 21st century with two energized studio albums and one of his most acclaimed world tours, before that momentum hit the brick wall of his heart attack in 2004. But after nearly a decade of recuperating and lying low — mostly just enjoying an art-loving life in New York City with his family — Bowie released the dream-like ballad “Where Are We Now?” as a single on his 66th birthday, the song sounding like a man looking at a movie of his memories…

The thrilling pianist made his name with John Coltrane in the Sixties — but kept exploring into the 21st century

By Bradley Bambarger<2020>

Few things are more important to a musician, especially in jazz, than developing an individual sound on his or her instrument, that quality of being recognizable to a listener in just a few notes. Pianist McCoy Tyner, who made his name in the iconic John Coltrane Quartet of 1962–65 and then pursued an ambitious solo career into the 21st century, created a sonic personality as identifiable as a fingerprint, one marked by both extraordinary physical command and…

Pat Metheny, as composer, rehearsing with the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet.

By Bradley Bambarger <2017>

The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet had just premiered the biggest work of its career, the nearly half-hour Road to the Sun, composed for the group by jazz guitar icon Pat Metheny. Most witnessing the LAGQ’s autumn performance at the University of Denver, with the attendant exhilaration and applause, probably considered it business as usual. After all, the LAGQ had helped make its name in the mid-Eighties with an arrangement of Manuel de Falla’s 1915 ballet El Amor Brujo, a sizable work that revealed the young group’s ambitions in pioneering a modern guitar quartet; moreover, the LAGQ…

America has never produced a more broadly popular classical instrumentalist than Van Cliburn. Not told as often as it once was, the pianist’s story is both heroic and cautionary.

By Bradley Bambarger <2017>

America has never produced a more broadly popular classical instrumentalist than Van Cliburn. The pianist wasn’t just an exceptionally communicative, beloved performing artist; he became a kind of folk hero edging into Texas-sized myth, a goodwill ambassador for the USA, a symbol of freedom, generosity and vast talent that reflected the country’s best image — in its own eyes and those of others around the world. In…

By Bradley Bambarger <2006>

Kate McGarrigle, banjo in hand, sang folk tunes to her infant son, but he didn’t seem to like them. It was only when she sat at the piano playing Tin Pan Alley numbers that he brightened up, eventually learning “Over the Rainbow” himself. Later, the young mother would even rouse the boy in the wee hours so he could sing the song for her friends.

That boy grew up to be art-pop star Rufus Wainwright, and his childhood party trick grew into an Olympic-level event. For two sold-out nights at Carnegie Hall, the Canadian-bred New Yorker…

By Bradley Bambarger <2007>

The ostentatious hugs may be as stage-managed as a G8 summit, but at least the smiles appear genuine on the original Van Halen’s reunion tour — finally, after a decade’s on-again, off-again soap opera.

Guitar whiz Eddie Van Halen and singer/showbiz-ham David Lee Roth are famous opposites, with no love lost since they first split in the mid-’80s. But Roth is beaming at being back on big stages, fronting a legendary band. …

By Bradley Bambarger <2004>

The Pixies may be bigger, balder and more sedate than when their subversive songs helped skew late-’80s college rock and offer a dynamic template for the alternative boom to come. Yet those songs remain undated, inimitable and wonderfully weird.

When the band played the first of this week’s eight sold-out shows at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom, the reunited Pixies roared through 27 of their noise-pop twists on obsessive sex, religion, mutilation, UFOs and other topics usually left rooting around our collective id. …

Book Review: MOZART AND HIS OPERAS by DAVID CAIRNS (University of California Press)

By Bradley Bambarger <2006>

For all the virtues of Handel, Wagner, Verdi and Britten, the operas of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart have a mix of sensual appeal and emotional subtlety that is, for those lucky to know them, unparalleled.

“Mozart is like Shakespeare,” writes David Cairns. “The better we know his music — the more we explore its heights and depths — the more marvelous it becomes.”

With Mozart and His Operas — likely to be the most elegant, erudite book published to mark this year’s 250th anniversary…

“Mozart at the Pianoforte,” an unfinished portrait from 1789, by Joseph Lange.

By Bradley Bambarger <2006>

One of Mozart’s pupils, Johann Hummel (who became a noted pianist and composer), described his teacher being of “small build, his face pale; his physiognomy contained much that was pleasant and friendly, with a touch of melancholy seriousness; his large blue eyes gleamed brightly.”

This gives us a mental image of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as do his letters — which reveal a full-dimensional human being, equal parts artistic pride, moral decency, wacky humor and generous affection. Yet this isn’t enough, of course, as a single picture is worth many words.

Beyond portraits of Mozart the childhood…

Multi-instrumentalist and composer Warren Ellis has earned renown over the past decade or so as Nick Cave’s closest musical partner. The two native Australians have created a series of notable film scores together (including the sublime music for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford); moreover, Ellis — who first joined Cave’s band, the Bad Seeds, in the mid-1990s — has gradually become the indispensable co-writer/co-producer for the singer’s lauded latter-day albums. But Ellis initially made his name as a fiery violinist fronting Aussie instrumental trio The Dirty Three, making a series of potent indie albums with…

bradley bambarger

Longtime music journalist, from Billboard to Gramophone to DownBeat to, etc. Founder/curator of the Sound It Out jazz concert series in New York City.

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