Listening to … Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, ‘Cheek to Cheek’

Lady Gaga, right, and Tony Bennett arrive for a media event at the Brussels' city hall on Monday Sept. 22 , 2014. © AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert.

Lady Gaga, right, and Tony Bennett arrive for a media event at the Brussels’ city hall on Monday Sept. 22 , 2014. © AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert.

In 1989, the soundtrack to a little movie called “When Harry Met Sally” turned a generation that was tuned into U2 and Bon Jovi onto standards from the American songbook. All it took was a charming guy named Harry Connick Jr. delivering straight ahead renditions of songs like “It Had to be You” making them seem as relevant to us as they were to our parents or grandparents. And the messenger was one of us, a 20-something whose tastes veered in a different direction when he sat down at the piano.

140928GagaBennettAnd no, Connick’s brand of standard time didn’t knock Paula Abdul, New Kids on the Block or (sadly) Milli Vanilli off the top of the pop charts. But Connick became a mainstream star and a new generation heard some music that really deserves to endure.

It’s easy to recall that album listening to “Cheek to Cheek” the new album of standards by the head-turning pairing of Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga.

Gaga’s vocal chops are already well established, particularly if you have bothered to venture beyond her chart-toppers to songs such as “Brown Eyes.” But she has never collaborated with a gentleman like Bennett, 60 years her senior. And while this project originated with him, Bennett gives Gaga plenty of room on this album to show a completely different side of her voice and style. If you really listen to her music, you know she can do smoky and torchy.

But this is an album that calls on her to relax and puts the focus on interpreting the lyric, the true art of masters of this style like Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney. “Lush Life” is Gaga’s tour de force, sitting beautifully in her lower range, finding her easy and reflective, singing Billy Strayhorn’s lyrics like she lives them. In short, what we want from a standards singer.

And in Bennett, 88, she has a partner who has been at the top of this game for decades. Their collaborations on standards like “But Beautiful” are sublime and “Anything Goes” are pure delights — the latter being amusing because it’s a Cole Porter scandal song that if rewritten today would probably include a reference to Gaga’s pop-star persona, for whom the title applies.

Fortunately that includes singing standards with one of the masters of the form. Is it a great album? No. There’s nothing particularly imaginative or surprising about the arrangements or performances. Bennett is as reliable as ever. As game as Gaga is, she is sometimes shrill or sounds like she’s singing through. But she also has plenty of great moments, and frankly, she is the reason people em masse will pay attention to this record. Certainly, there are practitioners of this form such as Pink Martini, Michael Buble and Connick putting out albums on a regular basis. And watching groups such as the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra’s Jazz Arts Orchestra, it is obvious there is a lot of enduring appeal in this music.

What something like a hit movie soundtrack or a current pop star taking on this music brings to the table is exposure to a wider audience than regularly listens. And that makes it worth tuning in.

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Garth Brooks tickets go on sale

Garth Brooks  kicked off his show to a  loud crowd in Rupp Arena as the first of his three show stay in Lexington got under way on Friday May 15,1998 in Lexington Ky. © Herald-Leader staff photo by Mark Cornelison.

Garth Brooks kicked off his show to a loud crowd in Rupp Arena as the first of his three show stay in Lexington got under way on Friday May 15,1998 in Lexington Ky. © Herald-Leader staff photo by Mark Cornelison.

3 p.m. Rupp Arena general manager Carl Hall says that the interactive map of Rupp Arena, which allows ticket buyers to choose their seats, will be available starting at 6 p.m. Friday night. He said it was not feasible to make that available earlier due to the volume of ticket sales. Currently only the Oct. 31 performances are available. Nov. 1 shows are “off sale” but may become available later. Hall said the Nov. 1 shows have been the most popular shows.

Hall also said their will be shuttle service from lots on Old Frankfort Pike near New Circle Road, at the Police Station, to Rupp for the 10:30 p.m. shows to alleviate traffic congestion between performances. 6:30 p.m. shows are expected to end between 8:45 and 9 p.m.

Between the four Garth Brooks shows and the season-opening University of Kentucky basketball game on Nov. 2, Rupp Arena and downtown Lexington will see more than 100,000 patrons that weekend.

11:02 a.m. According to the Rupp Facebook page, more than 23,000 tickets are available for each performance, meaning 92,000 seats overall are available for the Lexington engagement. Thus far, no other dates for Brooks’ current tour have been announced in the region, including Louisville and Cincinnati.

10:45 a.m. The 6:30 p.m. Nov. 1 show is officially sold out.

10:42 a.m. This will be a record-setting engagement: Garth Brooks is now the first and only musical act to play four performances on the same stand at Rupp Arena. He was also the first to play three, when he played May 15-17 in 1998.

10:35 a.m. As of now, Garth Brooks representatives at Varnelle Enterprises say tickets are still available for all shows, 6:30 and 10:30 p.m. Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.

10:29 a.m. Sheila Kenny at Rupp said she does not know if the 6:30 shows are sold out, but tickets are selling quickly enough to add the extra shows.

10:23 a.m. Two shows have been added at 10:30 p.m. Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.

10:13 a.m. Just reading Rupp’s Facebook page, they are being very responsive to questions about tickets being advertised on secondary sites like StubHub and the credit card entry deal.

Tickets for Garth Brooks’ two-night stand at Rupp Arena go on sale at 10 a.m. today. In other cities where his world tour has stopped, extra dates have been added after the announced shows have sold out. So we will be watching to see if the announced shows here, 6:30 p.m. Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, sell out and if new dates are announced, and we will let you know here as soon as we know.

Remember, there are no in-person sales. It’s all online or by phone at ticketmaster.com, ticketmaster.com/garthbrooks or by calling 1-800-745-3000 or 1-866-448-7849. And make sure you are pre-registered at Ticketmaster, or that may derail your ticket purchasing attempts. If you are in a workplace that has blocked Ticketmaster (but not us) you may try the Ticketmaster app.

10:13 a.m. Just reading Rupp’s Facebook page, they are being very responsive to questions about tickets being advertised on secondary sites like StubHub and the credit card entry deal.

 

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Does it always have to be the late show?

Palisades frontman Scott Whiddon (center) practices with producer J. Tom Hnatow and Palisades bassist Mark Richardson. Palisades are set to release the new EP "Handshake Codes" with a party Sept. 27 at the Green Lantern Bar. Photo by Rich Copley | staff.

Palisades frontman Scott Whiddon (center) practices with producer J. Tom Hnatow and Palisades bassist Mark Richardson. Palisades are set to release the new EP “Handshake Codes” with a party Sept. 27 at the Green Lantern Bar. Photo by Rich Copley | staff.

Talking to the guys in Palisades about their record release shows Saturday night at the Green Lantern Bar, they wanted to make a point that it was going to be two shows, one at 8 p.m. with the Nativity Singers and one at 11 p.m. with The Fanged Robot.

The two-show format, they said was to accommodate both folks who wanted an earlier night and the venue and crowds that were used to shows getting started close to the midnight hour.

It was interesting they took that approach, because the lateness of shows had been a recurring theme over the summer, in conversations I have had. It even made it into some stories by our rock music critic, Walter Tunis. Reviewing Mic Harrison and the High Score at the Green Lantern in July, Walter attributed a dwindling crowd for the Knoxville act to a near-midnight start time and said it was Harrison’s latest showtime anywhere in four years.

“Lexington is a late-starting town,” well-traveled musician J. Tom Hnatow, Palisades’ producer on it new EP, “Handshake Codes,” says.

Now I can tell you from first-hand experience crowds don’t always dwindle, even as the day does. Super Bowl eve, I headed out to see Sundy Best at Redmon’s on an icy night where the guys didn’t go on until after midnight, and it was the most crowded bar I have been in for a long time. Starting the next day was routine for this crowd and this band.

But like I said, I have talked to several musicians and fans over the past few months where late start times and how routine they are, particularly for local acts, came up.

Neil Bell, drummer for Palisades, said it is a routine that is a bit self fulfilling: crowds get used to not coming out until late, so venues don’t book acts until late.

To be honest, in a number of these conversations, the phrase, “maybe I’m just getting old,” came up. Then I was talking to some 20-somethings — big music fans, one a musician — and they said they’d love to get out and hear more music, but the shows start so late.

And it also occurred to me that when I was in my 20s, going to hear bands in Virginia and Georgia, they didn’t seem to go on so late. Often, it seemed the routine was the show would end around midnight and a DJ would take over for the late nighters who wanted a few more rounds before last call.

I don’t know. This is all anecdotal and thinking out loud, prompted by a band that thought it was enough of an issue to program its record release party differently. It will be interesting to see if they get a different crowd at 8 and it probably is worth exploring whether some earlier start times might serve area musicians better.

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Rosa Goddard Fest: ‘Cleo from 5 to 7′

Corinne Marchand in the title role in "Cleo from 5 to 7," the final film in the 2014 Rosa Goddard International Film Festival showing at 7 p.m. Sept. 24 at the Kentucky Theatre.

Corinne Marchand in the title role in “Cleo from 5 to 7,” the final film in the 2014 Rosa Goddard International Film Festival showing at 7 p.m. Sept. 24 at the Kentucky Theatre.

We’ve all experienced that period of waiting, a set time at which you are supposed to receive some news — test scores, a potential job offer, medical test results — and the time until then to wait.

That is the “5 to 7″ in the title of Agnes Varda’s “Cléo from 5 to 7,” the final selection in this year’s Rosa Goddard International Film Festival. It shows at 7 Wednesday night at the Kentucky Theatre.

Last week we had Czech new wave, and this week its French new wave, a period most commonly associated with directors such as Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut. But Roger Ebert said Varda was the movement’s “very soul.”

“The passage of time has been kinder to her films than some of theirs, and ‘Cléo from 5 to 7′ plays today as startlingly modern,” Ebert wrote. “Released in 1962, it seems as innovative and influential as any New Wave film.”

The story focuses on a young Parisian pop singer (Corinne Marchand) who is awaiting test results that will tell her if she has cancer. During her wait, she seeks visions of the future from a tarot card reader, sings with her accompanist, meets with her lover and surfs emotional waves from elation to despair until she finally meets a soldier who gives her the comfort she needs as her time draws near.

If all waits such as this could be as beautiful, Varda’s background as a still photographer shows in perfectly framed images that must be even more striking on the big screen.

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Philharmonic management and musicians agree on contract

Scott Terrell conducts the Lexington Philharmonic and the Kentucky State University Gospel Ensemble.

Scott Terrell conducts the Lexington Philharmonic and the Kentucky State University Gospel Ensemble.

While the 2013-14 Lexington Philharmonic season started in the midst of a labor dispute, the 2014-15 season will open Saturday with a new agreement in place between the orchestra management and musicians union.

The two parties were expected to sign a new contract Friday at the Singletary Center for the Arts Friday that will  run from Saturday through June 30, 2018.

The last 4-year contract had expired in the Spring of 2012, but disagreements over personnel issues including demotion and dismissal, outside work for musicians and a desire for guaranteed performances by musicians kept the parties in negotiations for more than a year. Prior to last year’s season opening concert, musicians threatened to strike, and a last-minute agreement allowed the concert and season to move forward. The parties resumed negotiations earlier this year.

“Representatives from both sides have been committed to building a greater understanding of the others’ concerns via a recent round of negotiations that began in April 2014 and culminated in successful ratification votes by each party earlier this week,” a joint statement from the Lexington Philharmonic and Local 554-635, American Federation of Musicians said.

According to the release, “the new agreement provides certain guaranteed services to the member musicians of the Lexington Philharmonic accompanied by a minimum attendance policy. A modest increase in the wage scale and stepped increase in mileage reimbursement was also agreed. Procedures for auditions, peer review, substitute engagement and electronic media have been clarified.”

The Philharmonic opens its 2014-15 season at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Singletary Center for the Arts with music director Scott Terrell conducting and piano soloist Inon Barnatan performing Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto.

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Finalists announced for LexArts president

LexArts has identified two candidates for its top job of president and CEO, and both will be in town late next week for interviews and meetings, including public forums.

The finalists are Christine E. Crawfis, director of the Unison Arts Center in New Paltz New York, and Ellen A. “Nan” Plummer, development director at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Foundation and former executive director of the Arkansas Arts Center.

The forum with Crawfis will be at noon Sept. 26 and Plummer will be at 10 a.m. Sept. 27, both at ArtsPlace, 161 N. Mill Street. Call (859) 255-2951 or visit lexarts.org for more information.

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A little whine with your free U2 album?

Apple CEO Tim Cook, left, smiles next to U2 members, The Edge, Bono, and Larry Mullen Jr. during an announcement of new products on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, in Cupertino, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Apple CEO Tim Cook, left, smiles next to U2 members, The Edge, Bono, and Larry Mullen Jr. during an announcement of new products on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, in Cupertino, Calif. © AP Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez.

Twitter never has been a land of particularly good manners. But last week, it seemed a lot of users needed to be reminded of that old saw, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

The phrase means you shouldn’t seem ungrateful for a gift.

The gift givers in question were Apple and U2, who put a free copy of the band’s new album, “Songs of Innocence,” in every iTunes account. There it is: If you have an iTunes account, the new album just popped up in it. All you had to do was click the download button (a cloud with a downward arrow, because we can’t seem to handle words anymore) or not.

And these were some of the nicer tweets:

“I’m confused, by definition is iTunes or the U2 record classified as malware?”

“apple FORCIBLY PUT A NEW U2 ALBUM INTO MY ITUNES LIBRARY? D: D: D: D: D:”

and from one critic who apparently listened …

“Well, after listening to the whole album, I can see why U2 decided to give it away on iTunes.”

The way some people were tweeting, you would think somebody had hacked into their accounts and forced them to buy U2’s entire catalog at the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, added physical copies to the order and shipped them to their door COD.

It was one free album, people – 11 songs.

I could understand a few soreheads, but the volume of the blowback – so much that Apple set up a website to help you remove the album if you couldn’t figure it out yourself – was bewildering. Some did act like they had been hacked and asked what else Apple could do to their iTunes accounts. Hello! It’s an Apple iTunes account. Did you think they didn’t have access?

Others complained it took up storage. If your cloud or device (if you were set to autodownload purchases, apparently it did just show up on your device) is so full one album is going to create a problem, maybe it’s time to do some editing.

It’s funny, because almost any device you buy is loaded with some sample music by an artist you never heard of for a reason. At least this was by a high profile, best-selling band. Granted, at the risk of looking like a gift horse gazer myself, “Songs of Innocence” is not going to challenge “The Joshua Tree” or “Achtung Baby” for spots on all-time great albums lists.

A big part of the outcry seems to be this: It’s sort of hip to hate U2 now. (The guy who wrote about the death of the iPod Classic for Wired even had to get in a shot.) Never mind the millions of albums sold, sold-out stadiums and trailblazing philanthropic work. U2 comes in for a lot of derision these days, some of it earned.

So an uninvited free album and a Twitter account gives some folks a chance to demonstrate how cool they are by telling the world how much they don’t like U2. Like many things online, it’s easy. It’s a preemptive strike because … God forbid anyone look at my iTunes account and think I actually like U2.

But in reality, it’s sort of like someone came up to you and handed you a physical copy of the album, and you threw it on the ground, stomped on it and yelled, “I don’t want this (favorite expletive here)!”

We all know what that would look like.

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First annual LexLatino Film Festival

Gael Garcia Bernal stars in the documentary "Who is Dayani Cristal?" He also stars in "Rudo & Cursi." Both films are part of the LexLatino Film Festival. Photo by Kino Lorber.

Gael Garcia Bernal stars in the documentary “Who is Dayani Cristal?” He also stars in “Rudo & Cursi.” Both films are part of the LexLatino Film Festival. Photo by Kino Lorber.

For years, Dominic Martina attended the San Diego Latino Film Festival, a 10-day, 150-film event featuring movies from Latin America, Spain, South America and the United States.

“When I retired in Lexington last year, I realized there are 35,000 Latinos in Lexington,” he wrote, in a perfectly type-written letter. “Why not a smaller scale film fest for them and the whole community?”

Why not?

So, through the efforts of Martina, Kentucky Theatre manager Fred Mills and, no doubt, film booker Larry Thomas, we have the first annual LexLatino Film Fest, opening Thursday (Sept. 18) and running through Saturday in conjunction with the Festival Latino de Lexington. The event kicks off with the drama “Avenues” and will feature director Aaref Rodriguez and star Hector Atreyu Ruiz at the theater for an opening night reception.

Here’s the lineup with Martina’s descriptions:

“Avenues” (2013). The heartbreaking story of an East L.A. man attempting to reintegrate into his gang-centered neighborhood after a stint in prison.  7:40 p.m. Thurs., 9:30 p.m. Fri., 7:30 p.m. Sat.

“Who is Dayani Cristal?” (2014). Directed by Marc Silver, starring Gael Garcia Bernal. A young Central American immigrant disappears in the Arizona desert. The Tucson medical examiner attempts to discover his identity and find his family. 5 and 7 p.m. Fri.

“Rudo & Cursi” (2009). Directed by Carlos Cuaron, starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna.  Two poor, rural Mexican boys find fame as soccer stars in Mexico City and in the process trash their lives. With the irresistible duo of Gael and Diego (“Y Tu Mama Tambien”). 1, 3 and 5 p.m. Sat.

“Sombras de Azul” (2013). Directed by Kelly Daniela Norris, starring  Seedne Bujaidar, Yasmani Guerrero and Charlotta Mohlin. A young Mexican woman traverses Havana, Cuba, in the wake of her brother’s suicide trying to make sense of her grief. The film is a gorgeous representation of how memory and perspective merge together. 9:30 p.m. Thurs. and Sat.

Thursday’s reception will feature Latin American coffees from A Cup of Commonwealth and the closing night will include tastings of Oaxacan Mezcal and “assorted Mexican cervezas,” Martina wrote.

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Rosa Goddard Fest: ‘Valerie and Her Week of Wonders’

Jaroslava Schallerová in the title role of "Valerie and Her Week of Wonders" (1970).

Jaroslava Schallerová in the title role of “Valerie and Her Week of Wonders” (1970).

It is safe to say you probably will not confuse Wednesday’s offering in the Rosa Goddard International Film Festival with the Kentucky Theatre‘s Summer Classics Series of primarily populist hits that ran Wednesdays for the past three months.

But in many circles, “Valerie and Her Week of Wonders” is a classic. The 1970 import is considered a prime example of the Czech new wave, which was a thing in the 1960s and boasted directors such as Miloš Forman, who won best director Oscars for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975) and “Amadeus” (1984)– both of which also won best director.

The man behind the camera for “Valerie” was Jaromil Jireš, whose 1963 film, “The Cry” was considered the first film of the Czech new wave.

“Valerie” tells the coming of age story of a 13-year-old girl, played by Jaroslava Schallerova, whose world is both sensually beautiful and horror film scary with vampires and predatory priests lurking in the corners of a fairy tale.

“In content, the film is a weird exercise, striking out boldly in the paths of Bergman, Fellini and Buñuel with characters in something of a clutter who shift into evil incarnate or plain tooth-chomping vampires,” New York Times critic Howard Thompson wrote in 1974. “One creepy sequence in a coffin-crammed lair is right out of ‘Dracula.'”

Thompson was one of many critics who felt Jireš was a bit overindulgent in his creation, but were willing to forgive it for the visual feast he offered set to a haunting score by  Luboš Fišer.

The movie shows at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Kentucky Theatre.

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Summer Classic: Federico Fellini’s ‘8½’

The Kentucky Theatre‘s Summer Classics series comes to a close today as it has in recent years with a foreign classic to sort of lead into the revived Rosa Goddard International Film Festival that will take over the Wednesday special slot for the balance of September.

And classic is a word that instantly pops to mind when you think of Federico Fellini’s “,” the masterpiece from one of the masters of the craft that plums the depths and passions of a filmmaker.

The brilliant, late Marcello Mastroianni — the only person who could make that nerdy sunglasses move look cool — is Fellini’s avatar in the film as Guido Anselmi, a famous Italian director simultaneously suffering writer’s block and marital difficulties that color his reality and fantasy.

“Here is a piece of entertainment that will really make you sit up straight and think, a movie endowed with the challenge of a fascinating intellectual game,” Bosley Crowther wrote in his June 1963 review for The New York Times. “It has no more plot than a horse race, no more order than a pinball machine, and it bounces around on several levels of consciousness, dreams, and memories as it details a man’s rather casual psychoanalysis of himself. But it sets up a labyrinthine ego for the daring and thoughtful to explore, and it harbors some elegant treasures of wit and satire along the way.”

Sounds wonderfully brainy for this tweedy time of year, when many of us are getting back to school.

Roger Ebert wrote that  “8½” and its 1960 predecessor, “La Dolce Vita,” established a style known as “Felliniesque,” a signature mix of fantasy and realism conveyed in a Mediterranean aesthetic. Fellini’s style is influential to this day in film and still photography and in this context raises his storytelling game.

This is probably the best reviewed of this year’s Summer Classics, though it may not be as familiar to those who did not grow up with the traditional art house environment. But if you love movies, “8½” on the big screen is a treat you owe yourself.

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