Music Review Promusica
Saturday, May 10, 2008 3:05 AM
By Barbara Zuck
For The Columbus Dispatch
Was that toe-tapping at last night’s ProMusica Chamber Orchestra concert?Those unfamiliar with the styleof Robert Michaels, a guitarist with a large stylistic vocabulary, may have been a bit surprised at what they heard and, in understated fashion, saw at the ProMusica’s annual gala season finale in the Southern Theatre. Michaels seemed to have such a strong impact on the audience — yes, especially for a classical guitarist — that the entire hall at times seemed to be on the verge of rocking and rolling.
Flamenco guitarists with classical chops are not typically what one would readily call “upbeat,” “high energy” and “contemporary,” but one has to haul out such descriptions in this case. Into genres that have been known to tiptoe over into the precious, as well as limited, repetitive and — dare we say it — boring, Michaels has injected a large dose of creativity. He has amassed an abundance of new music that builds logically on the instrument’s lofty traditions in ways that join the flamenco and the classical styles in a new, quite individual way.
Michaels’ compositions are tuneful, but his playing and his improvisations are upbeat, creative and refreshing. There is a tendency, yes, for the tunes to sometimes sound a bit generic, but the improvisations are nothing short of mind-boggling. Michaels allows his formidable technique to carry him off into fascinating new directions, and he could never be accused of just phoning it in.
An added attraction last night was Michaels’ daughter, Melanie Buttarazzi. A young flamenco dancer, she added a heel-clicking, spinning and swaying visual dimension to partner the companion qualities in the music. For its part, ProMusica, under the direction of Music Director Timothy Russell, sounded tight, balanced and precise in a repertoire that has a special kind of rhythmic elasticity and energy. On its own, ProMusica played several beautiful, familiar selections by Spanish composer Manuel de Falla.
ProMusica has turned its annual gala into an opportunity to stretch itself and its audience by inviting guest artists who have made a strong impact in fields allied to the classical. Not every hit has been a home run, and even ProMusica would have to agree that some of these experiments have worked better than others. But tenacity can be an admirable quality, and when it all comes together, as it did last night, the results seem worth the risk.
BY EDWARD WILLETT, THE LEADER-POST OCTOBER 12, 2009
Robert Michaels with the Regina Symphony Orchestra
It’s a cliche, after a concert on a chilly Saskatchewan night, to say something about the performer heating things up inside despite the world outside having turned prematurely white. But if there were ever a performer to whom that cliche was perfectly suited, it would have to be Robert Michaels, the Juno Award-winning guitarist who joined forces with the Regina Symphony Orchestra for Saturday’s Flamenco Fire concert, the first in this year’s Shumiatcher Pops Series.
From the opening number, it was easy to imagine, as Maestro Victor Sawa suggested, that you were sitting in Spain’s Sierra Nevada mountains sipping sangria as the sun set. Though the repertoire ranged from original compositions by Michaels to a traditional Neopolitan love song, the Mason Williams hit “Classical Gas,” and the Doors’ “Riders on the Storm,” it all had that Flamenco feel, full of fire, frenetic finger work, dramatic chords and melancholy progressions. At the centre of it all was Michaels, wearing a blue shirt and black pants, striding back and forth across the stage, playing to the front row, and at one point even descending into the audience.
He was backed by Eric Soostar, who got some amazing sounds out of his fretless bass — at one point I was convinced the trombone section had joined in on a number only to realize their instruments were still lowered and those sustained, horn-like notes were coming from him– and Larry Crow on drums and the cajon (Spanish for box). From the audience, the cajon looked like an ordinary wooden box Crow straddled, but if you closed your eyes, it could have been a full drum kit, complete with bass and snare. To be honest, the trio was sufficient unto itself, and on the joint numbers the orchestra served mostly as sonic background, a musical colour field against which the notes of the guitar stood out like bright stars in a dark-blue desert sky. (One spectacular exception was concertmaster Eduard Minevich’s sizzling solo on “Tango Di Vincenzo.”) The percussion section was called on to good effect on several numbers, and the brass provided some welcome brilliance and fire, but really the show belonged to Michaels and his trio. Fortunately, though it would have been nice to hear more from the orchestra, they were so good that no one was left feeling short-changed.
On a couple of numbers, flamenco dancer Melanie Buttarazzi, Michaels’s daughter (who, he proudly pointed out, made the top 20 on So You Think You Can Dance Canada), added additional fiery flare. Michaels’s easygoing stage presence added to the feeling of simply enjoying an evening with close friends in a small Spanish town, and he carried that sense of accessibility into the lobby, signing CDs and chatting with a long line of autograph seekers for well over an hour. And yes, to complete the cliche, it was a shock to step from the theatre into the early throes of winter … but the lingering warmth of Flamenco Fire made it a little easier to bear.
© Copyright (c) The Regina Leader-Post
Friday evening in Dvorak Hall at Doudna Fine Arts Center in Charleston was the last of the summer’s 2012 premiere events. It was truly “the last of summer wine” with the world-renown guitarist and vocalist, Robert Michaels. Prior to the performance a cookout was hosted by the Fine Arts Center for guests of this premiere event. Former EIU Lab School students were having a reunion in the center also, and many also attended the performance. I overheard one say that they came for the reunion plus wanted to see the new Fine Arts Center. They found the center and the event very impressive. Setting the mood of the evening was the stage lighting designed by Will Richardson, an EIU student. There was rose and gold colored lighting with fog rising from the stage floor which featured a drum set stage right, drum box in front, guitar at center, and accordion stage left. There were forest green drapes left and right of stage with blue spotlight pin wheels going round and round on dark stage backdrop.
At other times it looked like a flickering campfire creating imaginary shadows. Ceiling stars were spot-lighted overhead the audience. Introduced by Director Dwight Vaught, Robert Michaels strolled out on stage playing in his romantic eclectic theatrical style. He lives in Canada but was born and raised in Italy. His long black wavy hair was tied back in a ponytail and he was sporting a faint mustache and touch of beard. He was dressed casual with black pants and stunning purple striped shirt. His awesome trio of musicians sauntered in taking their places with their instruments.
Robert Michaels took us on a musical, imaginative, peaceful journey to many places starting with “Brazilia.” Then to Italy with love songs — my favorite “Seduction.” Some real high notes on this one. “Amore Amore” was so romantic. The audience started clapping to the beat. More beautiful music from Rome, close to the homeland of Roberto Michele Buttarazzi (Robert Michaels, shortened for his CDs).
We enjoyed flamenco music traveling from Arab countries to South Spain with a desert chase. Beautiful flamenco dancer, Melody Buttarazzi (Robert Michaels’daughter) danced out on stage. She was dressed in a black body suit with long flowing, red skirt with two layers of ruffles. She danced with a sand-colored scarf decorated with red flowers.
The flamenco dance was picturesque and so was the talented dancer. The drummer sat on the drum box drumming along to “Zumba.” This was not the Brazilian dance exercise but I think a Zumba enthusiast would love to dance to this tune. The drummer made this one sound like rolling thunder as he expertly moved his hands over the “cajon” box. We went off to Spain with “Matador,” bull-fight music. One could hear the swish of a cape. (I did anyway.) The drummer on the cajon box used the heel of his shoe for an interesting sound on the drum.
In Naples (in imagination) we heard an “Italian Blues” ballad about a Lagunari whose princess left him for a Frenchman. He is in depressed misery and singing to his pet bird. He asks the bird why he doesn’t fly away, like his princess did. A nice tango was followed by “Caruso” a song written by Lucio Dalla as a tribute to Enrico Caroso the well-known Italian tenor. Luciano Pavarotti, my favorite tenor (May he rest in peace) also performed this number. I’m listening to it right now. Robert Michaels’s version of this beautiful piece is to die for. What a voice! “Name that Tune” was fun as Robert Michaels asked the audience to yell out the name of the tune — with one stroke of the guitar string. Yes, yes, one audience member did! That person earned a free CD for their musical ear and we were entertained with the rest of “Classical Gas.” There was an encore with “Volare’” which Robert Michaels described as the National Anthem of Italy. Then as an added treat, and as the spotlight followed, Robert Michaels walked out into the audience singing to a guest as his daughter danced flamenco style on stage wearing a stunning red and gold long, fourlayered, ruffled skirt.
A beautiful end to an evening of romantic music by a seductive and talented guitarist, singer, and performer who was surrounded with a trio of magnificent musical artists. Thank you to all at Doudna Fine Arts Center who brought this outstanding performer to Charleston. Carolyn Stephens of Charleston is an arts enthusiast and reviewer-at-large for the Journal Gazette/Times-Courier. Contact her firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright (c) jg-tc.com
[gdlr_quote align=”center” ]How I made my dream to learn to play a reality[/gdlr_quote]
As we left it last time, I had just given back the guitar I had borrowed from my friend Joe. I didn’t have any funds to go out and buy a guitar on my own, and as I mentioned my parents were reluctant to do so. I had some books to help me teach myself to play, but no instrument to actually learn on. I was really disappointed about having to give back the guitar! At the same time, borrowing the guitar had only strengthened my need and desire to play. The small amount I had learned while it was in my possession left no doubt in my mind: I knew I had to keep playing. I was extremely desperate, and it was in this desperation that I went into the basement and I found a scrap piece of wood. I nailed some strings to it, and I drew some frets on it. And there you have it, my first guitar!
Now, this wasn’t an actual guitar that produced sound. It was really just a guitar fingerboard that enabled me to continue on with my learning of how to play the instrument. With frets and strings I was able to figure out where to place my fingers to pluck the notes that I needed to know and understand. After about a month or two of using it, my makeshift instrument paid off in a big way. I guess my mother saw my desperation, and so finally bought me an actual guitar! That was really exciting for me. In fact, at that point in time, it was the best day of my life!
So now that I had a guitar, I could really get down and immerse myself and learn everything about the instrument and playing it.
And there you have it! Thank you for reading, and as always, feel free to click on this Link for a bundle of free tracks, off of various albums of mine.