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Wednesday, February 18,2015

No chair throwing

Top state jazzmen Tim Froncek, Vincent Bowens spend a swinging week at MSU

by Lawrence Cosentino
A lot of people have gotten their idea of what goes on in a jazz class from that chair-throwing jerk of an instructor, Terry Fletcher, in the Oscar-nominated film "Whiplash." The two latest guest artists at MSU´s Jazz Studies program, drummer Tim Froncek and saxophonist Vincent Bowens, are cut from finer cloth.
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Wednesday, February 18,2015

´Now we´re about nothing´

Harry Belafonte brings down the hammer in passionate MSU lecture

by Lawrence Cosentino
Harry Belafonte is a tall tree with deep roots in music, movies and civil rights activism, but he didn´t come to Michigan State University last week to cast a kindly shadow. At 88, he was desperately planting seeds. Addressing a packed conference room at the Kellogg Center Thursday afternoon, the actor-singer-activist slammed the American culture of greed and accused colleges and universities of turning their backs on the humanities.
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Wednesday, February 4,2015

In a mellow tone

Betty Joplin puts life into every syllable

by Lawrence Cosentino
To grasp the vocal genius of Betty Joplin, start with the smallest word you can find. Joplin´s indigo-sky voice, with dusky vibrato at the edges, is too generous to take in all at once. When she sings the word "is" in "You Don´t Know What Love Is," the "i" gutters like a candle, for two or three warm seconds, until the "s" softly pinches it cold. It´s a life lesson — a love affair, a breakup and burned fingers — in one syllable. "I prefer singing songs I can identify with in real life," Joplin said. "Otherwise, you don´t really have it down on the inside of you."
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Wednesday, January 28,2015

Time to talk to George

When a big fish is canned, attorney George Brookover is on the case

by Lawrence Cosentino
In January 1954, George Brookover was perched on his dad´s shoulders, watching the big political fish go by on their way to the second-term inauguration of Michigan Gov. G. Mennen "Soapy" Williams. "Hiya, Soapy!" 4-year-old George shouted to the governor. Williams walked over and patted him on the shoulder. "Hiya, feller."
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Wednesday, January 21,2015

Freedom in the air and on the wall

Absolute Gallery fuses art and music made ´for the end of time´

by Lawrence Cosentino
A half-buried, two-way tunnel runs between the camps of art and music. From Mussorgsky´s "Pictures at an Exhibition" to Jackson Pollock´s jazz-fueled drip fantasias, artists and musicians have snorted, smuggled and stolen each other´s smokes for a long time. The next concert in Absolute Gallery´s long-running chamber music series, Absolute Music, will fuse the visions of New York painter Richard Estrin with the music of a 20th-century visionary, Olivier Messiaen.
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Wednesday, January 21,2015

Minimal maximalism

Take 6 takes charge at MSU´s King tribute

by Lawrence Cosentino
The MSU College of Music trimmed away the usual oratory and commentary from this year´s Martin Luther King Jr. tribute and served up two courses of pure music. Something was lost, but something else was gained. This year´s sold-out concert bore little resemblance to the long, cathartic community sweat lodges of past years, but it was an entertaining, highly professional show that snuck in a message or two by purely musical means.
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Wednesday, January 14,2015

Tapestry of voices

Take 6 joins MSU’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. tribute

by Lawrence Cosentino
Each year, topical threads are added to timeless ones, but warmth is always woven into the MSU College of Music’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. tribute, ”Jazz: Spirituals, Prayer and Protest.” The annual tapestry of music and spoken word will shine with a new filament Sunday. The luminous, six-piece a cappella gospel group Take 6 will shed extra light on the “prayer” part of the proceedings.
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Wednesday, January 14,2015

Hey, elk, look up

Symphony, guest cellist bring great outdoors to Wharton concert

by Lawrence Cosentino
For all the fiddlers, fandooglers and foom-boomers crowding the stage at Saturday’s Lansing Symphony concert, two distinct figures linger in my mind. I’ll start with the obvious one: Soloist Bion Tsang. For better or worse, in motion or stasis, through reverie and hysteria, the evening’s guest cellist made it impossible to take your eyes off of him. Not that he was showing off. He seemed determined to take a seemingly cornball piece of music, Tchaikovsky’s “Variations on a Rococo Theme,” and wring maximum meaning and drama from every bit. He was all business, ear cocked for every cue from the orchestra and maestro Timothy Muffitt.
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Wednesday, January 7,2015

‘The Voice’ by proxy

Cellist Bion Tsang sings with a cello at Saturday’s Lansing Symphony concert

by Lawrence Cosentino
Austin-based cellist Bion Tsang, guest soloist for Saturday’s Lansing Symphony concert, coaches youth football, loves to roughhouse with his three young kids and has a great laugh. He sounds like a guy most people can relate to. Yes and no.
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Wednesday, December 31,2014

A cup from the river of life

10 who died in 2014

by Lawrence Cosentino
At the end of every year, I drop a dented dipper into the river of life and look at the lives of 10 people from the Lansing area who died in the past year. They are not all famous or accomplished, but they are worth remembering.
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