Andrei Strizek

pianist - music director - writer - etc

April 2015 in review

Live performances (11):

  • Wolf Hall, parts 1 and 2 at the Winter Garden (4/1/15)
  • The Audience at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre (4/7/15)
  • An American in Paris at the Palace Theatre (4/8/15)
  • Skylight at the Golden Theatre (4/10/15)
  • Ernani at the Met (4/11/15)
  • Fun Home at Circle in the Square (4/14/15)
  • Something Rotten! at the St. James Theatre (4/16/15)
  • Band Geeks at Red Mountain Cabaret (Birmingham, AL) (4/18/15)
  • Living on Love at the Longacre Theatre (4/21/15)
  • Airline Highway at the Friedman Theatre (4/24/15)
  • The King & I at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre (4/28/15)

Movies (4):

  • Love Is Strange  (4/7)
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower (4/10)
  • The Book of Life (4/10)
  • The Muppets (4/11)

Album Review: "Stages" by Josh Groban

My review of Josh Groban's seventh album Stages, devoted exclusively to musical theatre music, is up on CastAlbums.org. Spoiler alert: I wasn't a fan of the album, mostly because each song blurred into the next. The album needs more variety in its arrangements.

Also, this was my first review to garner a comment! Someone disagreed with my take on the album, but glancing through other reviews on the Internet, I'm not too surprised: I seem to have written one of the few less-than-positive reviews out there.

I wish Groban would have been a little more adventurous in his programming and arrangements. He has proven his artistry and developed a fan base; now would be the perfect time for him to vary his routine. Anyone who follows Groban on Twitter or has seen his talk show appearances knows that he has a sense of humor and lively personality. I miss that on this album. A little humor or wit could have made the entire project stronger.

Cast Album Review: "Tamar of the River"

I've started writing album reviews for CastAlbums.org. My first piece was on Tamar of the River, an off-Broadway show written by Marisa Michelson & Joshua H. Cohen and featuring Margo Seibert. It's a beautiful postmodern score, unlike most other cast albums you'll hear. As I wrote, its clear the composer owes a debt to Meredith Monk, and this work would find a comfortable home in a Roomful of Teeth program, but it's also quite original in its writing.

Side note: About a week after this was published, I got a Facebook notification from a friend. I was mentioned in a comment after Maria Michelson found this review and posted it. Her reaction was positive, as were the comments of her friends (some of whom had worked on the show in some capacity or another). It's weird to know that the creators read my review (not that I expected them to ignore it if they came upon it); it's difficult to write if you think that the composer is looking over your shoulder, reading what you write. But it made me feel good to know that my review was read, respected, appreciated, and shared.

Stay tuned for more reviews - I have a few albums coming down the line, and I'll share them here when they're published.

March 2015 in review

  • Disgraced final performance at the Lyceum Theatre (3/1/15)
  • Keith Jarrett (solo) at Carnegie Hall (3/3/15)
  • The Light In the Piazza at Manhattan Marymount College (3/6/15)
  • Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Belasco Theatre (3/10/15)
  • In Need of Music: The Songs of Ben Toth - Lincoln Center's American Songbook Series at the Kaplan Penthouse (3/11/15)
  • The Heidi Chronicles at the Music Box Theatre (3/12/15)
  • Molly Pope Likes Your Status cabaret at the Duplex (3/13/15)
  • Into the Woods at the Laura Pels Theatre (3/14/15)
  • Lea Salonga in Concert at Town Hall (3/14/15)
  • Emerson Sings cabaret at the Laurie Beechman Theatre (3/23/15)
  • On the Twentieth Century at the American Airlines Theatre (3/24/15)
  • The Visit first preview at the Lyceum Theatre (3/26/15)
  • Hand to God at the Booth Theatre (3/28/15)
  • Hunchback of Notre-Dame at the Paper Mill Playhouse (3/28/15)
  • The Lion final performance at the Lynn Redgrave Theatre (3/29/15)

Other miscellany:

February 2015 in review

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Live performances (14):

  • Ryan Scott Oliver at 54 Below (2/2/15)
  • Lady, Be Good! at City Center Encores (2/7/15)
  • "So This Is Love," Broadway Barkada's annual Valentine's Day concert, at The Cutting Room, at which I also arranged and performed on one song (2/8/15)
  • I Am, I Will, I Do, three readings of a new musical at Shetler Studios, for which I did music prep & copy/engraving work (2/9-10/15)
  • Taping of The Late Show with David Letterman at the Ed Sullivan Theatre (2/11/15)
  • San Fermin with the Metropolis Ensemble, at the Appel Room (Lincoln Center's American Songbook Series) (2/12/15)
  • John & Jen at the Clurman Theatre (2/13/15)
  • Big Love at the Signature Theatre (2/14/15)
  • Horseplay: or, The Fickle Mistress, A Protean Picaresque at La Mama (2/14/15)
  • Parade in Concert at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center (2/16/15)
  • The Iceman Cometh at BAM's Harvey Theatre (2/17/15)
  • Novus NY, et al, at Carnegie Hall: Ives's Symphony No. 4,  & Ginastera's Turbae ad Passionem Gregorianam, Op. 43, at Carnegie Hall (2/21/15)
  • Beautiful: The Carole King Musical at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre (2/24/15)
  • Constellations at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre (2/27/15)

Movies (1):

  • The Last Five Years

Other miscellany:

The dress is white and gold.

In memoriam: Clark Terry

Late Saturday evening, word came out that Clark Terry - great jazz musician and educator - passed away. His wife Gwen, who has been keeping the jazz world informed of CT's health for quite a while now, posted a note on Facebook, and word - and tributes - disseminated rapidly.

I wrote about CT last month, after I finished his memoirs. I don't have much more to add to it, other than this is a devastating loss to the jazz and education communities. One we knew was coming, to be sure, but still a loss.

“After that surgery in ‘91, I understood why it was imperative that I should encourage my students. When I was teaching them what I knew as far as playing the music was concerned, it was really about establishing relationships. Of course, it was extremely important to me that they would perpetuate jazz far and wide, but it was mostly about spending time together and listening to what their dreams were. To me, jazz was love. And like the old saying goes, ‘It’s better to give than to receive.’ It worked out well for them and it felt great to me, thinking that I could contribute something to make their dreams come true.”
— Clark Terry, “Clark: The Autobiography of Clark Terry” p240 (2011)

I never met CT, but his spirit was infectious. I can think of no better way to remember him than by listening to two of his most high-spirited recordings: "Brotherhood of Man," with the Oscar Peterson Trio, and, of course, "Mumbles," from the same album.

Rest in Peace, CT. You brought the world great joy and innumerable knowledge. You live on in your countless recordings and the thousands of people you taught and played with, and who continue to spread the gospel of jazz.

New Bacharach arrangement

I recently wrote an arrangement of Burt Bacharach & Hal David's "A House Is Not A Home," to be performed by Steven Cuevas at Broadway Barkada's annual So This Is Love Valentine's Day concert. I can't remember exactly how we decided that he should sing this song or that I should arrange it; I think it was one of those things where we were talking about it enough that it just became assumed that I would write this song for him.

As is my usual m.o., I procrastinated a lot and didn't finish the song until 2 days before the performance. (In my defense, it was a difficult song for me to get my head and ears around, so it took longer than usual. And I was being lazy.) Between the lateness of this song and all of the other work that Steven was doing as the music director/pianist/arranger for that evening's concert, we decided that I should play piano for him. (Thus marking - can you believe it - the first time I played piano publicly in New York City.)

Below is an excerpt of Steven & I performing the song last week, at the Cutting Room in NYC. We are planning on making a new recording in the very near future, which I will also post here.

I've long felt that this is one of the weirdest - but also prettiest and most heartfelt - of Bacharach's popular songs. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to do something different from the other versions out there: Dionne Warwick, Barbra Streisand, Glee ... My arrangement ended up being influenced by Lawrence Hobgood's arrangement on Kurt Elling's 1619 Broadway album. My version, though, should be treated more like a lied and less as an opportunity for improvisation or riffing. I usually allow for some liberties in my pop arrangements. That's the style, and the singer and rhythm section should have that flexibility. Here, though, I want things performed as they are. I took care to get the exact rhythms and pitches (and yes - I know they differ from the original melody.) As I mentioned above, the song was tricky for me to figure out. The phrasing is uneven - more than usual as far as Bacharach is concerned - and the melody is odd. The harmonic structure itself isn't that different or difficult, but I wanted to make sure the chord's extensions and substitutions throughout were just right.

The arrangement is available to download. It gets a little high towards the end, after the key change. If you want, I would gladly transpose the song for you. As always, I would enjoy hearing from you if you perform this at some point.

January 2015 in review

Books read (5):

Live performances (6):

  • Penultimate performance of Here Lies Love (1/3/15)
  • Closing performance of Once (1/4/15)
  • Ghost Quartet at the McKittrick (1/5/15)
  • Stephen Hough (Dvorak Concerto) and the Orchestra of St. Luke's at Carnegie Hall (1/15/15)
  • The Last Ship (1/22/15)
  • Performances at KCACTF Region 1, incl. Godspell and Maltby Award prelims and finals (1/27-1/31/15)

Movies (7):

  • The Neighbors (1/1/15)
  • The Imitation Game (1/9/15)
  • Boyhood (1/12/15)
  • Pride (1/14/15)
  • Gone Girl (1/16/15)
  • Whiplash (1/17/15)
  • Birdman (1/23/15)

Other miscellany:

  • Copy work/engraving/music preparation for reading of new musical I Am, I Will, I Do
  • Started & finished season one of Mozart in the Jungle
  • Started getting into Empire on Fox
  • Much needed updates to website

Sondheim's "Loving You" for a cappella choir

I was asked to arrange "Loving You" in early 2014, for inclusion at the First Annual Sondheimas celebration on March 22d. David Levy was organizing a birthday celebration for Stephen Sondheim to be held at Broadway’s supper club, 54 Below. Without much thought, I said yes. I mean - David is a good friend, I’d have the opportunity for an arrangement of mine to be performed at 54 Below, and the timing worked out perfectly that I would be able to attend on my spring break visit.

And then I promptly forgot about it.

Until around the middle of February, that is, when David checked in on my progress. I smiled, said it was coming along, and then I started working on this arrangement. "Loving You" is such a simple song that I knew immediately my arrangement wouldn’t be flashy. It was not my intent to add much that wasn’t already written by Sondheim; I wanted it to be almost understated, to let the words and their meaning, the harmonies, the melody, be at the forefront.

I toyed with the idea of including a cello and a piano part, but I liked the sound and intimacy of a small a cappella choir instead. Part of me wants to write a cello part, but I haven’t had the drive. I like the sound of this as it is.

Sometime during this process I asked David how he was planning on ending the Sondheimas celebration. I was wondering if he was going to use “Sunday,” which is cliché but also a great ending. His reply: “No! We’re ending with your arrangement!” That meant, of course, I’d have to sit through the entire presentation on edge, waiting to hear a fine choir assembled for this occasion sing my arrangement.

Later in the spring, I asked my quite large class of musical theatre students if they would be willing to learn and perform this at our cabaret that we always do at the end of the semester. They did a great job with it, and we barely had any rehearsal time! It was exciting to hear the song again, and to be able to conduct it this time.

I’ve uploaded the PDF to my Arrangements page. It’s available there as a free download. I would enjoy hearing from you if you perform the piece. It needs, at minimum, 8 singers (2 per part), but as you can see in the video above, a larger choir is possible. The piano part is included to help during rehearsals; it can be utilized during a performance if necessary, but I prefer it sung a cappella. And watch out for that key change! It can be a little tricky.

Thank you to David, Jose, Steven, and several others as listed on the PDF for their support and help with this arrangement.

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