Tag Archives: Kevin Twigg

Video from David Amram & Co.’s Inspiring Show at Cornelia Street Cafe

15 Jun
Amram2
Every time I go to hear David Amram & Co. perform, I am blown away and walk away inspired to be more creative and to live life more fully. This month with no different.
 
On Monday, June 1, I brought my friend who was visiting from Brazil to Cornelia Street Café to hear David Amram perform with Kevin Twigg (drum, glockenspiel), Rene Hart (bass), Elliot Peper (bongos), and special guest Robbie Winterhawk on congas. They played all the literary-inspired classics, from Arthur Miller’s After the Fall to Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Neal Cassady’s Pull My Daisy.
Amram3
 
Between songs, David Amram told stories of how he came to learn to play the hulusi, a Chinese flute made of bamboo pipes that pass through a gourd wind chest; how he met Woody Guthrie (“There was Woody sitting in this little kitchen….” in an apartment between Avenue C and D in New York City); to the fact that Pull My Daisy was written in an exquisite-corpse fashion (“People would come into town and add lines”). The stories behind the songs are themselves sweet melody to a life of passion, dedication, and originality.
 
David Amram uses his platform to inspire people both on and off the stage. He encourages the crowd with words of wisdom:
 
“Every day is an experience. Every day is an adventure.”
 
“Pay attention to anybody and everybody, and you’ll be amazed at what you can learn.”
 
He invites people up to the stage to perform him. 
Amram5
 
People like Frank Messina, who is known as “the Mets poet.” He told a story about playing baseball with some of the legends of baseball while growing up in Norwood, New Jersey. It was so fun to hear because I grew up a few towns over from him and lived across the street from a Yankees player! Messina’s handwritten journal of 9/11 poetry is in the permanent collection of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
Amram4
 
And people like Mike Shannon, an actor, who read Kerouac’s “Children of the Bop Night.”
Amram1
 
I happened to have incidentally sat down next to one of the performers, Connie Diamandis. She turned out to be a Greek American from Lowell and that we knew some of the same people! A singer, she did an amazing rendition of George Gershwin’s “Summertime.” She also told a story about Jack Kerouac and friends coming back to Lowell and hearing the Beatles and the new music of the era and pronouncing it good “but nothing like the classics.”
 
You can find out where David Amram will next be performing here.
Advertisements

A Ginsberg Love Fest at First Blues

22 Jan

 

WP_20130116_010

Oh, I am still on cloud 9 after the First Blues event to celebrate Allen Ginsberg’s recording!! I got there a bit late, and it was jam-packed with white-haired men who’d probably known various beat poets back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, and earnest, young, bearded hipsters, and girls in leggings and berets. I spotted the incredible poet Steve Dalachinsky and poet-painter Yuko Otomo, whom I’d met at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, in the crowd. I got to talk with poet Christopher Barry. I had heard another author I know was supposed to be there but there were so many people I couldn’t find him to say hi.

 

David Amram was his usual self: inspiring. The way he transmutes cultures into music and bends the “rules” of how to play instruments floors me every time. Watching him teaches me that Art is creative and fun, which is something after years of schooling and rule enforcing I often forget. He talked about how the best university is “hangoutology,” that we learn through other people and that we too should always generously teach others.

Kevin Twigg played glockenspiel with Amram. I’d normally heard him play in a full band, but hearing just him and Amram play was special. Twigg’s music sounded like magic!

Anne Waldman, who with Allen Ginsberg founded Naropa University, the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, gave an intense reading. Back in undergrad at Scripps in my 1950s Core class, I heard a recording of Ginsberg reading Howl that forever changed my understanding of the poem because of its moaning intensity. After singing a Blake poem, Waldman did a “Howl” that was transfixing. Hearing her howl live was a glimpse of what it must’ve been like to hear Ginsberg first read “Howl” at the now infamous Gallery Six reading.

Hettie Jones, who is a fantastic and generous writer, read, and I wish she would’ve read longer because it went by too, too quickly.

My eighteen-year-old self would never have imagined that not only would I one day ever-so-casually get to hear all these people read and make music and perform in a bookstore but that I’d actually know so many of them. I couldn’t find Jones after the reading, but she had graciously spent time talking to me when I met her in a class at The New School. A few years ago, I was in the same circle of conversation as Waldman at a party. Twigg asked me to sign a book, which he showed me had been signed by pretty much everyone associated with the Beats. Here he is this amazing musician with tons of covet-worth signatures, and he made me feel like a million bucks by asking me to sign too. Amram, always swamped by the masses, still made time for me, and again made me feel like I was the star. I hope that I do that for other people. He introduced me to his daughter, who was really sweet. He also introduced me to Bill Morgan, whose books have been a tremendous resource to me over the years. It’s so surreal to meet someone you’ve footnoted.

There were also other musicians and poets there, including Ambrose Bye, CA Conrad, Steven Taylor, and Arthur’s Landing, whom I’d never heard before and yet who captured my attention, making me want to explore their work.

Amanda Bullock, who plans the events at Housing Works and whom I’d heard speak about social media at the CLMP literary conference at The New School, was there kicking us all out at the end because we all kept mingling and having hurried, beautiful conversations.

I could hardly sleep from all the excitement.

Recap — with Photos! — of David Amram Reading

10 Sep

 

When musician David Amram introduced me before I read with him at Cornelia Street Cafe on September 3, 2012, he very generously said people should pay attention because one day they’d see me on television.  To me, though, reading with David Amram was a much bigger deal than being on television.  There are countless television shows, but there is only one David Amram.  While there are many fantastic musicians and writers out there whom I’d be honored to read with, there are few who hold such a special place in forming my creative identity as Amram does.

I first became acquainted with Amram through studying Jack Kerouac when I was just a teenager.  I was enamored with his improvised performance as Mezz McGillicuddy in the 1957 Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie film Pull My Daisy.  In fact, this photograph, featuring Larry Rivers, Jack Kerouac, David Amram, Allen Ginsberg, and Gregory Corso, who all collaborated on the film, is probably my all-time favorite photograph of the poets, writers, and artists associated with the Beat Generation.  It seems to so purely capture their friendship: just a couple of people hanging out at a cafe, maybe talking about the arts, or maybe just drinking coffee late into the night and enjoying each other’s company.

Although it was literature that introduced me to Amram, his music fascinated me.  Here was a musician who was more than just skillful.  Amram is an innovator.  He’s someone who experiments, improvises, blends genres, captivates.  He is, quite simply, mesmerizing to watch and listen to.

Through reading biographies on Kerouac and also reading Amram’s own biographies, I came to discover the jazz-poetry readings Amram and Kerouac began doing in the Village in 1957.  These were improvised sets, requiring each to masterfully foresee and adapt to changing tempos and moods in each other’s works.  These jazz-poetry collaborations captured my imagination, challenging my view of art and the way in which it’s created, the musicality of words, and the role of collaboration, improvisation, and performance in literature.  As I read about the collaborations in musty library books, forty-some-odd years after they’d taken place, I envisioned what it must’ve been like to be in the crowd at a painter’s loft or at the Circle in the Square.  Did the people there realize they were part of history?

In 2001, I had the opportunity to ask Amram just that when I interviewed him for some research I was doing at the time.  I sat enthralled, clinging to his every word, as he told me about all the places he used to hang out at in New York, about collaborating with Kerouac, and about how the term “Beat Generation” is just a marketing term that people later attached to the individual artists who each create unique works.  As he talked, answering all of my questions and never rushing me, and later as I read another biography of  his, I realized that Amram is the real deal — a creative genius and also a beatific individual, an artist who inspires and encourages.

Amram has been someone whom I’ve long admired, both on an artistic and a personal level.  Reading about those 1957 jazz-poetry readings he did with Jack Kerouac, I never imagined that one day I would have the opportunity to read the book I’m writing on Jack Kerouac with him.  When my former editor suggested we attend Amram’s show at Cornelia Street Cafe in the Village, I excitedly said yes.  A few days later, I had to email him back to say Amram had invited me to read with him.  It was completely surreal.

The September 3, 2012, show was completely sold out.  I had some friends who were turned away at the door.  Special thanks to Cornelia Street Cafe’s Robin Hirsch and the staff for hosting the reading and for doing such an excellent job in organizing the event.  I read a short selection about Kerouac’s time in Mexico from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, the book I’m co-authoring with Paul Maher, Jr.  It was really exciting because author Larry Closs and painter Jonathan Collins, both of whom I met through the Burning Furiously Beautiful Facebook page, were in the audience.  Poet and producer RA Araya, who has been hugely supportive of my work and whose birthday bash was the premiere reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful, was also there, and graciously provided the photography you see here.  I had some other family and friends there as well and am so appreciative of their support.  It means more to me than most people realize.

As soon as my videographer, Liz Koenig, sends the video, I’ll post it so you can hear me reading with David Amram and his band.  The band, consisting of Amram, Kevin Twigg, and John de Witt played so beautifully — even more of a feat, considering Twigg had hurt his hand before the show.  The music was haunting and fit the piece that I read so perfectly.  I wanted to remain present in the moment, to really hear what they were playing, and savor the moment.  It was one of those times in life that I wanted to tuck into my heart and cherish.

 

 

David Amram, Stephanie Nikolopoulos, Joe Pacheco

Stephanie Nikolopoulos, David Amram, RA Araya

Videos from Premiere Reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road

31 Aug

Here’s video from the very first reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, cowritten with biographer Paul Maher Jr.  This is the reading that took place at The Sidewalk Cafe, to celebrate poet RA Araya’s birthday, and the awesome band I collaborated with is called flashbackpuppy.  Not only was this my first reading from the book — it was also my first time reading with a live band!  We didn’t rehearse the collaboration at all.  I literally met them for the first time when I got up on the stage.

Video via Liz Koenig

Video via Fred Rodriguez

***

Don’t forget to come out this Monday night, September 3, at 8:30, to  Cornelia Street Cafe (29 Cornelia St., NYC).  Just steps from where Jack Kerouac and David Amram did their jazz-poetry readings in 1957, I’ll be reading about Kerouac while David Amram plays!  If you’ve ever caught any of his performances, you know that Amram is not only a phenomenal musician but also a great storyteller.

Amram & Co. includes David Amram, Kevin Twigg, John de Witt, and Adam Amram.  $10 cover, plus $10 minimum.

***

9/2/12: That’s Jon Martinez on bass, Patrick Conlon on drums, Peter Beckett guitar playing in the videos.

Evening of David Amram’s Chamber Music and Readings from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road

21 Aug
This promises to be an unforgettable evening:
An Evening of David Amram’s Chamber Music
and Readings From Jack Kerouac’s On The Road with music
Friday, September 7, 8:00 pm

 

Symphony Space, Peter Jay Sharp Theatre
2537 Broadway @ 95th

 

A tribute concert to celebrate the chamber music of composer David Amram
as a part of the New York Chamber Music Festival

On Friday September 7 at 8 pm, the acclaimed New York Piano Quartet, internationally renowned flutist Carol Wincenc, violinist and former MET Orchestra concert master Elmira Darvarova, eminent cellist Wendy Sutter, New York Philharmonichornist Howard Wall, Metropolitan Opera principal percussionist Greg Zuber, actor John Ventimiglia (of the The Sopranos), famed pianists Tomoko Kanamaru and Hsin-Chiao Liao, talented young musicians from the award-winning ensemble Face the Music with artistic director Jenny Undercofler, the much talked about David Amram Quartet and multi-instrumentalist David Amram himself, will gather at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater at Symphony Space to celebrate the chamber music of one of the most significant American composers of all times — the indefatigable David Amram, as part of the 2012 New York Chamber Music Festival.

This celebration of David Amram’s chamber music includes a wide variety of the composer’s works which represent his prolific career spanning many decades. Works include the 1960 Violin Sonata, the 1979 piano quartet Portraits, the 1977 Native American Portraits, the 1982 Blues and Variations for Monk, the 1993 Theme and Variations on Red River Valley, the Andante movement from the Concerto for Flute Giants of the Night (commissioned and premiered in 2002 by Sir James Galway), its chamber music version presented at this concert by flutist Carol Wincenc in its New York premiere, and the very recently written 2012 Cancion de Verano (Summer Song), also performed in its New York premiere, by the acclaimed young musicians ensemble Face The Music.  Several of these works are inspired by David Amram’s legendary collaboration with Jack Kerouac, whose iconic work On the Road has its own presence at the September 7 concert, with 5 readings, performed by actor John Ventimiglia (of The Sopranos) and David Amram’s daughter Adira Amram.
Program
Violin Sonata (1960)
Elmira Darvarova (violin) and Tomoko Kanamaru (piano)
Theme and Variations on Red River Valley (1993)
Carol Wincenc (flute) with the members of the Face the Music ensemble
Andante from Giants of the Night* (2002)
Carol Wincenc, flute and Hsin-Chiao Liao (piano)
*New York premiere of the chamber version
Portraits (1979)
Members of the New York Piano Quartet with Wendy Sutter (guest cellist)
Intermission
Cancion de Verano (Summer Song)* (2012)
Members of the Face the Music ensemble
*New York premiere
Blues and Variations for Monk (1982)
Howard Wall (horn)
5 Readings from “On the Road’ by Jack Kerouac (2011)
John Ventimiglia and Adira Amram with the David Amram Quartet
Native American Portraits (1977)
Elmira Darvarova (violin), Greg Zuber (percussion), David Amram (percussion), Tomoko Kanamaru (piano)
*
Tickets: $20 in advance (Symphony Space Members, Students, Seniors $15; Day of Performance $25) at symphonyspace.org or call their Box Office at 212-864-5400

 

David Amram has conducted more than seventy-five of the world’s great orchestras, composed more than 100 orchestral and chamber works, written two operas and, early in his career, wrote and conducted many scores for theater and films, including Splendor in the Grass and The  Manchurian Candidate. Since being appointed by Leonard Bernstein as the first composer in residence with the New York Philharmonic in 1966, he has become one of the most acclaimed composers of his generation, listed by BMI as one of the 20 Most Performed Composers of Concert Music in the United States since 1974. The Boston Globe has hailed him, “The Renaissance Man of American Music.”
For twenty-nine seasons, Amram was the Music Director, Conductor and Narrator of Young People’s, Family and Free Summer Parks concerts for the Brooklyn Philharmonic at the Brooklyn Academy of Music; and for seventeen seasons, Amram was the Musical Director and Conductor of the International Jewish Arts Festival, conducting members of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.  In addition to conducting, he has also performed with symphony orchestras as a soloist on instruments from all over the world, combining jazz, Latin American, Middle Eastern, Native American and folk music alongside the European classics.
Today, Amram continues to perform as a guest conductor and soloist while continuing a remarkable pace of composing. Recently acclaimed new works include Symphonic Variations on a Song by Woody Guthrie; Three Songs: A Concerto for Piano and Orchestra; and Giants of the Night, a flute concerto commissioned and premiered by Sir James Galway.  A Little Rebellion: Thomas Jefferson, a piece for narrator and orchestra, was premiered at the Kennedy Center with Amram conducting;  and Kokopeli, A Symphony in Three Movements, had its world premiere with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, also with Amram conducting.
A pioneer player of jazz French horn, he is also a virtuoso on piano, numerous flutes and whistles, percussion, and dozens of folkloric instruments from 25 countries, as well as an inventive, funny improvisational lyricist.  He has collaborated with Leonard Bernstein, Dizzy Gillespie, Jack Kerouac, Leopold Stokowski, Langston Hughes, Dustin Hoffman, Willie Nelson, Thelonious Monk, Odetta, Elia Kazan, Eugene Ormandy, Arthur Miller, Bob Dylan, Alan Ginsberg, Charles Mingus, Lionel Hampton, Paddy Chayevsky,  Johnny Depp, Archibald MacLeish, Pete Seeger, Tito Puente and Joseph Papp.
A documentary feature film, David Amram: The First 80 Years, is currently being shown at major music and film festivals throughout the United States and internationally. Directed by Lawrence Kraman, the film includes the New York premier of his Symphonic Variations on a Song by Woody Guthrie and highlights of his comic opera 12th Night.  Amram is also featured in Andrew Zuckerman’s book and new feature film documentary Wisdom: The Greatest Gift One Generation Can Give To Another, as one of the world’s 50 Elder Thinkers and Doers;  and his instructional video, Origins of Symphonic Instruments, released by Educational Video, is shown in over 6,000 schools throughout the United States and Canada.
On Sept 7th, 2012, the 4th Annual New York Chamber Music Festival presents an entire evening of Amram’s chamber music compositions at Symphony Space in Manhattan; and on September 21st and 22nd, Amram conducts the Colorado Symphony in Denver for a program which will include a live recording of his Symphonic Variations on a Song by Woody Guthrie.
For further information of Amram’s activities, access his webpage.
If you haven’t visited the appearances section in a while, you may have missed this news:
September 3, 2012.  8:30pm.  Cornelia Street Cafe (29 Cornelia St.).  New York, NY.  Stephanie will be reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road as David Amram plays, just like the first jazz-poetry readings Amram and Kerouac did in 1957. Amram & Co. includes David Amram, Kevin Twigg, John de Witt, and Adam Amram.  $10 cover, plus $10 minimum.
See you there!