Early in the set, horn section ablaze, Downs tore into “Son del Chile Frito”—a track imbued with fiery cumbia rhythms from Al Chile (2019), her latest release—setting the tone for evening.
A gifted dancer, her body undulated across the stage.
Over the last 100 years or so, Hotel Congress has survived structural fires, seen prohibition come come and go, and hosted everyone from U.S. senators to John Dillinger and his criminal gang. Now, a new addition to the historic landmark fuses a New York night club with a borderlands mezcal bar.
Shana Oseran, who owns Hotel Congress with her husband, Richard Oseran, and music programmer Arthur Vint are teaming up to open a jazz club in the hotel’s former Copper Hall space. The Century Room, with a grand opening planned in March, will host weekly jazz performances, serve local mezcals, beers and wines, and offer a step back in time.
“We have the plaza and Club Congress, which is the impetus for everything, and now to evolve into this third genre, it’s really exciting,” Oseran said. “Where in town, or anywhere, can you find a place that has three different music venues?”
The Copper Hall was a banquet hall along the southwest portion of the building with windows looking out to the hubbub of Congress Street. With a reduction in banquets and similar events due to the pandemic, Oseran was searching for a new concept to fill the vacant hall when she started talking with Vint.
“While there are lots of great jazz musicians and great jazz performances in Tucson, there hasn’t been a singular home to host concerts or touring acts,” Vint said. “There are lots of musicians who tour around the country, and these bands usually stop their tours in Phoenix and go home. By building a club and a stage that is world class, we’re hoping to get people to come down to Tucson on their West Coast tours.”
After a long absence — since early 2020 when the specter of pandemia intervened, forcing the cancellation of live performances worldwide — the Jerusalem Quartet performed at the Leo Rich Theater this past Wednesday, Oct. 27.
The faint plucking of strings, tuning up backstage, prompted a still the audience held, as they waited in reverence for this internationally acclaimed string quartet to take to the stage.
Once seated, first violinist Alexander Pavlovsky led the charge headlong into Joseph Haydn’s String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 20 No. 5, considered to be among Haydn's most intense quartets due to its dark, brooding, and occasionally violent mood.
Esteemed British musicologist Sir Donald Tovey opined that it is “the most nearly tragic work Haydn ever wrote; its first movement being of astonishing depth of thought." The Jerusalem Quartet navigated the piece’s nuanced and well-articulated profundities with aplomb.
The work was composed in 1772, during a period in which Haydn was kapellmeister at Eszterháza. Dubbed the "Hungarian Versailles," the palace was beset by a "vexatious, penetrating north wind.” While ensconced in the prince’s court, Haydn suffered from bouts of depression and illness—conditions masterfully expressed in Opus 20 by the members of Jerusalem Quartet: Sergei Bresler (second violinist), Ori Kam (violist), Kyril Zlotnikov (cellist) and Pavlovsky.
Said to have defined the nature of the string quartet, the interplay between instruments in Haydn’s composition — that poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe likened to "four rational people conversing” — was personified.
Four years ago, Liverpool, England, the city that begat the Beatles, commissioned renowned choreographer Mark Morris to create a dance that would honor the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, one of the Beatles' most influential albums.
Two years ago, the Mark Morris Dance Group was touring the U.S. with the piece, dubbed Pepperland.
A tribute to the Beatles, the 70-minute dance was a jazzy explosion of color, with innovative modern dance moves and plenty of music, including six Beatles songs. The Washington Post found the dance ravishing.
“Pepperland is an ecstatic and provocative Beatles tribute,’’ dance writer Sarah L. Kaufman declared, “and like no land you’ve been to before.”
Regrettably, that dancing Beatle land did not come to Tucson that year. Because in the midst of all the praise, Pepperland went dark. COVID had descended and the tour shut down. Tucson would have to wait.
Like every other choreographer, Morris spent much of the past year and a half stuck in the studio, but he used the time to experiment with new ways to dance.
Instead of leading some of the nation’s best modern dancers across America’s stages, he put them in dance videos, filmed in lonely New York apartments, with the performers dancing solo. The online videos were a hit, and bit by bit, the troupe ventured carefully back into the world. During the past month, the ever-innovative Morris debuted new works created during the pandemic time. The dancers performed them outdoors in different parts of the Big Apple.