The Full Blown Citta di Vitti

Phillip Greenlief, enchanted by the films of Michelangelo Antonioni, wrote about 40 melodic fragments inspired by the films. This was in 2006, as he explains here, and the end result was an imaginary soundtrack to the movies. (Click that link for some samples.)

He’s been performing the pieces with a trio. But their recent show at The Uptown expanded the band into a septet, putting some big-band punch into the music. With Antonioni’s L’eclisse running silently in the background, they played songs that matched with individual scenes.

I forgot my camera and had to settle for what my cellphone could do. That’s Greenlief in the foreground left. The four added members of the band are on the right-hand side of the stage, out of frame.

L’eclisse was a good choice, because the stock market figures heavily in the plot. Greenlief wrote bustling, busy jazz for that setting, appropriately New York-ish, with some strong swinging from the three additional horns and John Schott on guitar.

The trio pieces are good, too — Greenlief’s sax fills the space nicely, as he’s proven in so many other contexts. But it was fun to hear the music fully fleshed out.

The tunes aren’t scripted to match the film exactly. Each song began at a scene marker on the DVD and ended when it ended, so we skipped ahead through the film from beginning to end. Greenlief announced some of the plot details as we moved forward — we missed most of the effect of the movie but at least had an idea what was going on.

The ending was interesting. (And yes — SPOILER alert — I’m about to give away the ending. Kind of.) One of the things that had impressed me about the film to this point was the placement and framing of the actors. It was especially deliberate during the first scenes, with two characters in an apartment and lots of long silences. The end, though, shows us a images of stark emptiness. Most of the settings are unpeopled, and if someone is in the shot, they’re shown in unsettling close-ups or fragments. The music was likewise stark and lingering, full of ringing dissonances. Afterwards, Greenlief told me the ending was stepping through settings from earlier in the movie, showing you what they’re like with the characters removed. You’re forced to accept the place as an entity of its own, a single imposing character dominating the frame. What’s it all mean? Well, it’s very Film 101 of me, but I made the mental leap to nuclear war (which had been hinted at, in a newspaper headline late in the film), maybe showing how impotent the human world is without humans there to power it. I’m going to have to watch the whole film now and find out.

Upcoming Live Shows: Early August

Some upcoming Bay Area shows of note. Always check the Transbay Calendar or Bay Area Improvisers’ Network first! Most of this info was cribbed from there.

Tuesday, August 4 — Mary Halvorson is coming to Yoshi’s Oakland with the same trio that performed on Dragon’s Head, the CD that garnered her so much attention last year. I’d noted this here. There’ll be only one set, at 8:00 p.m. So sad that they can’t put up two sets.

Corn moon. Source: space.fmi.fiThursday, August 6 — At the Luggage Store Gallery, Polly Moller is curating a monthly series of 12 shows, each celebrating the monthly full moon and dedicated to a particular type of full moon from folklore. This month, it’s the Corn Moon. First on the bill is the duo of Karl A.D. Evangelista (guitar, vox, misc.) and Margaret Rei Scampavia (piano/keys, accordion, flute, saxophone, vox, misc.), performing as Grex. They’ll be followed by Phillip Greenlief and David Boyce, a tenor sax duet, who will “explore the identity of corn in Native American Mythology and everyday life.”

Thursday, August 6 — Uh-oh, a conflicting, yet also terrific, show: Vinny Golia will be up from L.A. for a performance that happens to be titled “Up from L.A.” He’ll be performing his compositions with a local troupe that includes strings and a jazz grouping, so you might get to hear a mix of his free-jazz work and his more classical/abstract composing. At Flux 53.

Friday, August 7 — The Best of the East Bay party includes music from a few Bay Area standouts, including David Slusser and Damon Smith. You’ll also get to hear Phillip Greenlief again, this time with his trio Citta Di Vitti, which plays swingy jazz inspired by the films of Michelangelo Antonioni. This time they’ll perform alongside projections of the films, apparently. At the Oakland Museum of California.

Saturday, August 8 — I don’t know much about Ideal Bread, but they’re from New York, they play Steve Lacy music, and they’re at the Jazzschool this night. And Phillip Greenlief will be there, again. He’s on a roll (again).

source: sfsound.orgSunday, August 9 — Any sfSound concert is a treat. Modern classical music treated with respect, both from the performers and the audience. (You know: applauding the performers as they come out, holding applause between movements of a piece, that sort of thing.) Sunday night’s show includes Karlheinz Stockhausen’s creeping “Kreuzspiel,” Anthony Braxton’s “Composition No. 75,” two premiere works, one very recent composition, and improvisation(s) by the group. At ODC Dance Commons.

Monday, August 10 — Now comes the honesty: I won’t be able to make it to any of the shows listed here. And this one might be the most painful miss, because I really want to see Go-Go Fightmaster in action. They’ll be the first act at the Ivy Room tonight, for free! (See here.) Second on the bill is Ava Mendoza‘s Thrash Jazz Band; she’s done terrific, noisy stuff on her own and with Mute Socialite. The improvised jazz trio The Spirit Moves Us closes things out, shifting gears to a mostly acoustic grouping that’s probably less in-your-face but not necessarily quiet.

Upcoming Shows: The Greenlief Five

Phillip Greenlief, at Bluesix with The Lost TrioYou don’t turn 50 every day (so I’m told). Phillip Greenlief is celebrating in fine fashion, with five shows starting with Valentine’s Day. Below, I’ve cut-and-pasted his show announcement and added some comments in italics. Happy birthday, Phillip!
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concert #1 – an evening with the lost trio
phillip greenlief – tenor saxophone; dan seamans – bass; tom hassett – drums
saturday, february 14th (phillip’s birthday) 8:30 pm
@bluesix acoustic, 24th street (at treat street), san francisco, 94110

[For two decades, this trio’s been playing their mix of covers: standards, rock songs, country songs. They’ve got a great sound together.  Click at right for a full band picture taken at Bluesix.

Bluesix, by the way, is a Mission District housefront that hosts quite a range of interesting music. It’s the kind of place that makes you glad to live in a big city.]

concert #2 – improvised music at 1510
first set – michel doneda, tatsuya nakatani
second set – tom djll, michel doneda, phillip greenlief, scott looney, tatsuya nakitani
sunday, february 15, 8pm
@1510 performance space – 1510 8th street, west oakland 94607

[Doneda (sax) is in from France for a few concerts. Nakatani (percusssion) is on his way back to Japan and will be in the Bay Area for just this one night — listen to him here. Djll (trumpet) and Looney (piano/electronics?) are mainstays of the local scene.]

concert #3citta di vitti at improv hootenany
monday, february 16 9:30 pm
@the ivy room – san pablo street, just north of solano avenue, albany

[Jazz trio playing music inspired by the films of Michelangelo Antonioni.]

concert #4music for large ensemble [click for details]
compositions by greenlief for orchesperry, special guests, the cardew choir
tuesday, february 17, 10:30 pm
@the uptown – telegraph street@18th street, oakland

[Part of Weasel Walter‘s monthly Avant-Garde Tuesdays at this downtown rock club. It’s a free show! (Donation suggested.) Come out, see a sprawling 20-piece band of great local musicians — and help convince the Uptown that they’re doing a good thing by supporting this music.  With two opening sets, including a quartet with Weasel Walter.]

concert #5orchestra nostalgico plays nino rota
sunday, february 22 @9:30 pm
@amnesia, valencia street between 19th & 20th streets, san francisco 94110

[Amnesia’s a bar, but one with an affinity for jazz/world live music and the occasional out-of-left-field group, like the What Cheer? Brigade. Cool place; the music will fit the vibe, even if the band doesn’t fit the stage.]