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American Idol: The Top Six Take on Carole King



Last night brought the Top Six Idol contestants to a celebration of singer/songwriter Carole King. We all know Carole King, don’t we? Likely, most know her for her album Tapestry, which topped the Billboard charts for 15 weeks in 1971. Not only did the album accomplish that feat, but it remained on the charts for over six years and was bested only by Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Now, that’s an album.  Did the Idol contestants do her work justice? As always, you are the judges.

The night began with Jacob’s rendition of “Oh, No, Not My Baby.” Jacob didn’t need Jimmy Iovine’s reminder that he was in bottom three last week, but he used that to channel his best performance to date. First and foremost, Jacob is a singer—period. He spiced it up a bit by moving around the stage for a change, and his ridiculous range was back in full force. Jacob’s scatting near the end of the song also revealed to the audience that he can do more than just sing. Good for Jacob, though I’m not sure his performance will save him this week. Idol hasn’t seen a minority winner since Fantasia Barrino took the title in Season 3, so I doubt Jacob has a chance in hell of winning this thing, but he can, hopefully, remain past lesser talented competitors. The problem for Jacob is that there are few of those left.

One of the most talented competitors left is 16-year-old Lauren, who sang “Where You Lead.” Lauren has such a strong, melodic voice. She works the stage like a pro, and last night, she brought up a young man from the audience to sing the song to. Good move, Lauren. It made her performance more entertaining, and it appeared that the young man enjoyed it as well. It’s funny that the judges kept talking about Lauren’s need to “work on her confidence.” She does such a good job that it’s hard to tell that she has a confidence issue. She is always good, and it’s quite difficult to say much more about her. As the judges critiqued Lauren, she got tears (of joy) in her eyes, which made her come across as so sweet and genuine. How can you not root for this girl? Love her. I want to see her succeed.

Deciding to try something different, the Idol Powers That Be put together duets of the contestants to break up the performances. Personally, I saw it more as them wanting to fill up that hour and a half so that they wouldn’t have to go off at the air at 9:00. The first of the duets saw Haley and Casey take on “I Feel the Earth Move.” They sound better together than apart, which is probably not what Idol producers wanted, but that’s what they got.

Following the Casey/Haley duet, a very subdued Scotty performed “You’ve Got a Friend.” Like the judges, I enjoyed Scotty’s upper register. He really showed off his vocal talent, even if he was a bit too subdued. I want another “That’s All Right Mama” performance from Scotty where he shows off his playful side and sings with more abandon than normal. He bordered on being “sleepy” last night, but he showed that he is no fluke: Scotty is a great vocalist with good control over his vocals. Sleepy or not, Scotty is still adorable, and I doubt he’s in any danger of elimination tonight.

Keeping with the sleepier theme, James performed “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.” Unfortunately for me, our local news station decided to preempt James’ entire performance to talk about tornadoes in Alabama that would eventually reach Georgia. I did, however, get to watch a “snippet” on video this morning. I do like what the judges often refer to as James’ “tender side.” The A Capella intro to the song showed, once again, that James can really sing when he wants to. I’m personally partial to his singing over his screaming (as you’ve all heard me say time and again). James’ performance was good, but what wasn’t good was Randy declaring him the winner. Again, I sometimes think the judges don’t—think, that is. How does such a declaration make the other five feel? I do, however, think this will end up coming down to James and Scotty, but I would never say that in front of the other four. But, that’s just me.

Following James’ performance, Scotty and Lauren gave us a duet, something the two of them do quite well. They performed “Up On The Roof,” made famous for my generation by the Drifters. Their vocals really blend quite well together, and I would like to see them record something together once this competition is over. They’re both naturals.

Another natural in the competition is Casey, who performed “Hi-Di-Ho,” which makes me think of Cab Calloway. (Okay, I’m dating myself. So what?). Casey is good, but Casey is a jazz artist, plain and simple. I don’t say that to put Casey down, but I do say it to intimate that he will likely not win this competition. Very few jazz artists have been able to cross over into popular music. Norah Jones comes to mind as one of the few, but she has yet to repeat the success of “Come Away With Me.” Casey is that type of artist, but there’s not one thing wrong with that. He will very much have a career, and I’m glad to see him remain in his element, where he most shines.

Speaking of being in one’s element, who really knows for sure what is Haley’s element? She changes from week to week as far as the type of singer she wants to be. Again, she has no clue who she is musically. She, once again, is awarded the “pimp spot” of going last, and I found myself hoping that James and Jacob’s duet would ruin that for her. Putting Haley in the pimp spot tells me she was the second lowest vote getter last week, and for some reason, the Powers That Be are trying to save her. Why, I’m not sure. Yes, she can carry a tune, but that’s about it for Haley. She still has no stage presence, and there’s still nothing special about her. The only good thing I can say about Haley this week is that she didn’t growl as much.

Following Haley, James and Jacob dished up some real Kraft macaroni (“the cheesiest”) for us. They performed “I’m Into Something Good,” which, really, from the outset had nowhere else to go but to the skillet. I did enjoy their playfulness with each other, but I was cringing too much to really critique their performance.

All the performances are now “in the can,” and someone must go. Who will it be? I suspect we’ll move to a “bottom two” this week, as Idol normally does when the field narrows. I further suspect that Haley and Jacob will be bottom two. If there’s a bottom three, Casey will likely join them. As with last week, I believe Lauren, Scott, and James will be safe, and they will very likely make up the top three. From a pure talent perspective, this has been one of the best Idol fields in a long time. I don’t think America can “get it wrong” with whomever is eventually crowned the winner (unless they fool me and choose Haley). Ryan has begun “pimping” the tour, which I suspect will sell out fairly quickly. American Idol’s producers did a good job of replacing Simon and bringing back some luster to an otherwise tarnished show.


Rain and Fire in Sedona



Ange Alex

A rainy day in Sedona? What are we going to do. Everything we have planned is outdoors. I am pretty sure that is why people come to Sedona, for the beautiful OUTDOOR activities, like hiking, biking, Jeep tours, viewing the red rocks and photography. 

What to do, what to do.

Oh, I know. I had the privilege of meeting some great artists that work in fire and glass! The perfect indoor activity when your outdoor plans are washed away!

The Melting Point in Sedona, conveniently located across the street for the Whole Foods (two birds with one stone, yeah!), is a group of artist focusing on creating and teaching others how to create as well.

When we entered the facilities, it was like entering a fine arts gallery. So many beautiful works of glass art. Jordan Ford is the general manager and one of the Artists. He came out of the workshop and told us the rules, then brought us into the fold. 

We were about to become glass blowers! 

Jordan had a love for the natural world from a very early age. He went on to study geology in college but that is when he discovered glass. He currently has Bachelor’s Degrees in both Earth Science/Geology and Visual Arts/Glassblowing.

Jordan says , “It’s the process of blowing glass that drives me. I find the physical act of making glass so overwhelmingly fascinating. I approach most of my work with a consideration for the more classical techniques – it’s the framework that I use as a jumping point for experimentation.”

Not only is Jordan incredibly talented, he is really personable and extremely funny. He made everyone in the room feel at ease and we all often irrupted in bouts of laughter.

Another artist that was helping us is Austin Littenberg. Austin became interested in the art of glass blowing at age 16 after watching a documentary. He spent over 12 years developing his craft and learning the technical precision needed to work at this level.

Austin views the many ways Art presents itself and is in tune with it all, and it shows.

Clearly these two artist love what they do, and I for one am grateful for their expertise and their willingness to show the world their art.

They worked with us to create a beautiful cactus, complete with three flowers, one for each kid, and a Sedona rock like base. We loved the patience they showed and the skill to make us feel at ease. We never felt like  we were about to do something we just couldn’t. It felt like we had been doing this before. That is the measure of a true instructor. 

Our work of art was complete and we left there feeling accomplished and quite honestly, amazing! 

Both Austin and Jordan have remarkable skills but also wonderful comedic timing. They were a absolutely pleasure to meet and I look forward to keeping up with their art in the future.

If you find yourself in Sedona and want to meet some really wonderful people, stop by The Melting Point and say hello! While you’re there, blow some glass!

How could I forget one of them most important things; They have a studio dog! Austin brings his sweet baby girl to work with him and she is an angel! We loved her! Make sure you give her some love when you visit!

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Artists to Watch

Cry With Us! Puddles Pity Party in Orlando



Ange Alex

I owe him a poem:

Here’s a story of a sad clown who one night in February was traveling through O-town. 

He brought a suitcase and a lot of gum, he brought music and videos and tons of fun.

He sang high but mostly he sang low, and he put of one hell of a good show.

He gave a bearded guy a cupcake and danced with a lady, a wolf he would make

There is no doubt he is a boss sir, he even got love from Kevin Costner.

Fans filled the plaza for a night of delight as the 7 foot clown gave us some real insight.

He sang Bowie and Queen and even some Who, also Cash, Lorde and “Let it go” too

Videos played of pets and babies crying, also beautiful artwork and people smiling.

Last night Orlando was anything but mad as we showed much love for a clown that is sad.

Ok, I’d cry too after that poem. Here’s some more info:

If you haven’t been to see a Puddles Pity Party show, you are missing out. 

The show had me smiling and laughing so hard my stomach hurt, but I was also moved so many times by the range of Puddles voice. True entertainment never gets old and I have a feeling he is going to last forever.

I loved the interaction he had with the crowd. He pulled numerous people up to help him on stage and all of them were good sports, one man even singing the entire song, “All by myself” karaoke style! The show was so well thought out and planned but with room for some hilarious improv. Especially at the end when he pulled the 3 fans from the audience dressed like clowns. At the end of them performing together, Puddles suddenly remembers that he is scared of clowns! Genius! 

Hands down one of the best performances I’ve seen in years.


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“20/20:Visionary”: Looking Back, Looking Forward



Photograph by Charlie McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

Last weekend (March 18-20) the Atlanta Ballet gifted the city with “20/20: Visionary,” three pieces, including a world premiere, presented at the Cobb Energy Center.

The world premiere, “Playground,” by British choreographer Douglas Lee, belied its name by being a shadowy piece danced between upright, rolling chalkboard set pieces. Prepared for a lighthearted, joyful expression of childhood, I was surprised that the work instead exposed the darker side of childhood memories. There were some light moments, such as the towering billboard inscribed with multiple lines reading, “Jackie must remember the steps” – clearly a humorous aside about Jackie Nash, one of the most capable company members and perhaps the quickest study in rehearsal. There were some easily-seen choreographic devices–a lot of theme and variation, even more pushing around of set pieces–but there were a few exceptional moments as well, including intricate, slow-motion manipulation of a dancer’s body by another dancer.

Pen-Yu Chen & Tara Lee in “Boiling Point.” Photo by C McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

The opening work, “Boiling Point,” by Darrell Grand Moultrie, was playfully performed at breakneck speed. Dancers are often told to “make it look easy,” and the company took that concept to heart. Highlighted against the men in black costumes, the women wore bits of metallic fabric, providing splashes of intense color and exposing powerful bodies with long muscles. The piece began with the stage space open almost to its fullest, and the dancers running across like a rushing river. They rolled, twisted, turned, and slid like water itself. The choreography juxtaposed synchronicity with counterpoint, traditional with innovation. There was a gargouillade, rarely seen even in classical ballets. The lines of the bodies were critical to the piece, and often layers deep. The flow was almost nonstop, with only an occasional flick of a wrist or toss of a head to provide momentary stasis. The standout was Christian Clark, who sometimes nearly managed to integrate himself into the group but then something distinctive and powerful in his dancing drew the eye to him again.

“Red Clay” from “Home in 7.” Photo by C McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

“Home in 7,” a work by Amy Siewert, closed the concert. A portrait of Atlanta, the ballet was a rich tapestry woven from music, spoken word, and movement. Performed in 7 segments to a libretto written and performed by Marc Bamuthi Joseph and an intriguing, haunting string score composed and performed by Daniel Bernard Roumain, the dance, too, was a poem, shimmering like summer moonlight on the Chattahoochee. John Welker opened the ballet with tiny explosions of movement “Secrets.” Perhaps the most enchanting segment was “Home of the Braves:” 5 men using baseball imagery, holding their formation as they slid precisely between pitches and catches. “Red Clay” evoked August nights, intolerance, and redemption—Atlanta history, a story familiar to many. I first saw this ballet in 2011, and it has grown in depth as the dancers have matured technically and emotionally. Atlanta loves its ballet company, and never more than when it showcases its home city.

John McFall is ending his tenure with the company at the end of this season. For newcomers to Atlanta Ballet offerings, this will have been a dynamic performance. For long-time supporters, it will have been an opportunity to reflect on his legacy. There are a couple more opportunities to see the company under his watch, and then he will pass the torch to Gennadi Nedvigin, the company’s fourth artistic director. Stay tuned!

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