Gregg Luskin graduated this last quarter with a degree in computer science from UCSB, but he’s been bringing his dance technology to the masses since 2006 under the guise of his DJ alter-ego, Milkman. In his albums and his live gigs, Luskin mashes together layer upon layer of popular music, mixing a bass line from Beck, a rap from Snoop Dogg, a vocal from Shania Twain and bits and pieces from all over the charts, making them work together as very danceable songs.
Mashups have been with us for about 10 years now, starting off with very simple but smile-inducing tracks from Freelance Hellraiser and 2 Many DJs. Their hit featured Christina Aguilera’s vocals matched to the backing track of a song from The Strokes. Just when critics were calling mashups dead, younger artists like Girl Talk and Milkman have resuscitated the genre with very dense tracks that mash as much as possible. Ideas only last for a few bars before moving on to something else. This is music for an ADHD generation.
The proving ground for jazz musicians over the decades has been the nightclub stage, the chance to sit in with a group of pros and solo. It’s a high-wire act for the up-and-coming musician, proving themselves in front of a crowd as well as a group that’s heard it all. In Santa Barbara, the tradition is held by one man, Jeff Elliott and his Monday night Jazz Jams.
His name has appeared regularly on SOhO’s monthly schedule, and always on that Monday. So much so that it’s easy to take for granted what Elliot does, which is keep jazz alive in Santa Barbara at the grassroots level.
For those of us in the entertainment print trade, we know at lot of these people by name, if not face. They keep the wheels greased and the machines running; they send out the press releases and they make the artists accessible; they keep the books balanced and the funds raising; they make sure that everything feels effortless. For the general public, that means they’re invisible for the most part; and they don’t want you to know how much effort goes into being effortless. But they are always on top of the list of the “without whom” section.
So now it’s time to bring a few of these people out in to the light and give them the recognition they deserve, for photographers to backstage crews. They are our Behind the Scenes Superstars.
Santa Barbara’s theater scene marked anniversaries, said goodbye to some well-loved people and maintained high-quality shows in difficult times in 2010.
For companies, it was a year of stasis. The city college’s theater group is still waiting for Garvin Theatre renovations to finish, but that has led to some interesting work in Interim Theatre, converted temporarily from a classroom. Alan Ayckbourn’s “Time of My Life” featured some of Santa Barbara’s best actors Ed Lee, Katie Thatcher, Brian Harwell, et al. for a twisted dagger of a comedy, while “Machinal” and the “The Suicide” featured nothing but SBCC’s drama students onstage, and both productions (revivals of 1920s plays) were brave and daring. The Ayckbourn play also marked the farewell production of Rick Mokler, who had been directing for 20 years. Katie Laris has big shoes to fill, and one can already see she’s ready to take the department in a new, vibrant direction.
Miller James had been holding his dream of running a children’s theater for years at bay, waiting for that chance to start. He had been married to the idea of waiting for the perfect space, but realized that might never come. It would be better, he realized, just to put on a show first. This former costume designer for Opera Santa Barbara and head of Ensemble’s Storybook Theater program decided the time was right, and the personal support was there. And now at the Santa Barbara Community Church, he and his large community company are about to mount “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”
“The Best” started life as a children’s book by Barbara Robinson, which along the way became a little-seen (and not well loved) TV movie starring Loretta Switt. But it’s done best as a piece of regional theater, for several reasons: it’s a satire on pageants while doing double duty as one; its large cast means choice roles for young actors; its setting (a church) means one can perform it … in a church.
You think it’s hard enough to find an apartment in Santa Barbara if you own a cat? Try a donkey, and a pregnant, soon-to-deliver mother. The “no room at the inn” story of Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem is a central part of Christmas, and Una Noche de Las Posadas has been a Californian tradition among Latino communities for a very long time. Similarly, the mid-19th-century tale of good vs. evil known as “La Pastorela” (The Shepherds), follows the shepherds as they make their way to Bethlehem to worship the Christ child and are tempted by the Devil along the way. Both events are part of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historical Preservation’s Christmas weekend, and serve to remind us of our city’s older traditions long before we started borrowing from Charles Dickens and Victoriana.
Tonight’s “Las Posadas” (which means ‘the inns’ in Spanish), starts at El Presidio and turns into a procession that mimics Joseph and Mary’s journey, passing through downtown (including Paseo Nuevo and all the Christmas shoppers), finally ending at Casa de la Guerra, where the couple finally find a place to rest. But along the way, businesses and people will be telling them there’s no room and to move on. Now in its 20th year, it has become a Santa Barbara tradition.
We keep waiting for that perfect moment when we can take a water taxi to the wharf for a drink at Longboard’s. It would be so apropos. In lieu of that, we drove onto the wharf for a return visit to this ol’ neighborhood establishment at the top of The Harbor Restaurant.
Because it is a part of the local chain of bars and restaurants that includes El Paseo, Tee-Off and Harry’s Plaza Café, we had no doubt that the drinks would be strong.
He was known in his day as the “African Mahler,” but in 2010, few people know of the composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and not just because his name is so close to that of the famous poet. Although prolific and popular, enthusiasm for his work vanished slowly in the 20th century. But as part of Saturday’s Santa Barbara Music Club afternoon concert, one Santa Barbaran intends to reintroduce audiences to the man’s work.
Steven Schneider has appeared as a pianist at previous Music Club concerts for six years. He came across Coleridge-Taylor’s work not by hearing it, but when he attended a workshop at Humboldt University that specialized in music for large and odd combinations. “I just started looking and digging,” says Schneider. He came across a nonet — a work for nine musicians, a chamber music rarity — by the composer, but soon learned it was very hard to find a published copy. After a call to the Royal College of Music in England, Schneider reached Patrick Meadows, who is considered a Coleridge-Taylor authority and responsible for discovering three lost works, including the nonet, and making them available for performance.
Santa Barbarans like to complain about the weather when it dips below, say, 65 degrees. Likewise, we also like to complain a bit about the number of “Nutcracker” productions in town. However, we should spare a thought for the many communities that rarely get a visit from the sugar plum fairy.
Durango, Colo., for example, loved the fact that our very own State Street Ballet is on tour with the Tchaikovsky holiday classic. Socorro, N.M., gave the company a standing ovation when it performed there. Now the ballet company returns for a series of hometown shows at The Granada.
Last time we checked in with Jim Clark, he had headed off to San Diego’s Comic-Con to promote his Eisner Award-nominated comic book, “The Guns of Shadow Valley.” But this Santa Barbara resident who writes about cowboys and aliens is also a father of two and is exploring another creative outlet that runs closer to home. In his guise as Ukulele Jim, he has just released a homemade selection of children’s songs, called “Ukulele Jim’s Jumping Flea Circus.” The 12-track CD of gentle ukulele strumming, Mr. Clark’s mellow voice, and catchy songwriting has been carefully designed to appeal to little ones without stressing out their parents.
Ukulele Jim was born out of a desire to be a good father. In 2005, Mr. Clark’s wife, Lisa, was pregnant with twins and he wanted his children to grow up in a house full of music.