Why hearing a Buster Keaton silent is just as important as seeing it

 Rick Benjamin, far right, brings the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra to the Granada Theatre. Courtesy photo


Rick Benjamin, far right, brings the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra to the Granada Theatre.
Courtesy photo

When Rick Benjamin and his Paragon Ragtime Orchestra play music in front of classic silent films, like they will do on Monday night when they accompany a screening of Buster Keaton’s “Steamboat Bill, Jr.,” audiences not get something to listen to, but a re-creation of a time and place, a look into a sound industry that was disrupted by new technology like ours is now, and a rediscovery of early 20th-century composers whose fame and popularity dissipated when the sound era erupted.

In 1985, Mr. Benjamin discovered a treasure trove of lost scores, music written for the silent movie era that was thought to have been gone. It wasn’t like modern scores in the sense of a singular work for a film. It was closer to scores for soap operas, where cue sheets outlined the emotional outline of a film, sending a conductor to that cinema’s library to put together a score. “Like Legos,” says Mr. Benjamin.

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Dengue Fever returns to SOhO with a new album, their first since 2011, in tow

Dengue Fever has always made Santa Barbara part of their touring itinerary and this time is no different. The band includes, from left, Zac Holtzman (guitar and vocals), Paul Smith (drums), Ethan Holtzman (keys), Chhom Nimol (vocals, front), Senon Williams (bass) and David Ralicke (horns).

Dengue Fever has always made Santa Barbara part of their touring itinerary and this time is no different. The band includes, from left, Zac Holtzman (guitar and vocals), Paul Smith (drums), Ethan Holtzman (keys), Chhom Nimol (vocals, front), Senon Williams (bass) and David Ralicke (horns).

During the course of their long career — 15 years, almost — Dengue Fever has always included Santa Barbara in its touring itinerary. Not all bands deign to stop by on their way up to San Francisco from LA, but as bassist Senon Williams says, “I feel honored that we can . . . It’s nice that we get embraced by the town.”

They come to town — tonight, at SOhO — soon after dropping their seventh album, their first since 2011’s “Cannibal Courtship” — a 10-song, 47-minute journey back down the Mekong, with the exotic vocals of Chhom Nimol leading the way. There are elements of lounge, exotica, jazz, surf guitar and funk. And there’s no attempt to make a more alt-rock sound, a diversion that marred “Cannibal Courtship.” Dengue Fever has gone back to what made “Venus on Earth” (2008) such a breakthrough record, but added plenty new influences on top.

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Dos Pueblos High School’s jazz competition adds a festival evening

Saxophonist and USC professor Bob Mintzer performs with Dos Pueblos High School's jazz band in Saturday's Jazz Festival. KENNETH SONG/NEWS-PRESS

Saxophonist and USC professor Bob Mintzer performs with Dos Pueblos High School’s jazz band in Saturday’s Jazz Festival.
KENNETH SONG/NEWS-PRESS

With an evening temperature warm enough to fool everybody into thinking it was summer, Dos Pueblos High’s evening of big bands, “Jazz in Paradise,” lived up to its name.

Although this annual competition of high school bands has been going on for 46 years, 2015 marked a first, with its full evening concert and with college division bands playing in a festival-style atmosphere.

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Off the charts: Dos Pueblos High School’s jazz competition adds a festival evening

Saxophonist and USC professor Bob Mintzer performs with Dos Pueblos High School's jazz band in Saturday's Jazz Festival.KENNETH SONG/NEWS-PRESS

Saxophonist and USC professor Bob Mintzer performs with Dos Pueblos High School’s jazz band in Saturday’s Jazz Festival.
KENNETH SONG/NEWS-PRESS

With an evening temperature warm enough to fool everybody into thinking it was summer, Dos Pueblos High’s evening of big bands, “Jazz in Paradise,” lived up to its name.

Although this annual competition of high school bands has been going on for 46 years, 2015 marked a first, with its full evening concert and with college division bands playing in a festival-style atmosphere.

The Jazz Festival was the long time wish of Dos Pueblos teacher Les Rose, who said he saw the lack of a jazz festival in Santa Barbara — the Santa Barbara Festival of Arts & Jazz stopped in 2008 — and thought an evening of the state’s best bands would bring some of that vibe back.

To do so he invited Bob Mintzer, sax player for the Yellowjackets and himself a teacher at USC, to come up and not only conduct master classes all day with the various bands, but play with Dos Pueblos’ band in the jazz concert.

“Bob was my vision for a jazz luminary to bring to our festival,” Mr. Rose said. “I thought of him because USC is accessible, and being a Grammy-award winner and educator, I thought he was the perfect person to be at our festival.”

“There were a lot of compelling reasons to come,” said Mr. Mintzer, “Plus I’m interested in education, and this is all an adventure to me.”

Mr. Mintzer hosts master classes around 20 times a year, and on Saturday had been working since 10 a.m.

“I try to inspire students to go ‘Wow, it would be worthwhile to put energy into doing the research (about the history of jazz),’ but also to point them in the right direction. It’s knowledge and experience and vocabulary. You need some level of connection to the inner workings of what you’re trying to do.”

Dos Pueblos’ Advanced Band played four songs to kick off the evening, with touring saxophonist Jacob Scesney sitting in on lead alto.

That was followed by the UCLA Latin Jazz Big Band, directed by Grammy-nominated artist Dr. Buddy Rodriguez, and the evening closed with Cal State Northridge Jazz Big Band with Gary Pratt conducting.

Earlier in the evening the awards were announced. Goleta Valley Junior High won the Junior High division, Santa Maria High School won the Intermediate High School division, and San Marcos High School won the Advanced Division.

Moorpark College Jazz A Group won the college level.

Jeremy Jacobs, 15, an Agoura Hills High School sophomore, plays baritone sax at an advanced enough level to join the Moorpark College band.

Jeremy said watching some of the other bands was “impressive. It’s the technique. … I’ve played charts that are easy, but then you have to solo. … Jazz is a great experience and I love playing with this band.”

For Mr. Mintzer, learning jazz is not just about the music.

“Hopefully, working with guests like myself will steer them not just into being better musicians but better people,” he said. “Your musicianship is a reflection of you as a person. Are you well-read, cordial, or gregarious? Do you have social sensibility?

“It goes beyond what you know about music, it’s what you know about life.

Teen Star’s finale at the Granada awards a new winner

After a year of anticipation, a popular audition process that brought in contestants from across Santa Barbara County, and weeks of mentorship and rehearsal, the sixth annual Teen Star Santa Barbara came to the Granada Theatre on Saturday.

Performing in front of a sold-out crowd, the evening featured 10 teen hopefuls vying for the title, but in the end there could be only one winner: 14-year-old Sydney Shalhoob of San Marcos High School.

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Friendly advice: Brooklyn Rider is a quartet not afraid of the new

The boys ofBrooklyn Rider recently released "The Brooklyn Rider Almanac" and will performworksfrom the album at Hahn Hall Sarah Small

The boys ofBrooklyn Rider recently released “The Brooklyn Rider Almanac” and will performworksfrom the album at Hahn Hall
Sarah Small

There some classical quartets dabble in contemporary composers while making sure to keep some Bach or Beethoven handy, Brooklyn Rider has shown its commitment to the shock of the new by commissioning a whole album of new works and then touring it.

“The Brooklyn Rider Almanac,” released on Mercury Classics this last September, contains an hour’s worth of commissioned works from artists like Bill Frisell, Christina Courtin, Gonzalo Grau and others. Not everybody involved is a classical composer. In fact, at Thursday night’s performance at Hahn Hall, Brooklyn Rider will premiere “Ping Pong Thumble Thaw” by Glenn Kotche, drummer of the rock band Wilco. The work was commissioned by UCSB Arts & Lectures.

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Passing with flying colors: Seventh Annual Kids Helping Kids benefit brings Ingrid Michaelson and Jon McLaughlin to the Granada

There’s that old adage: learn by doing. And there’s a new semester of young economics students that learned, and they took that adage to heart. The result is the 7th annual Kids Helping Kids showcase at the Granada Theatre, this Saturday. The event raises funds for needy kids both here and abroad, and the nonprofit that puts it on is based out of a San Marcos High economics class. Teacher James DeVries puts seniors in charge of a nonprofit, where they must use their skills to book, market and launch an evening of music. This year, two singer-songwriters will take the stage due to the hard work of these economics students. Ingrid Michaelson is a New York-based songwriter best known for the singles “Be OK,” “Girls Chase Boys” and “The Way I Am.” Also appearing is Jon McLaughlin, singer of the single “Beating My Heart” and who recently opened for Billy Joel.

James DeVries, who received honors last year from Goleta’s Chamber of Commerce for his work setting up this program, started the class in 2002 as a penny drive.

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