The Jazzcat

Billy Childs and His Chamber Ensemble at the Warner Grand Theater

by on May.16, 2008, under News


Lyric – the form of expression, the symbol of communication,

poetry, imagination, life and music. Astoundingly peaceful and beautiful, Billy

Childs has composed some of the most intricate and complex arrangements for

this project, which in addition to his ensemble includes a string quartet! The

music is full of joyous adventure with journeys deep into our parallel

realities where flowers fragrance is more potent, colors are more vivid and new

experiences along with and abundance of love is the fabric that spins the

Click Picture above for article on Lyric

The Da Camera Society is an organization of individuals who

bring together the rich history of Los Angeles’ architecture with the highest

degree of chamber music to create a “voyage of discovery” into the history,

into the music, into our memories, into our hearts. I have personally attended

performances at the old Egyptian theater, LACMA West, which was once the

popular department store Orbachs, as well as this venue at the Warner Grand

Theater in the historic core of San Pedro California.


Like water flowing down a stream and carving out new

directions in the earth, the ensemble of six bob, weave, swirl and exchange

their rhythms so seamlessly. You are stimulated by the music because it is

fresh, big and delivered with such a large pallet of dynamic sound your mind and

soul have plenty opportunities to dance and swoon!


Billy’s cascading runs, Bob Sheppard’s fleeting soprano and

Carol Robbins’ heavenly harp stir up the romantic wanting desire in us all.

Larry Koonse provides the melody on top of melody as the epic tale of the

music, narrated by the notes and chords, turn simple reality into complex



Is this Jazz you say? Perhaps, but how can you even want to

or begin to attempt to define such creativity. This is intricate music and the

cats have been here for most of the afternoon working through charts,

discussing theories and approaches, dissecting structure, opening up forms and

allowing space, time and music to magically converge and blossom into prism palaces of light and sound.


Peter Erskine’s touch on the drums is as light as a feather

and encompasses the sound by holding the line, sprinkling the seeds and watching

the garden as it grows with fills, texture, temper and the impeccable placement

of a bouquet of notes. This is only his second time playing the music and he is

finessing it beautifully.


Both of Billy’s children were present and the first tune the

evening was dedicated to his eldest, “Aaron’s Song”. Of course you cannot give

tribute to one child without acknowledging another as “Scarborough Fair” was

played for Carson. It is so wonderful to watch the happiness displayed by the

kids as music in their honor is being performed. As you watch, their smiles

turn into acute concentration on the style and creation of the compositions.

You see their minds absorbing the creation to use for their future dreams and



Listening to Carol is so dreamy; her solos dance like

ballerinas on clouds and when Larry lays down his loveliness on guitar, the

strings glide and skate together like Olympic champions spinning on ice and

roses and receiving perfect 10’s!  Billy

mesmerizes as he builds blooming clusters of chords that dance, waltz and melt

all over the ivory. When you listen to the structure of the music and

contemplate hearing, as Billy originally imagined, how the guitar and soprano

work together, the synchronicity of Hamilton Price's bass and Erskine’s drums

work the rhythm, how Carol’s harp and Bob’s flute create their magic, you can

only begin to appreciate and conceptualize the genius that exist within.


Imagine butterflies twirling and inside a bubble sphere,

each flying and taking the music in different directions while the revolutions of

the clear prism sphere floats and rises to destinations unknown. In the

confines of a single composition you hear a piano trio, a guitar trio, a

soprano and bass duo and an entire sextet splashing its appropriate colors on

the canvas. This is the music!


Billie’s sister Kirsten who did not attend the concert lives

in New York. She does not like to fly so when she visits she takes the train and

Billie loves to listen to her as she describes the countryside. I guess you can think of her window as a vantage point from

the present staring out into the vastness of a cumulative existence of time.

Her stories were the inspiration for “American Landscape”.


After the intermission the ensemble was joined by the string

quartet featuring Mark Robertson on 1st violin, E. Samuel Fischer on 2nd violin, Luke Maurer on viola and Victor Lawrence on cello. These wonderful players add a heavy increment of loveliness bringing the heavens and stars

that much closer and within reach! I think that all strings must vibrate at the

same frequency as the human heart because every time I hear them, I cannot help

but contemplate the purest form of love that emanates from one human to

another, as some of us have been fortunate enough to experience. If you are

lucky enough to have known this or you know it now, acknowledge it, feel it,

express it for this is what our existence on this planet is all about!


The movements in the suite shape and form such wonderful

characteristics in the music. Fluidity is X in the equation making the sum of

the parts equal to the whole. Precision is common amongst the strings, which

are expressed with such clarity that is definite in intension, poignant in it

phrasing and sensationally stimulating on the soul. The transitions take you to

the edge of you seat allowing you to close you eyes and soar!


A wonderful experience of extraordinary music meeting

imagination, tapping into inner worlds and visions of history all riding on a

magic carpet of Billy Childs' creativity!

By the album, experience the music!


LeRoy Downs

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