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Grand Performances Opens 2008 Season with Smaller Names, But Big Music

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Sunday, June 01, 2008, at 12:27PM
Traveling Horns Ed Fuentes

There will be no Ozomatli taking the encore into the crowd at this years Grand Performances.

The 2008 Grand Performances lineup kicks off tonight, with little of the bang that accompanied last year's start. While the names may be more obscure, the series is still something Downtowners should be paying close attention to.

2007 saw a packed first show take over Grand Avenue, with local favorites Ozomatli as the star attraction. This year's opener, Miles From India, is a fusion of classical Indian music and American Jazz with little of the star appeal, but an interesting story.

The night presents a microcosm of much of the year's line-up: to uncover the gem's, music lovers are either going to need to do their homework or just take a chance and wander up the hill.

The Times' Soundboard blog recently ran a lengthy entry on the Miles From India Ensemble, tonight's opener. Casey Dolan writes about the ensemble's recording, where former Miles Davis' sidemen were brought together with Indian musicians virtually, via tracks patched together over the Internet.

Wallace Roney fills in the hot seat trumpet chair sublimely (“There was a lot of pressure on him, but he gets another outlet”). Guitarist Pete Cosey (”He was never recorded well”) and his gorgeous mosquito fuzz on the slow “Ife.” Sax player Gary Bartz playing better than he ever has and the ensemble of sitars, tablas, mridangams, ghatams, sarangis and Indian vocalists dazzling throughout.

Tonight's opening brings the performers together on the stage in one of only three U.S. shows.

Afterward, the Grand Performances season goes on as opening night is followed by a respectful mix of big band and rap, brass band and film screenings. Tijuana’s indie singer Ceci Bastida, in conjunction with DCBID’s Downtown Open House, will perform June 6, 7 and 8. A screening of "Chinatown" will introduce a weeklong multi-venue site-specific series of dance that has interpretations on water and Los Angeles.

Former Beastie Boy Money Mark will fight for the right to play lo-fi pop songs and soul-jazz of the '70s, mixed with hip hop. In July, Alan Chapman and Karen Benjamin reflect on satire by rewriting popular songs to provide commentary on the contemporary scene, all in homage to Tom Lehr.

Last year, there was rarely a disappointing night, and the line-up is worth walking up the hill, taking in the city, and being entertained. It's free, after all, and we do live Downtown. If you don't like a show, just walk on home.

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