Oatmeal, anyone? An Evening with Ottmar Liebert

When my daughter was small, she would refer to Flamenco guitarist, Ottmar Liebert as “Oatmeal”.  “Listening to Oatmeal again, Mom?”  she would ask.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 10.36.40 AM© Stacy Alexander – 2015

Last night, we were treated to two hours of this graceful guitarist’s skilled execution of some of the most incredible music I have ever heard.  Liebert was joined by bassist, Jon Gagon and percussionist, Chris Steele.  They had definite chemistry, and put on an ideal show in an intimate Portland venue in the Alberta Arts District.

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© Stacy Alexander

Ottmar Liebert is what guitar playing is all about.  He is in tune with his craft to the point that it seemed, at times, that he and the guitar were one instrument.  He was graceful, and seemed comfortable in his own skin, playing, most of the time, barefoot, with his eyes closed, seemingly oblivious to his surroundings, riding the waves of his own creations.   I believe he was playing a small DeVoe guitar, but it didn’t have any markings on it that I could see, so I’m not certain that is what it was.

Since 1986 Liebert has lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1992 he purchased an “alt-ranchette” just outside the city, with an adobe guesthouse he built as a recording studio.  In May 2006 Liebert was ordained as a Zen monk by Dennis Genpo Merzel at the Kanzeon Zen Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.  He had a very strong presence….one of peace and goodness.  Both John and I sensed this immediately as we watched him.

(I couldn’t get the video of Luna Negra to embed.  This video (above) is an earlier performance.)

I have been unable to find a video of Jon Gagnon, his bassist, but will post one here, if i do later.  He  was simply put, rock solid in every way.  Jon had a huge presence and voice on a 4 string fretless which sang like an baritone opera singer…or, at times, a French horn.  I couldn’t figure out what one of his bass instruments was at all it.  The one shown here was huge, and had a EB-like headstock and a body shape of something like a JP and a morsh.   Its  tone was full of mwah, but soulful and crying. The  fretboard was  coated with something shiny. I’d not seen anything like it before.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 10.54.47 AMThe drummer, Chris Steele, was not to be believed.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 10.57.15 AMI did find a video of Chris playing, and I encourage you to watch it.  He is truly a unique player, and fantastically talented.

There is a video on YouTube that I couldn’t manage to embed here.  Please look it up.  It is called “Good Drums, Bad Turtleneck” by Chris Steele.  This is the video to watch to really see this man’s talent.  You can find it here:

The Alberta Rose Theater is a sweet little venue….very small and intimate, which was the perfect place to hear a trio such as this.  John and I ate the venue’s delicious  hand pies and sipped Perrier as we basked in the warmth and beauty that these musicians presented to us. We had such a nice evening.   These guys are  true professionals…plain and simple.  They were tight, knew exactly what they were doing, and provided the audience with an amazing show.  ’nuff said.  Well…no….NOT enough said, actually.

As I was sitting there watching these incredible musicians, I though about my dear friend, another musician, and felt so sad that his life has taken the path that it has.  It could have been him up there on that stage last night….but as they say…”When you lie with pigs….”  He has made some not-so-wise choices.   I’ll leave it at that.

Betsabeé Romero in Reno

I went to see the Betsabeé Romero show at the Nevada Museum of Art a few days ago and would like to write about two parts of the exhibit.  The exhibit is Romero’s first solo museum exhibition in the western United States.   She is one of the most highly evered Mexican artists of her generation. and is known for combining indigenous and folkloric designs with non-traditional art-making materials, and for creating inventive installations inspired by literature and diverse cultures.  She created a series of four new installations for the exhibition, with an overriding thematic focus on transportation—both literal and metaphorical.

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The first pieces were large circular discs that were suspended about a foot away from the wall and facing a window.  The light from the window penetrated the surface of the various materials on the discs to reflect beautiful colored shadows on the wall behind them.

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The soft light and color filtering through the discs were magically multi-dimensional.  Their overall affect was one of serenity.

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Another part of the exhibit was Romero’s use of go cart wheels and gold leaf to make both physical sculptures and prints on paper.  Romero transformed tires in art from their status as a symbol of urban blight to one of progress and creative thinking.  This part of the exhibit was called, “Urban Stalactites and Stalagmites” and used Spanish and colonial patterns common to Mexico.

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The tires were inked, at one point, and rolled across papers to create serigraphs that repeated the designs.

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