A great night for Gershwin in Gualala
By J. Stephen McLaughlin
Independent Coast Observer
July 5, 2013
It was a great night in Gualala for George Gershwin on Saturday.
Some of our best local musicians and impressive imported talent were brought together at the Gualala Arts Center by local jazz aficionado and advocate Fred Adler for a full evening's tribute to the iconic American composer and his lyricist brother Ira.
Adler, who is known to many as a long-time radio voice on KTDE, The Tide, in Gualala, introduced each performance, beginning with "Rhapsody in Blue," played by Renata Yardumian on piano and Eric Kritz on clarinet.
Yardumian, herself, adapted the full orchestration for performance by the two instruments. The result was especially interesting for those familiar with the orchestral work, as it revealed details and nuances in the score that had been unnoticed before, and showcased Kritz' clarinet chops.
Another long-time coastal piano luminary, Carolyn Steinbuck, performed a charming set of Gershwin's three Preludes.
Yardumian accompanied another local star, Mary Lynn Preiss, in a moving version of "Summertime" and selections from "Porgy and Bess." Her pure voice soared to the rafters of the Gualala Arts Center.
In an unexpected comedic break, "By Strauss" featured Preiss, Yardumian and Kritz in a "free 'n' easy waltz, that is Vienneasy," with those inimitable lyrics by Ira.
The Mendocino Brass Ensemble came south to contribute a Porgy and Bess medley plus a couple of other Gershwin songs, and then Adler introduced Eric Shifrin, the in-house jazz pianist from the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. Shifrin, a seasoned pro, performed a varied medley, and then accompanied his wife, vocalist Kotomi Shifrin on more Gershwin songs.
Adler assembled a great trio of Shifrin, bassist/vocalist Nat Johnson (who last appeared here in the Whale and Jazz Festival) and violinist Evan Price for the event. They communicated like they had been bandmates for years, but after their set, Adler revealed to the amazed audience that the trio hadn't ever played together. Indeed, they hadn't even met each other until that day.
Adler's family has a special connection to George Gershwin. He told the audience that his own grandfather had been Gershwin's personal physician back in the 1930s in New York, and he shared family lore of his father peeking under the banister as Gershwin played piano at parties.
Adler's tribute to Gershwin gave the full house at Gualala Arts more insight into what the excitement was about downstairs at his grandfather's house all those years ago.
© 2013 Independent Coast Observer, Gualala, CA
Reproduced with permission.