Live music returns to the Mondavi Center this week

Starting this week, the public will once again be able to attend live concerts at Jackson Hall, after a rest period of approximately 18 months due to the COVID pandemic.

The large ensembles appearing on stage Thursday and Friday will provide a stark contrast in terms of the music they play – and the artistic styles that both ensembles embody.

Conductor, pianist and composer Arturo O’Farrill. Courtesy photo

Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra

The Latin jazz pianist, composer and conductor will offer a festive opening concert of Mondavi’s new season on Thursday evening (October 14), with his Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. O’Farrill, who has a household name in jazz circles, is a decidedly cosmopolitan guy… his first name hints at being born in Mexico City, while his last name hints at Irish / German heritage. from his father.

His father, Chico O’Farrill (1921-2001), was a jazz star of Cuban origin, associated over a long career with legendary figures like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman and others. Chico O’Farrill eventually settles in New York and leads a big band performing at Birdland nightclub. Son Arturo, who spent most of his life in New York City, started playing in his father’s band in his youth and eventually became the leader of the band.

Now in his early sixties, Arturo O’Farrill has been honored with several Grammy awards. He also showed great sensitivity to the sometimes tense international situation that musicians sometimes face. In 2010, Arturo O’Farrill took over the jazz orchestra his late father founded to headline a Cuban festival, and Arturo O’Farrill also began a series of improvised musical performances on the border. San Diego / Tijuana between the United States and Mexico, with musicians on both sides of the border wall jostling each other through the wall that separates them.

Currently, Arturo O’Farrill is in the midst of a particularly interesting phase of his career. He works with young musicians as a professor at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music (where he is also UCLA Dean for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion). In addition, Arturo O’Farrill and his orchestra have also just released their first recording on the revered Blue Note label, titled “Dreaming in Lions” (a reference to the novel “The Old Man and The Sea” by Ernest Hemingway, the writer. prominent and popular American who lived in Cuba for almost 20 years).

The Mondavi Center performance by Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra takes place Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in Mondavi’s Jackson Hall, with special guests the Villalobos brothers and the Conga Patria Son Jarocho collective. Buy tickets on, $ 25 to $ 65 typically.

Violinist Judy Kang. Courtesy photo

UCD Symphony Orchestra

The UC Davis Symphony Orchestra will welcome the return of live music to Mondavi with a special free one-hour noon concert on Friday, October 15. Tickets must be reserved in advance through the Mondavi box office (online or in person), but tickets are free.

The main work on the program is the famous Sibelius Violin Concerto, premiered in 1904 (and revised by the composer the following year). It is the only concerto published by the famous Finnish composer and it is still performed every year by symphony orchestras around the world.

Many famous violinists have recorded it. Over the decades, many listeners felt that the music reflected something of the beautifully appealing (but decidedly cold) Scandinavian winter – the final movement was once pungently characterized by British musical figure Donald Tovey as a “Polish for polar bears”.

The solo violinist of the Sibelius concerto will be Judy Kang, an award-winning Korean / Canadian performer who holds the perhaps unique distinction of having worked with both the influential and highly intellectual French composer / conductor Pierre Boulez, and for touring as a violinist in the pop star. Lady Gaga’s backup group. UC Davis Symphony conductor Christian Baldini described Kang as “a remarkable talent …”

Composer Aida Shirazi. Kiou Kalami / Courtesy photo

Also on the short program (without intermission) is a piece entitled “umbra” by Aida Shirazi, a recent doctoral student. graduated from the music department at UC Davis. Baldini described Shirazi as “a remarkable young Iranian composer. His music features elements of Western and Iranian music, including micro-tones, and a constant search for colors and beautiful textures. She is a very talented and imaginative composer, and her music is unlike anything else!

Baldini added: “I am delighted that our orchestra is returning to perform on stage together with these two wonderful women who have so much and simultaneously so little in common. They are both great leaders, great artists, great innovators. And they come from completely different backgrounds. That’s what I like. Promote an appreciation of our multicultural world and all of its wonders.

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