Jeff Goldblum and The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra

Jeff Goldblum, photo by Universal Music Paridukovic, courtesy UCSB Arts & Lectures.

Jeff Goldblum, photo by Universal Music Paridukovic, courtesy UCSB Arts & Lectures.

Jeff Goldblum is a man of many talents. The Academy Award-nominated actor reveals his jazz piano skills with his longtime jazz quintet The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures  on Sat., Nov. 3,  at 8 p.m. at UCSB Campbell Hall.

“The bass, sax and drums complement Goldblum’s piano prowess and electric personality for a high-energy traditional jazz music performance that brings the audience to its feet, while Goldblum’s quirky, intelligent and suave humor makes for a hilarious and captivating evening. Goldblum’s fans will delight in his banter, games and selfies as he works the room,” according to A&L.

“You haven’t truly heard your name until you’ve heard Jeff Goldblum say it,” Los Angeles Magazine says. “The 65-year-old actor loves savoring–and sometimes butchering–names when he works the room at Rockwell Table & Stage in Los Feliz. Goldblum’s signature, oft-imitated speaking style has a bebop quality: a swingin’ rhythm and distinct musicality, punctuated with those jazzy ‘uh’s and ‘um’s.”

While Goldblum and his jazz band have been making weekly appearances at Rockwell for years, only recently has he decided share this insiders’ club experience with those of us a bit father afoot. On his first-ever formal tour with The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, Jeff Goldblum will bring that intimate jazz club experience to Santa Barbara. The music is first-rate jazz, but if part of the appeal is to get some of that Jeff Goldblum charm, we suggest that you don’t stray too far during intermission.

For Tickets/Info call 805/893-3535,  or visit ArtsAndLectures.UCSB.edu.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on November 1, 2018.

Squirrel Nut Zippers

Squirrel Nut Zippers, photo by Paul Familetti.

Squirrel Nut Zippers, photo by Paul Familetti.

Alternative band The Squirrel Nut Zippers comes to UCSB Campbell Hall on Thursday, March 1 at 8 p.m. in a UCSB Arts & Lectures presentation.

Described as ‘combining high-energy showmanship with elements of gypsy jazz, honky-tonk blues and witty swing overtones,” The Squirrel Nut Zippers’ most celebrated and commer­cially successful album, Hot, top-charting fast-and-loose ode to hot jazz, sold more than 1.3 million copies.

In honor of the album’s 20th anniversary of Hot, SNZ’s creator Jimbo Mathus and founding drummer Chris Phillips have enlisted leading musicians from New Orleans to serve up the band’s unique musical flavor, which owes its roots to that city. A newly-remastered version of Hot–along with a bonus track: “The Puffer”–returned to stores in 2016 on Hollywood Records. Long out of print on vinyl, the album has now made its glorious return to wax on 180-gram vinyl

The band is on tour after an almost seven-year hiatus and Beasts of Burgundy, their first studio album in 18 years, is due out March 23.

For tickets and information, call 805/893-3535, or visit www.ArtsAndLectures.UCSB.edu.

Leslie Dinaberg  

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on February 27, 2018.

UCSB Arts & Lectures Presents Telluride Mountainfilm on Tour

Mountainfilm Tour Poster, the Accord.

Mountainfilm Tour Poster, the Accord.

Film and nature collide when UCSB Arts & Lectures presents Telluride Mountainfilm on Tour on Thursday, October 20, at 7:30 p.m. at UCSB Campbell Hall.

Telluride Mountainfilm was launched more than 30 years ago by a group of climbers and friends dedicated to educating and inspiring audiences about issues that matter, cultures worth exploring, environments worth preserving and conversations worth sustaining. Still true to the core idea that friends, adventure, passion and powerful ideas are as tantalizing as ever, this 134-minute program offers a six-senses experience of art, adventure, culture and the environment in an eclectic and exciting program of nine short films. 

The show is emceed by a Mountainfilm presenter who guides the audience through the program, often sharing personal stories from his or her interactions with the filmmaker or the film’s subjects.

An image from Lindsay Branham and Jon Kasbe's film "Nascent," courtesy UCSB Arts & Lectures.

An image from Lindsay Branham and Jon Kasbe’s film “Nascent,” courtesy UCSB Arts & Lectures.

Films in the UCSB program will explore the struggle to reach the highest peaks on the planet; marathon life lessons; a BASE jumper’s dream; the triumphs and tribulations of surfing in Iceland; the near-impossibility of skateboarding on the wild, cold Norwegian coast; the power of hope to overcome the greatest differences; discovering a lifeline in the unlikeliest of pursuits; the mental and physical strain of pushing a sport to new heights (literally); and a skier who takes delinquency to new limits.

Here is what to expect:

Wasfia

Wasfia Nazreen doesn’t just climb for the thrill; she climbs for a cause. The first Bangladeshi to scale the Seven Summits, Wasfia has made it her purpose to brave these climbs for the sake of something larger – for the women of Bangladesh. Lyrical and poetic, this short documentary is a reflective character portrait that takes us from the depths of Wasfia’s struggles to the highest peaks on the planet, as we explore what it means to pursue the unknown (Sean Kusanagi, 2016, 11 min.)

Mile 19

Since the inception of the Los Angeles marathon in 1986, 178 runners have completed every race. They’re called “Legacy Runners.” Johnnie Jameson is a member of this special group, but he’s not an elite runner: He’s a working man, a postal employee. But what he lacks in speed, he makes up in creativity. He ran his first marathon backward, finishing in last place. He dribbled a basketball the next year. Each race, wearing his signature Payless shoes, he stops and talks and takes his sweet time. And over the years, the marathon has become a form of therapy for Jameson, who was scarred deeply from serving as an infantryman in Vietnam. The annual challenge of running 26.2 miles has helped him cope, grow and recover from those traumatic experiences. “It’s not about how long you out there, it’s about completing the race,” he says. “You gotta grind it out, because life ain’t nothing but a grind.” This poignant film from Vincent DeLuca conveys a lifetime of lessons in 10 short minutes, spinning a powerful story of resilience, humor and healing. (Vincent DeLuca, 2016, 10 min.)

A still image from Vincent DeLuca's film "Mile 19," courtesy UCSB Arts & Lectures.

A still image from Vincent DeLuca’s film “Mile 19,” courtesy UCSB Arts & Lectures.

The Mysteries

The vision came to Krystle Wright in a dream: a bird’s-eye view of BASE jumpers in flight over a stark desert landscape. When she awoke, the adventure photographer resolved to make that vision into reality. And with that, the dream turned into an obsession – one that led her on a four-and-a-half-year journey of failed attempts, uncooperative weather, disappointments and inward examination. The Mysteries follows a tenacious, and perhaps crazy, quest to chase down an elusive image and provides a glimpse into the kind of singular passion that drives people to reach their goals, regardless of what stands in the way. (Skip Armstrong, 2015, 8 min.)

The Accord

Iceland is an island in the very north Atlantic where the wind is unpredictable at best, where perfect waves are almost as rare as albino elephants and where frigid temps require a full wetsuit arsenal. In other words, being a surfer in Iceland requires a particular mix of hardiness, patience, passion and insanity. And more than anything, it requires befriending that mercurial, capricious, wildly drunken and occasionally benevolent wind. (RC Cone, 2016, 18 min.)

Mot Nord

Ice, driftwood, foamy waves and … skateboards? In this poetic short film by Jørn Nyseth Ranum, four skaters head north to the cold Norwegian coast, applying their urban skills to a wild canvas of beach flotsam, frozen sand and pastel skies. The result is a beautiful mashup – biting winds and short days, ollies and one ephemeral quarterpipe. (Jørn Nyseth Ranum, 2016, 10 min.)

Nascent

Nascent is proof of how short films can impart big messages. It’s a simple premise: two children, a Christian boy and a Muslim girl, give their perspectives on growing up in the divided and desperately poor Central African Republic. Despite differences in their upbringings and religious backgrounds, the pair share a hopeful vision of peace that would allow them to be friends. This could have been an awkward film or, worse, a treacly one. But in the hands of director Lindsay Branham (who attended school in Telluride in 5th and 6th grade), the result is a thoughtful and powerful documentary that asks the simple question: Why can’t we all just get along? (Lindsay Branham and Jon Kasbe, 2015, 7 min.)

Throw

Growing up in East Baltimore surrounded by poverty and violence is hard enough, and Coffin Nachtmahr had the added challenge of being different. He stutters. He never quite fit in, and he was picked on. Then he discovered a lifeline in the unlikeliest of pursuits: yo-yoing. In the subculture of “throwers,” he found purpose, acceptance and community. Today, Coffin is the city’s best, transforming the simple activity of yo-yoing into a transfixing dance of creativity, innovation and connection. (Darren Durlach and Dave Larson, 2016, 10 min.)

High and Mighty

The no-fall zone: It’s what makes highball bouldering the new cutting edge of climbing, where miniscule holds and overhanging routes can stretch more than 30 feet above the ground with no protection beyond a pile of crash pads below. But the thing about pushing bouldering to new heights – literally – is that the consequences also rise. Broken bones, concussions and trips to the hospital are among the more unfortunate results. And sometimes, the mental toughness required is even more strenuous than the actual climbing. This documentary from Sender Films follows the wild personalities who are pushing bouldering into high and mighty places it’s never been before. (Nick Rosen, Peter Mortimer and Josh Lowell, 2015, 20 min.)

One of Those Days 3

A manhunt is underway in the Alps to arrest French skier Candide Thovex. His crime? Where do we start? Dude skis over a helicopter, into camera vans, hits trees, interrupts races and busts through barns. In One of those Days 3, he takes his POV delinquency to new limits. (Candide Thovex, 2016, 5 min.)

Telluride Mountainfilm on Tour is presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures.

2016 Intro by Stash Wislocki from Tour Screeners on Vimeo.

Tickets are $15 for the general public and $10 for UCSB students and youths 18 & under (Current ID required). For tickets or more information, call UCSB Arts & Lectures at 805/893-3535 or purchase online at ArtsAndLectures.UCSB.edu.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on October 15, 2016.

Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra

Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, courtesy of UCSB Arts & Lectures.

Arturo O’Farrill and the
Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, courtesy of UCSB Arts & Lectures.

Grammy Award-winning Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra bring together the drama of big band jazz, the culture of Latin music and the virtuosity of 18 of the world’s most accomplished solo musicians, on Thu., Nov. 5, at 8 p.m. at UCSB Campbell Hall, presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures.

Pianist and composer  O’Farrill, billed by the New York Times as leader of the “first family of Afro-Cuban Jazz,” earned a reputation as a soloist in groups led by Dizzy Gillespie, Steve Turre, Freddy Cole, Lester Bowie, Wynton Marsalis and Harry Belafonte.

Son of the late, great composer Chico O’Farrill, he established the Grammy Award-winning Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra to bring the vital musical traditions of Afro Latin jazz to a wider audience. Fusing Latin rhythms, African-based percussion, modern jazz and swing, this 18-piece orchestra roars through new commissions and compositions by the best in Latin music: Tito Puente, Astor Piazzola, Hermeto Pascoal and Chico O’Farrill.

For tickets or more information, call UCSB Arts & Lectures at 805/893-3535 or purchase online at www.ArtsAndLectures.UCSB.edu.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine on October 30, 2015.

John Hodgman on Starring as John Hodgman

UCSB Student Appreciation Event Puts the Real John Hodgman Front and Center in Comedy Show I Stole Your Dad

By Leslie Dinaberg

Talking on the phone with John Hodgman while he’s on the set of The Daily Show is a bit surreal. The guy who usually trades witty bon mots with Jon Stewart is now bantering with ME! That same guy who plays the nerdy PC sidekick to Justin Long’s much cooler Mac, the whack-job Deranged Millionaire and the pompously Insane Academic Resident Expert turns out to be every bit as funny when he’s playing himself. He describes it as “doing my John Hodgman impersonation,” which is essentially what he’ll be doing in I Stole Your Dad, his new comedy show that is coming to UCSB Campbell Hall on April 1.

John Hodgman, courtesy photo

John Hodgman, courtesy photo

The show is a bit of a departure for Hodgman. “Ever since the world did not come to an end as I predicted it would in my last stand-up comedy special called Ragnarok (an apocalypse-themed stand-up comedy routine and NetFlix special revolving around his interpretation of Ragnarök, the Norse end of the world), I have been doing somewhat more personal kind of comedy, comedy where at least on the page I am not performing as an insane academic resident expert or a deranged millionaire but instead as John Hodgman, a person who has done those things, and other things, and is also just a normal human being with a normal family and two normal human children. So essentially I’m now doing my John Hodgman impersonation,” says Hodgman, who in addition to being a New York Times Magazine columnist, wrote the Complete World Knowledge trilogy: The Areas of My Expertise (2005), More Information Than You Require (2008) and That Is All (2011).

The 42-year-old writer/comedian says he decided to step away from the character concept and do his John Hodgman impersonation “mostly out of desperation.”

“To some degree I felt like I had told every hobo joke and fake history joke that I knew how to make, and to some degree I had made every deranged millionaire slash apocalyptic harbinger joke that I knew how to make. … At the same time I had started doing stand-up comedy, which you know I had been doing an imitation of for some years but usually reading portions of my book and/or performing little bits from it. But by the time I came out with my stand-up special for Netflix I really had given up using any scripts or nets—literal or figurative—and was really just doing comedy.  And I felt an interest in speaking a little bit more plainly and just being a little bit more vulnerable onstage,” he says.

“So part of it was, I had to make jokes about something and what else is there … oh yes, my real life,” he continues.

I Stole Your Dad includes Hodgmanesque observations on topics from how to dress like a young and relevant person to fax machines and other obsolete technology, to how to spend your time now that the world hasn’t ended, contrary to the Mayan prophecy. Also on the agenda: Downton Abbey, the state songs of Tennessee and the film criticism of Ayn Rand, done with an Eastern European accent, he promises.

When asked if it’s more or less difficult to be in front of an audience as yourself rather than being a character, Hodgman says, “The characters that I was playing were always exaggerated versions of myself, in the sense that I am someone who loves trivia and had picked up a lot of dumb knowledge along the way and then I loved pretending to be a deranged millionaire. It’s a little bit easier (to play John Hodgman) I suppose in that … characters have to be consistent whereas humans don’t have to be.”

He continues, “At no point when I am just talking on stage and telling stories am I ever forced to say ‘oh my character would never say that or say that in that way’ because it’s just me. And similar to the fact that you know those deranged characters are versions of myself, so it is also true that my real self is often somewhat deranged. Just because I will be telling more or less true stories from my life does not mean that I won’t get dressed up as Ayn Rand as she may or may not have appeared on Phil Donahue’s program in 1980 and rant in a vague Eastern European accent about Charlie’s Angels. That’s me too.”

A prolific writer as well as a performer, Hodgman claims that “my natural state is to avoid writing until the end of time,” but he tricks himself into writing “by booking small secret unannounced shows in a basement in Brooklyn that I call Secret Society, with a challenge to come up with something new to say at each one of these things. I would say that this has been a creative godsend, or if you don’t believe in god, me-send in so far as it allows me to pretend that I am not writing, just sort of sketching and drafting and coming up with things to say until the very last possible second—and the final writing happens on stage.”

Having appeared in guest roles as “the person wearing glasses” in a variety of films and TV shows, including Coraline, The Invention of Lying, Arthur, Baby Mama and Flight of the Conchords, as well as famously giving the Vulcan salute to President Obama at the Radio-Television Correspondents Association Dinner in 2009 (and receiving it back), Hodgman says, ” there’s not much left on the pop cultural bucket list.”

“I’ve pretty well wormed my way and insinuated myself into everything that I’ve ever wanted to be a part of from Battlestar Gallactica to Parks and Recreation and Community and all of my favorite things and projects, including The Daily Show for that matter. In many ways my career is just a series of times that I’ve insinuated myself into things that I love,” he says.

When pressed he does offer, “I was not consulted by J.J. Abrams on the new Star Wars movies, and I think rather than be offended, I think on balance I respect his restraint. If I were to push myself into the Star Wars movies in some way, it would be too much. The world is already struggling enough with the question of whether the new Star Wars movies are necessary. I don’t want to make J.J.’s fascinating task any harder.”

Hodgman has never been to Santa Barbara before and says he looks forward to finding a good gin martini (I gave him some tips) as well as seeing the UCSB campus. When warned about the busy bike lanes and skateboard lanes on campus, a light bulb goes off. He asks, “Is there any way that I could arrange for students to sort of build a skateboard rickshaw to take me on a tour of the campus? … I don’t skateboard myself but it seems like a great way to see the campus. Maybe someone could build a skateboard sidecar for me or a trailer.”

I promise to pass the request on to the folks at UCSB Arts & Lectures, who are presenting the show as a UCSB Student Appreciation Event. By hosting free and low-cost Student Appreciation Events, UCSB Arts & Lectures expresses its gratitude to UCSB students for their ongoing support; including the quarterly student lock-in fees students contribute to help sustain the program.  For more information or to purchase tickets to John Hodgman’s I Stole Your Dad on April 1 at 8 p.m., call 805/893-3535 or visit ArtsAndLectures.UCSB.edu.

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on March 18, 2014.