WEILL TRIBUTE OPENS FORD SEASON WITH STYLE

"The John Anson Ford Amphitheater opened its 2001 season Saturday night with a stirring tribute to Kurt Weill. Appropriately-given the eclecticism of the Ford's overall programming-the production stretched from the big band jazz of pianist-composer Roger Kellaway to the blues guitar of Robben Ford and the Broadway-based cabaret style of singer Anne Kerry Ford. Kellaway chose to open each half of the program with a surprisingly envelope-stretching rendering of "My Ship". Emphasizing his own percussive piano lines, interfacing with the blurred vibraphone sounds of Email Richards, he occasionally signaled the full ensemble to display the song's essential melody, before quickly juxtaposing more dense-textured improvisational passages. It was a startling way to begin an evening, but an appropriate opportunity to display the wares of the concert's least acknowledged headliners-the all-star players (including such impressive soloists as trumpeter Carl Saunders, trombonist George Bohannon and saxophonists Bob Sheppard and Jeff Clayton) in Kellaway's large, talented ensemble.

Which is not to minimize the contributions of Anne Kerry Ford. Singing a program largely consisting of lesser-known Weill songs (written with lyricists ranging from Ira Gershwin and Bertolt Brecht to Alan Jay Lerner and Maxwell Anderson), she was an effective storyteller. Acting with an intensity that matched her clear soprano voice, she moved easily from the humor of Tschaikowsky" and "Song of the Rhineland" to the dark intensity of "Pirate Jenny " and Surabaya Johnny". The program-presented to a packed, enthusiastic crowd- was a great way to start the season. And one can only hope that an opportunity will arise, sooner rather than later, to return the spectacularly gifted Kellaway and his players to the Ford stage."

-Don Heckman, Los Angeles Times, May 28, 2000