Monthly Archives: January 2013

Wine Enthusiast Magazine Awards Arnaldo-Caprai Winery, “2012 European Winery of the Year.”

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The Arnaldo-Caprai vineyards.

What does it take to be an award winning winery? Centuries. What contributes? Various factors, the terroir, changes in the wine making process, the winery’s sustainability and innovations, possible climate changes based on land changes and the regulations, protection and veneration of the social culture, government and owners/keepers of the harvest, their industry and efforts.  Italy is an ancient land of wine making, dating from before the Romans. The social culture supported the grape harvests and enjoyed drinking wine daily; it was certainly better than water.

In current times, the 1700s, the growing of grapes and wine making was suited to Umbria, the “green heart of Italy” and Montefalco, where documents of the time noted that “fine and delicate wines were produced there in ‘beautiful and good’ vineyards.” So much was this the case that municipal sanctions were strengthened to maintain and sustain the culture of thriving, glorious vineyards and sumptuous wines.  If you hampered a winery in its noble and sacred endeavors, you were in big trouble. In 1622 Cardinal Boncompagni, the Pontifical delegate in Perugia, threatened “capital punishment for anyone found cutting down grape vines.” Cutting down a plant was worthy of death? Such was the symbolism, of grape vines and the vitality of wine to the culture and the church.

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The Arnaldo-Caprai vineyards in Montefalco

With this dictum in place, Montefalco was assured of continued abundant grape harvests and in good seasons and bad, productive, determined wineries. In the next two centuries, the place was considered  “at the summit of the State for its wine production.”  though even then, the cultivation of Sagrantino grapes, a varietal indigenous to the region, was destined to produce sparely. However, difficult their productivity, the Sagrantino vines were nevertheless preserved in ancient monasteries by wine-making monks.

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Sagrantino grape vines and characteristic leaves. Arnaldo-Caprai Winery

Interest in the Sagrantino grape waned after World War II and trends had changed by the 1960s. Perhaps because of its scarce productivity, the Sagrantino grape nearly disappeared from Umbrian vineyards. It was the dedication of a few courageous wine producers and perhaps their romantic imaginations and interest in the Sagrantino as an indigenous varietal that the D.O.C. label in 1979 and D.O.C.G  label in 1992 officially sealed that the important tradition of these vines would continue. After this, the few Sagrantino vines still flourishing within the city walls of Montefalco were labeled and classified. The history of the grape had been preserved, and with research, it was assessed that some vines growing in the monasteries of St. Claire and St. Leonard dated between 1700 and 1800. Certainly, when the wine producers encouraged the sustainability of the Sagrantino vines, they were also preserving the sacred nature and lineage of the wine’s association.

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The Sagrantino grape varietal of spare productivity.

It was in 1988 that Marco Caprai, son of Arnaldo Caprai began managing the Arnoldo-Caprai winery that had been producing unique, top quality, Umbrian wines. Because of the father’s and son’s passion and rich understanding of the local varietals, and Marco Caprai’s desire to expand the work and develop the winery and the indigenous grape, the Sagrantino, Marco Caprai partnered with the University of Milan. His goal was to research the neglected native Umbrian Sagrantino varietal.

Marco Caprai, Arnaldo-Caprai Winery

With the collaboration and support of top local winemakers and sustained effort, Caprai and colleagues succeeded in transforming a relatively unknown indigenous grape to one that is world renown.  Because of the connection to his ancestry, with his characteristic enthusiastic fervor, Capai expanded the winery to over 375 acres of vineyards. One of the keys to his great success was and is his selection of a first-rate team. The team worked and continue to work alongside him in both wine production and company management. Together, their efforts contributed to making The Arnaldo-Caprai winery the “acknowledged leader in the production of top quality Sagrantino di Montefalco, the wine produced exclusively from the Sagrantino grape.”

For his determination in working to pioneer and produce excellent wines of unique character and depth, Marco Caprai and the Arnaldo-Caprai Winery have garnered multiple awards and global recognition. A few examples include Winery of the Year – Gambero Rosso Slow Food 2006, and Best Winery of 2011 from the Italian Sommelier Association (AIS). Their Sagrantino di Montefalco has won awards up to the present.

Not satisfied resting on these laurels developing the Sagrantino, to global renown, currently Marco continues to assist in the development and reclassification of the Montefalco territory suitable for vineyards.  He works in collaboration with the La Strada del Sagrantino Project, the prime force in engineering the marketing of the territory.

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The irrepressible Marco Caprai. What grapes are those?
Photo courtesy of Wine Enthusiast Magazine, from the article by Monica Larner at the announcement of the Arnaldo-Caprai “European Winery of the Year Award.”

Marco is president of the Vinegrowers of the Provincial Agricultural Union of Perugia, as well as the president of the Association of Foodstuffs Industry of Perugia. He was formerly the director of the  Consortium which protects and promotes authentic Montefalco wines and president of the Agri-Foodstuffs Center of Umbria Marco Caprai was presented with the Best Producer award by the Italian Sommelier Association.

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Arnaldo-Caprai vineyards in the fall.

This year, the Arnaldo-Caprai Winery has been recognized by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, which is an industry leading publication founded in 1988 to bring consumers information about the world of wine through its reviews. The periodical, which has grown to become the world’s largest and most respected magazine devoted to wine and spirits, gives out annual “Wine Star Awards.” The magazine’s editors honor the year’s finest wineries and highlight the influential personalities who have contributed greatly to the world of wine, celebrating outstanding achievement both within that given year and over time.

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Wine Enthusiast Founder, Chairman, Publisher and Editor Adam Strum explained the winery’s selection, “The innovative Arnaldo-Caprai Winery has helped revive Umbria’s indigenous grapes, bringing the wine region into the international spotlight for its production of Sagrantino di Montefalco.”

Montefalco Sagrantino, 100% SagrantinoUpon receiving notification of the award, Caprai said, “The Sagrantino grape has been my lifelong passion. I have dedicated my life to making Sagrantino a grape known worldwide and this award is a terrific testament to that effort. We’re honored to be chosen for such an important international award and to be in the company of some of the best wineries and wine personalities in the world.”

Marco and the Arnaldo-Capri Winery are now the toast of the town in recognition of being awarded the Wine Enthusiast‘s European Winery of 2012. On January 22, 2013, there was a Marco Caprai Producer Dinner at L’Artusi. Attendees  enjoyed a delectable five course dinner with wine pairings. Marco is also being celebrated for his achievements by Roberto Paris and Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria in a private event the following week.

Can things get better than this? From the bit I have researched about this diligent, resourceful, innovative entrepreneur and fine wine artist, Marco Caprai, there are even better things on the horizon.

What is Slow Wine? Come to the Slow Wine Tasting in NYC on January 28th to Find Out!

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Slow Food NYC website

SLOW FOOD, SLOW WINE, WELLNESS

If you are living in the 21st century, you know the importance of wellness and healthy lifestyle as it integrates with the wellness of our planet. You also know that ecology is tied with food production, that increased carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is threatening all of our ecosystems, that ultimately every country is interrelated regardless of whether it is a failed state with a tiny carbon footprint or a prospering one responsible for chemical mega poisoning.  Whether you are connected to enhancing  the current paradigm shift, changing the negative impact of corporations, fighting against GMO salmon and wheat and corn and adulterated processed foods like pink slime, or whether you are a part of the problem, turning a blind eye to all of it, the quality of what you eat and drink over the next ten years will determine whether you stay well, or build up toxins that will eventually wreck your immune system shortening your life span.

Conte Brandolini Winery embraces Slow Wine concepts

Conte Brandolini Winery is located in Vistorta, a small “borgo” within an agricultural estate in the heart of Western Fruili. The winery embraces Slow Wine concepts.

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Nino Negri Winery’s “5 stelle’ Sfursat di Valtellina DOCG.” The winery embraces Slow Wine concepts.

BIRTH OF SLOW FOOD AND SLOW WINE

Did you know that this idea of countering toxic food intake and supporting healthy eco-agronomy actually began to boil over in the 1980s in Italy? As the economy of Italy improved in the 1970s-1980s and tourism burgeoned, Italian chic gave way to the lure of American globalism. Italy’s once fabulous cuisine was being thwarted by pandering to fast food franchises. Its ancient culinary traditions centering around home made and locally farmed deliciousness were being overrun by processed, chemicalized, adulterated convenience foods. If this continued, the land of sumptuous eating and wine-making would be no more. A vital aspect of Italy’s historical culture was at stake.

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The Slow Food and Slow Wine website

Many understood the country was under a cultural siege and one of these was a culinary writer and journalist. Fast food was anathema to Carlo Petrini, who first came to prominence when he campaigned against the fast food chain McDonald’s opening near the Spanish Steps in Rome. Petrini’s successful activism prompted him to found a “slow food” and eventually “slow wine” movement initiating and establishing the importance of “eco-gastronomy.”  In 1989 Petrini’s Slow Food nonprofit determined to influence producers and consumers in a paradigm shift away from processed, bland, unhealthful, chemical-ridden foods that Petrini recognized were destroying the gastronomy of the world. He spearheaded global advocacy starting in Italy to redirect food production back to Italy’s glorious agricultural past.

In two decades, his dream of protecting the biodiversity of the land and the cultural food traditions of Italy  caught the imagination of many who saw the common sense of his platform. The movement has spread to more than 130 countries. The U.S. has the second largest chapter behind Italy which is the leader in the Slow Food and Slow Wine Movement. Just how does the movement make its impact guiding consumers’ food selections? Represented by the symbol of a snail (see the example given in the New York City Slow Food blog) restaurants or products approved by the Slow Food movement display the organization’s snail logo in their window or on their packages. Slow Food has also burgeoned into Slow Wines and wineries in Italy and elsewhere have employed the principles initiated by Carlo Petrini over two decades ago..

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Assiduous grape selection after the harvest at the Nino Negri Winery…embracing the Slow Wine concepts.

SLOW WINE

The Slow Food precepts have encompassed the area of wines and wineries. Wineries in Italy and elsewhere have employed the vital factors initiated by Carlo Petrini over two decades ago. You will be able to taste Slow Wines from the wineries pictured here and many others at a grand tasting event in NYC. This year the Slow Wine Guide 2013 is presenting its latest edition on January 28th in New York City, January 30th in Miami and February 4th in San Francisco. To celebrate, Slow Wine and Vinitaly International are hosting this grand wine tasting.

SLOW WINE AND VINITALY INTERNATIONAL WINE  TASTING EVENT (NYC)

For this wine tasting evening, Slow Wine’s collaboration with Vinitaly International offers an exceptional opportunity. Vinitaly holds the largest annual wine event in the world in Verona, Italy. Vinitaly’s expertise and presence assures that January 28th will be an unforgettable night in Italian wine tasting and education for New York City oenophiles and Slow Food and Slow Wine NYC members.

Event Details:
Where: Three-Sixty°, 10 Desbrosses St, NYC (between Greenwich St and Hudson St) Closest subways are Canal st (1, A, C, E)
When: January 28th, 2013, 6:30PM – 9:00PM
TO PURCHASE TICKETS:   Visit slowwinenyc2013.eventbrite.com
Slow Wine Guide, 2013

Slow Wine Guide, 2013 Attendees of the grand wine tasting event in NYC will receive a free copy of the Slow Wine Guide 2013 ($25 value)

pictured above ($25 value)
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Sagrantino grapes from the multiple award winning Arnaldo-Caprai Winery, which embraces Slow Wine concepts.

The  Slow Wine Guide  highlights the extent to which wineries follow the slow food, slow wine concepts.  What’s a slow wine? Thirst Wine Merchants in Fort Greene Brooklyn describe it perfectly.  It’s wine made from vineyards without pesticides or herbicides, and without chemical additives or flavors. Slow wines are made sustainably, organically, biodynamically. They are made on a small scale, from grapes grown in low-yielding, dry-farmed vineyards. Slow winemakers make their careful selection of grapes and harvest them by hand. No laboratory yeasts are used. Ambient yeasts allow the fermented grapes to naturally unfold revealing their distinct terroir (place of origin). New oak barrels (if necessary) are used with circumspection. The winemakers who follow these methods do it as has been done for centuries. There is no necessary certification, because winemakers believe this is in the best interest of preserving a tradition and making a great wine. In fact, this is the way my family members make wine, cherry liquor and lemoncello in my ancestors’ home town, Bagnoli del Trigno, Italy.

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The vineyards of the Arnaldo-Caprai Winery, Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s 2012 European Winery of the year.

If you attend this Slow Wine tasting event, you will receive the added benefit of trying approved Slow Wines using the complimentary Slow Wine Guide 2013 to make your selections for future purchase. You will be tasting graciousness and supporting a movement which has taken hold and which will continue to grow exponentially as it gains critical mass against mechanized, adulterated, industrialized food and wine.

ABOUT THE SLOW WINE GUIDE

Like the 2012 guide, this year’s Slow Wine guide does not use a point system to evaluate wines. Instead, according to the Slow Wine US Tour article, wineries are judged “in their entirety, taking into consideration the wine quality, typicity and adherence to terroir, value, environmental sensitivity and ecologically sustainable viticultural practices.” wine connoisseurs, US industry producers, Italian wine aficionados and just your average oenophiles. Last year, The Slow Wine Guide 2012 debuted its first ever English-language edition in what was a compilation of expert reviews of Italian wineries, examining their production as it related to region and a myriad of other factors. This year’s Slow Wine Guide 2013 presenting its latest edition on January 28th in New York City, promises to offer interesting revelations and additions to last year’s guide.

SLOW WINE GUIDE SYMBOLS

Because Slow Wine was conceived to indicate the reality of the present Italian wine “landscape,” the guide presents reviews of 400 different wineries. Each of these wineries in Italy has been visited by Slow Food experts and their evaluations employ these symbols:

  • The Snail (Slow Food symbol) indicates a cellar that has distinguished itself through its interpretation of sensorial, territorial, environmental and personal values in harmony with the Slow Food philosophy.
  • The Bottle is attributed to cellars which reveal a consistently high quality throughout their range of wines.
  • The Coin indicates great value.
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A wine from the Nino Negri Winery, embracing Slow Wine precepts.

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The Conte Brandolini Winery has been in the Brandolini family since 1780. The Brandolini estate is beautiful and boasts a lovely villa and gardens.

The Slow Wine guide is published by Slow Food Editore (the publishing arm of Slow Food Italy) and distributed in the U.S. by Chelsea Green. Following the events, the book will be available for purchase nationally on Amazon.com and select retail stores throughout US.

Al Pacino on Broadway in Glengarry Glen Ross. You Missed a Phenomenal Production!

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Al Pacino is a consummate actor. In the Broadway production of  Glengarry Glen Ross (David Mamet won the Pulitzer in 1984) insightfully directed by Daniel Sullivan, Pacino shines. His portrayal of Shelly Levine is truthful, vital and empathetic. He is backed up by a superb ensemble of actors, each a bulls-eye in his own right. Together, the cast adheres beautifully like a religious mosaic. They are powerfully felt, moment to moment, vibrant, subtly manipulative yet outrageous.  They overwhelm. And when you step back at the play’s conclusion to see the work they have wrought together, the impact of the production’s meaning smashes you like lightening.

This setting may be the Regan era economic corporate construct of 1983, but the play reminds that this is the seminal period that got us to 2013. The hapless characters are snared in a vise of proving their economic worth and are forced to predate their hapless victims. Through their struggles, we see how more than ever, as citizens and social creatures we are compelled to deal with the horrific results of corporate fascism, greed, corruption, callousness. As the characters game each other with slippery ploys and psychological maneuverings, we know the score, that the winners today are the losers of tomorrow, that ambition and greed are infinite and infinitely destructive, and that they, like Sisyphus who must roll the boulder up the mountain knowing he will slip and fall to the same result every time, are born to failure in a culture that is unrelentingly wicked. Indeed, even corporations, like Sisyphus, are beset by the ever-increasing need for profitability, cost cutting and downsizing to eliminate their “dead weight, useless eaters.” The play is timely, Mamet was prescient and the production is faithful in spooling out how devouring corporations, represented by the callous actions of Mitch and Murray, wipe out true industry and humanity.

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Having played Ricky Roma in the film, Pacino pulls off a miracle in his Shelly Levine, a character who was once like Roma but whose soul has become seared and savaged by the daily press of demeaning “employment” that offers no uplift nor ignites any spark of hope. Pacino portrays Shelly as a shabby shadow of once brimming confidence, now smarmy with the unseemly rot of connivance and calculation that is required to prey upon clients, cornering and badgering them into purchases, regardless of their wants and needs. His Shelly is tired, desperate, mentally fogged, tipping a precarious balance of initial fight and bluster and later waning energy and soul death.

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In his scene where Shelly flickers back to life in a last harrah which we discover has been prompted by his sordid theft in a deal with Dave Moss, Pacino’s delight barreling into the office announcing he has made the windfall kindles our enthusiasm. His commanding Williamson to ” Get the chalk and put me on the board,” (in competition for the cadillac) convinces us that Shelly isn’t a hack after all, he is the selling machine he used to be.  This counterpoint becomes all the more devastating when we and Shelly discover the sale is a deception and the deceiver, swindler and liar has been hoodwinked.  When the revelation comes that the old couple who signed the check in the coup de grace deal are broke, Pacino slumps physically, demeaned and deflated once more in failure. Prayed upon by his delusions, the reality hits him and us with ferocity as John Williamson, played with precision by David Harbour, twists in the knife deeper for the kill. Williamson takes a particular relish and glee asking Shelly about the couple’s apparent poverty, “Didn’t you see the way they were living?” and then snapping out in triumph, “They just like to talk to salesmen.” Pacino allows us to feel the desolation creeping back into Shelly’s soul. In his performance he wrenches all the emotional heft out of himself and enervates us with the power of living this character as we, with Shelly, victimized by the corporate ethos, cultural apathy and our own delusions about “making it” face his inevitable doom of hopelessness.

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As John Williamson, David Harbour makes the perfect foil to Pacino’s Shelly. He has taken the role far from Kevin Spacey’s  interpretation in the film. Spacey brilliantly plays Williamson as droll, dry, milktoast.  Harbour is perfection, the golden-haired, relative of someone at Mitch and Murray brought in to cut the dead wood and mechanize people and sales for profitability. Harbour’s Williamson is overtly cruel and aggressive, loud and brash. He smarms Pacino’s Shelly, showing that middle managers, too, can play the game, conniving,  manipulating, calculating, tormenting. We note Williamson’s slow deadliness as he listens to Shelly’s pleas, appears to be yielding, then with enjoyment backpedals, rejecting Shelly’s demands. He refuses to give Shelley the premium leads an intention he had all along, but with double speak he blames the result on Shelly’s selling failures as the rationale of denying him. Through this scene beautifully portrayed by Harbour and Pacino, we see the malevolence and self-victimization and cruelty in their representative dance driven by a market economy.

The symbol of middle management, Harbour aptly forges his character’s knowledge of the divide between the two classes of workers, the managers and the slaves.  Harbour’s Williamson carries the banner of his bosses and will never put it in the hands of the underlings. He portrays this knowledge, in his attitude, his carriage, showing his superiority with dominant confidence, regardless of the slaves’ resentment. His impeccable characterization as the perfect bastard is unforgettable, one you must grovel to, yet can manifest hatred to, up to the point when you remember he has the power to decide your fate. Harbour’s Williamson is inviolate and trenchant, recognizable as every corporate middle management position, the henchmen of henchmen.

The second foil to Pacino’s Shelly is John C. McKinley as George Moss. McKinley relates Moss’ fury with exceptional intelligence. His rage is layered and he shows that the closer Moss comes to fulfilling his plan of conniving a co-worker to steal for him, leaving the colleague holding the bag, the more irate he becomes. McKinley’s duplicitous Moss games his colleagues and Williamson with bluster and bravado that is empty and filled with complaint.  McKinley subtly weaves together Moss’ arrogance, rage and shadiness which we only understand later, having been connived by his rants and apparently legitimate condemnations against Mitch and Murray.  McGinley’s Moss is dominant alpha in believing that not only can he best Mitch and Murray at their own level of rapaciousness and cruelty, but he can use the company’s desperate slaves to effect his plan to sell the premium leads to create a profit for himself.

We especially see McGinley’s brilliance during his “Fuck You” tirade. In this scene McGinley allows Moss’s presumptuous arrogance to ignite beautifully barreling out a crescendo of “Fuck yous,” to the staff and Williamson with a ferocity that becomes humorous. We revel in the depiction. It is comical and identifiable, for we have been at that same place of having to swallow so much crap, “Fuck You” sums up our primal scream of frustration. We feel McGinley’s empathy with Moss’s rage at being cornered by Mitch and Murray, snared by his dreams of “becoming rich” and himself for believing the lie. It is felt experience and we know that behind the rage is the despair that things will never change, for we can do little but be beholden to bosses’ emp0loyment at will. Can we select the alternative, joblessness and utter failure?

McGinley enacts the scene to intimate Moss’ self-deception at too readily believing his delusional plan will work. Once again comes the lightening crash as we realize Moss’ rage is at himself, another failure gone amuck. His “Fuck Yous,” are in actuality, “I fucked me.” He has screwed himself and has brought everyone down with him, except his enemy Mitch and Murray. They will thrive, continuing to grind slaves to bits because the climate is a desperate one and there is no protection for non-union workers. Ultimately, Moss and Shelly will be put in jail for their dreams.

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As Ricky Roma, Bobby Cannavale aptly steps up to the challenge of playing the character Pacino played in the film. His Roma is more direct, apparently honest and less slickly selling a fabulous concept to his mark. Cannavale’s Roma is portrayed with vibrancy and candor. We see that he doesn’t understand the desperation of Shelly, Moss and George Aaronow, played excellently as a counterpoint by Richard Schiff.  Unlike Shelly and the others, he is the alpha, the star performer, on the top of the heap. We enjoy watching him finesse his prey, James (played by Jeremy Shamos) and are unnerved when Williamson blows the deal for him.

Cannavale’s portrayal brilliantly makes us want Roma to succeed, though it is counter to our sense of the Golden Rule and human decency.  With his clever, likable depiction we admire Roma, his talents, his charm. We enjoy seeing him at work, forgetting the sale is a con until it fails and Shamos’ James leaves in fear. That reality crash snaps Cannavale’s Roma and it awakens us. The charm flees like James and Roma turns on Williamson.  It is then Cannavale’s portrayal shows that behind Roma’s superb salesmanship is the same desperation and fear that have overtaken Shelly, Moss and Aaronow.

Though Roma is a winner today, he  knows the future is bleak. Underneath the dominance is a painful understanding; he is out there on his own and the company he works for puts obstacles in his path and is incapable of providing the proper resources for him to effect his talents. It is only  a matter of time before the premium leads will be given to a new top seller on the board.   Cannavale intimates this understanding when Roma draws in Pacino’s Shelly and compliments him for his creative “crap slinging” on James. We are allowed to empathize with Cannavale’s Roma, after all, for like the others, has duped himself. The future is now. Little does he realize the game is up for all of them. With the leads gone, Roma will be joining his pals selling old leads that can’t be sold, as two of his colleagues, the one he planned to work, end up in jail.

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As the low key salesperson, Richard Schiff’s George is us. He listens to Dave, Shelly and Ricky with tired sensitivity, with every step of the way relating to fruitlessness of the struggle of each man. Yet he is the solid presence that tries and loses, not with grace, but with quiet resignation. Schiff’s George is exceptional. And his counterpoint characterization enhances the complexity of the dynamic in the struggle each character has with his own delusions of which George gracefully seems to be absent of. He has gotten to the bare reality and he puts up with it all until he, too, has to cry out with frustration. A superb performance, Schiff listens, is always present. Wonderful.

Mamet saw what many recognized yet tossed aside in their quest for the riches during the Regan era of corporate growth and shrinking unions and voiding worker’s rights. The productive, aggressive ones, the middle management henchmen and those like uber confident Ricky Roma would one day be on the refuse heap. Why? Even in the market, and with hedge funds, past performance guarantees nothing. Mamet’s work and this production are timeless and reveal that our cultural dynamic needs to change. Corporations must not be the feudal lords. We must not allow them power by handing over our imagination, creativity, personalities and dreams to them because we have swallowed the lie that survival is steeped in economic despair.  We are more than “survivalists” and this is not a reality program, it a paradigm that we can end if we choose to. Sullivan’s and the casts’ production show that what people accept, they have. The lies and delusions they allow, ensnare them. It is a powerful message for all time. If you missed the production see the film and read this review again. You shouldn’t miss it a second time.

Chris Botti, Master Trumpeter and his Band at the Blue Note NYC.

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Chris Botti, Billy Kilson-drums, Richie Goods-bassist, Leonardo Amuedo-guitarist, Billy Childs-pianist (to the left not pictures)

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Chris Botti with Billy Kilson on drums. First part of the show on January 6th

Whenever I see Chris Botti and his band at the Blue Note Jazz Club (NY) or at the Tiles Center in Westbury, Long Island, at Tanglewood, at Carnegie Hall or at the Saratoga Jazz Festival, venues where I’ve seen him perform live over the years,  I’ve enjoyed watching the surrounding audience members. They are a pretty inclusive demographic bunch and their enthusiastic response always reminds me that timeless music resonates with most individuals, regardless of age, race, sex, even musical preference. Sure, we all have our favorite music styles. But some musicians are so exceptional in their craft and talent, that their technique bridges the great or lessert divides between jazz and pop, rock and classical, funk, hip-hop and blues.

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Chris Botti, honing in on fabulous Billy Childs, December 27th show.

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Billy Childs, pianist, composer, arranger, musical genius and Guggenheim fellow.

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Caroline Campbell opening the number before Botti joins her in their duet playing Emmanuel.

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Lisa Fischer, Richie Goods, Billy Kilson and Chris Botti (December 27th)

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Billy Kilson, Chris Botti, Leonardo Amuedo (December 27th)

Trumpeter extraordinaire, Chris Botti, at the top of his game is such a musician. What is interesting to me about Botti’s evolution during the time I’ve become familiar with his music (last 6 years) is that it is as if he has been seamlessly breezing from opportunity to opportunity, never looking back, never taking a pause to reevaluate where he is and where he intends to go. He is just on his way and there’s no stopping him.

Digging the music as he attaches his mute. (December 27th) He asked his tour manager to bring his mute on Jan. 6th...he had left it upstairs in the Blue Note's musicians' lounge.

Digging the music as he attaches his mute. (December 27th) He asked his tour manager to bring his mute on Jan. 6th…he had left it upstairs in the Blue Note’s musicians’ lounge.

This dedication to craft is what appears to fuel Botti’s development. Certainly that and his work ethic have enabled him to move away from the stylistic niche where he began, perhaps to the chagrin of other musicians whose choices directed them along  very different paths.  However eclectic his music has become, touching upon everything from classical to pop to blues to jazz, in a melding fusion, it is his brand, his identity of being true to himself, that makes Botti a celebrated trumpeter with a global  following. I would imagine in the next five years, he will be pushing the envelope and finding himself in places where even he will be amazed he has reached.

Chris Botti, Richie Goods, bassist, Billy Kilsonm drums

Chris Botti, Richie Goods, bassist, Billy Kilsonm drums

Chris Botti has been growing this world wide renown since having signed on to Columbia records in 2001. His work with Paul Simon, Sting and other artists like Michael Buble, Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban, Yo Yo Ma, Steven Tyler, et. al., and recently Barbra Streisand, has increased his star power exponentially and garnered millions in record sales. He has won various awards and three of his albums made it to #1 on Billboard‘s jazz album chart. He has been nominated four times for Grammys, twice for albums Italia and In Boston. His latest work, Impressions, which has been nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Pop Instrumental Album is an eclectic mix of jazz, pop and other genres including music by Chopin, Gershwin, Harold Arlen, R. Kelly, Randy Newman, others and a pair of songs co-written by Botti with Herbie Hancock and David Foster.

An integral part of Botti’s shaping his music is his incredible band with whom none of his evolution would have been possible or sure. For example in his 8th year performing at the renown jazz club The Blue Note (also in Milan, Tokoyo and Nagoya, Japan) the incomparable Billy Childs and Billy Kilson are Botti’s bedrock foundation.  They have been with the Botti for years and have their own fan following and careers. Likewise, other band members have whirled in and out of Botti’s sphere, spinning their careers toward other venues for a season, like violinist Lucia Micarelli who, after an injury on tour with Botti, took time off to heal and ever since has been acting in HBO’s production about New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Treme.

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Billy Childs listening as Botti discusses their welcome residency at the Blue Note.

Current band members who performed with Botti at the Blue Note for three weeks, 42 performances (two shows a day) also have toured with Botti up to 300 days of the year, unless other commitments took them away for a time. Lisa Fischer joined her old buddy Mick Jagger when he took The Stones on tour for six weeks and Botti had to make do in her absence.

Yet for those who tour with Botti, the Blue Note residency is a welcome respite. First and foremost in the band is Guggenheim fellow and three time Grammy winner, pianist/composer/arranger the phenomenal Billy Childs. Next is Mr. Awesomess, kick-ass drummer Billy Kilson.  Amazing vocalist, Grammy winner and Rolling Stones singer for 18 years Lisa Fischer has an operatic voice range, musicality and technique bar none. The virtuoso concert violinist Caroline Campbell, the youngest person to be inducted into the Pittsburgh Jazz Hall of fame, bassist, Richie Goods and versatile world renown guitarist Leonardo Amuedo have contributed their own unique talents and have enabled the group to soar on new wings.

Botti making an ironic joke in response to an audience member's comment about Caroline Campbell's beauty.

Botti making an ironic joke in response to an audience member’s comment about Caroline Campbell’s beauty.

Chris Botti and the brilliant Lisa Fisher

Chris Botti and the brilliant Lisa Fisher

Fisher's range melds beautifully with Botti

Fischer’s range melds beautifully with Botti’s sound.

Check out Botti’s website and the websites of band members Billy Childs, Billy Kilson, Lisa Fischer, Richie Goods, Leonardo Amuedo and Caroline Campbell for updates on performances and music albums. And be sure to watch the Grammys in February. After being nominated a number of times, this may be the year Botti takes home the gold.

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