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Guitarist Ludwig earns his ovation

by Eric E. Harrison | April 10, 2016 at 2:58 a.m.

The Maumelle Performing Arts Center on Saturday night was as full as it's been for an Arkansas Symphony Orchestra concert. It was most likely a tribute to popular jazz guitarist Ted Ludwig, who has repeatedly proved that he is an ineffable treasure since his arrival in Little Rock in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina blew him out of New Orleans.

Ludwig was soloing in the world premiere of D.J. Sparr's Concerto for Jazz Guitar and Orchestra: Katrina, the first work of its kind, written not only for Ludwig but around him. The solo part is highly improvisatory, which is what Ludwig does best, so today's audience, as well as any future listeners, won't ever hear it quite the same way as did the Saturday audience that warmly acclaimed him on his entrance and gave him a subsequent ovation (that earned them an encore with a member of Ludwig's trio, former ASO bassist Joe Vick).

Ludwig's playing was, as always, brilliant, a sort of a center of calm in the midst of an orchestral part through which Sparr tone-paints Ludwig's own journey, from a clear but menacing day in New Orleans through the storm, its exceedingly eerie aftermath and finally Ludwig's landing in Little Rock. The orchestra, under the baton of Music Director Philip Mann, provided waves of sound and some fun battery sound and visual effects (including three percussionists waving orange vuvuzelas in the midst of the noisy storm).

Mann tied the concerto neatly to the dark, brooding and bitingly satiric Symphony No. 5 by Dmitri Shostakovich (which the composer successfully simultaneously used to get back into the good graces of, while secretly mocking, Josef Stalin and oafish Soviet officials). He either consciously or unconsciously played up the circus-y aspects of the second movement's club-footed waltz, a link to the similar sounds he got out of the orchestra in Leonard Bernstein's rowdy, though moderately tempo-ed Candide Overture; the finale was a suitably intense sonic blast that formed a suitable blow-out close to the orchestra's 2015-16 Masterworks Series.

Ludwig, Sparr, Mann and the orchestra will repeat the concert at 3 p.m. today at the Maumelle Performing Arts Center, Maumelle High School, 100 Victory Lane, Maumelle. Ticket information is available by calling (501) 666-1761, extension 100, or online at ArkansasSymphony.org.

Metro on 04/10/2016

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