There is something hopelessly old-fashioned, yet marvelously appealing about a room in which musicians can actually speak to the audience without the aid of electronic amplification. Santa Monica's Mayfair Theatre not only allows such intimacy, it encourages it, with a warmly humorous Victorian gingerbread setting, excellent acoustics and an atmosphere that is perfect for listening to music.
The success of Friday night's Alex DeGrassi/Art Lande concert clearly traced to the easy interaction between performers and audience provided by the environment.
Lande, opening the bill with a too-brief solo piano set, responded especially well to the close connection with his audience. A highly eccentric musician, whose track record ranges from the avant-garde in the '60s to his own Rubisa Patrol a decade later, Lande has recently been focusing on solo performances.
Virtually everything he played triggered the emotions as much as the intellect. A beautifully harmonized set of variations on the folk line, "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" was countered with a poundingly rhythmic "Vistico Mystico" and a near-stride variation on "The Man I Love." The only missing element in his set was the opportunity to hear more from this gifted creative artist.
DeGrassi, working with percussionist Kurt Worbin, continued the journey through the floating, somewhat ephemeral music that has been the focus of his performing career. He was at his best on pieces like "Children's Games" and "Thirty-Six," in which Worbin's electronic drums urged the guitarist into more energetic soloing.
The program's only real problem arose from the apparent need to squeeze two separate performances into one evening. A two-hour-plus concert without an intermission is a bit long for any audience, even in the Mayfair.