The Valley Line: Mus/ique supplies hot music on cool evening

Oh my, I've been loving this weather. Coastal eddy can come and stay for the entire summer. These cool mornings are divine, and the air smells so sweet.

Speaking of fragrances, the other night I was held hostage in my car for nearly 40 minutes because there was a huge skunk inspecting my front yard and I didn't dare open the door. I sure as heck didn't want to frighten him.

While I was thumping my fingers on the steering wheel, he was leisurely sniffing the flowers. He then squeezed himself under the front gate and continued his property inspection in my front courtyard. I guess he then decided that the grass was greener on the other side of the fence because he slowly ambled off to my neighbors' yard. One thing for sure is that he wasn't in any hurry. It was a lesson in patience for me.

I — along with about 1,500 other people — experienced an exciting and eclectic evening of music on the Caltech campus last week by the musicians of Muse/ique, conducted by Rachael Worby.

There was a cooling trend in the weather that evening, but the music got hotter. In fact, it downright sizzled with the sounds squeezed out of the trumpet of six-time Grammy winner Arturo Sandoval. The notes, from high to low, proved that Cuban-born Sandoval's music knows no boundaries.

Sandoval and the orchestra first dazzled us with Nepomuk Hummel's “Trumpet Concerto.” Well, that rousing piece more than satisfied the classical aficionados in the audience. However, Sandoval and the orchestra didn't stop there. The concert was held in the olive garden at the Beckman Auditorium mall, and the lovely site was echoing with the sounds of bebop and jazz.

A special moment came when Sandoval paid tribute to his hero and mentor, the great trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, with the song he wrote for his new CD album, “Dear Diz, Every Day I think of You.”

Actress Zila Mendoza, who received the prized Obie Award in New York for best lead performance on Broadway, also paid tribute to Gillespie by reciting a poem titled, “They Called Him Dizzy, But the Man Had Plenty Sense.”

Sandoval, who at the time was a cab driver in Havana, related the story of his first meeting with Gillespie. He picked up the famous musician at the airport. On their way into town, they chatted about many subjects. However, Sandoval did not tell him that he too was a trumpet player, even though he idolized the great Gillespie.

Later that night, Gillespie visited a club where Sandoval played with a jazz group, and their enduring friend and mentorship was sparked.

Sandoval also received an Emmy Award for composing work on the entire underscore of the HBO movie based on his life, “For Love or Country” starring Andy Garcia, who also was born in Cuba. Sandoval is working on a new book chronicling his mentor/protégé relationship with Gillespie.

Before the concert began I had a chance to chat with Sandoval's wife, Maria, and his granddaughter, Paloma Matheu. They were sitting with their good friends Mike and Merci Valesquez, who live here in our foothills area and were also born in Cuba.

Worby conducted Muse/ique in Ernesto Lecuona's “Malaguena,” Beethoven's “Moonlight Sonata,” Michael Jackson's “Billy Jean,” Mozart's “Adagio and Fugue, K. 456,” Astor Piazzolla's “Fuga y Misterio,” and George Gershwin's “Walking the Dog.”

As you can see from Worby's selections, there was something to satisfy almost every musical palate.

Brian Brophy, director of Caltech Theater Arts, played the mridangam, a double-headed Indian drum while rapping about life changes, theater and jazz.

Brophy told the audience that the first thing that people say to him is, “Wow, I didn't know that Caltech had a fine arts program.” It does. Brophy directs plays and helps grow the program to make sure that arts and culture are alive on campus. In doing so, he engages people from the campus community, JPL, and the local community to make sure they have a quality, artistic, engaging experience.

“On this campus we are more than just scientific geeks,” Brophy said.

Worby's vision for Muse/ique is that the orchestra will present concerts that will shake the cobwebs off of classical concert, mixing different elements.

“We partner with organizations in Los Angeles to transform interesting places and outdoor spaces into welcoming destinations where the power of live music brings people together and invigorates community life,” Worby said. “We are a nonprofit organization that exists to strengthen the social fabric of our city.”

The next concert scheduled at Caltech's Beckman Mall's olive grove is on Aug. 18 with R&B;, soul and jazz vocalist Rickie Lee Jones.

JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada Flintridge social scene. Email her at, with the news of your special event.

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