Pizza Hut New Sounds '91 Delivers

By Bill Ede

The Pizza Hut New Sounds '91 Awards Competition for Original Music finals got underway Friday, January 18, at Memorial Auditorium at around 8:30 p.m., following a cocktail buffet in the building's outer lobby. The new competition's founder, Jane Emke, spoke briefly before introducing co-emcees Bob Guccione Jr., editor and publisher of SPIN magazine, and WHAS-TV personality Barry Bernson to a three-quarters-full house. Chairman of Judges Pat Lentz, a 1986 graduate of the Musician's Institute of Technology in Hollywood (who has recently been honored with the institute's "Outstanding Guitar Player of the Year" award, and who has recently been working on a project with Louisville soul-singer / guitar-wizard Steve Ferguson), was then introduced, before handing the evening back over to Bernson and Guccione, who then proceeded to introduce the four finalists.

Shelbyville, Ky., native Michael Medley started off the competition with his "El Senor de Vida y Muerte (The Lord of Life and Death)" serenata about Argentina general Carlos Suarez Mason, featuring six voices and eight instruments, including Medley on piano and also conducting. Local guitarist Michael Sary (French TV) wrote the lyrics for the work, and the Spanish text was provided by Medley and one of the singers, Carolina Valdez-Passafiume.

Next up was Warren Furman of Montrose, Penn., whose extended work "Satyricus" was pre-recorded on a personal computer. Though it was arguably some of the most melodic music of the evening, it could only be considered a "performance" by the most liberal definition of the term. It was not unlike some of the layered music of British guitarist Robert Fripp and others, who have an equally difficult time reproducing similar works in public.

We were then treated to the guitar duo Acousticity, featuring Tom Young and Erik Ringstad, both graduates of Boston's Berklee College of Music. They've been performing together for about a year, and were, perhaps, the most accessible act of the evening, exploring many different guitar styles, with original tunes. (My sources say the duo recently taped a show for WFPL's Homefront, which would certainly be worth checking out if you like good guitar music.)

And last but not least, we listened to Israeli-born pianist Ronn Yedidia, performing jazz-influenced melodies with titles such as "Prophets," "Outcries," and even one titled "Encore for Louisville," which would be the last performance of the evening's competition.

While the judges were making their decision, it was time for Dr. Joel Kupersmith and Jane Emke to pass out certificates to the twenty Merit Finalist winners as portions of each finalist's respective entry were being played in the background. (The Merit Finalists were those of the original 160 entries who didn't make the semi-finals -- or, hence, the finals -- but were deemed the best twenty of those left. A complete list of the Merit Finalist winners follows.)

Once the merit certificates were handed out, and while the judges were still making their final decision, we were treated to an appearance by comedian Marty Polio, who entertained us with jokes, juggling and mime. (Polio was a regular performer in the Louisville area during the '70s, and has since established himself on a more national level. He has drawn praises from people from all segments of the entertainment industry, most notably Johnny Carson.)

When the time finally arrived for the judges' decision, Chairman Pat Lentz opened the envelope and announced the winner to be -- Ronn Yedidia.

Kevin McCafferty, area manager of Pizza Hut, Inc., and Stuart Goldberg, treasurer of New Sounds '91, presented the award to the Juilliard-trained Yedidia to a room full of applause, followed shortly by the announcement of the winner of the Delta Airlines drawing (for free travel), whose name, sorry to say, I didn't get.

All in all, Pizza Hut's New Sounds '91 was a pretty good first effort. It has been my experience that it takes a contest a good two or three years to really come into its own, and there seems to be a lot of interest in helping to make that happen. I, personally, was surprised that the other four semi-finalists who were eliminated in the December semi-final competition at the Vogue Theatre (the Organization, who dropped out before the earlier competition, Stephen Skaags, Lemonade Hayride and Oblong Box) weren't included as part of the ceremony, since they did fare better in the competition than the merit finalists. And, "vinyl junkie" that I am, I was, perhaps, too taken aback to appreciate any symbolic meaning intended in using old LPs (minus their jackets) as place mats for the dinner. (I mean, isn't anything sacred? A fellow record fiend likened this to a scratch across his heart.)

It will be interesting to hear the various kinds of music that the next few years will bring to this competition, as it re-defines itself via the trial-and-error process. An appeal to former participants for suggestions has proved helpful in similar competition, and might be a source of invaluable input.

The Merit Finalists included Louisvillians Cicado Campbell (of C.C. Campbell), Steven P. Crews (of the Steve Crews Trio), Bill Ede, Danny Flanigan, Stacy Ford (of the New Deal), Kevin Garvey, Kenneth F. Gilchrist, Andrea A. Gilkey, Greg Maddox (of Cousin Easy and the Gutter Boys), Kenny Martin (of Mrs. Frazier), J. Anthony O'Daniel, Jeremy Podgursky (of Dybbuk), Scott Ritcher (of Sunspring) and Scott Thomas. Other merit winners included Diana Heyne and Michael Wilson, both from Lexington, Ky., Richard O. Richards (Frankfort, Ky.), Chris Chalfant (Cambridge, Mass.), Marie-Claire Harris (New York, N.Y.) and Dr. Margaret Neacham (Dorset, Vt.).