Brett Campbell


Weekly MusicWatch: Romantic classics

Music by Romantic composers dominates this week's Oregon classical music concerts

The fall flood of fab jazz continues on Oregon stages this week, along with recommended classical music from medieval to modern and more — including an eruption of German romanticism from Mahler, Liszt, Brahms, Schubert and more. Please add your recommendations in the comments section below.

Frode Gjerstad Trio
October 19
Turn! Turn! Turn!, 8 NE Killingsworth, Portland.
This Creative Music Guild show actually features a different incarnation of the Norwegian alto saxophonist’s usual threesome, this time featuring the renowned Chicago cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, the one-time student of Morton Feldman and Pauline Oliveros with whom Gjerstad has played often in a duo format. He’s also performed with avant jazz musicians like William Parker, Derek Bailey, Evan Parker and many other exploratory improvisers, so this looks like a must-see for fans of out there jazz.

Eugene Symphony
October 20
Silva Concert Hall, Hult Center, Eugene.
Danail Rachev leads the orchestra in Gustav Mahler’s tragic 1904 sixth symphony, which seems to contain a whole galaxy of emotions — he’d actually married and celebrated the arrival of two children just before writing the symphony, mostly on a pastoral vacation — before he brings the big hammer down at the end.

Rudresh Mahanthappa
October 20
The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave., Portland.
Both NPR and Downbeat magazine declared the saxophonist’s album Bird Calls the top jazz album of 2015, at last freeing Mahanthappa from the shadow of his even more famous sometime collaborator and fellow Indian American jazz master Vijay Iyer. As the album title suggests, Mahanthappa draws heavily on Charlie Parker’s legacy, but this is no retro bop tribute, as it also embraces his many other influences, from pop and funk to hip hop and of course Indian traditional music.

PDX Jazz brings Rudresh Mahanthappa to Portland. Photo: JimmyKatz.

PDX Jazz brings Rudresh Mahanthappa to Portland. Photo: JimmyKatz.

Norah Jones
October 20
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St.(corner of SW 3rd Ave. & Clay), Portland.
The pop/folk singer, who vaulted to fame thanks to jazz record label Blue Note, leans a little closer to jazz on her newly released Day Breaks album.

Liszt Week 2016
October 19-22
University of Oregon School of Music and Dance, Eugene.
A complete traversal of the composer’s monumental piano cycle Years of Pilgrimage (Années de Pèlerinage Troisième Année), performed by UO piano students and live streamed at 7:30 pm each night. Images depicting the works of art that inspired most of these piano pieces will be projected throughout the recital. UO prof Alexandre Dossin concludes the week of Lisztomania with a recital featuring the big b minor sonata on Oct. 22.

Jeffrey Wood
October 21
First Presbyterian Church, 1200 SW Alder, Portland.
In this free concert, the Lake Grove Presbyterian Church organist plays music by J.S. Bach, Dietrich Buxtehude, and contemporary German composer Hans-André Stamm on the magnificent Jaeckel pipe organ.

Medieval Sensorium
October 21
Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Eugene.
In this free, historically contextualized lunchtime event, faculty members and graduate students in the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance perform medieval music in a multimedia environment with religious painting, sculptures and other devotional objects.

The Ensemble
October 21, St Luke’s ~ San Lucas Episcopal Church, 426 E 4th Plain Blvd, Vancouver, WA, October 22, Central Lutheran Church, 1857 Potter Street, Eugene, October 23, The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Avenue, Portland.
A quartet of Portland’s finest classical singers joins a pair of pianists  to perform Brahms’s light-hearted Romantic classic, Love Song Waltzes. Written for amateur musicians, these mega-pop hits of their day made Brahms a star and a lot more money than his symphonies, and remained popular ever since. Better still, the vocal quartet will sing contemporary songs written by Cascadia Composers Lisa Marsh, Theresa Koon and ArtsWatch contributor Jeff Winslow.

Extradition Series
October 22
Leaven Community Center, 5431 NE 20th Ave @ Killingsworth, Portland.
The final concert in the inaugural year of this quarterly Creative Music Guild series features “ quiet, spacious compositions that give substantial freedom to the musicians in determining aspects of the final, performed pieces,” says series creator Matt Hannafin. This one features music by Michael Pisaro (in which, Hannafin says, “each performer plays just two stones, and the whole arrangement is accompanied by a parallel arrangement of 45 time-based cells of ambient “pink noises” created by Pisaro, whose durations match those of the different time-based cells being performed by the percussionists), Audra Wolowiec with Jesse Mejía and CHOIR, (see the semaphore entry below), Antoine Beuger, Derek Ecklund’s “Columbia River Sound Map and Tim Westcott’s “A Land of Falling Waters”.

Colin Currie performs with the Oregon Symphony. Photo: Marco Borggreve.

Colin Currie performs with the Oregon Symphony. Photo: Marco Borggreve.

Oregon Symphony
October 22-24
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.
Read my Willamette Week preview of the orchestra’s performance of contemporary American sounds and a Romantic classic by Richard Strauss, with guest percussionist Colin Currie.


Shaking the Tree’s ‘Head. Hands. Feet.’: Not so grim fairy tales

There will be blood in Portland theater’s “Tales of Dismemberment” but not all the body parts add up.

As you enter the theater, actors clad in neutral grey courteously greet you, lead you to a basin, and solemnly help you wash your hands. The splashing water provides the only sound in the hushed, neutral-colored space dominated by pale bluish greys — the better to contrast with the blood that will flow in Shaking the Tree theatre’s annual Halloweenish horror show.

Actually, the gore isn’t portrayed realistically but symbolically; Head. Hands. Feet. is by no means a fright fest. In fact, the first half consists of fairy tales, although anyone’s who’s read non-Victorian-sanitized ancient tales knows how really, ah, grim and gory they can be.

They can also seem pretty backward from a 21st century perspective, often punishing characters — particularly females — who transgress social norms. Accordingly, all three devised stories — and the adaptation of a classic Greek play that occupies the show’s second half — to some degree sanitize their models to make them more progressive/feminist/modern and, well, Portland than the originals.

Shaking the Tree Theatre's Head.Hands.Feet.

Shaking the Tree Theatre’s Head.Hands.Feet.

While that updated sensibility may make the stories seem more suitable to today’s audiences, it sometimes also makes them a shade too comfortable, at the expense of the dark reality they caution us about — not too different, ultimately and ironically, than what the Victorians did to those dark stories. It’s almost like thinking the world is like what we saw at the Democratic convention, and just ignoring that other one — the real horror show of last summer. At times, the apparent attempts to bring out more contemporary perspectives on these ancient tales actually undermine the modern moral stance these adaptations are trying to advance.

Nevertheless, as with any production involving the Portland theater power trio of imaginative director Samantha Van Der Merwe, and irresistible actors Beth Thompson and Matthew Kerrigan, you should see Head. Hands. Feet. — though not to be terrified, but to have your terrors cleansed.


MusicWatch Weekly: Jazz giants and geniuses

Oregon's musical week is heavy on jazz, and offers plentiful musical attractions in other genres too

It’s raining jazz in Oregon: so many shows to choose among, including the world’s greatest jazz orchestra, a pair of fine drum and keyboard duos, and more. Plus there’s two flavors of improv-heavy Indian music, Japanese percussion, and even some classical chamber and choral concerts. If you know of other concerts of interest to ArtsWatch readers this week, please share that info in the comments section below.

The Taiko Project and Portland Taiko perform Sunday. Photo: Rob Hammer.

The Taiko Project and Portland Taiko perform Sunday. Photo: Rob Hammer.

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis
October 12
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, Portland.
Probably the finest jazz orchestra in the world features not just trumpeter/composer Marsalis’s richly colorful originals but also classics by Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and contemporary big band composers and is a must see for big band fans. Thara Memory’s American Music Project, which so impressed Marsalis when he named them the winners of a major competition in New York last year, opens.

Scott Amendola and Wil Blades
October 12 Cozmic Pizza, Eugene, and October 13, Mississippi Studios, Portland.
Hammond B-3 and clavinet champ Wil Blades’s duo with Scott Amendola, probably the Bay Area’s busiest jazz drummer, echoes those groovy jazz organ-drum-bass trios of the 1950s and ‘60s but adds modern rhythms and harmonies. They’ve played with Nels Cline, John Zorn, John Scofield and plenty more.

Matt Chamberlain and Brian Haas
October 12, Talent Club, Talent, October 13, Sam Bond’s Garage, Eugene, October 14, Mississippi Studios, Portland.
Matt Chamberlain is well known for drumming with jazz stars like Bill Frisell, Herbie Hancock, and Brad Mehldau along with pop singers like David Bowie, Fiona Apple, and Morrissey. He and keyboardist Brian Haas, who leads the groovy Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, deliver strutting 21st century jazz/funk on their new album Prometheus Risen.

Xylouris White
October 13
WOW Hall, 291 W. 8th Ave. Eugene.
Read my Willamette Week preview of the duo featuring a Cretan lutenist and an Australian drummer.

Ingrid Laubrock & Tom Rainey
October 13
Leaven Community Center, 5431 NE 20th Ave. Portland.
German-Brooklyn saxophonist Laubrock and fellow New Yorker Rainey have separately played with all range of improvisers, from jazz greats Dave Douglas, Mose Allison, Joe Lovano to Fred Hersch Kenny Wheeler and Jason Moran, among many, many others. They’ve also explored more avant garde regions, and their second album, the new Buoyancy, floats above categories.

Cavatina Duo
October 14
The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave. Portland.
Spanish flutist Eugenia Moliner and Bosnian guitarist Denis Azabagic are not only one of the planet’s finest duos of their kind, but are also committed to performing and commissioning new music. Winners of multiple competitions, the Chicago-based duo has made some excellent albums for Chicago’s Cedille and other record labels. Though they’ve performed, separately and together, with top orchestras and chamber ensembles around the world, they’re entirely worth seeing on their own.

“Requiem for the Living
October 14-15
Choral Arts Ensemble of Portland, St. Andrew Catholic Church, 806 NE Alberta St. Portland.
Since at least Reagan’s reign, American soldiers have been in a more or less constant state of foreign wars — even if not declared by Congress as required in the Constitution. Between those military deaths and the many victims of mass shootings and other gun violence, tens of thousands of Americans annually killed in highway carnage, and the rest, America is in need of requiems: music written as a token of remembrance for the dead. Instead of the classical requiems we hear so often by Brahms, Faure, and others, Choral Arts Ensemble is singing a pair recently composed by Americans. Pulitzer Prize winning composer Paul Moravec’s somber Songs of Love and War sets to music words drawn from letters written by American servicemen who fought in Vietnam, the two World Wars, and the Civil War. Dan Forrest’s big, lush, neo-Romantic Requiem for the Living, which uses traditional Christian liturgical texts, aims as much to console the living as to honor the dead. Unfortunately, it looks like we’re going to keep needing music like this.
7:30 pm Friday and Saturday. St. Andrew Catholic Church, 806 NE Alberta St, Portland. $14-$20.

Hornist Andrew Clark gives a pre concert talk at Portland Baroque Orchestra's concerts this weekend. Photo: Tori Ava.

Hornist Andrew Clark gives a pre concert talk at Portland Baroque Orchestra’s concerts this weekend. Photo: Tori Ava.

Portland Baroque Orchestra
October October 14 & 15, First Baptist Church, SW Taylor St. at 12th, and October 16, Kaul Auditorium, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd. Reed College, Portland.
Despite its name, PBO has in recent years extended its musical explorations to the music of the later Classical era and even the early Romantics. This concert of music by Mendelssohn (a violin concerto, but not THE later violin concerto that’s heard so often, plus a couple of his early little string symphonies) and Mozart (his darkly dramatic penultimate symphony, #40, in the original version before Mozart added clarinets to the woodwind section) should also profit from PBO’s period instruments and historically informed approach, which restores the needed transparency and buoyancy to a pair of composers whose music is often weighed down by heavy later Romantic styles and anachronistic instruments. If you’ve never heard this music played as the composers intended it, this concert will likely be a revelation. If you have, you already have your tickets.

Opera Fest 2016!
Cascadia Concert Opera, October 14, Universalist Unitarian Church, 5090 Center St NE, Salem, and October 16, First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive Street, Eugene.
CCO musicians play and sing popular opera arias by Mozart, Gershwin, Puccini, Bizet, Verdi, Weill, Menotti, and more.

To Cuba With Love”
October 15
Cascadia Composers, Portland State University, Lincoln Hall 75.
Read my Willamette Week preview of this concert featuring the Oregon-grown music that will be performed in Cuba in November.


MusicWatch Weekly: Return engagements

Potent pianists, intrepid improvisers, and righteous reed players return to Oregon stages

Nope, that’s not deja vu you’re experiencing. Many of the recommended visiting musicians who are playing on Oregon stages this week really have been here — and won enthusiastic receptions — before, so if you missed them last time, here’s another chance. There’s a few first time visitors too. If you know of other worthy shows happening this week, sequels or otherwise, please tell ArtsWatch readers in the comments section below.

Akropolis Reed Quintet returns to Chamber Music Northwest. Photo: Tom Emerson.

Akropolis Reed Quintet returns to Chamber Music Northwest. Photo: Tom Emerson.

Ras Mix & Ergot Rye
October 5
Turn! Turn! Turn! 8 NE KIllingsworth, Portland.
The title of Ras Mix’s album The Stupidity of Safe pretty much describes his beat-heavy, vocal sample augmented approach to electronic music. Ergo Rye is Portland avant garde musician Jasin Fell’s industrial music meets improvisation project.

Student Performing Arts Troupe of Soochow University
October 5
Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave, Portland.
PSU’s Suzhou sister city university students perform traditional music of China on pipa and guzheng.

Rizzo/Wheeler Duo
October 7
Gallery 903, 903 NW Davis, Portland.
Before veteran Portland pianist Rhonda (Ringgering) Rizzo moves to Amsterdam, she’s giving a farewell performance with fellow pianist Molly Wheeler that includes music by Brahms, Barber, Piazzolla, Corigliano, Faure, and “Legacies” by University of Oregon composer Terry McQuilkin.

Gino Robair performs in Creative Music Guild's Extradition Series. Photo: Jane Richey.

Gino Robair performs in Creative Music Guild’s Extradition Series. Photo: Jane Richey.

Gino Robair and friends
October 7
Leaven Community Center, 5431 NE 20th Ave, Portland.
The percussionist/improviser/author/electronic musician and member of Splatter Trio and Pink Mountain has recorded and performed with musicians from Terry Riley to Tom Waits to John Zorn. This time, his friends include violinist Chiara Giovando, Portland bass clarinet wizard Jonathan Sielaff, and Portland dancer and sound artist Ayako Kataoka, who’ll join him a concert of improvisations springing from evolving graphic scores, mysterious spy radio signals, audience input, and texts from the opera I, Norton.

Jazz & The Beat Generation
October 7
Literary Arts, 925 SW Washington St. Portland.
PDX Jazz’s new adult education series, Discover Jazz, begins with Reed College prof Pancho Savery examining the influence of jazz masters like Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane, Lester Young, and Thelonious Monk on Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Amiri Baraka, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and other “Beat Generation” writers of the 1940s and ’50s. The free event combines music, lecture and discussion.

Nordic Fiddlers Bloc
October 7
Nordia House, 8800 SW Oleson Rd., Portland.
Read Daniel Heila’s ArtsWatch preview.


Rinde Eckert, Alessandro Sciarroni reviews: Scattered remains

Avant garde theater artist and dazzling jugglers close TBA festival

“There certainly is a lot of stuff here,” Rinde Eckert mused aloud as he gazed around the cluttered stage at the outset of My Fools, his retrospective show that highlighted the closing night of this year’s Time Based Arts Festival. Framed by a desk on one end and a piano on the other, the stage at Portland’s Winningstad Theater boasted costumes, props of various species, a projection screen, MacBook, rows of little cards mounted on sticks that he carried to each “station” on the stage as he performed there, and above all a wide array of musical instruments. All attested to the New York based solo performer’s vast range of skills and artistic creations. For the next hour, we wondered: with all that stuff strewn about, what was he going to do next?

Rinde Eckert performed at Portland's TBA festival.

Rinde Eckert performed at Portland’s TBA festival.

If anyone is entitled to a Greatest Hits show, it’s Eckert, the supremely versatile singer/writer/instrumentalist/performer/director who, over three decades and more than five dozen works (averaging two per year) has been making some of the era’s most original performance art. We soon realized that the busy stage was meant to evoke the multidisciplinary artist’s fecund career, and possibly his richly furnished mind. So, yes, a lot of stuff indeed.


MusicWatch Weekly: Super string quartets & dynamic duos

Kronos and Emerson quartets highlight a strong stretch of chamber music on Oregon stages this week

After all those orchestral openings last week, Oregon music  now focuses on smaller forces, including the arrival of two of America’s most renowned string quartets, plus a string quartet tribute to one of America’s greatest composers. A trio of new music duos also offer contemporary mixes of poetry and music, among various other attractive small combo-concerts.

Myklebust & Corbell perform at Portland's Old Church.

Myklebust & Corbell perform at Portland’s Waypost.

Cult of Orpheus
September 28
The Waypost, 3120 N. Williams, Portland.
Composer Christopher Corbell joins cellist Sonja Myklebust is his elegant fusion of contemporary indie singer-songwriter chamber pop and classical art song.

Ben Wendel Group
September 28
The Old Church, Portland.
The Kneebody composer/saxophonist/improviser has also performed with some of today’s hottest jazz aces, from Joshua Redman to Julian Lage and even pop stars like Prince and Snoop Dogg. This starry quartet leans more toward straightahead jazz than Kneebody’s fusion, and even draws on classical influences like Tchaikovsky.

Jazz Child: A Portrait of Sheila Jordan
September 29
Passages Bookshop, 1223 NE MLK Blvd. Portland.
Author Ellen Johnson reads from and signs copies of her 2015 biography of the great jazz singer.

The Music of David Bowie
September 29
Oregon Symphony, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.
Singer Tony Vincent fronts the orchestra in the late great singer/cultural icon’s hits.

John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts, 868 High Street, Eugene.
Closing weekend for the new production of Lionel Bart’s popular 1960 musical.

 Fear No Music
September 30
Portland State University, Lincoln Hall.
Read my Willamette Week preview of the new music ensemble’s concert farewell to founding member Joel Bluestone.

Third Angle New Music
September 30-October 1
Oregon Rail Heritage Center, 2250 SE Water Ave. Portland.
Read my ArtsWatch preview of the string quartet’s Steve Reich tribute concerts.

Dazai & Brinckman.

Dazai & Brinckman perform in Eugene.

Mitsuki Dazai and Tessa Brinckman
October 1
Broadway House, 911 W. Broadway, Eugene.
Read my ArtsWatch review of the Oregon koto master and Ashland-based, New Zealand-born flutist’s program of poetry and music by American (including Oregon) and Japanese composers and poets they played in Beaverton last spring.


Third Angle preview: Reich on Rails

Portland new music ensemble's concerts celebrate the 80th birthday of one of the world's greatest living composers

When Steve Reich was a child in the 1940s, his parents separated, one living in California, the other New York. The young Jewish boy rode the rails back and forth across the country to see them.

Meanwhile, in Europe, other Jewish children were riding very different trains, taking them to their death in Nazi concentration camps. Had circumstances been different, Reich, now one of the world’s most revered composers, might have been one of them.

Third Angle string quartet. Photo: Evan Lewis.

Third Angle string quartet. Photo: Evan Lewis.

Reich musically portrayed these different fates in his 1988 composition Different Trains, which blended the recorded voices of Holocaust survivors (including one from Portland), the governess who accompanied Reich on those journeys, and a Pullman porter of the time with string quartet music whose rhythms were based on the rhythms of their speech.

This weekend, just days before his October 3 birthday, Portland’s Third Angle New Music performs that work and Reich’s two other string quartets in concerts that celebrate the composer’s 80th birthday, joining a long list of orchestras and ensembles around the world honoring one of America’s most revered musical originals.


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