If America, or at least its government, seems a little crazy these days, and you can’t afford to skip the country, the week offers several opportunities for virtual world travel through music.
• PDX Jazz Festival’s irresistible double feature The Soul of Africa – Habib Koite + Bassekou Kouyate features two of the planet’s finest musicians from the musical hotbed of Mali. Kouyate has helped revive the centuries-old ngoni lute, the enchanting little plucked precursor to the banjo —adding strings, new approaches to picking, plucking, and note-bending, and incorporating influences from blues, rock, bluegrass, and jazz, perhaps partial compensation for his native Mali basically giving the West the blues (in a good way). He’s played with everyone from fellow griot Toumani Diabate to Taj Mahal to Bonnie Raitt, Bono, Bela Fleck, and Youssou N’Dour.
One of Mali’s most renowned musicians and one of the world’s great guitarists, Koite’s bubbling acoustic guitar-driven melodies and socially conscious lyrics won fans among Western pop stars like Raitt and in the 1980s and ‘90s made him one of Africa’s biggest crossover successes in the West. He’s continued to evolve, changing bands, styles and even instruments. But what hasn’t changed is Koite’s focus on contemporary issues (he sings in four languages, including English, about war, forced marriage, and female genital mutilation, but also happier subjects like soccer), melodic hooks, and gentle, pulsating groove.
Wednesday, Revolution Hall, Portland.
• Lúnasa get us warmed up early for St. Paddy’s Day. The all-star Irish quintet has reached the highest level of the Celtic music world, selling a quarter million records of vibrant Celtic instrumental folk music over the past two decades, and they keep the tradition current by adding original compositions and non traditional instrumentation (bass and guitar) to the classic mix of flute, whistles, uilleann pipes, and fiddle.
• The famous voices of South Africa’s multiple Grammy-winning choir Ladysmith Black Mambazo sing Zulu music from across their four-decade career, probably including cuts from their two latest Grammy nominated discs and their renowned collaborations with Paul Simon. Beyond their beautifully blended voices, the group’s shows are graced by their choreographed dance steps, colorful costumes, and enthusiasm for bridging the divide between artists and audiences. Read Bruce Browne’s ArtsWatch story about their last Oregon tour.
Tuesday, Aladdin Theater, Portland, and next Wednesday, The Shedd’s Jaqua Concert Hall, Eugene.
• Led by one of the state’s global music treasures, Mitsuki Dazai, Oregon Koto-Kai annually showcases the performances of other masters of the koto, that most ravishing Japanese zither. This year’s So-Shun Koto Concert theme, “雪⽉月⾵風花”(Setsu Getsu Fu Ka or Snow, Moon, Wind, Flower perfectly describes this Oregon winter and also means the beauty of nature, which is the theme of most of the traditional compositions on the program. The show also features shamisen (three string lute) and ikebana flower arranging.
2 pm Sunday, Lincoln Recital Hall (Room 75), PSU, 1620 SW Park Ave. Portland.
• PDX Jazz Festival concludes this week with another brilliant batch of improvisational masters. Read my ArtsWatch previews of Darrell Grant’s double bill with Terence Blanchard (whose E-Collective brings the funk, blues and R&B on their sizzling new album) and Portland Jazz Composers’ Thursday and Sunday From Maxville to Vanport shows.
• Stephan Crump busted out of his sideman role in Vijay Iyer’s acclaimed trio with his own, very different trio: his own acoustic bass, acoustic guitar and electric guitars (Liberty Ellman and Jamie Fox). Rosetta Trio’s 2005 debut earned ecstatic reviews, and although Crump has gone on to lead other bands, he keeps returning to Rosetta, including their brand new album Outliers. It’s easy to hear why: the unusual but versatile instrumentation allows intricate interplay, unweighted by drums or piano. At times floaty, at times funky, it’s a string band for the 21st century.
Friday. Disjecta, 8371 N Interstate Ave. Portland.
• Don’t wait for the inevitable posthumous tribute when you can still hear the real thing. Legendary bassist Stanley Clarke returns to the festival, this time bringing one of the music’s rising stars, LA keyboardist Cameron Graves (who has his own PDX Jazz Festival showcase), plus drummer Shariq Tucker. Best known for his contributions to ‘70s fusion pioneers Return to Forever, Clarke has ranged all over the field in various other projects, including funk, post-bop and more. His latest album includes everything from beatboxing to Bach. With youngsters Graves and Tucker aboard, expect even more contemporary sounds along with jazz-rock classics.
Friday, The Shedd, Eugene, and Sunday, Revolution Hall, Portland.
The festival also continues its tribute trail with a quartet of contemporary saxophonists in the band Wide Angles, plus brass and strings celebrating the great Michael Brecker Saturday, a Grover Washington Jr. tribute led by Portland’s Eldon “T” Jones Friday, Toots Thielemans and Hank Mobley tributes Sunday, a couple of Blue Note label celebrations and much more, including some of our finest Oregon jazz artists. Check the whole wonderful lineup.
There’s more jazz beyond the festival. On Thursday, Chicago-based jazz saxophonist, singer and composer Juli Wood and guitarist Paul Silbergleit jazz up Finnish folk songs at Nordia House, 8800 SW Oleson Road, Portland. And on Saturday, Eugene’s Broadway House brings the Jack Radsliff Quartet with UO prof Idit Shner on saxophone, bassist Sean Peterson and drummer Ken Mastrogiovanni backing the ace guitarist. To reserve seats, contact Paul Bodin at email@example.com.
Young players take the spotlight this week. From Vivaldi to Messiaen to John Luther Adams and many more, composers in search of royalty free inspiration have long swiped bird songs for their melodies. Each of the five movements of early 20th century Italian composer Ottorino Respighi’s tuneful The Birds (Gli uccelli) was named after and inspired by an avian: the Dove, the Hen, the Nightingale, and the Cuckoo. Metropolitan Youth Symphony plays it as well as probably the greatest of all bird-themed music: Igor Stravinsky’s breakthrough ballet score, The Firebird, whose music and story are both based on ancient Slavic sources. Even though Stravinsky later soared on to even greater heights, Firebird remains one of his most rousing and popular creations. The Starlings, Northwest Children’s Theater’s “all-puppet, all-bird acting troupe,” joins the feathery fun to provide some onstage visual action. The concert also includes the premiere of a new Fugue for Orchestra by Lakeridge High School junior Max Ball, the latest product of a commendable collaboration between MYS and Fear No Music’s Young Composers Project that’s investing in the next generation’s creativity.
Sunday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.
• Portland Youth Philharmonic pays tribute to its late long time music director Jacob Avshalomov by performing his tone poem, The Taking of T’ung Kuan. The concert also includes Leonard Bernstein’s Jeremiah Symphony, sung in Hebrew by superb mezzo-soprano soloist Laura Beckel Thoreson, Ernest Bloch’s Schelomo (written long before he came to Oregon). Saturday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall 1037 SW Broadway, Portland.
• Baroque violinist Alice Blankenship joins fellow historically informed specialists from Seattle Baroque Orchestra, the California Bay Area’s renowned Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, and the University of Oregon to perform Baroque classics on period instruments with microphilharmonic. The program includes not only multi-violin concertos by well-known composers Georg Philipp Telemann and Antonio Vivaldi, but also earlier music by Biagio Marini and Orlande de Lassus.
Sunday, The Shedd, Eugene.
• Bruce Browne recently praised Seattle’s Byrd Ensemble in ArtsWatch, and now they’re back in the city’s second concert of English Renaissance music in two weeks. John Taverner was reprimanded for consorting with Protestants but escaped punishment because he was “only a musician,” allowing Tavener to survive to write his greatest hit, Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, one of the greatest Mass settings of the Renaissance. They’ll sing it along with two other Taverner sacred works and church music by Taverner’s contemporary John Sheppard.
Sunday. St. Stephen’s Catholic Church, 1112 SE 41st Ave. Portland.
PSU NOON CONCERTS: Terence Blanchard – Jazz Conversation. Thursday, 12:00pm.
LIVE FROM BEALL HALL: Dr. Roberta Rust, piano. Friday, 7:30pm.
LIVE FROM BEALL HALL: Nathan Boal saxophone recital. Saturday, 5:00pm.
LIVE FROM BEALL HALL: Gospel Ensembles. Sunday, 5:00pm.
LEWIS AND CLARK Orchestra Concert. Sunday, 7:30pm.
LIVE FROM BEALL HALL: Trotter Visiting Professor Lawrence Dutton, viola. Monday, 7:30pm.
PSU NOON CONCERTS: SAMPLE Laptop Ensemble. Thursday, 12:00pm.
Yes, of course there’s more Oregon music happening this week, from both hither and yon. Tell us all about it in the comments section below.
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