Habib Koité

MusicWatch Weekly: global musical tour

Sounds from Africa, Japan, Ireland and more join jazz and classical music on Oregon stages

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.

Habib Koite and Bassekou Kouyate team up at PDX Jazz Festival.

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.

Wednesday, The Shedd, Eugene and Thursday, Alberta Rose Theatre, Portland

Ladysmith Black Mambazo performs in Eugene .

• 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.

Oregon Koto-Kai’s annual concert is Sunday at Portland State University.

• 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.

JAZZ

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.

Bass boss Stanley Clarke plays Eugene and 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.

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MusicWatch Weekly: sounds of home — and beyond

Music from Ukraine, Russia, Mali, France, Spain, and even Oregon highlight the week in Oregon music

This week’s Oregon music highlights amount to a world tour. Got more recommendations? Please add to the comments section below.

Cascadia Composers presents Bernstein/Steinke & Friends
Two of Oregon’s most venerable composers celebrate their 75th birthdays with a range of chamber music.  Delgani String Quartet plays Steinke’s Songs of the Fire Circles, inspired by Native American poet K’os Naahaabii, and (with Steinke on oboe) music inspired by paintings by Marc Lifschey. Bernstein is represented by his Sunlight and Shadow for flute, clarinet and piano, revised September Soundscape for viola and piano, Musical Mirages for piano, and Threading Light for flute and piano.
Friday. Portland State University, Lincoln Hall Room 75 – 1620 SW Park Ave.

Fandango!
The multinational Chicago-based chamber ensemble, the latest addition to Friends of Chamber Music’s entertaining Not-So-Classical series, arranges danceable classics and commissions new works for their versatile flute-cello-guitar-violin lineup. Two of the members comprise the excellent Cavatina Duo, which plays this game quite delightfully too. This menu of music by Vivaldi, Falla, Rachmaninoff, Boccherini, Balkan and a contemporary trio by American composer Alan Thomas inspired by the richly diverse music of the Sephardic Jews as they migrated throughout the Mediterranean, North Africa, and the Balkans, makes a tasty program for casual classical and world music fans as well as Baroque aficionados.
Friday, The Old Church, Portland.

DakhaBrakha performs at Portland’s Star Theater. Photo: Tetyana Vasylenko.

Habib Koité & DakhaBrakha
Beginning in the mid-1980s, the great Malian singer and guitar virtuoso brought together many of the musically fertile country’s disparate musical traditions, added a dash of Western rock, and his exuberant Afrobeat performances and recordings soon brought awards, world tours, gigs with Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne, etc. Lately he’s jettisoned drum kit for the African instruments djembe and calabash, and added a banjo (an instrument that originated in Africa). He sings in four languages, including English, about social issues like war, forced marriage, and female genital mutilation, but also happier subjects like soccer — all with a gentle, pulsating groove.

While DakhaBrakha’s three female singers have collected traditional folk songs from elderly women in villages around their native Ukraine, they venture way beyond ethnomusicology, with other members wielding cello, percussion (including tabla), didgeridoo, and other decidedly untraditional instruments. The Kyiv-based band incorporates dub, hip hop, African music and much more, melding roots music with a contemporary, urban sensibility that includes influences from punk, theater (including traditional costumes), minimalism, and politics.
Friday, Star Theater, Portland.

Hilary Gardner and Ehud Asherie
Gardner’s glowing voice and Asherie’s supple pianism have attracted critical raves over the last decade on New York’s cabaret scene. Their alluring new release The Late Set covers “American Songbook” standards written between around 1920 and 1960. Expect tunes (seldom the most-covered ones) from Rodgers & Hart, Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, and other stalwarts.
Thursday, Jazz Clubs NW, North Bend; Saturday, The Shedd, Eugene; Sunday, Classic Pianos, Portland.

Burnt Sugar Arkestra plays two shows in Portland.

Burnt Sugar Arkestra
Its name reveals this big band’s spacy Sun Ra influence, but the band also draws inspiration from other 20th century big bands including Duke Ellington, Parliament/Funkadelic and Art Ensemble of Chicago. The band claims it has included “Irish fiddlers, AACM refugees, Afro-punk rejects, unrepentant be-boppers, feminist rappers, jitterbugging doowoppers, loud funk-a-teers and rodeo stars of the digital divide.” This time, they’ll “caramelize” a famous jazz album of the early civil rights era: drummer/bandleader Max Roach’s We Insist! Freedom Now Suite.
Saturday, Jack London Revue, Portland.

Chris Rogerson at Chamber Music Northwest in 2015. Photo: Lisa Wang.

Oregon Symphony 
The orchestra kicks off its new, year-long socially conscious Sounds of Home series, which combines non-musical elements with the music in response to timely social issues, with a concert focusing on immigration. Acclaimed pianist Kirill Gerstein plays a pair of piano concertos, one written by an immigrant, pioneering early 20th century composer Arnold Schoenberg, who fled Europe for America when the Nazis came, and the other, Rhapsody in Blue, by an immigrant’s son, George Gershwin. Gerstein’s jazz jazz background should come in handy in that one. And the orchestra commissioned the impressive young composer Chris Rogerson, who’s impressed Chamber Music Northwest audiences in recent years, to collaborate with award-winning immigrant playwright Dipika Guha on a new work, premiered in this show, that focuses on the immigrant experience.
Saturday-Monday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.

Negative Press Project
The Bay Area piano and bass duo (Andrew Lion and Ruthie Dineen) bring their fascinating tribute to late, great singer/songwriter/guitarist Jeff Buckley to Oregon.
You don’t have to be a Buckley fan to enjoy it.
Saturday, Alberta Street Pub, Portland; Sunday, Jazz Station, Eugene, and Monday, Volcanic Theatre Pub, 70 SW Century Drive, Bend.

Vancouver Symphony
There’s a Russian flavor to the VSO show, with Russian-American pianist Alexander Toradze soloing in 20th century Russian master Sergey Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, and the orchestra also playing Mussorgsky’s Persian Dances and suites from two of Stravinsky’s most enchanting ballet scores, The Fairy’s Kiss and The Firebird.
Saturday & Sunday, Skyview Concert Hall, 1300 NW 139th Street, Vancouver WA.

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