The lineup includes a handful of festival newcomers and several returning artists. Perhaps the most anticipated concert on the schedule is Hawaiian-born ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro, a solo performer who rose to international fame over the last few years. Shimabukuro dazzled a large audience with his innovative, non-traditional style and varied set of pop, blues, classical, and original tunes at the Cistern during Spoleto’s jazz series in 2009. Shimabukuro’s recent world-wide tours have supported the release of his latest album, Peace Love Ukulele, released this winter on Hitchhike Records. The collection features a few full-band arrangements, original ballads, and a cover of rock band Queen’s epic anthem “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Shimabukuro fans who’d like a sneak preview might consider a road trip to the Upstate this month. His current tour across North America veers into the Carolinas this month. He performs a solo concert at the Newberry Opera House in Newberry, S.C. on Sun. Jan. 29.
The rest Wells Fargo Jazz Series features a lively mix. Brazilian vocalist Virgínia Rodrigues, gospel singer Mavis Staples, and Spanish pianist David Peña Dorantes are scheduled for concerts at the Gaillard. French-American vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant is set for two performances at the Cistern. Blues/zydeco combo Cedric Watson and Bijou Creole will perform at the Festival Finale at Middleton Place on Sun. June 10.
Additional jazz-related Spoleto events include a series of recitals by French double-bassist Renaud Garcia-Fons at the Simons Center Recital Hall and two concerts by New Orleans’ Rebirth Brass Jazz Band at the Cistern.
Call (843) 579-3100 and visit spoletousa.org for ticket and concert information.
After years of receiving backing from Wachovia, Spoleto Festival USA’s popular jazz program will be back in action this May and June as the Wells Fargo Jazz Series.
The 2011 lineup features an international variety of jazz and world music artists at the Cistern, Gaillard Auditorium, the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul, and the Recital Hall at the Simons Center for the Arts. The roster includes Grammy Award-nominated Trombone Shorty and his ensemble Orleans Avenue, four-time Grammy Award-winning vocalist Dianne Reeves, vocalist Karrin Allyson, Norwegian pianist Ketil Bjørnstad, Brazilian accordionist Toninho Ferragutti, Italian pianist Danilo Rea, and the Argentinean jazz duo of Willy González (on bass) and Micaela Vita (on vocals).
Additional popular music events include the festival debut of banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck and the Original Flecktones and a multi-media presentation by songwriters Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips (of the Dean & Britta duo and Luna) titled 13 Most Beautiful ... Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests, which pairs their original compositions to a series of four-minute films Warhol filmed nearly 500 “screen tests” with his Bolex camera between 1964 and 1966.
The 35th annual Spoleto Festival USA also offers a variety of opera, theater, dance, musical theater, contemporary circus, and visual arts. Acclaimed bluegrass group the skillful Del McCoury Band will perform at the Festival Finale at Middleton Place on Sun. June 12. Their concert will be capped off by the traditional fireworks display.
Call (843) 579-3100 and visit spoletousa.org for more.
World-famous jazz trombonist and educator Wycliffe Gordon will be in town this weekend for two special, free-of-charge Piccolo Spoleto performances at the U.S. Custom House (200 East Bay St.) — a collaboration between his quartet and members of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra called Sunset Serenade at the Custom House on Fri. May 22 at 8 p.m., and an event called All That Jazz: A Battle of the Best High School Jazz Bands in the Lowcountry at the Custom House on Sat. May 23 from 7-10 p.m.
Gordon, a native of Waynesboro, Ga., was a veteran member of the Wynton Marsalis Septet and still plays with the renowned New York big band collective the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. He has a ton of experience gigging and writing with top-shelf musicians, and he’s spent years conducting workshops, seminars, and lessons with young up-and-comers in the States and around the world. His intense experience with Marsalis was especially pivotal in his musical development
As part of the Piccolo Spoleto’s children's events and the Blues/Jazz Series kickoff, this set of standards and originals at the steps of the Custom House features Ehud Asherie on piano, on Herman Burney on bass, and acclaimed Charleston musician Quentin Baxter on drums — a mentor, master percussionist, and longtime educator himself. Baxter will be busy next week preparing for a concert at the Gaillard Auditorium with vocalist René Marie’s combo (see Spoleto listings).
“I thought it was important to have Quentin on board,” Gordon told City Paper last week, speaking during a brief tour of Israel. “I could have brought the drummer down from New York, but we’re right there with one of the great, masterful drummers and skilled educators in the town. Thought it’d be a shame to invite him out to just watch the group, so I invited him play with us instead.”
Look for more on Wycliffe Gordon and these festival events in this week’s City Paper Spoleto coverage.
This year’s Piccolo Spoleto presents an impressively solid variety of jazz, blues, and soul acts in late May and early June. Special events include various gigs at A Dough Re Mi Pizzeria in Mt. Pleasant, the Blues on the Dock series at Bowen’s Island Restaurant, the Early Bird Blues Series at Mad River Bar & Grille, John Street Jazz (with Ann Caldwell) at Gallery Chuma, and the Piccolo Jazz Harbor Cruise (on the Spirit of Charleston).
May 22 - The Rudy Waltz
May 23 - Hedgepeth & Holstein Duo
May 24 - Leah Suárez
May 25 - Caravan
May 26 - Gradual Lean (pictured)
May 28 - The Charleston All-Stars
May 29 - The Pulse Trio
May 30 - Elise Testone
June 1 - The Duda Lucena Quartet
June 3 - Tommy Gill Trio
June 4 - Scandal in Bohemia
June 5 - Tenor Madness
See www.piccolospoleto.com and www.jazzartistsofcharleston.org for more.
(photo by Tony Bell)
Gerry Hemingway — an inventive veteran of percussion — performs a solo program of original compositions and improvisation at the Simons Center at 6 p.m. this evening (Fri. June 6) as part of Spoleto’s Wachovia Jazz Series.
“When I came to jazz, my whole perspective shifted,” he told City Paper from his temporary digs at the Baker House on Colonial Lake, upon his arrival in Charleston. “I was curious not just about straightforward mainstream jazz. The door I entered was partially by way of the fusion, which was one of the bridges from rock to jazz for people in my generation. It expanded from there.”
Hemingway landed in town two weeks ago (for his first time) to rehearse as percussionist with the pit orchestra and conductor Emmanuel Villaume for the featured opera Amistad, composed by one of his old cohorts, Anthony Davis (the opera runs through Sat. June 7 at the Memminger Auditorium). Hemingway and Davis collaborated on various jazz, world, and chamber musical projects through the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s.
“Anthony and I have done hundreds of projects,” Hemingway says. “The very core of the things that are in this opera — and at the very core of most of his work — all, more or less, found their beginnings during his time in New Haven. I know his music inside and out, and it’s influenced my music. He’s interested in meter. We were both pursuing the subject of layered meterings — like simultaneously having 11/4’s going on while other phrases loop over in 4/4, and other things going on with multiple levels. It’s poly-metered, more or less, because it’s more phrased, with longer arching ideas and rhythmic groupings. It’s kind of elaborate. Other people have explored these ideas. Back in the ’70s, were really into this sort of stuff.”
Along with a firm grasp of arranging complex rhythmic patterns across a battery of sound sources, Hemingway’s fascination with creating new sounds with percussion instruments prompted him to switch directions from a more conventional drum role into something more expansive and deep.
“At one point, I play a floor tom on it’s side with my hands, as if it were a south Indian mridangam,” he says of this evening’s program. “I do these things where I play 10 [a 10-beat pattern] with one hand, three with the other hand, four on the foot, and two against three with the other foot, and get all these things going. When most people hear this, they kind of put their head down with the feeling of a four-beat groove. The groove is the key. The repetition of phrase lengths with the hands and the phase cycle on the foot is important. They all have to sort out in the end.”
“It’s a different type of virtuosity than a lot of the work typical of the [popular] drummer world, which based primarily still on the model of speed,” he explains. “The complexities that are being explored have to do mostly with linear thinking — like the sequence of stickings and so forth. And they’re very clever and very difficult. I’ve studied quite a bit of it, and I’ve taught it quite a bit. But what nobody thinks about is the multi-layered stuff, where things aren’t so virtuosic-sounding, but go into another dimension and sounds more interesting. That has a lot to do with the harmonic language. I couldn’t literally do harmonic things in the same convention of the guitar or piano, but I could explore the notion and layering timbres, sounds, and pitches in different ways. What interests me is the idea of continuous sound, which is not really what the drums are designed for. That’s what led to [me using] bowing sounds, rubs, scraping sounds, and other things that had a continuum to them, which allows me to stack sounds and create a piece with harmonic coherence.”