Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Celtic Rhythm
Haas and Fraser form award-winning pair

When you think of Celtic music, what comes to mind? Chances are it's a lively reel played on a fiddle, tin whistle, flute, or Uilleann pipes, accompanied by rhythmic help from a Bodhran (Celtic drum) and spoons. Chances are you will also tend to think of it being pitched mostly in the upper registers. There aren't a lot of Celtic instruments designed for a strong bass line.

So the idea of pairing a master fiddler such as Alasdair Fraser with the sublime cello playing of Natalie Haas might seem like a stroke of brilliance, something bold and new. But according to Fraser, it's a pairing that has deep roots in Celtic tradition. "People may be familiar with the gorgeous, melodic cello sound," Fraser says, "but they're surprised to learn that the cello used to comprise the rhythm section in Scottish dance bands."

Fraser is unquestionably one of the finest fiddle players in the world, both in performance and his tireless promotion of Scottish music. His repertoire spans centuries of Scottish music with a willingness to push those forms in new directions.

Haas, now in her early 20s, first came to Fraser's attention at age 11 while attending one of his Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School camps. Encouraged by Fraser, she began to investigate the cello's potential for rhythmic accompaniment to fiddle tunes.

In 2004, the musicians joined forces for Fire & Grace, an award-winning album that showcases a wide range of styles, from sizzling reels and airs to the lush melancholic pieces that are also a hallmark of Celtic music. The album is well balanced, with Fraser and Haas sharing the spotlight and complementing each other with effortless grace. Fraser's fiery fiddle is matched and mellowed perfectly by Haas's rich, sonorous cello.

Fraser says, "Natalie unleashes textures and deep, powerful rhythms that drive fiddle tunes. We can duck and dive around each other, swap melody and harmony lines, and improvise on each other's rhythmic riffs. She has such a great sense of exploration and excitement for the music."

Now a Juilliard graduate, Haas will return to Eugene in May as part of Mark O' Connor's Appalachia Waltz Trio.

Ave Amadeus
Oregon Mozart Players celebrate the composer's 250th birthday.

Marcus Thompson
This year, a high percentage of classical music institutions will be adding even more Mozart than usual to their programs, Jan. 27th being the 250th anniversary of his birth. In Eugene, the Oregon Mozart Players are taking the lead with a series of events, including:

• In Search of Mozart, a new documentary film about the composer's life and music, showing at the McDonald Theatre Saturday, Jan. 21.

• A chamber music and chocolate concert that evening in the same venue, featuring two lively, small-scale Amadean gems — the chirruping Oboe Quartet and the iridescent Clarinet Quintet.

• A glorious orchestral concert on Friday, Jan. 27 at the Hult Center's Silva Concert Hall, with an ideal tribute to the great classical composer, including two of his most famous vocal showcases, Regina Coeli and Exsultate Jubilate, with soprano Lauren Flanigan, and the overture and a scene from the opera The Marriage of Figaro. They'll also perform two of the greatest works in Western music, both written near the end of Mozart's too-short life: his magnificent Symphony #41, and the luminous Clarinet Concerto, with renowned clarinet virtuoso David Krakauer. This show features some of the most beautiful music ever written, performed by the Mozart Players, Eugene Concert Choir and UO opera students.

The UO School of Music presents its own free Amadeus tribute. On Thursday, Jan. 26 at Collier House fortepianist Anne Dhu McLucas, violinist Margret Gries and Eugene Symphony clarinetist Michael Anderson perform more chamber music gems including sonatas for piano, violin and piano and yet another lambent work featuring clarinet, the so-called Kegelstgatt Trio. The musicians use period instruments like those Mozart wrote these pieces for, and they make a real and positive difference in experiencing these timeless creations.

That's only one of several fine UO concerts this month. On Sunday, Jan. 29, the popular Imani Winds ensemble (last seen at the Bach Festival) play one of the 20th century's most poignant masterpieces, Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin. In addition they'll perform Latin American music by Arturo Marquez, Mario Lavista and the great Astor Piazzolla, plus an original quintet by the group's own Valerie Coleman. It's always great to see a young group playing relatively recent music from outside the classical mainstream.

Other recommended UO concerts include chamber music by Brahms, Turina and Dvorak played by viola virtuoso Marcus Thompson and UO faculty members on Jan. 26; music by Bach, Debussy, Faure and others performed by flute virtuoso Louise Di Tullio on Jan. 22; and the Good Vibes jazz duo on Jan. 23, featuring music by Charles Dowd, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett and others. The UO/Lane Community College Oregon Jazz Festival culminates in public concerts at LCC Performance Hall on Jan. 20 and 21.

Much great classical music originated in dance performances, so music lovers should join dance fans at the Martha Graham Dance Company concert at the Hult Center on Jan. 22, featuring a quartet of works commissioned by Graham and performed by members of the Eugene Symphony, including Copland's Appalachian Spring (in its original version) and other great mid-20th century American works by Gian-Carlo Menotti, Wallingford Riegger and Norman Dello Joio. (See Emily Freeman's preview in our online archives at eugeneweekly.com/2006/01/05/bravo.html). Music fans should also be at the Hult the preceding evening for American Dreams: The Creation of Appalachian Spring, a multimedia presentation that explores the Graham-Copland collaboration, featuring music, photos, film and readings.

Speaking of music and dance, the Cape Breton family act Leahy! will bring high-stepping Celtic fiddle music and dance to the Hult on Jan. 28, and Celtic music fans should check out the Irish-American duo Matt and Shannon Heaton at Cozmic Pizza on Jan. 29.

Matt Haimovitz: Making Classical Cool

Two decades ago, Matt Haimovitz had it all. Midway through his teen years, the California-born cellist, touted as the most promising in a generation, had achieved the peak perks of prodigyhood. He'd performed with Isaac Stern and Mstislav Rostropovich, had a slot at Juilliard arranged by Itzhak Perlman and a recording contract with the leading classical music record company.

Matt Haimovitz
But Haimovitz felt disconnected from people his own age, and bored by playing the same old warhorses dozens of times. Not wanting to be just another dweeby prodigy growing up in a high-rent, high-culture bubble, he went to college and majored in something other than music, moved briefly to Europe, married a composer, started recording new music instead of tired classics and founded his own record label.

Dismissed by the classical establishment, Haimovitz decided to connect with today's culture and his own peers. He tossed his cello and boxes of CDs in the trunk of his car and started playing Bach's sublime solo cello suites in bars and rock concert halls. He's performed in New York's CBGB's, Seattle's Tractor Tavern, a pizza parlor in Jackson, Miss., and, memorably, a jam-packed Sam Bond's Garage here in Eugene — a show he still talks about in interviews. The intimacy and informality of these shows infused his performances with visceral energy and made previously frozen-in-amber classics breathe anew. He toured alternative venues again last year, this time playing edgy contemporary American music (from Jimi Hendrix to Lou Harrison) that's often rejected by stuffy conservative classical bluehairs.

And now he's doing it again. After reconnecting with his eastern European heritage with a new album, Goulash! (featuring collaborators as distinguished as jazz guitar god John McLaughlin), he toured with, variously, a DJ, a Persian ensemble and a trio of young Canadian cellists from McGill University, where he now teaches. He's bringing that cello quartet, called Uccello, on his latest tour and the word on the street is that they'll be performing, among other things, Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir." Expect anything from contemporary rock to Bartok to Romanian and Middle Eastern folk music, and, if we're lucky, a bit of Bach as well.

Matt Haimovitz and Uccello play at 9 pm Friday, Jan. 20 at Sam Bond's Garage. $10. — Brett Campbell

Roots Reggae Benefit for the Kids of Katrina

When Hurricane Katrina roared ashore along the Louisianna-Mississippi border on August 29, 2005, few people predicted that Katrina would enter the record books alongside the worst natural disasters ever to hit this country. Yeah, it's been a few months and life for the survivors is moving along, but by Associated Press estimates, there are still more than 300,000 orphaned or displaced children whose lives will be forever altered by the aftermath of this storm. One local man and a respected international aid organization have organized a benefit concert so you good folks can boogie down with reggae artist Clinton Fearon & The Boogie Brown Band and help those kids at the same time.

Daniel, a Eugenean who gave only his first name, organized the benefit concert simply because he's "a human being" who witnessed the destruction and wanted to help. "I saw this unfold on TV and it was very striking to literally see it " as it happened, he said. "With that, I thought it'd be a great idea to, instead of having this big huge benefit for the hurricane, [of] which there were many, to rather, really specify what aspect of that catastrophe could I put my efforts into." His search for a focus led him to the hundreds of thousands of children without homes, schools, clothes, books, toys, or sadly, family.

Clinton Fearon, a globally recognized conscious voice in reggae music beginning with his career in The Gladiators, hadn't played in Eugene for a few years. When Daniel contacted him, he wanted to help.

AMURT, Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team, is a volunteer organization dedicated to responding to disasters the world over and meeting development and humanitarian needs in 80 countries. All proceeds will flow through AMURT to directly benefit North America's Katrina kids. The organization provides emergency medical care, food and water, shelters and help with clean-up, repair and rebuilding.

Contact AMURT USA at info@amurt.us or by calling (301) 984-0217. You can also mail donations to 6810 Tilden Lane, Rockville, MD 20852

Clinton Fearon & The Boogie Brown Band and I'Chele & The Circle of Light play at 9 pm, Saturday, Jan. 21 at the WOW Hall. $15 adv/$17 dos. — Vanessa Salvia

A Faux-French Connection

Bonjour. We here at EW know how many of our fellow Eugeneans are loyal members of the Bill O'Reilly army and have taken his slandering of the "cowardly" French to heart. But we believe in equal-opportunity media exposure, so we felt it necessary to spend a few moments telling you about the hottest French band presently touring within our borders … even if they're just barely French.

…Nous Non Plus
…Nous Non Plus' chanteuse (female vocalist) Céline Dijon (ah!) hails from Paris, but the other six members of NNP come from foreign places like Pittsburgh, Denver and San Francisco. The septet actually met at the Rhode Island School of Design in the early 1990s and transplanted to New York City in 1998. Their music is a tongue-in-cheek American interpretation of French pop, but the songs are catchy with a dancehall-friendly sound.

Mais bien sur (but of course), it's all about the irony of a bunch of smartass Americans performing in (mostly) French. The song "One Night in Paris" is about Paris Hilton, not the City of Lights. In English, singer Jean-Luc Retard (read again) belts out, in a deep, overplayed French accent: "I saw her playing / with her dog / she calls her Tinkerbelle / and she's got / a better life than mine." Formidable!

…Nous Non Plus plays music that borrows from 1960s French yé-yé pop, new wave and good ol' American rock 'n' roll. The group was formed in the summer of 2005 and is made up of members of the more-jokey Les Sans Culottes. Ooh la la.

Bottom line: Ils sont bons (They are good).

Grab a Chardonnay and some freedom fries with your faux-French music at 9 pm Monday, Jan. 23 at Sam Bond's Garage with Vagenius opening. $5. —Tim O'Rourke

Big Time Bluegrass Rides In Style

What if every Greyhound bus in this country ran on used vegetable oil from restaurants? Greyhound fares would be cheaper and our air a little cleaner, probably. But what if every bus carried a kick ass bluegrass band? Well, that doesn't really mean much to us as consumers or as air breathers, but it would make for much more entertaining bus travel.

Hot Buttered Rum
Hot Buttered Rum, a five-piece acoustic bluegrass band from the San Francisco Bay Area, rolls in a 1991 Greyhound rig that's undergone said fuel system transformation. The diesel engine switches over to vegetable oil when warmed, which saves resources and money and lowers vehicle emissions.

"There are various social and geo-political reasons to not use fossil fuels which we all know about," says Erik Yates, vocalist and player of the banjo, flute, accordion and clarinet. "We got keyed into the movement a few years ago and just decided that with our new bus we really wanted to have a professionally installed fuel system to use alternative fuel."

But don't restaurant owners scoff at the likes of five fiddle-playing dudes going through their dumpsters? "Nobody's really thought ill of us," Yates says. "They mostly just think that we're sweet and optimistic and that we want their trash."

This optimism-in-motion is also reflected in the band's music – a modernized old-time bluegrass sound with influences from swing, jazz and folk. It resonates with obvious instrumental expertise, which makes sense considering that most of the band studied music during college. Aaron Redner (fiddle, mandolin and vocals) earned a Master's in violin performance at the New England Conservatory of Music. Nat Keefe (guitar and vocals) met Yates at Lewis and Clark College where Keefe completed a degree in composition and ethnomusicology (the scientific study of music as an aspect of culture). Bryan Horne (double bass and vocals) met Zac Matthews (mandolin, fiddle and vocals) at UC San Diego where they formed an improv electric rock band called Oversoul.

HBR displays a rare combination of originality, authenticity and entertainment quality. These guys have no trouble playing for hip, dancey crowds or upscale listeners. They even take the show down south where their sound originated. "I think overall [southern audiences] really like it," Yates says. "I think they're touched that we in California would get into music that came from that part of the world."

What doesn't get lost in this band's talent and innovation is its sense of playfulness and humor. Songs about chewing tobacco and $2 bottles of wine fit naturally and sincerely into the fun-time set. "I think we all share kind of a passion just for being happy and being alive and expressing that through music," Yates says. "Our strength is really kind of that celebratory joyful spirit of music." Hot Buttered Rum String Band plays with New Monsoon at 8:30 pm Wed. Jan. 25 at the WOW Hall. $10 adv/$12 dos. — Danny Cross


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