Common Language: Zakir Hussain's Crosscurrents at Michigan Theater


Shafaat Khan at The Ark

Fabulous fusion: Zakir Hussain ran through an 11-song set that featured all sorts of musical linguistics. Hussain photo by Susana Millman; Michigan Theater marquee by Christopher Porter

Tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain mixes Indian music and jazz in his band Crosscurrents. And he doesn't mind if you call it the "f" word.

"First, let’s address the word 'fusion,'" he said in an interview before Crosscurrents' Wednesday, Nov. 1., concert at the Michigan Theater, courtesy of UMS. "Fusion is not new. It is just a word needed by people to call music whereas that music speaks one unified language. The media is conscious of it now. Ravi Shankar and George Harrison ("Norwegian Wood") contributed to making musical interactions mainstream. Fusion is not unusual. Now, it’s just more visible, advertised, and focused."

The sold-out concert in jam-packed downtown Ann Arbor witnessed what Hussain called the "universal voice of interaction," where "there are neither borders nor language issues. ... In 'hybrid' forms of music, a meeting is inevitable because the structure of Indian classical and jazz music, for example, is improvisation."

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Fifth Avenue Press launches nine titles with a book release party

Fifth Avenue Press logo

Fifth Avenue Press launches on Nov. 5 with a book-release party from 1-3 pm at the downtown branch of the Ann Arbor District Library.

"Publishing is a business," writes mega-selling author Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook) in the "Advice for Writers" section of his website. "Writing may be art, but publishing, when all is said and done, comes down to dollars."

Except with Fifth Avenue Press, the new publishing imprint of the Ann Arbor District Library.

Fifth Avenue helps local authors produce a print-ready book at no cost -- from copyediting to cover design -- and the writers retain all rights. In return, the library gets to distribute ebooks to its patrons without paying royalties, but authors can sell their books -- print, digital, or audio -- however they choose and keep all the proceeds.

Fifth Avenue launches on Sunday, Nov. 5, with a reception from 1-3 pm on the 3rd floor of AADL's downtown branch, featuring author readings from the imprint's first nine titles:

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Timothy Monger's first music video conjures serenity, septic-tank legend


"It’s more personal than anything I’ve ever done," said singer-songwriter Timothy Monger about his latest album, Amber Lantern, in a February 2017 interview with Pulp.

It's also Monger's loveliest album, which includes two records with his former band, Great Lakes Myth Society, and two solo LPs, 2011's The New Britton Sound and 2004's Summer Cherry Ghosts.

Though Amber Lantern came out 10 months ago, Monger recently teamed up with director Brian Lillie to produce a video for "Hayward," one of the LP's most beautiful songs. "A video is something I've thought about doing for many years, but somehow never made a priority until this year," Monger wrote on his website.

We asked Monger about the making of "Hayward," the singing septic-tank man who loaned him a canoe, and what's behind the "Surf & Turf" show he's playing on Sunday, Nov. 5, with fellow Washtenaw County singer-songwriter Dave Boutette at Old Town Tavern.

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Open Season: Ann Arbor Concert Band starts with "Afternoon at the Opera"


Ann Arbor Concert Band, March 6, 2016 concert at Hill Auditorium

Photo courtesy AACB from its March 6, 2016 concert at Hill Auditorium, featuring the Pioneer, Huron, Skyline, and Brighton High Shcool choirs.

The Ann Arbor Concert Band holds a special place among the area’s musical groups. Following the classic concert-band tradition, it’s an ensemble consisting almost entirely of wind instruments.

So as the band prepares to open its new season at the Michigan Theater on Sunday, the theme for the concert may seem a bit surprising: a selection of opera works, which we’re accustomed to hearing performed by singers with an orchestra.

“I chose this theme because it's rarely done by concert bands, and it's a nice contrast to a typical program that has only marches and Broadway medleys,” says James Nissen. “My job as conductor is to expose the audience to the vast wind ensemble repertoire, and there are so many great opera overtures that translate well for wind instruments. Also, there are so many instances where a composer wrote an opera that was soon long forgotten, but its overture survived as a masterpiece. I don't want these overtures to be forgotten!”

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Just Say Yes! ypsiGLOW is all about the affirmative


ypsiGLOW 2017

WonderFool organized a month of creative workshops, which culminated in the second annual street party ypsiGLOW on Oct. 27. Photos by Sherlonya Turner.

It turns out that if you make a large, wave-shaped luminary that complements your shiny green mermaid costume, a lot of people are going to stop you and ask whether you’ll take a picture with them.

When you set out specifically to participate in a unique community event, sometimes, you just say, "Yes."

It was a luminary-making workshop that made me add ypsiGlow to my calendar. In the weeks leading up to the downtown Ypsilanti light-up dance party, Wonderfool Productions hosted drop-in GLOWorkshops at the Riverside Arts Center where community members were invited to come make luminaries and or costumes for the Oct. 27 event.

A sucker for learning new skills, I had attended one of the workshops simply interested in learning how to make a luminary. One of the artists asked me what I wanted to make as I began familiarizing myself with the materials and observing other workshop attendees. That’s when I told her; it was the first "yes" of this experience.

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Photographer Nina Hauser dreams of India in her new WSG Gallery show


Nina Hauser, Expressing the Inexpressible

Nina Hauser's Expressing the Inexpressible, part of The Real World Is Not the Only World -- India Dreams at WSG Gallery.

The last time we saw Nina Hauser’s iPhone photography at the WSG Gallery was in May 2013. I was keenly struck at that time how her display illustrated the fundamental principle that the human element cannot be taken out of art irrespective of the technology used to make the work. The 22 photographs in that exhibit were marked by a remarkable technique and skill -- with both artful elements reflecting the “eye” implicit in the photographic image.

Hauser’s current exhibit at that same gallery, The Real World Is Not the Only World -- India Dreams, finds this local photographer immersed in her fascination with the culture of the Asian subcontinent -- and certainly sufficiently enough as to revolutionize her aesthetic.

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Concerti Per Venti: Sphinx Virtuosi at Rackham Auditorium


Sphinx Virtuosi by Kevin Kennedy

Sphinx Virtuosi is comprised of 18 of the top black and Latinx classical soloists in the country. Photo by Kevin Kennedy.

Rackham Auditorium hosted and UMS presented the gifted and absorbing chamber music ensemble Sphinx Virtuosi on Sunday afternoon as part of the group’s 20th-anniversary tour.

Based in Detroit, the Sphinx Organization is committed to promoting the transformative power of the arts through diversity and inclusion. The Sphinx Virtuosi ensemble is comprised of 18 of the top black and Latinx classical soloists in the country, all of whom are alumni of the prestigious Sphinx Competition that the organization holds annually in Detroit.

As Jessie Montgomery, the current concertmaster of the Virtuosi, noted during Sunday’s concert, another key priority of the Sphinx Organization is to support new work by composers of color, whose voices which are vastly underrepresented (accounting for barely 1% of the classical canon, according to Montgomery).

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Love Bomb: Victor Wooten Trio at The Ark


Victor Wooten Trio at The Ark

Bob Franceschini, Victor Wooten, and Dennis Chambers exploded with joyous music at The Ark on Oct. 26.

Bass wizard Victor Wooten had a sold-out crowd craning forward in their seats to hear note one last night at The Ark. When the first downbeat came, it was followed in short order by a slipstream of ringing harmonics that quickly resolved into a deep-in-the-pocket groove. Although that groove would evolve and shapeshift throughout the evening, it would never fade entirely.

Wooten was joined by master drummer Dennis Chambers (of Parliament/Funkadelic and Santana fame) and saxophonist Bob Franceschini. The trio is on tour supporting the release of their new album, Tryptonyx, a genre-b(l)ending tour de force that showcases each musician’s considerable technical chops without ever losing sight of the pure joy that funk can bring.

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Blaster in the Flatlands: Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore at The Ark


It might seem like Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore come from very different places musically.

Alvin is best known as a core member of the roots-rock band The Blasters, often considered part of the 1980s Los Angeles punk scene. Gilmore is a Texas troubadour who helped start the alt-country/Americana movement as a member of The Flatlanders. But the two came of age loving the same kinds of authentic folk and blues music -- and today, they’re both comfortable working in a laid-back singer-songwriter format.

In fact, they’ve been friends for more than 30 years. So when Alvin suggested the two start doing some shows together -- including on at The Ark on Oct. 30 -- it seemed like a natural pairing.

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Down by Law: David Wells' "Resisting" world premieres at Theatre Nova


Resisting at Theatre Nova

Brutal truths: David Wells' Resisting explores justice and systemic racism.

“Resist” is not only a rallying cry of our political times; it was the seed of Ann Arbor-based playwright David Wells (“Irrational,” “Brill”) latest world premiere play at Theatre Nova.

Resisting, which runs Oct. 27-Nov. 19, grew out of a news story Wells read about what’s called “broken windows policing.” Born in New York City in the ‘90s, “It’s essentially a zero-tolerance approach, that was combined with ‘stop and frisk,’” said Wells. “(Broken Windows) started with a scholarly paper that suggested that ... if one window in a building is broken, and it’s not fixed immediately, all of them will be broken. ... So the police were compelled to start ticketing or arresting people for every little infraction, no matter how small -- whether it’s jumping a turnstile, or jaywalking, or spitting in public. This led to a more antagonistic relationship between the police and the citizens they were supposed to serve. And these policies also only seemed to be applied in low-income neighborhoods.”

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