Sitar and tabla player Shafaat “Maestro” Khan demonstrated the aptness of his title at The Ark on Tuesday, Oct. 3. Khan’s command of his instruments evoked select meditative, spiritual, and romantic moods and the evening passed as more of a conversation than a one-sided performance.
To call Indian classical music a tradition in Khan’s family would be an understatement. Indian classical music is an institution in the Khan family. Shafaat Khan is the nephew of legendary Ustad Vilayat Khan and son of Inayat Khan. His brother is Shujaat Khan, another eminent sitarist whom I had the privilege of attending his performance in Kolkata, India in 2009.
As a student of sitar, I have an appreciation for the advanced skill these teachers bring to the instrument. But it was clear that by the sheer talent Shafaat Khan brought to the stage, anyone and everyone could appreciate his music and skills.
Not so long ago -- last year, to be precise -- in a venue that’s close, close by, the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra (A2SO) played two sold-out concerts featuring John Williams’ music from the Harry Potter films. The audience response was so enthusiastic that A2SO immediately started making plans to perform two concerts featuring Star Wars music, and those concerts will happen Saturday night and Sunday afternoon (October 7-8) at the Michigan Theater.
“We were so overwhelmed (last year) ... and the audience, some of whom had never seen a live symphony concert before, told us that the music evoked powerful images for them, even though there was no visual component accompanying the music,” said A2SO conductor Arie Lipsky. “They also told us that they’d never thought that music had played such a vital role in the movies, and they thanked us for highlighting the music on its own. So many said, ‘Now we’re hooked on seeing live symphony orchestra shows,’ and we responded by investing in music from all the Star Wars movies.”
When Jeffrey Myers, first violinist for the Calidore String Quartet, grew up watching the Emerson String Quartet, he didn’t imagine members of the world-acclaimed quartet would mentor him -- or that he would share the stage with them.
After all, the Emerson, named for Ralph Waldo Emerson, has accepted nine Grammys for its 30-plus recordings and performed all over the world since being established in 1976. Its members, violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, violist Lawrence Dutton, and cellist Paul Watkins, have notable careers individually, too.
Yet, when the Emerson performs in Ann Arbor on October 5 at Rackham Auditorium, it will perform with the Calidore, which Myers and three friends -- second violinist Ryan Meehan, violist Jeremy Berry and cellist Estelle Choi -- formed when they were students at the Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles.
When Jonathan Edwards’ song “Sunshine (Go Away Today)” came out in 1971, it seemed to speak to the anger and the frustration that many felt at Nixon, the war in Vietnam, and other aspects of the establishment. But it did it in a memorable, catchy, almost joyful way.
Another song on that first Edwards recording, “Shanty” is still played by many classic rock stations around the country on Friday afternoons as a way of signaling and celebrating the beginning of weekends. (“'Cause we gonna lay around the shanty, mama / And put a good buzz on.”)
Edwards still tours and plays in Ann Arbor regularly, and he’ll be at the Green Wood Coffee House on Friday, October 6 at 8 pm. I spoke with him on the phone recently.
Colin Simpson was a veteran of bands in Oregon and Washington before returning to his home state of Michigan a few years ago. He arrived in Ann Arbor with no job and no connections to the local music community. But he did have an idea that he wanted to try something a little different.
“I knew I wanted to continue with music, but I also knew I didn’t want to just be the guy at the back of the coffee shop with a guitar,” he recalls now. So he created the concept of The Low Voltage to play out his musical ideas, adding a kick drum and some electric guitar -- and, later, a musical partner, singer-instrumentalist Emily Fox.
The result is a remarkably distinctive sound, sitting somewhere in the realm of Americana/folk/indie rock but managing to find its own unique niche. The sound is effectively evoked by the name The Low Voltage.
Saxophonist Dave Rempis has fond memories of playing Ann Arbor over the years. The Chicago-based improviser and long-time member of renowned free jazz group The Vandermark 5 fondly recalls late-'90s gigs with locally grown and trained players, such as Colin Stetson, Stuart Bogie, and Matt Bauder.
But none were likely more memorable than a workshop for students at the University of Michigan School of Music, where Rempis had applied and been rejected a few years earlier.
The local ensemble Akropolis Reed Quintet made waves nationally in 2014 when the group won the prestigious Fischoff Gold Medal, the first group of its kind to win the award. Tim Gocklin (oboe), Kari Landry (clarinet), Matt Landry (saxophone), Andrew Koeppe (bass clarinet), and Ryan Reynolds (bassoon) founded Akropolis at the University of Michigan in 2009. The reed quintet has been extremely prolific from the start, including releasing albums, streaming concerts online, and conducting educational programs locally, nationally, and internationally (when I reached out to the group, they were in Abu Dhabi).
On Wednesday, Sept. 27, Akropolis will relaunch its web series on akropolisquintet.com and youtube.com/akropolis5tet: "In 2011, we created our YouTube Web Premiere Series as a platform to showcase new works for reed quintet online, around the world," the group wrote on the Facebook event page for its latest, which will feature a live studio recording of Gregory Wanamaker's new arrangement of "Elegy" from his Duo Sonata written specifically for Akropolis. "This series has over 31,000 views, 522 subscribers, and features 13 online premieres, 9 of which are from American composers!"
I caught up with ensemble member saxophonist Matt Landry to chat about the group’s latest album, The Space Between Us (“pure gold” according to the San Francisco Chronicle), classical music and popular culture, and what’s next for the group.
Last night was not Wild Belle’s first time playing at the Blind Pig. In fact, the group played one of its first ever shows there years ago, opening for the Afro-beat dance band Nomo in what was something like a family reunion. Elliott Bergman (saxophones, keyboards) is in both bands -- he founded Nomo while at the University of Michigan -- as are Erik Hall (guitar) and Quin Kirchner (drums), and Bergman's younger sister, Natalie (vocals, guitar), started guesting with Nomo when she was just 16. (Bassist Kellen Harrison is the only non-Nomo-affiliated member of Wild Belle.)
With a reserved “Hello, Ann Arbor” from Natalie, the band took the stage and launched into the first three tracks from 2016's Dreamland: “Mississippi River,” “Losing You,” and the title track. Natalie often seemed lost in her own world as she sang, but she was also a gripping stage presence, dressed in a loose white blouse and velvet pants emblazoned with white snakeskin stars.
I didn’t grow up going to church, but seeing the poet-playwright-author-musician-activist-performance artist jessica Care moore do her thing is what I imagine an incredibly moving church experience feels like.
moore’s appearance at the Michigan Theater on September 14 was the kickoff event of the 2017 Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series. The series aims to bring innovators from a wide variety of fields to the university in order to interact with and inspire university students, faculty, and the greater community. (See the full fall 2017 lineup here.)
In order to play at The Ark’s nearly sold-out fall fundraiser on Sunday night, Darlingside had to skedaddle out of Kansas City after a show on Saturday night. The Boston-based quartet packed into a minivan with its sound engineer and drove through much of the night.
This hadn’t been the original plan, but the sudden appearance of a 200-mile-wide storm system meant that Darlingside's flights, scheduled several months earlier, weren’t going to happen. “So we arrived in Ann Arbor this morning, badly in need of a shower,” confessed cellist/guitarist Harris Paseltiner.