At the Crossroads: Dave Sharp Worlds Quartet bridges the East and West on its debut

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Dave Sharp Worlds Quartet

Around the Worlds Quartet: Mike List, Igor Houwat, Dr. Henrik Karapetyan, and Dave Sharp.

The Dave Sharp Worlds Quartet is like Istanbul’s Bosphorus Bridge: a sturdy gateway between the East and West.

The group -- Sharp (bass), Dr. Henrik Karapetyan (violin), Igor Houwat (oud), and Mike List (percussion) -- transports listeners through Arabic, Jewish, Eastern European, Indian, and American music with reliable strength on its new album, Delta.

Sharp is a busy bandleader who heads up Klezmephonic (klezmer), RAKA (African fusion), and various sizes of world music and jazz groups, from duos to the Secret 7. The Worlds Quartet came together through a chance meeting when Sharp sat in with Wisaal, a Mediterranean fusion group out of Lansing. 

“I subbed on bass with Wisaal for a small number of gigs, where I met Mike List and Igor Houwat and really connected with their Arabic fusion sound,” Sharp said. “Igor also played a few shows with Dave Sharp’s Secret 7 and recorded oud tracks for the second DSS7 release, Worlds. Igor, Mike, and I played a few dates as a trio, and one night we invited [Klezmephonic co-leader] Henrik to sit in with us. Once that happened, we all had a “Wow!” moment and decided to assemble as a quartet.”

Liner Notes: Track by track through Ann Arbor Guitar Trio's debut album, "Tides"

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Ann Arbor Guitar Trio

Three's company: Evan Veasey, Adam Kahana, and Alex Anest are the Ann Arbor Guitar Trio. Photo by Pink Moon Photography.

Alex Anest, leader of the Ann Arbor Guitar Trio (A2G3), enjoys the puzzle of arranging for three axes. No rhythmic accompaniment. No additional instruments. Just 18 amplified strings.

"There are so many tunes that I want to arrange for this group," he said. "I could quit everything and just arrange for guitar trios and probably be a pretty happy person doing it." 

The challenges, he said, are "figuring out how to blend and also how to get voices to stand out. I realize that those are opposite challenges but they both come up."

Adam Kahana and Evan Veasey are Anest's partners in Ann Arbor Guitar Trio, whose debut album, Tides, is out May 17, which is also the day the group plays Kerrytown Concert House.

Get Away With She: Nellie McKay wants to escape from it all

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Nellie McKay

Photo by Shervin Lainez.

Nellie McKay often seems like she’s at a loss for words.

During our phone conversation to promote the pianist-singer-songwriter’s show at The Ark on May 13, her answers were often preceded by a swarm of ums, uhs, I means, and various other utterances. And when McKay did get to the answers, it wasn’t necessarily in response to my questions, instead offering long vignettes about politics and the stark realities of being a full-time musician. 

On stage, McKay has a similarly discursive way of speaking, mixing funny anecdotes, political pleas, and stammering self-effacement.

But once McKay strikes a piano key, everything flows. Words stream from her gorgeous voice with confidence and warmth. The quirkiness that defines her conversations gives way to sass and power, and listeners get invited into her world -- which is not of this era.

Pluto-cracy: Dr. Alan Stern & Dr. David Grinspoon's "Chasing New Horizons"

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Dr. Alan Stern and Dr. David Grinspoon

They chased new horizons with New Horizons: Dr. Alan Stern and Dr. David Grinspoon. Photo by Henry Throop.

When the NASA spacecraft New Horizons did a Pluto driveby at 32,000 MPH on July 14, 2015, it was the first close-up view we had of our solar system’s most distant planet.

And yes, it's a full-blown planet, despite what you may have heard on Aug. 24, 2006, when Pluto was reclassified by astronomers as a “dwarf planet.”

Please do not try to tell planetary scientist Dr. Alan Stern otherwise.

“What the astronomers did was really a travesty; planetary scientists don’t buy that b.s.,” said Stern, whose new book, Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto, recounts the spacecraft mission he led, which provided unprecedented photos and information about the Milky Way's tiny trouper. (He will be at AADL’s downtown branch on Thursday, May 10, at 7 pm.)

“We know what planets are, and if you go to planetary science meetings, Pluto is called a planet every single day,” Stern said. “Don’t follow what the astronomers do any more than if I tried to classify black holes as a non-expert. But the journalists who lapped it up in 2006, if that would have happened in the ‘90s, there would have never been a mission.”

They're Bringing "Camelbak": Scissor Now!'s latest video visits tiny houses in Atlanta

MUSIC REVIEW

The quirky, punk-funk threesome Scissor Now! released its most recent album, Now That's What I Call Scissor Now!, nearly three years ago. But the Ann Arbor trio of Jessica Bratus (vocals/saxophone), Kevin Sanchez (drums), and Jef Porkins (bass/vocals) keeps mining treasure from its avant-grooves by producing music videos, including the brand new "Camelbak," the fifth vid made in support of the LP.

Scissor Now! describes the song on its Bandcamp page thusly: "A lot of people seem to move from Ann Arbor to Portland, OR. Thankfully, most of them move back."

But the video for "Camelbak" has nothing to do with The City of Roses. Instead, it follows TinyDoorsATL artist and former Ann Arbor-ite Karen Anderson, who places 6-inch-tall doors in creative places throughout Atlanta.

If you dig Scissor Now!'s brand of fried jazz, below are the band's other four videos from Now That's What I Call Scissor Now! as a well as a performance from the 2017 Water Hill Music Fest.

Annual Bloom: A guide to the 2018 Water Hill Music Fest

MUSIC PREVIEW

The Water Hill Music Fest is the crocus flower of Ann Arbor street parties.

Whether the weather is warm or chilly, sunny or drizzly, crocuses emerge every spring. So does this neighborhood-centric celebration of creativity, which bursts to life annually the first Sunday in May.

More than 75 bands will perform between 2-6 pm on Sunday, May 6, on their own lawns, their neighbors' backyards, and porches across the Water Hill neighborhood -- which was only dubbed that name when the music festival began in 2012. (The Water Hill area is now an established part of mapping programs and a useful tool for real-estate agents).

Most of the music at Water Hill meets at the folk/roots/blues/country/Americana axis, but everything from jazz and punk rock to children's bands and DJs will take part. And it's all free.

João Luiz & Danilo Brito strip down Brazilian choro to its essence

MUSIC PREVIEW

Joao Luiz & Danilo Brito by Sascha von Oertzen

João Luiz and Danilo Brito by Sascha von Oertzen

When Brazilian mandolinist Danilo Brito played Kerrytown Concert House on April 1, 2017, he brought a traditional choro quartet with him: 7-string guitar, guitar, cavaquinho, and percussion.

For his April 29 show this year at Kerrytown, Brito is down to the essentials, pairing with guitarist João Luiz, one half of the Brasil Guitar Duo and an equal to the mandolinist in terms of choro adoration and acumen. The setlist will draw from compositions by Jacob do Bandolim, Orlando Silveira, Edurado Souto, and Pixinguinha as well as Brito and Luiz.

So, what is choro?

Communal Music: Ann Arbor Concert Band preps for its season finale

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Annie Li and Ann Arbor high school band conductors

Ann Arbor high school band conductors Robert Ash (Huron), David Leach (Pioneer), and Jason Smith (Skyline) join clarinetist Annie Li (Pioneer) for the Ann Arbor Concert Band's season finale on May 6.

For the past 39 years, the Ann Arbor Concert Band has prepared for a season finale. That's a lot of successful seasons for a community band consisting of non-professional musicians. Their love for performing will be obvious at the group's latest season finale, "Symphonic Broadway," which will feature music from Mozart, Wicked, Chicago, Phantom of the Opera, A Chorus Line, and a selection of works by Jerome Robbins. 

I talked to Phillip Rhodes, president of the Ann Arbor Concert Band, about the group's history, scholarship, and season-ending concert, which happens May 6 at the Michigan Theater.

BYO Radness: Camp Totally Awesome Fest returns for its 14th year

MUSIC PREVIEW

Camp Totally Awesome Fest 14

Dogs, tarantulas, and human children are encouraged to come to the 14th Camp Totally Awesome Fest.

In fact, everybody is welcome at this annual Ypsilanti event, but last year Awesome Fest’s guiding force, Patrick Elkins, specifically said dogs, tarantulas, and human children should come hear some jams, and I’m just going to assume the offer stands for this year’s throwdown since the Facebook event post says, “Free! All Ages! All Species!”

Spread over April 27-29 at six venues, Camp Totally Awesome Fest is primarily about music -- there are about 45 bands and a few DJs and performance artists on the lineup -- and the genres span R&B and indie rock to hip-hop and modular-synth electronics.

Songs for Everyone: Joanna & the Jaywalkers project universal emotions with a powerful voice

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Joanna Ransdell

Joanna Ransdell's voice is an audible red light that commands you to stop whatever you were doing and just listen to her sing.

The 28-year-old Ypsilanti resident's gorgeous vox is dark but mellifluous, swinging from the edge of vulnerability to the side of quietly defiant, using slight inflections and lyrical twists to tell her relatable stories. Ransdell's timbre is located in the Stevie Nicks / Natalie Merchant / Patty Griffin solar system -- a full, pure, powerful projection of beauty injected deep into the universe and straight into all your feels.

The Ann Arbor-raised, Community High School-graduating Ransdell recently released The Open Sea Before Meher debut album with Joanna & the Jaywalkers. The record is filled with lovely, low-key chamber-folk pop and it's quite a bit different from Ransdell's 2014 solo LP, Open Fire, which fits squarely in the piano-centric lineage of Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, and Regina Spector.