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

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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.”

Michigan favorites Steppin’ In It celebrate 20 years at The Ark

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Steppin' In It

Photo by JDC Photography.

Years ago in Lansing, a group of guys got together and formed a roots-music band that combined vintage sounds and modern sensibilities. Called Steppin’ In It, the band built up a devoted audience and critical respect in Michigan and beyond as its sound and its songs deepened and matured.

Now, the band itself has become somewhat vintage: Steppin’ In It is marking its 20th anniversary and doing a short concert tour to celebrate, including a May 20 date at The Ark. 

In recent years, the band’s core members have established very successful individual careers. In particular, lead singer/guitarist Joshua Davis has become well known as a solo act, notably placing third in NBC’s singing competition The Voice and becoming the first contestant to sing an original composition on the show. Bassist Dominic John Davis, meanwhile, has worked extensively with rocker Jack White, among others. In fact, the members have become so busy individually that they no longer perform together as Steppin’ In It very often, so the current tour is highly anticipated by their still-loyal fan base.

Joshua Davis and Dominic John Davis recently answered a few questions from Pulp via email.

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

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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

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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.

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

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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

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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?

Jimmy Webb brings a lifetime of songs and stories to The Ark

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Jimmy Webb photo by Rockstars and Babies

Secret Mitten man: Jimmy Webb returns to Ann Arbor, a place he spent several summers. Photo by Rockstars and Babies.

Michigan has impacted Jimmy Webb in some interesting ways -- especially given that he was born in Oklahoma, lived for many years in California, and now resides on Long Island.

The great songwriter and performer -- who plays solo at The Ark on Sunday, April 29 -- regularly visited the Ann Arbor area as a child. His father, a Baptist minister, took the family on trips here to see another minister when Jimmy was around ages 8-12, he said in a recent phone interview. “Every summer my dad got $100 out of the bank, and we’d pile into the Plymouth or whatever our family vehicle was, and we’d head for Michigan,” he recalled. 

Later, as an adult, Webb returned to Michigan to buy a boat and start a memorable trip from Lake St. Clair through Lake Erie and ultimately down the Hudson River.

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

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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

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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.