Locals and Visitors
Talent from every direction
by Brett Campbell
Just as there are more movies made and novels written about affairs than long marriages, the big road shows tend to get most of the love in any local music press. They’re new and different, whereas we often take the stalwart locals for granted, if only because we don’t want to repeat ourselves. Unfortunately, that means deserving local stars like troubador and multi-instrumentalist (banjo, guitar, mandolin, fiddle etc.) Chico Schwall, a longtime fixture on the Eugene music scene, probably get overlooked on occasion. Schwall’s April 16 show at the Shedd may temporarily rectify that oversight. It includes not only his trio, but also a half dozen accomplished guests like Mood Area 52’s Amy Danziger on cello and Michael Roderick on accordion. The concert features Schwall’s folkish original songs along with American roots music, jazz, blues, a touch of Celtic, a pinch of Balkan, even a smidgen of classical. It’s the kind of wide-ranging concert that requires too many musicians and instruments to pull off frequently, so this is a rare chance to experience the full ambit of this local legend’s musical reach. Schwall, Scrambled Ape and Blue Road are also playing a fundraiser for the Oregon Field School at Cozmic Pizza April 19.
A newer local institution, Cherry Blossom Musical Arts, has energized Eugene’s new music scene in recent years with concerts featuring contemporary classical and postclassical music, improv and various other musical and multimedia elements. Cherry Blossom’s April 26 Sunday afternoon concert at Central Lutheran Church looks like another winner, with new music by composers from Eugene, Portland and New York: solo pianist Jeff Winslow plays one of his own pieces, then joins soprano Nancy Wood for former UO music prof Derek Healy’s song cycle The Silvered Lute, which sets to music 8th century Zen poetry of Chinese poet Wang Wei. The concert also showcases Eugene composer/flutist/video artist Daniel Heila’s fine work, including a piano solo, some lovely songs for the mandolin-like cittern that will remind listeners of old British folk tunes and a video accompanying a piece for bass clarinet, flute and piano by Cherry Blossom’s Paul Safar. The show also features the premiere of Safar’s ambitious and affecting Quartet in Red, Black and Blue for string quartet and vocals.
And speaking of future flute sounds, the next day at the University of Oregon’s Beall Hall, you can catch still-more-recent arrival Molly Barth, a star new music flutist who’s finishing up her first year on the UO music faculty, who hosts a free April 27 concert of new music for flute written by the UO music grad student members of the Oregon Composers Forum. Also at the UO the next night, guest pianist Jay Hershberger plays music of Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann and Liszt.
The most compelling musical visitor this month is Mariza, the new queen of fado, who performs at the Hult Center’s Silva Hall on April 26. The unofficial national music of Portugal, the ever melancholy fado (which literally means “fate”) was born in the mid 19th century of mixed race parents — the African slaves in imperial Portugal’s colony of Brazil, and European influences — which combines European, African and American strains. Herself born of mixed race parents in Mozambique and raised in Lisbon, Mariza has in the past decade soared to succeed the late, great Amalia Rodrigues as fado’s — and Portugal’s — brightest star. Mariza has expanded the instrumentation beyond the traditional high-pitched guitar and extended the music beyond traditional strictures, much as Astor Piazzolla did in reinventing tango. She’s received multiple Grammy nominations, sold out arenas worldwide and brought this lovely, lilting music to a global audience. Mariza is touring the U.S. in conjunction with the release of her new CD, and we’re lucky that she chose Eugene as a stop for what will be one of the year’s best world music concerts.
Another recommended visitor: the gritty Austin singer-songwriter James McMurtry, who plays the WOW Hall April 21st. Few musicians have chronicled the last decade’s decline of the American dream in the face of Republican politics of greed the way McMurtry has, yet he’s done so not via polemic but by drawing compelling characters, often in small town America, and telling their dark stories with the kind of detail his famous novelist father deploys, but much more concisely, and with a growling, sometimes roaring rock beat.