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Vibrant Visitors

February basks in music from Brian Blade to The Bombadils to Bach
Marimbist Eriko Daimo performs at Beall Hall
Marimbist Eriko Daimo performs at Beall Hall

Thanks primarily to a pair of forward-looking institutions, Eugene keeps attracting visiting vanguard artists that just about any other midsized mini-metropolis would envy. This month, one of them snags three young stars who are also appearing at the big Portland Jazz Festival that annually brings some of world’s finest improvisers to the Northwest. On Feb. 19, The Shedd brings back one of jazz’s greatest drummers, Brian Blade, and his mighty Fellowship Band. Emerging from New Orleans’ jazz scene in the 1980s, Blade has been a first call drummer with many of jazz’s greatest players, and a mainstay of Wayne Shorter’s superb quartet since 2000. 

Classical and jazz fans alike should flock to The Shedd Feb. 22 when a familiar name to Eugeneans, Dan Tepfer, returns to the town where he spent many childhood summers. Now one of jazz’s rising young pianists and composers, with DownBeat awards, competition prizes, rave-reviewed albums with jazz legend Lee Konitz and others, the New York-based Tepfer earned deserved acclaim for the music he’ll play here: his fabulous, jazzy solo piano improvisations on J.S. Bach’s monumental “Goldberg Variations.”

Our other major music beacon, the University of Oregon, attracts even more than its usual quota of fascinating musicians this month. Along with Imani Winds’ appearance (see “Inherit the Winds”), New York-based cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, who just left the Kronos Quartet after a long and fruitful run, caps his weeklong residency with a Beall Concert Hall recital Friday, Feb. 21, co-starring UO faculty musicians and featuring music by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and Bang on a Can founder David Lang, a premiere by Jesse Jones and works for cello and electronics. 

Zeigler and Beall’s Feb. 22 stars, Fireworks Ensemble, also have Portland gigs coming up, which no doubt helped make the journey here feasible, but for the founder of the electric chamber ensemble (which plays everything from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring to Frank Zappa, Charles Ives, Bill Monroe, Aaron Copland, the UO’s own Robert Kyr and much more), it’s also a homecoming, as bassist Brian Coughlin started the group in New York not long after graduating from the UO in 2000. 

On Monday, Feb. 24, still another acclaimed young visitor, award-winning Japanese marimbist Eriko Daimo, gives a percussion recital at Beall Hall.

Tuesday, Feb. 18, Scottish fiddle master Brandon Vance plays traditional Irish and Scottish music with guirarist Glen Waddell from Eugene’s own late, lamented Skye and the UO’s Eliot Grasso on the haunting uilleann pipes.

More Celtic sounds sing out on Tuesday, Feb. 25, when Quebec’s The Bombadils play Irish, bluegrass and Quebecois music at a much smaller Eugene institution, the intimate Broadway House concerts at 911 W. Broadway that have grown from hosting UO student performances to also occasionally booking cool road shows. 

Three of our homegrown classical institutions next week offer the best programs of their respective seasons. On Saturday, Beall hosts the Oregon Mozart Players in one of their namesake’s greatest symphonies (No. 39), loveliest concertos (the sublime Clarinet Concerto, featuring Eugene’s own master Michael Anderson) and Stravinsky’s update on one of Bach’s Brandenburgs, his 1937 “Dumbarton Oaks” concerto. 

Thursday, Feb. 20, at the Hult Center, the Eugene Symphony plays another Stravinsky masterpiece, the ballet score that jump-started 20th-century music: Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, which can be the most exciting music you’ll ever hear in an orchestra hall, as so many orchestras proved last year in the many performances in its centennial year. The scintillating program also includes the other candidate for progenitor of modern music: Debussy’s sultry Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun, and Sergei Prokofiev’s thrilling Violin Concerto No. 2 featuring another young star, Fumiaki Miura

And on Sunday, Feb. 23, at United Lutheran Church, the Oregon Bach Collegium plays Baroque violinist Michael Sand’s transformations of three great works by J.S. Bach (Viola da Gamba, Sonata in G minor, Concerto for Three Violins and the famous Italian Concerto) into arrangements for other Baroque instruments — something Bach himself did often, making old music new again.