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Happy Homecoming

A handful of UO music alumni return to perform in Eugene
AnyWhen
AnyWhen

Eugene has incubated more than its share of strong performers who either studied at the UO (the band Oregon, jazz singer Nancy King, Portland Cello Project founder Douglas Jenkins) or won early acclaim here (Robert Cray, Curtis Salgado) and moved on to greener pastures. This month brings a few once familiar faces back. 

The UO’s acclaimed music school has spawned plenty of promising jazzers in recent years, and one of the best, trumpeter and composer Douglas Detrick, brings his innovative AnyWhen sax-trumpet-bassoon-cello-guitar-drum sextet to the Jazz Station on Sunday, Feb. 3. Now based in the jazz capital of New York City, Detrick will deliver his fascinating new 10-movement suite, The Bright and Rushing World. AnyWhen artfully combines spontaneity and structure with composition and improvisation more organically and engagingly than many of the old Third Stream and fusion attempts to harmonize the worlds of jazz and classical music. 

The terrific double bill also includes a UO prodigy who did return trumpeter Brian McWhorter, who went on to become one of the country’s most acclaimed contemporary music trumpeters in New York with the Meridian Arts Ensemble before returning to the UO as a faculty member. McWhorter’s ensemble Beta Collide will perform original arrangements of music by the died-too-young Canadian world music singer Lhasa de Sela on trumpet, sax, piano, percussion, guitar and bass. 

AnyWhen’s concert will feature one of Detrick’s old UO profs, bassoonist Steve Vacchi, and one of his UO jazzing buddies, saxophonist Hashem Assadullahi, who will lead his own sextet in a CD release concert for his splendid all-original album, Pieces, at the Jazz Station Feb. 8. Along with Assadullahi’s bubbly sax and easygoing compositions, the album and concert will lean heavily on the vibrant textures (and a composition) of still another UO grad, electric guitarist Justin Morell, and the band includes pianist James Miley, bassist Tyler Abbott, drummer Ryan Biesack and Assadullahi’s mentor, UO prof Steve Owen on tenor saxophone.

Another welcome returnee, the adventurous New Zealand born flutist Tessa Brinckman, who used to play frequently in the area, has spent the past few years performing in Ashland’s Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), where she often played the music of longtime OSF composer Todd Barton, who has also written for the Oregon Symphony, Kronos Quartet and many others. On Saturday, Feb. 9, at the Corvallis Arts Center, she’ll play a solo program featuring five different flutes, including Barton’s new “Sonus Sonorus” for Baroque flute and electronics, inspired by a work by 18th-century French composer Jean-Marie Leclair; her own new Hüzün Nar, inspired by her travels in Istanbul and the work of famed Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk; and music by Australian composer Ross Edwards and American composers Shirish Korde, Alex Shapiro and Jennifer Higdon.

Another musician who performed at the OSF Green Show for many years, guitarist David Rogers, enlists two more OSF vets, baroque dancers Daniel Stephens and Judy Kennedy (in period costume), along with Portland Baroque Orchestra cellist Joanna Blendulf and UO harpist Laura Zaerr to perform music by Lully and Beauchamps from the great French satirical playwright Moliere’s first comédie-ballet, 1661’s Les Facheux, on Feb. 10 at First United Methodist Church.

On Feb. 9 at Beall Hall, the Oregon Mozart Players perform early 20th-century chamber orchestra arrangements (sketched or completed by composer Arnold Schoenberg) of Gustav Mahler’s most ravishing work, The Song of the Earth (based on Chinese poetry), and Claude Debussy’s gentle, otherworldly Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, which was also the world-changing prelude to the musical upheaval of the 20th-century. On Feb. 11 at Beall, the Eugene Symphonic Band plays music by Shostakovich, Leonard Bernstein and more including two band members, clarinetist James Ragland and euphonist Donald Kelley, another former Duck. On Feb. 6 at Beall, soprano Laura Wayte and pianist David Riley will perform a repertoire by the great Spanish impressionist Falla, Mozart and Chabrier, with help from fellow UO faculty members, bassoonist Steve Vacchi and oboist Melissa Peña, accompanied by art by Eugene’s Helen Liu