Eugene Weekly : Music : 3.6.08

Party Time
Shedd’s annual jazz party brings master musicians to town

The Shedd has become a beacon of Oregon jazz, bringing some of the country’s finest jazz masters to town, and last year it hosted a jazz party that’s become an annual event. This year’s edition, March 7-9, featuring such jazz masters as clarinetist Ken Peplowski (who’s directing the festivities), guitar legend Bucky Pizzarelli, singer/songwriter/pianist Dave Frishberg, pianist Bill Mays and many others, drenches the old church all weekend in standards-based improvisation in five three- to four-hour sessions of various small combos (sax ensembles, piano duet, etc.), culminating in a Sunday afternoon big band blowout.

The Shedd also fosters local jazz. On March 13, Carl Woideck’s Jazz Heritage Project spotlights two of America’s greatest musicians and composers: postwar jazz giants Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus. Sort of a greatest hits survey (“Round Midnight,” “Straight no Chaser,” “Pithecanthropus Erectus”), the show represents a welcome expansion of the Shedd’s ambit from the pre-bop jazz it’s hitherto primarily focused on. Woideck, a jazz scholar and saxman who teaches at the UO and programs jazz on KLCC, has enlisted some top notch local talent — the UO’s Idit Shner on sax, bassist Tyler Abbott, pianist Greg Goebel, drummer Kevin Congleton — to play these absolute classics of American music.

Gabriela Montero

The Shedd programs more than jazz, of course, and there are more kinds of improvisation than jazz. On March 18, the engaging pianist Gabriela Montero from Venezuela (which produces as many classical music prodigies as Republican political fulminations) brings her improvisational virtuosity to the Shedd. Music of the classical masters will provide her point of departure, and maybe she’ll even treat us to her popular “sing and wing it” exercises where she asks audience members to sing a short theme or phrase, which she then spontaneously transforms into a new work.

Another treat for jazz fans: award-winning Seattle pianist Victor Noriega brings his adventurous improvising and expert quartet to Sam Bond’s March 19. Noriega’s new record explores his Filipino roots. Eugene’s own Poisonous Birds, led by Josh Deutsch, opens.

There’s more classical piano at the UO’s Beall Concert Hall March 6, when the Mozart Piano Quartet plays quartets by Brahms, Beethoven and Schumann. Another classical star, legendary cellist Nathanial Rosen, joins former UO faculty pianist Victor Steinhardt at Beall on March 12 for an enticing recital of duets in music by J.S. Bach, Beethoven, Haydn and more. That’s only a prelude to a superb program starring Rosen with the Oregon Mozart Players on March 15-16 at the Hult Center. To the ensemble’s great credit, it’s featuring recent music by the UO’s own David Crumb, the 1996 tone poem “Vestiges of a Distant Time,” inspired by the feelings of “being surrounded by the ghosts of antiquity while traveling to regions where ancient civilizations once stood.” I wonder if Mesopotamia’s current uninvited visitors get that feeling? The show also boasts a couple of delectable Classical era works that had long been lost to history: Joseph Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C (rediscovered in 1961) and Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante (reconstructed by Robert Levin in 1982) for winds. Both have been overshadowed by their respective composers’ other masterpieces in the form (Haydn’s other cello concerto, Mozart’s other Sinfonia Concertante) but offer plenty of delights.

On March 8, Luna brings mbira virtuoso/singer/dancer Musekiwa Chingodza from Zimbabwe. He’ll play the metal, so-called thumb piano, which can produce showers of harp-like tones in the hands of a master like him. Portland sextet Fools in Paradise (sax, congas, djembe, vocals, mbira and marimba) opens with traditional music as well as original material. Chingodza also plays at the newish World Flavors restaurant on March 7 and at a benefit concert for an organization helping his troubled homeland on March 15 at the UO’s Agate Hall; other performers include dancer/musician/feminist pioneer Loveness Wesa with Kgotso African Dance Theatre, Hokoyo Marimba, Jennifer Kyker and more. Agate’s also the venue for Vermillion Lies‘ CD release party March 8. The Bay Area-based cabaret style sister act is known for engaging audience-friendly antics, environmental consciousness and a wild stage show.

Another treat for world music fans: on March 14, the world’s finest mariachi band, Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, plays the Hult Center. The ensemble, founded in 1898, has recorded dozens of albums and won acclaim around the world for its expertly played blend of traditional and new music.

Finally, amid the all the Celtic celebrating going on this month, don’t forget Skye‘s March 15 concert at the WOW Hall, reprising the local Irish music masters’ heartwarmingly fabulous reunion show last year.