What Isnt World Music?
A globetrotting week of great sounds
By brett campbell
Alexander the Great is said to have wept when he ran out of known world to conquer. So it is, though less imperialistically, with “world music” these days. Thanks to the assiduous efforts of anthropologists, global-sound-mining pop artists like David Byrne, Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon, and various enterprising record labels, most of the planets music is available to anyone who knows where to listen. Still, its not every week ã or year ã that we get to experience a master of Bulgarian folk music, and we get our chance May 31, when the Petar Ralchev Quartet plays WOW Hall. One of the worlds great accordionists, Ralchev updates and energizes folk with his sizzling improvisatory skills, harmonic sophistication, pan-Balkan rhythmic influences and experience with half a dozen other multi-ethnic European ensembles. If you think of Bulgarian music as merely Communist-era works by womens choirs, this show will reveal the continuing richness of a lovely world music tradition.
Another performer who draws on Eastern European influences is Portland cellist/chanteuse Ashia Grzesik, a Polish immigrant often seen hereabouts with the neo-cabaret band Vagabond Opera and Portland Cello Project. Grzesik, whose solo work stretches into various gypsy and Americana territories, performs May 26 at Cozmic Pizza along with Foxtails Brigade, and she opens for Kingdom County June 4 at Sam Bonds.
Cozmic Pizza also offers southern African sounds on May 28, when the local youth marimba band Hokoyo Marimba performs a benefit for Tariro, supporting young Zimbabwean AIDS orphans. And on June 2, Cozmic welcomes Los Cumbiamberos. The urge to dance to this stuff is irresistible, so show up early for a free lesson. Latino music love continues June 3 at Cozmic with Eugene Arte Latinos Festival of Song, Poetry and Dance, a family friendly affair in which a dozen performers cover everything from Andean music to bossa nova to mariachi y mucho mas.
The impressive jazz bassist and composer Michael Formanek and his quartet play June 4 at the Shedd. Jazz fans might remember •90s band Wide Open Spaces, and certainly recognize some of his previous collaborators in a strong 35 year career: Stan Getz, Freddie Hubbard, Chet Baker, Fred Hersch and many others ã including the coveted bass spot in the Mingus Big Band. The reliably excellent ECM label has just released Formaneks superb debut album, The Rub and Spare Change, which showcases the individual talents of his veteran band as well as the tight collective interplay they achieve.
The classical season is winding down, clearing the decks for the Oregon Bach Festival, yet a few gems remain. On June 2 at Lane Community College, the Lane Chamber Orchestra performs Eugene composer Paul Safars Concerto for Electric Guitar and Orchestra, starring soloist Olem Alves.
The Oregon Symphonic Band and others perform music by Prokofiev, John Mackey and more May 26 at Beall Hall, and theres a free noon chamber music concert at the Schnitzer art museum May 27. And dont forget the June 2 big spring Choral Concert at Beall, featuring several choirs singing contemporary sounds by the splendid Estonian composer Arvo Pÿrt, Eric Whitacre and others. The traditional June 5 wrap-up concerts feature the University Percussion Ensemble at Aasen-Hull Hall in a mostly contemporary program, plus a Telemann transcription, and at 5pm in Beall, the ever popular University Gospel Ensembles.