Weekend MusicWatch: Jazz encounters

 Portland Opera's Falstaff; © Portland Opera / Cory Weaver

Portland Opera’s Falstaff; © Portland Opera / Cory Weaver

Let’s start with jazz this week. One of Oregon’s finest musicians — a charter member of the Oregon Music Hall of Fame — releases his newest CD Saturday night at a concert at southeast Portland Woodstock Wine & Deli. But it’s a bittersweet occasion for renowned bassist David Friesen, because the music celebrates the memory of his son Scott, a painter who died two years ago. Friesen, who’s led more than five dozen albums and appeared on five score more, spends much of his time performing to devoted jazz fans in Europe and Asia. He’ll be performing the music with his excellent Circle 3 Trio, and the venue, like the CD, will display Scott’s art.

That same evening, curse the coincidence, Tunnel Six returns for a show at the Ivories lounge in Portland’s Pearl District. The sextet composed of some of the brightest young bandleaders in Canadian and Northwest jazz (Portland pianist Andrew Oliver, Seattle trumpeter Chad McCullough and expatriate drummer Tyson Stubelek, now based in NYC), which convenes annually to tour and record, gave one of my favorite performances of 2011 at Portland’s Old Church, and their winning new album gives them plenty of new material to jam on this time around.

On Friday, PDXJazz brings still another visiting jazz star, Dutch alto saxophonist Tineke Postma, a protege of American greats Dave Liebman and Chris Potter who studied in the US. Like T6, her music appeals to jazz fans who prize melody, but without sacrificing originality.

Next week, another all-star team of creative jazzers alights when drummer John Hollenbeck brings his Refuge Trio to Eugene (May 14 at the University of Oregon’s Beall Concert Hall) and Portland (May 16, Mission Theater). This show should appeal to contemporary classical music fans, too, because Hollenbeck has crossed over into that world, particularly in his collaborations with Refuge’s singer and electronics wielder, Theo Bleckmann, whose smooth as ice vocals have appeared on recordings by Philip Glass, John Zorn, Meredith Monk and others. The third member, Gary Versace, should be familiar to Oregonians; now one of New York’s most promising jazz arrivals, he spent the latter half of the ’90s on the UO faculty, impressing me and everyone else who heard his performances at Beall. Refuge might cover pop musicians from Tori Amos to Joni Mitchell, veer in Monk-like directions, and embrace Charles Ives influences at the same time.

For more old fashioned jazz, Eugene’s Emerald City Jazz Kings perform music made famous by Judy Garland Thursday and Sunday at the Shedd in Eugene, Friday in Florence, and next Friday in Corvallis.

Orchestral Maneuvers

Once again, the coolest symphony program in Oregon this weekend is offered not by the grown ups but rather by Portland Youth Philharmonic, which closes its season Sunday at the Schnitz with a tasty menu of music by one of today’s most appealing American composers, Christopher Theofanidis (“Visions and Miracles”), Stravinsky (his pioneering “Symphonies of Wind Instruments”), Wieniawski’s Violin Concerto #2 and one of the 20th century’s indisputable classics, Bartok’s exhilarating Concerto for Orchestra.
Sunday afternoon, the Oregon Sinfonietta plays a free concert of music by Beethoven, Dvorak (his infrequently performed Symphony #5) and Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto #1. On Saturday, Oregon Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra offers two of the 19th century’s most durable classics, Beethoven’s mighty Symphony #7 and Haydn’s breezy Cello Concerto in C, featuring Northwest New Music cellist Diane Chaplin.

Chaplin returns on Sunday at the Tigard Library, where the adventurous Music in Small Spaces series brings her Northwest New Music trio in a free concert of works by 20th century composers including Paul Hindemith, one of his students Goffredo Petrassi, the latter’s student, Peter Maxwell Davies, and more. If you prefer 19th century chamber music, try the next installment of the Oregon String Quartet’s Beethoven cycle Saturday at Beall Hall. Still another chamber music concert happens on Friday across the big river, where Vancouver Symphony musicians and guests will play (and sing) music by Schubert, Mozart, Kodaly, Poulenc, Puccini, Rossini and more at the ‘Couv’s Trinity Lutheran Church.

Local Vocals

That concert features some opera arias, as does the mostly art-song oriented concert offered by singers Sarah Benzinger, Teaira Burge and Cecily Reverman with pianist Rodney Menn on Sunday at Portland’s Classic Pianos Recital Hall. And so does the weekend’s highly recommended choral concert,Saturday (at Lewis & Clark’s Agnes Flanagan chapel) and Sunday (at Alberta Street Theater) when Resonance Ensemble‘s season comes to a climax and a close in a cheeky concert featuring music about the peak of pleasure, from Verdi (from his “Macbeth”) Wagner, Bruckner, Monteverdi, Mozart, and other apparently randy classical composers.

But the biggest news in opera this weekend is the opening of another Verdi Shakespeare setting, Portland Opera’s Falstaff at Keller Auditorium. Last week’s Oregon Symphony concert might have offered seven deadly sins (in the guise of Weill and Brecht’s “sung ballet” by that name ) last week, but Falstaff embodies many of them: gluttony, lechery, thievery, vanity — and that’s just in his first scene! Portland Opera’s entertaining production boasts some of Verdi’s most forward-looking music (though not so many of the Big Moment arias found in his earlier works), crisply conducted by George Manahan and performed by the PO orchestra, cleverly staged humor (as usual with director Christopher Mattaliano), and an over-the-top lead character played (by Eduardo Chama) more like a lovable buffoon than the edgier take I saw from Bryn Terfel at the Met a few years back, and that I recall from Shakespeare’s depiction of the character. The pretty magical final act resembles a detour into another Shakespearean delight, Mendelssohn’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Baroque and Before

On Friday at Portland’s Grace Memorial Episcopal Church, Portland Baroque Orchestra violinist Adam LaMotte and his partner, the reliably excellent pianist Janet Coleman, play some of the Baroque era’s most charming works, some of Domenico Scarlatti’s many keyboard sonatas, J.S. Bach’s famous Chaconne for solo violin, and a new work by contemporary composer Sebastian Currier inspired by Scarlatti and Robert Schumann.

Saturday offers a couple of highly recommended opportunities to hear Baroque music on instruments the composers would have recognized. On May 12 at Eugene’s United Lutheran Church, when the Oregon Bach Collegium plays music by the leading 17th century composers Muffat, Biber, Schmeltzer and others in those early Austrian Baroque circles. The period instrument ensemble, which has really upped its schedule this year, will be led this time by one of the nation’s leading Baroque musicians, San Francisco violinist Michael Sand.

There’s another Baroque composer – Vivaldi – on the agenda at the Oregon Mozart Players‘ May 12 concert at Beall Hall, but the rest of the chamber orchestra’s season ending concert is devoted to later composers including Benjamin Britten, Richard Strauss, and one of Haydn’t great London symphonies, his 98th.
If you crave even earlier sounds, another period-instrument group, Audeamus Ensemble, performs troubadour songs and other medieval music by Machaut and others at Eugene’s St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.

The passel of pianists recently parading through Oregon seems to have abated momentarily but at Astoria’s Performing Arts Center Sunday afternoon, rising young pianist Ruta Kuzmickas plays 14 of Chopin’s great preludes, plus a nocturne, set to dances by Portland choreographer Agnieszka Laska.

And speaking of multimedia, Friday night, the University of Oregon’s White Box gallery hosts a smorgasbord of performances from upcoming theater and music festivals including Creative Music Guild’s improv summit, Risk/Reward, and more.

LETTERS TO KONSTANCJA – excerpt from Agnieszka Laska on Vimeo.


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