Stretching instruments and genres
by Brett Campbell
Everyone loves the cello’s rich, soothing hot toddy voice, and the Portland Cello Project has proved that unlike prescription medication, more is better. The ensemble has been winning national recognition on NPR and elsewhere for its inventive arrangements (by UO alum Douglas Jenkins) of rock and pop tunes for multiple combinations of cellos and their collaborations with indie rockers in their hometown and beyond. Their concert at Cozmic Pizza on Dec. 16 includes a seasonal treat: excerpts from Benjamin Britten’s enchanting Ceremony of Carols arranged for cellos, plus the usual unusual (for cellos) mix, including Kanye West covers, music by Tuneyards and more. Drew Grow (of the rising Portland band Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives) will collaborate on several songs. Classical and indie pop types rarely converge at concerts these days, but both find plenty to cherish among the cellisti. On Dec. 20, Cozmic hosts another collection of unusual (for American rock clubs, anyway) instruments that will get your groove going: Hokoyo Marimba and friends.
|Renée de la Prade|
If cellos and marimbas can rock, why not the infamous instrument that launched a thousand polkas? Seattle’s Jason Webley periodically convenes an ever-changing aggregation of accomplice accordionistas who have been known to veer way beyond Welkian polka into klezmer, punk, Balkania, Japanese enka, cumbia, tango and odes to inebriation. On Friday, Dec. 17, at the WOW Hall, Monsters of Accordion’s motley collection includes performers as celebrated for their bellowing vox as their bellowed boxes: San Francisco’s Renée de la Prade (who punkishly purveys tunes from two great squeezebox traditions, Zydeco and Celtic music), the high-energy, L.A.-based Balkan music ensemble Petrojvic Blasting Company, New York’s Corn Mo (who’s played with They Might be Giants and Polyphonic Spree) and of course the huge voiced Webley himself. Cottage Grove’s Aeon Now! opens. That scritchy, wheezing sound you hear is Lawrence Welk rolling over in his grave.
These days, the instrument we most associate with rock is the guitar, but in fact long before the genre was a gleam in Ike Turner or Joe Turner or Chuck Berry’s beady eyes, Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt and even earlier jazzers were improvising on their axes. This Thursday, Dec. 16, one of today’s jazz guitar greats, Berkeleyite-turned-Jerseyite Charlie Hunter, brings his seven-string instrument, bass trumpeter Michael R. Williams and drummer Eric Kalb to Sam Bond’s Garage to play music from his funky 2010 releases, Gentlemen, I Neglected To Inform You You Will Not Be Getting Paid (for trio, with a strong Stax vibe) and the new solo Public Domain. In the latter, though bereft of backup, he resists the urge to fill all the space, instead adeptly using silence and space as rhythmic elements, along with his percussive, heavily funkified stroke to create a sly, danceable groove on both originals and oldies (chosen by his centenarian grandpa) like “Cielito Lindo’ (which some of us are still trying not to call the Frito Bandido song), “Ain’t We Got Fun” (which Hunter might easily transform into a similar seasonal tune), “St. Louis Blues,” “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” and other century-spanning classics.
There’s more jazz, this time of the homegrown variety, at Sam Bond’s on Dec. 22 when the excellent Eugene tenor saxman Joe Manis (who’s played with the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, Thomas Mapfumo and others) introduces his new band (guitarist William Marsh and drummer Kevin Congleton) in a free concert. If you can’t make that one, you can hear Manis’ trio late night on Dec. 16 at the Granary. And you can check out the next wave of young jazz talent on Dec. 30 at Cozmic Pizza when composer/trumpeter Aaron Ward and fellow UO, LCC and the other recent college grads and students of NuGen Jazz play Cozmic Pizza.
If you want to hear Christmas music you haven’t heard a squillion times before, check out the great French Baroque composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Midnight Christmas Mass (based on popular carols of the time) and other Christmas music. You have two opportunities to hear the UUCE Chamber Singers, accompanied by appropriate instruments such as recorders, traverso flutes, lute, portative organ and strings, perform these stirring seasonal sounds: Saturday, Dec. 18, at 7 pm at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 477 E. 40th, and Sunday, Dec. 19, at 3 pm at First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive St.