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Jazz to Baroque

The homegrown Refuge Trio returns, the Track Town Trombones do Star Wars and Eugene goes Baroque
Theo Bleckmann of Refuge Trio

On May 14, just days after The Bad Plus shook The Shedd, another youngish ensemble that’s reinventing jazz for a new era, Refuge Trio, plays the University of Oregon’s Beall Concert Hall — where the trio’s pianist, former UO piano prof Gary Versace, once dazzled Eugeneans a decade ago. Formed for a Joni Mitchell tribute concert, the threesome embraces contemporary classical music influences, thanks especially to Refuge singer Theo Bleckmann, who’s covered Charles Ives and Kate Bush and worked with Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass, John Zorn and other originals, as well as with percussionist John Hollenbeck in the latter’s terrific, award-winning Claudia Quintet and other projects. Since leaving Oregon for New York, Versace has earned critical raves and worked with jazz stars from Abercrombie to Scofield to Schneider to Konitz. It should be a happy homecoming.

That’s one of a slew of sweet concerts at and around the UO. May 9 brings to Beall the latest in the Oregon String Quartet’s ongoing cycle of Beethoven’s mighty quartets. Elsewhere, this Saturday UO flutists will play contemporary music for the instrument in combo with other flutes and voices in the first of this season’s intimate spring and summer Broadway House Concerts at 911 W. Broadway. Saturday, May 18, the music school’s Aasen-Hull Hall hosts the amazing music ensemble Beta Collide, featuring UO faculty flutist Molly Barth, trumpeter Brian McWhorter and others performing music by some of today’s leading contemporary composers, including David Lang, Frederic Rzewski and Mark Applebaum. May 19 at the Hult Center, you can hear three of the school’s top large ensembles — the UO Symphony, University Singers and Oregon Wind Ensemble — perform music by Copland, Brahms, Liszt, Mussorgsky and more. Finally, back at Beall on May 20, the UO’s Track Town Trombones will play music from films like Star Wars, Game of Thrones, The Hobbit and more —including new music to accompany Edison’s 1910 silent film, A Trip To Mars.

Speaking of film music, this Thursday, May 9, at The Shedd, the Emerald City Jazz Kings and singers Shirley Andress, Bill Hulings, Siri Vik and Michael Stone play music from movies starring Judy Garland, including classics like “Easter Parade,” “Get Happy,” “The Man that Got Away” and of course the one about that place where the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true. And on May 20 at First Baptist Church, the Eugene Symphonic Band plays music from films and more — including a new percussion quartet by Alan Keown dedicated to the late, great UO percussion master Charles Dowd. 

Of course, this month’s major orchestra concert is the Eugene Symphony’s May 16 Hult Center season-ender, featuring a pair of 19th-century warhorses: Berlioz’s big 1834 symphonic poem, Harold in Italy, featuring violist (and UO alumna) Holland Phillips, and Dvořák’s popular 1889 Symphony No. 8. On May 11 at Beall, the Oregon Mozart Players close their season in fine fashion with a serenade by a teenage Richard Strauss, Benjamin Britten’s Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, Joseph Haydn’s magnificent Symphony No. 98 and a bassoon concerto by Vivaldi.

That’s not the only Baroque music onstage this month. On May 12 at United Lutheran Church, the Oregon Bach Collegium ends its season with early Baroque music by the great 17th-century Austrian composer Heinrich von Biber, Georg Muffat, Johann Schmeltzer and more, with the ensemble being led by one of the nation’s foremost Baroque experts, San Francisco violinist Michael Sand. And on May 20, Chamber Music Amici closes its season at Springfield’s Wildish Theater with an excellent all-Baroque program of music by Vivaldi, Bach, Telemann and Leclair — played on period instruments, no less. Even earlier — but no less compelling — music is afoot Friday, May 10, at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, when the Audeamus Ensemble sings and plays music (on antique instruments like lute, vielle and recorder) by the great medieval composer Guillaume de Machaut and troubadour songs of love and loss.