Eugene Weekly : Music : 1.18.07

Beautiful Loop
Keller Williams returns to support new, trippy album

Keller Williams. 8 pm Thursday, 1/25. McDonald Theatre. $20 adv., $22 door.

Not to be confused with the real estate company, Keller Williams the singer-songwriter, instrumental innovator, marijuana legalization activist and all-around self-taught musical powerhouse is coming to town. Williams is best known in recent years for his practice of recording snippets of his stage performances, then “looping” them whilst layering additional vocals, instrumentals and effects atop the recorded material. This marriage of musical and technological creativity seems rather unspectacular on his albums (it is one thing to know someone is doing something so post-modern, but quite another to see it), explaining why Williams’ live shows have been his bread and butter over the last 10 years. Dubbed a “one-man jam band,” he has toured with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, Michael Franti and Spearhead and the declining jam band behemoth String Cheese Incident, as well as looping it up in countless “projects” with other jazzy, funky, bluegrassy types he meets along the way.

This winter, Williams tours in support of his ninth studio album, dream, out in February. For a record made by a one-man band, dream sure has a lot of musicians credited to its 16 tracks, but a glimpse at their names will allow most listeners to overlook the paradox. Franti, Fleck and SCI are all featured guests, as are Bob Weir, Martin Sexton, Samir Chatterjee and Victor Wooten, among others. Naturally, there are plenty of groovy, trippy tracks on dream, but the who’s who of supporting artists brings the album a little closer to what the encore set of a Williams show might sound like. Williams’ solo work is itself remarkably diverse, but he knows how to successfully share the stage … and the studio. This one-man guy can jam well with others.

dream is a rich collection of fun, drifty songs, not too heavy and even a little gimmicky in places (“Ninja of Love” is a culprit in this category). But several tracks really showcase Williams’ talents as a lyricist, and these should not be overlooked in the all-star hype. “Cadillac” is a rolling fantasy ballad about road-tripping with Hare Krishna, Jesus and Buddha, while “Restraint” is a sweet and simple confession about wanting to sexually ravish the song’s subject at inappropriate moments. Both songs are simple and funny and honest — qualities that may not always get noticed in a guy known for his wacky technology and zany antics, but in many ways are harder to come by in music these days.



Music from the Other Americas
Latin American classics at Shedd, Native American sounds at Soreng

Eugene is pretty privileged when it comes to opportunities to hear the great classics of European music, and thanks to the Shedd (the organization formerly known as OFAM), we’ve also been treated to far more of its neglected North American stepchildren — the music of Copland, Barber, Gershwin and so many more — than just about any other city of our size. Now, the American Symphonia is continuing its mission to redress unfair musical neglect by bringing a pair of concerts to the Shedd that feature too-seldom heard classical music of Latin America. There’s no better host for unfamiliar music than the genial soprano Maria Jette, whose easy rapport with audiences, sparkling musicality and dedicated research into unfortunately obscure crannies of the repertoire have delighted and enlightened audiences for years. Her 2004 Shedd concert of rare south-of-the-border gems unearthed some pleasant surprises, and these concerts should reveal even more treasures.

On Jan. 18, Jette and her longtime partner, pianist Sonja Thompson, will play folk and art songs by composers we should have heard of — Peru’s Andres Sas, Brazil’s Alberto Nepomuceño and Camargo Guarnieri, Isabel Aretz of Venezuela and Argentine Carlos Guastavino. Just as happened in similar circumstances in the U.S., Eastern Europe and elsewhere, South American music in the early 20th century reflected the Romantic nationalism that was sweeping the continent, and its multicultural heritage — Native American, African and European — produced a rich list of ingredients for its musical recipes. On Jan. 20, Jette, Thompson and the American Symphonia chamber ensemble, featuring UO violin master Fritz Gearhart and other superb local musicians, will play more familiar songs and dances by Mexico’s Carlos Chavez, Brazil’s Heitor Villa Lobos and Argentina’s Alberto Ginastera and nuevo tango master Astor Piazzolla plus still more rare fare by other composers. This is a wonderful and much-needed program that should fill in some serious gaps in our musical worldview and provide a piquant alternative to the usual classical fare. If you crave further immersion into great South American sounds, check out Third Angle New Music Ensemble‘s Tango Junkie concerts on Jan. 25 and 26 at Portland State University, featuring excerpts from Piazzolla’s magnificent tango opera Maria de Buenos Aires.

The Shedd also hosts the great southern jazz/blues epitome of cool, Mose Allison, on Jan. 21. His witty, Monk-influenced songs and piano instrumentals have been winning admirers (famously including Pete Townshend and Van Morrison, who’ve covered his tunes often) since the 1960s, and his concerts are typically intimate, fun and swinging all at once.

Native American influences also inform the Eugene Concert Choir‘s Jan. 27 concert, featuring a cantata by Oregon composer Hal Eastburn that employs Native American instruments, poetry and song. You can read our preview in Bravo at our online archive ( that afternoon, you can see a free presentation by Jóhonaaéi’ Drum and Dancers, who’ll be joining the choir for that evening’s concert. Coincidentally, the Portland Chamber Orchestra‘s Jan. 27 concert at Reed College also features new music by youngish Northwest composers involving Native American and nature themes. Forrest Pierce’s “Great River of the West” for orchestra and Native American percussion musically traces the Columbia River. Duncan Neilson III’s “Heart of the Wild” includes narrative and the composer’s paintings and drawings to evoke the Northwest natural landscape.

Speaking of multimedia enhanced music, the DIVA center has been hosting a fascinating range of “sound artists” who make music from nontraditional sources and often combine them with visual and film imagery. On Jan. 31, catch Australian sound artists Camila Hannan and Tarab of Melbourne, Portland’s Seth Nehil, Daniel Heila of Eugene and others for some sonic explorations. They might use field recordings of urban and natural sounds to produce sometimes trippy, sometimes haunting soundscapes that create images in your head whether you’re watching the accompanying visuals or not.

The upcoming Music Today Festival (see next week’s issue for more info) is always one of the highlights of the year, but happily that’s not the only contemporary music at the UO this month; new music shouldn’t be ghettoized only in sporadic festivals but should be a constant presence on our musical landscape. On Mondays, new UO faculty member Brian McWhorter is presenting free, late-night short programs of contemporary music in the cozy confines of the campus’s Collier House. On Jan. 22, trumpeter McWhorter joins Simon Lott, the drummer for the Charlie Hunter Trio, in duets for a fictional Southern Louisiana band called Renwicke. On Jan. 25, the pair combines with local improvisers Tommy Sciple, UO faculty pianist Toby Koenigsberg and Tim Willcox at Cozmic Pizza in what promises to be a wild night of jazz-like jams for listeners with out-there ears. On Jan. 29, Brian and Eugene Symphony violinist Lisa McWhorter will play a duet written for them by the important 20th century composer Christian Wolff. On Jan. 20, another UO jazz master, saxophonist Rich Perry, plays the Oregon Jazz Festival with UO and LCC musicians at LCC auditorium. On Jan. 19, Eugene Symphony percussion titan Charles Dowd joins his protege Tracy Freeze in duets for vibes and marimba at the UO Music Building’s room 198.



Unnaturally Superb

The title track to Industrial Hero, the debut release from the Ben Darwish Trio, sounds like it ought to appear in one of those role-playing video games where smiths still fashion majestic swords and machines are a terrible marvel to behold. The Final Fantasy series comes to mind. There is a kooky and — forgive me — industrial vibe to the number, which brings to mind the fascination Bill Frisell has with sonic squiggles in his live performances. It is unconventional, but it creates a unique ambience and makes you want to stop and pay attention, which can be a difficult trick to pull off in the genre of instrumental jazz.

Loaded with funky piano grooves, Industrial Hero is a lively feast for the ears. Darwish’s dizzying keystrokes on “Mind the Hair” make you feel like you’re traveling on London’s trains with your head out a window, trying to “mind the gap” as the conductors frequently remind passengers. Also not without their merits are Drew Shoal on drums, who conjures up visions of Jack DeJohnette at his frenetic finest on the creepy stomper “Impressions of a Lurking Menace,” and Zach Wallmark on bass, whose muted, complementary tones shine on the band’s subdued cover of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful.”

Darwish, a senior at the UO, and his trio have a flair for the dynamic, rather than the dramatic. These energetic songs are as cool as Snoopy in shades, so opportunities for head-bobbing and toe-tapping abound. Even when the band changes time mid-song and plays with off rhythms, you almost feel able to catch the changes when they happen. The unnatural, in a way, feels natural.

Fresh off two sold-out Portland shows, Darwish and company let the good times roll and make you want to roll some more. The Ben Darwish Trio celebrates the release of Industrial Hero at 9 pm Friday, Jan. 19 at Jo Federigo’s. 21+ show. $5. — Brian Palmer


Constitution of Treason

The metalcore revolution has begun, and a new band is wearing the mantle of leader. The East Brunswick, N.J., quintet God Forbid has been dubbed by critics as leaders of the New Wave of American Metal, a nod to the ever-influential New Wave of British Heavy Metal that dominated the hard rock scene in the early to mid ’80s.

God Forbid

Four days into God Forbid’s headlining tour to support their sixth recording, IV: Constitution of Treason, I spoke to guitarist and vocalist Doc Coyle, who was in Detroit. “We definitely take a lot of different styles, a mixture of death metal, thrash and chaotic metalcore,” he says, “and we throw all that together. We were really one of the first bands to do what we’re doing, and it’s really popular now, so I think a lot of people might not give us credit for that. But I think over the years we transformed into much more of a straight-ahead metal band.”

“Big” metal shows are rare in Eugene, and though this one could take place at a much larger venue, God Forbid chose to bring their pummeling hard-core influenced metal to the relatively tiny WOW Hall. As Coyle says, “To us, we’re not some massive band. We want smaller clubs where there’s 200 or 300 people and there’s a good vibe and people are having a good time. It’s just the right move for the type of band that we are.” Coyle says this will probably be the last chance for fans to see them touring this album. “It’s a great show, a great lineup, so I hope everyone gets a chance to come out for it,” he says.

The band’s Eugene show, billed as “Hardcore 4 Hunger,” will be a benefit for Food For Lane County.

God Forbid, Goatwhore, Mnemic, The Human Abstract and Arsis play at 5 pm Sunday, Jan. 21 at WOW Hall. $15 plus two cans (or more) of food. — Vanessa Salvia



Not Your Grandma’s Ragtime

Many bands declare they have the best fans in the world. But for The Avett Bros., this may be true. To watch fans is to observe unnumbered swaying bodies singing along to every song with fevered passion. It’s this devotion that fuels The Avett Bros.’ desire to deliver a high-energy live show.

The Avett Bros.

The trio, from Concord, N.C., is Scott and Seth Avett and Bob Crawford. Together they use only their voices, a banjo and guitar, bass and kick drum to create an acoustic bluegrass sound reminiscent of The Violent Femmes and Eugene’s own Inkwell Rhythm Makers.

According to their MySpace page, “The songs are honest; just chords with real voices singing real melodies. But the heart and the energy with which they are sung is really why people are talking and why so many are singing along.”

While the band has only been together for a short time, The Avett Bros.’ mixture of folk and ragtime creates the illusion that old-time country musicians are delivering the home-grown sound.

From their 2002 debut, Country Was, to their latest release, Four Thieves Gone: The Robbinsville Sessions, The Avett Bros. are consistent in dishing out heart-felt love songs driven by plucks of the banjo and guitar. But their mood can change from track to track; upbeat, high energy songs generally balance out their albums.

“It is not New Year’s, and it is not a political convention. It is neither a primetime game-show, nor a music video countdown, bloated with fame and sponsorship. What you are hearing is the love for a music,” declares their MySpace page. Lucky us, we get to hear their love for music twice! The Avett Bros. play a free show at noon Monday, Jan. 22 at the EMU, UO, and at 8 pm Tuesday, Jan. 23 at the WOW Hall. $7 adv. & UO stu., $10 door. — Amanda Burhop