Eastern European Invasion
Music from the four corners, and more
By Brett Campbell
Oppressed minority cultures often produce the most powerful and durable music, as Americans (most of whose great popular music traces its origins back to African Americans and Jewish Americans) know well. Naming their band Kal after the Roma term for “black,” Serbia’s Ristic brothers are among many groups doing the same for Roma (Gypsy) music. Kal’s danceable, haunting modern Romany sound embraces tangos, waltzes, rap, bhangra, flamenco (a Roma contribution), rock and other contemporary influences. Kal performs at a dance party at the UO’s EMU Ballroom Friday, Oct. 3, and at the McDonald Theater on Oct. 7, opening for Gogol Bordello, the band of Russian, Ukrainian and Israeli immigrants whose wild “Gypsy punk cabaret” has wowed listeners from the Letterman and Conan O’Brian shows to tour dates all over Europe.
Thanks largely to UO world music prof Mark Levy and his fellow prof and spouse Carol Silverman, Eugene has long been graced by visiting and homegrown musicians and dancers from Southern and Eastern Europe. On Friday, Oct. 10, the UO’s World Music series brings Kabile, a Bulgarian band that plays traditional wedding music, to Agate Hall on 18th and Agate. Don’t expect Mendelssohn or Pachelbel — this wedding music, played on gaida (bagpipe), tapan (large two-headed drum), kaval (end-blown flute), gadulka (vertically-held bowed stringed instrument) and accordion, is incredibly virtuosic, dizzyingly danceable and a whole lot of fun. On Oct. 3, Portland’s Underscore Orkestra offers its borscht of Balkan, Gypsy swing and Klezmer at Cottage Grove’s Axe & Fiddle. And on Oct. 4, still another band in the gypsy circus troubadour tradition, Taarka, brings its “seismic Gypsy hypno jazz” to the WOW Hall.
As long as you’re getting hip to odd (for most Americans anyway) rhythms, check out the Global Drum Project at the McDonald on Oct. 3. Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart’s latest percussion project enlists master beaters Zakir Hussain (tabla), Giovanni Hidalgo (congas) and Sikiru Adepoju (talking drum) in a multi-culti quartet (enhanced by electronic and other instruments) that generates compelling music far more melodic, atmospheric and complex than you might expect from such virtuosos.
Still more world music hits the UO Oct. 15 when Trombones de Costa Rica come to Beall Hall. These award-winning brass masters play classical, Latin, jazz and original contemporary music. On Oct. 14, Markus James & The Wassonrai bring their African-influenced blues to the WOW Hall.
In the midst of this happy foreign invasion, there’s plenty of American music available. On Oct. 4, the Oregon Mozart Players perform another delightful Milhaud work, his Percussion Concerto, along with John Corigliano’s ravishing Voyage for flute and orchestra, Samuel Barber’s plangent Knoxville Summer of 1915 (a classic setting of James Agee’s beautiful prose poem that introduces A Death in the Family), Leonard Bernstein’s jazzy romp Three Dance Episodes from his quintessential New York ballet, On the Town, and Aaron Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait, narrated by that OTHER Frohnmayer. This looks to be one of the best classical concerts of the year. Two more good ones: Oct. 2, when UO faculty member and master pianist Dean Kramer plays Beethoven’s four most famous (in part because they were given picturesque names) piano sonatas at Beall Hall in a benefit for Mt. Pisgah Arboretum; and Oct. 4, when the Oregon Bach Collegium and members of the Consort de Danse Baroque reunify French Baroque music (Couperin, Rameau and others) and dance in its original choreography at Springfield’s Wildish Community Theater. This, too, promises to be one of the most unusual and appealing classical concerts of the season.
But we were speaking of American composers. On Oct. 4, the Shedd brings Meyer/Thile, a pair who started out in pop music and are working their way toward postclassical compositions. Edgar Meyer could have been content with being the greatest bassist alive, raking in the bucks from Nashville session work and superstar gigs. Mandolinist Chris Thile could have milked Nickel Creek’s young bluegrass success. But both have admirably leveraged their pop success to support ambitious creative work: Meyer in chamber and orchestral music and Thile in his recent Punch Brothers album that includes a big song cycle, “The Blind Leaving the Blind.” Their Shedd show will include Bach to bluegrass to originals from their new CD. Another fine instrumentalist, fingerstyle guitarist Larry Pattis, plays a CD release party at Tsunami Books at 5 pm Oct. 4. On Oct. 9, the Shedd hosts UO prof and saxman Carl Woideck’s Jazz Heritage Project, which includes some of the area’s finest jazzers, including fellow UO prof and pianist Toby Koenigsberg.