Eugene Weekly : Music : 10.1.09

Bayou Beat
And some classy classical as well
by Brett Campbell

Back in the ’60s, Michael Doucet was playing in a rock band in Lafayette when he heard the great British folk rockers Fairport Convention play their arrangement of an ancient English ballad. If young Brit rockers could look to their roots for inspiration, the young fiddler reasoned, why couldn’t the son of Louisiana’s Cajuns (descendants of the French Acadian settlers expelled from Canada by the English) do the same thing? A few years later, Doucet obtained an NEA grant that enabled him to find the old folks who still remembered the old tunes, and he formed a band with some of the area’s greatest musicians. Since the 1970s, BeauSoleil has brought the plaintive, swinging sound of Cajun music to a national audience, winning acclaim, Grammys and other awards and new audiences for this irresistible American music. More than just preservationists, like most other creative artists, they’ve also stirred in influences from other genres — rock, country, blues, jazz, even Calypso — and their new album, Alligator Purse, continues that trend, melding old-time Cajun tunes with avant garde jazz (via guest trombonist Roswell Rudd), folk (John Sebastian), rock (Band organist Garth Hudson), bluegrass and more. BeauSoleil has been a frequent and welcome visitor to the Shedd, and they’re back again Thursday, Oct. 1.

Regina Carter

On Wednesday, Oct. 7, the Shedd hosts a very different kind of fiddler. For the past decade or so, Regina Carter has been one of the relatively rare jazzers who plays violin, following in the bow strokes of Stephane Grappelli, Ray Nance, Joe Venuti and a few others. She’ll play music from her new album, I’ll Be Seeing You, and from her earlier tribute to Paganini, which should interest fans of classical as well as jazz music.

On Saturday, the Shedd hosts the resurgent singer-songwriter Chris Smither, long an underground fave for his scintillating live shows and bluesy, well-crafted originals, and who finally reached mainstream acclaim with his smart, catchy 2006 Leave the Light On album. Smither brings his appealingly rumpled voice, wise perspective on American life and songs from his brand new album, Time Stands Still.

Amid that Shedd-load of action, don’t overlook some other attractive shows. At the UO’s Beall Hall, the university’s venerable chamber music series, now with the hipped-up new moniker ChamberMusic@Beall, opens Sunday, Oct. 4, with one of classical music’s oldest acts: the Czech Nonet, which for eight decades has been bringing the music of eastern and central Europe to the world. Its size allows the ensemble to perform a  richly scored repertoire rarely heard live. With British guest pianist Richard Ormrod, they’ll play music by Lutoslawski, Martinu, Mucha, Janacek and Roussel.

Speaking of chamber music, the new resident company at Springfield’s Wildish Theater, Chamber Music Amici, opens its first full season Monday, Oct. 12,  with one of the gems of small group sounds: Mozart’s glittering Clarinet Quintet, plus Prokofiev’s Overture on Hebrew Themes. The hour-long show features some of the area’s top players: violinists Pilar Bradshaw and Sharon Schuman, pianist Victor Steinhardt, clarinetist Michael Anderson, violist Fritz Gearhart and cellist Andrew Kolb.

If your chamber music tastes run to sounds blown rather than bowed, check the Oregon Wind Quintet’s Oct. 8 Beall concert. Composed of UO music faculty (flutist Molly Barth, oboist Amy Goeser Kolb, clarinetist Wayne Bennett, hornist Lydia Van Dreel and bassoonist Steve Vacchi, augmented by soprano Laura Decher Wayte and pianists Alexandre Dossin and David Riley), the ensemble plays contemporary music by still-breathing composers John Harbison (an aria called Song for the Rainy Season, which will probably jinx our weather) and Paul Basler, plus a sextet by 19th century composer Ludwig Thuille.

Still another chamber concert features music from 17th century Italy. Early Italian Baroque music is gradually finding its way onto CDs and concert programs and opening ears to the beauty of Italy’s pre-Vivaldi repertoire. Oregon is lucky to have a corps of historically informed musicians that specializes in this too rarely heard music, and five of them (Bryce Peltier on recorder, Hideki Yamaya on theorbo, archlute, and Baroque guitar, Julia Brown on harpsichord and organ, Joanna Blendulf on Baroque cello and baritone Aaron Cain), performing as Ensemble Sprezzatura, will play works by composers including Marini, Castello and Cima, at 7 pm October 11, at First United Methodist Church, 13th and Olive.

For more improvised sounds, the groovy electronic duo EOTO (a String Cheese off-shoot) plays the McDonald Theater on Oct. 2. World music fans can check out the WOW Hall’s Oct. 2 concert with the African/rock hybrid Toubab Krewe, and local world guitar great Paul Prince opening.