Eugene Weekly : Music : 6.25.09

Turn On, Tune In
On Ensemble brings world music to Bach Festival and UO
by Brett Campbell

Oregon Bach Festival Executive Director John Evans was once a percussionist, so as he tries to expand the venerable music institution’s stodgy programming, maybe it’s no coincidence that he chose the On Ensemble. The L.A. based group, which plays the Hult Center June 27, plays not only taiko (the powerful traditional Japanese percussion music) but also brings in Tuvan throat singing, other traditional Japanese instruments such as koto and shamisen, plus elements of contemporary Western music including electronica, hip hop and rock. It’s a true global fusion, and a welcome injection of musical modernity and breadth for the OBF. 

On June 25 at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, the On Ensemble also kicks off the World Harmony Project, an ambitious four-day festival of visual art, film (including one about musical instruments of the world), photography and music co-sponsored by the Bach Festival and two other UO institutions, the Schnitzer Museum and the Museum of Natural and Cultural History. That show also features Eugene Taiko and Eugene-Springfield Obon Dancers. The steel drum band Apocalypse plays the festival’s show at the history museum that night. Sunday, the art museum brings in Eugene’s Gamelan Sari Pandhawa to play delectably melodic Javanese classical music on beautiful bronze instruments from Indonesia, and David Hopkins will play the evocative Japanese shakuhachi bamboo flute, while the history museum has Samba Ja, Nick Sixkiller with Pow Wow Drums and more.

Guitarist John Storie grew up in Portland, studied with the best — Dan Balmer — and became Oregon’s best student classical guitarist. Then he headed south and hooked up with a couple other USC guitar students and soon the three prodigies were performing and teaching around the world. Still in their 20s, the L.A.-based New West trio is forging a distinctive electric plus acoustic sound that emphasizes the clarity of their independent melodic lines, and owes a bit to Pat Metheny, to classic jazz masters and to the acoustic folky instrumentalists whose appeal transcends pure jazz fans. The trio (which also includes Perry Smith and Brady Cohan) plays Jo Federigo’s on Sunday, June 28. 

Jo Fed’s also hosts another rising young jazz star, Hashem Assadullahi, and his quintet on June 27. One of the region’s promising new voices, the UO grad will debut new works co-written by guitarist Justin Morell along with music from his new CD. And on June 26, the club hosts Eugene’s own Brazilian dance party octet, Calango. Wielding standard western instruments like electric guitar, trumpet and sax, as well as traditional Brazilian music makers like the zabumba, Calango also mixes Brazilian styles like forro and samba with reggae and hip hop. You can also hear them on June 25 at Cozmic Pizza and July 3 at Art & the Vineyard.

Another world music fusion ensemble, Sir Richard Bishop & His Freak of Araby Ensemble, performs at the WOW Hall on July 2. The quartet plays traditional Middle Eastern music plus songs by contemporary Egyptian and Lebanese composers and some originals in similar style. The band’s recent music focuses on the 1960s-’70s fusion of Arabic sounds with rock of that era — psychedelic, surf, etc. — and it makes for a potent combination.

The WOW Hall offers a sweet slack key guitar concert featuring Patrick Landeza Project on July 1. Based in the Bay Area, Landeza studied the beautiful music, which uses unusual tunings to achieve an otherworldly sound, with the masters — Dennis Kamakahi, Cyril Pahinui, Ray Kane, Sonny Chillingworth. Abetted by steel guitar, bass and percussion, his project plays traditional Hawaiian tunes plus some swing, bluegrass and more, and shares some stories, too.

Finally, if you’re looking for some outdoor musical fun on the Fourth, check the Eugene Symphonic Band’s concert in Washburne Park at 6:30 pm. They’ll play music by 20th century composers like Leroy Anderson and contemporary composer David Maslanka, plus more, including the guy who wrote the theme to the Monty Python TV show along with a few other tunes appropriate to the occasion.