Simmering Summer Sounds
Fair, jazz, pops and more
by Brett Campbell
Amid the glare of tie dye, the shadows of the firs and the haze of … whatever at the Oregon Country Fair, you mustn’t miss the new production from Eugene’s Cherry Blossom Musical Arts, whose first original operetta, The Cat and Bird Vaudeville Extravaganza, premieres at the W.C. Fields Stage Friday afternoon and repeats on Saturday and Sunday. Music director Paul Safar composed the score and performs on piano with a quintet of top local musicians on cello, flute, clarinet, sax and more, and the production also features one of Portland’s finest dance groups, the Agnieszka Laska Dancers, local legend Izzy Whetstine, aerial artist Kerry Kresinski and, evidently, cat juggling. (Does PETA know about this?) Cherry Blossom’s past productions have maintained high standards of fun and creativity, so this is a summer must-see.
At OCF on Friday, the latest successors to Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, Chicago Afrobeat Project, bring their danceable African base stock (high life, juju, etc.), infused with avant jazz plus funk and rock. Fareed Haque’s new project, Flat Earth Ensemble, hits the main stage on Sunday afternoon. Best known for his work in the all star group Garaj Mahal, the extraordinary guitarist has won awards from the jazzerati for his chops, applause from jam bandits for his improvs and acclaim from postclassical fans for his compositions. This band includes sitar and tabla along with bass and keyboards.
Time was, except for OCF, the Bach Festival and OFAM, Eugene’s musical summers could get pretty desolate. No more. This month alone, the jazz and world music scenes continue to simmer instead of slumber. On July 18, Jo Federigo’s hosts the Douglas Detrick Quintet’s release party for their new live CD, The Turning Point. Featuring all original pieces, the CD and the show should appeal to a broad array of music lovers, from straightahead jazzheads to more casual fans. On July 21, young trumpet whiz Detrick, a recent UO grad, plays a different kind of show at the Jazz Station, where he’s joined by classical musicians Steve Vacchi on bassoon and Lisa McWhorter on violin in partly composed, partly improvised compositions. The show also features San Diego trumpeter/laptop musician Jeff Kaiser and more. It’s great to see local musicians breaking out of the narrow confines of pigeonholes like jazz and making excellent music that’s beyond category.
The DDQ’s alto player, Hashem Assadullahi, also recently released a strong debut release. His new project, Duet^2 Ensemble, includes UO jazzmen Andrew Washburn, drummer Ryan Biesack and trumpeter Andrew Rowan. They’ll play standards and originals at Jo Fed’s on July 10. The recent efflorescence of creative young jazz players from the UO is energizing the local jazz scene. Catch ’em while they’re still here.
One local jazzer that got away, drummer Jordan Glenn (late of Scrambled Ape, Visible Men, Los Mex Pistols and more), returns from studies at the venerable West Coast home of creative music making, Mills College, where he studied with legends Fred Frith, Roscoe Mitchell and more. His band Wiener Kids appears on a strong bill with Tom Heinl and Mood Area 52 at the Wandering Goat on July 16. The horn and drums trio plays a rambunctious, occasionally raucous style that appeals to rockers, brass band fans and of course jazz heads.
Another young California band, Santa Cruz’s keyboards-guitar-drums On the Spot Trio, brings its danceable, jazz-meets-jamband sound to Luckey’s on July 18. Fans of classic organ trios like Jimmy Smith and also the Medeski Martin & Wood vibe should enjoy OTS. Jo Fed’s also has Cleveland jazz singer Harry Bacharach with Paul Biondi on July 9. If you like Dave Frishberg and Mose Allison, try this.
Speaking of transcending category, or even reality, one of the Northwest’s finest and stubbornly unclassifiable bands, the “world chamber pop ensemble” Three Leg Torso, plays the Axe & Fiddle in Cottage Grove July 10, bringing their irresistible combo of violin, accordion, tango, Eastern European sounds, jazz, percussion, clever compositions and witty humor. Also on July 10, Denver’s Ukulele Loki’s Gadabout Orchestra brings tuba, uke, trombone, glockenspiel, clarinet, synth and percussion to Cozmic Pizza. Their playful, easygoing sound suggests, say, Devotchka sent back via time machine to a 1930s cabaret. On July 18, Cozmic features the terrific Mexican singer-songwriter Alfonso Maya with Dan Howard. Maya weds various South and Latin American rhythms to his soulful voice, acoustic guitar, and evocative songwriting. On July 21, Cozmic hosts the city’s latest visitors from Zimbabwe, Matemai Mbira Group, with our own Hokoyo Marimba opening. The fizzy groove of these beautiful instruments, wielded by expert hands, brings instant joy and frequent dancing. And on July 18, the superstars of South African vocal music, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, grace Corvallis’s DaVinci Days festival. Closer to home, the Eugene Symphony gives its free summer pops concert at Cuthbert Amphitheater on July 18, featuring light fare of Dvorak, Bizet, Lehar and of course — boom! — Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Oveture.