Bela Fleck and the Flecktones

Summer in the (Music) City

Symfest, Mood Area 52, Chamber Music Amici and more coming to a venue near you

Summer brings sunshine, smoke (maybe) and our annual influx of regular returning visitors. Eugene Symphony’s third annual SymFest returns to the Hult Center June 1 with an old friend, jazz trumpeter/composer/flugelhornist Tony Glausi back in town from New York, where he moved a few years ago after a fine career at the UO and in Oregon’s jazz scene.

Along with food carts, dance and craft brews, wines and ciders, the show features Ballet Fantastique, Eugene jazz singer Halie Loren, South Eugene High School’s The Dorians choir and members of the Eugene-Springfield Youth Symphony. It’s a warm welcome to summer and a sweet showcase for homegrown talent.

Speaking of the ESO, its other annual summer event, the free concert in the park, returns to the Cuthbert Amphitheater July 26. So why are we telling you about it now? Because those free tickets will be long gone by then, so you might wanna hustle down to the Hult Center starting June 25 to pick up yours in person. ESO subscribers get a week’s head start… just sayin’.

And speaking of Northwest jazz singers, Seattle jazz vocal legend Greta Matassa returns to the Jazz Station with her trio, standards and a spankin’ new album June 1.

Still another old musical acquaintance, trumpet ace Guy Few, returns to Eugene Monday, June 3. But not to the Oregon Bach Festival, whose concerts he invigorated with sterling tone and virtuosity. He’s actually joining Chamber Music Amici for that excellent ensemble’s 10th anniversary show at The Shedd. He’ll join Eugene classical music vets Sharon Schuman (violins), Lillie Manis (viola), Steven Pologe (cello) and Tyler Abbot (bass) in Schubert’s famous “Trout” Piano Quintet and “Impressions de l’Alameda,” composed by fellow Canadian Mathieu Lussier. He conducts two of Canada’s finest historically informed ensembles, Les Violons du Roy chamber orchestra and Montreal’s Arion Baroque Orchestra.

Few commissioned him and other Great North composers to write music for the Canadian Concerto Project, and Lussier’s sparkling contribution to that album, which he’ll play at The Shedd, reveals a listener friendly composer of broad appeal and deep historical musical influences. 

The next night, June 4, The Shedd hosts yet another returning visitor, banjoist/composer Béla Fleck & The Flecktones. A roots-influenced composer with wide-ranging interests (including a banjo concerto he played with the Oregon Symphony a couple years back), Fleck continues to embark on various musical explorations while returning occasionally to the original lineup of the band that vaulted him to fame 30 years ago, featuring pianist/harmonica player Howard Levy, bassist Victor Wooten and percussionist/ drumitarist Roy “Futureman” Wooten. Cheerfully disregarding genre boundaries, their music draws on everything from classical to jazz to bluegrass to African music to electric blues to Eastern European sounds, but always maintains a tunefulness and originality that make it much more than pastiche.

You know how sometimes an old friend you haven’t seen in years visits — and you’re surprised how much they’ve changed? That’s how I felt hearing Mood Area 52’s surprising new release Find Some Kind of Light.

The Eugene ensemble’s eighth album still features Michael Roderick’s signature gritty vocals (more evocative and expressive than ever) and occasional accordion, Amy Danziger’s soulful cello, Billy Barnett’s sizzling guitars and other recognizable features, including a dozen original personal and political songs by all three.

But it also continues the band’s evolution from Piazzolla-influenced tango rock through film soundtracks, Henry Mancini covers, electronica, klezmer, jazz, blues, Balkan and Mexican music into full-fledged rootsy music — blues rock, folk rock, country and other classic American sounds, enriched by Corwin Bolt on acoustic bass, Don Elkington on drums and Kee Zublin on tenor sax.

Like seeing that old friend again, what at first seems like a sudden shift eventually reveals itself as continued growth in a promising direction that has actually been a long time coming — and a welcome alternative to the stagnation that can afflict veteran bands. The band’s June 8 CD release party at Sam Bond’s Garage (with Baroque Betty opening) would be a splendid occasion to make or renew your acquaintance with one of Eugene’s singular musical treasures.

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