Jazz and Beyond

Classical, blues and gospel are just a few of the influences you can hear this month

The Jazz Station has been one of Eugene’s most vital music institutions for years. But the club, run by the plucky independent nonprofit Willamette Jazz Society, has always booked more than just jazz acts.

 Now the Station unveils a new initiative called Community Beyond Difference, presenting gospel choirs in three-month runs.

The ebullient community gospel choir Inspirational Sounds kicks off the series Sunday, Oct. 6, at 4 pm, continuing with performances every first and third Sunday until December. Gospel and jazz both have deep, intertwining roots in African American musical history, so it’s a natural progression for the venue, which also features historical education, a Wednesday Pro Jam, a high school jazz band series, UO student and faculty ensembles and “a shocking influx of participation from the many great musicians in the Portland area,” WJS board member Torrey Newhart told Oregon ArtsWatch. “Some of the best players are making trips down to play at our venue.”

On Friday, Oct. 4, The Jazz Station features keyboardist Newhart — who starred in the University of Oregon’s undergraduate and graduate jazz programs and teaches there and at Springfield Academy of Arts and Academics — with a fellow Bend native, drummer Adam Carlson, and bassist Sean Peterson.

In Beaverton, sitar ace Josh Feinberg runs a wonderfully intimate series of Indian music recitals at what he calls the Jalsaghar (music room). He also brings virtuoso Indian musicians to Oregon and tours the world. On Monday, Oct. 7, Feinberg and tablawallah Amit Kavthekar play Hindustani classical music at the UO’s Beall Concert Hall.

Beall also features classical pianist Anton Nel on Oct. 4 and the excellent Brentano String Quartet playing a fine program of music by Renaissance master Palestrina, Mendelssohn, Beethoven’s magnificent Op. 132 quartet and 20th-century modernist Mario Davidovsky.

Another student of Hindustani music is rising Indian American contemporary classical composer Reena Esmail, whose evocative 2013 piece “Teen Murti” leads the Oregon Mozart Players’ Oct. 12 program at Beall. Informed by raga melodies, its title refers to the New Delhi residence of the country’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. The building’s sculptures influenced her composition’s form. The concert centerpiece, Mozart’s incomparable final symphony, is one of music’s greatest treasures.

Eugene’s own Delgani Quartet joins the orchestra for Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer Kevin Puts’ “How Wild the Sea.” It’s inspired by the devastating Japanese tsunami tide of 2011, which reminded Puts of the 1995 earthquake that destroyed much of Kobe, a city he visited two years later. Its rapid reconstruction accounts for the hopeful tone of his piece’s second movement, “Saisei” (rebirth). 

Another Japan-related disaster inspired the new album by Seattle-born Japanese American composer/violinist Kishi Bashi, who returns to the WOW Hall Oct. 10 with music from his darkly beautiful new album Omoiyari. It grew out of parallels he saw between World War II America’s deplorable imprisonment of innocent Japanese American citizens in concentration camps and the recent resurgence of white supremacy and our national government’s anti-immigrant policies.

The composer visited former prison sites and listened to the stories of survivors while developing musical concepts along the way. Another classically trained Japanese American composer, cellist Nick Ogawa, opens the show under his performing name Takénobu.

Also at WOW Hall on Oct. 9, hot young Malian band Songhoy Blues plays music from their forthcoming new album. While sizzling with the trance-tastic, bubbling electric guitar lines of famous Malian bands like Tinariwen, the band also deploys a range of rhythms (including funk and reggae) and song forms.

“With the internet, now you can hear everything from the U.S. and Europe, and that has given us new ideas to [mix] Malian music with different kinds of music from around the world,” singer Aliou Touré told me before the band’s first American tour. They’ve cited influences from B.B. King and John Lee Hooker to Jimi Hendrix and contemporary hip hop, and are accumulating more styles with every touring mile.

“Travel is the best school,” Aliou said. “Hearing different kinds of musicians in different countries gives us new ideas for our music.”