When it comes to musical ambassadors, New Orleans certainly has an incredible array of worthy artists to choose from, but I can’t imagine there are any better than the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
Taking their name from the venerable venue in the French Quarter, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band deliver all manner of Big Easy sounds, and even someone unfamiliar with jazz (like myself) can easily find themselves sucked into the band’s music as they perform. Not only are they ace musicians playing insistent, horn-heavy grooves; they are also a remarkably entertaining set of personalities.
Monday at the Capitol Theatre, those personalities came through on songs old and new, including a few from the band’s first set of all-original music, the new That’s It album. Ben Jaffe’s parents originated the New Orleans venue, and now the man with the Sideshow Bob hair is creative director of the touring band, occasionally taking the microphone as emcee between his stints on bass and sousaphone.
Surrounding him Monday were joyful players like the 81-year-0ld Charlie Gabriel, who focused on clarinet and occasionally took over for some spoken/sung lead vocals; when Gabriel sings “come with me to New Orleans,” you want to go. Trombone man Freddie Lonzo is a character, twisting and turning in his chair while blasting some tasty tones from his instrument.
Drummer Joseph Lastie plays a compact kit with style and a remarkably economical style. The solo he took after Jaffe flashed his own bass-solo skills was one of the highlights of the show.
I couldn’t tell you the name of many of the songs, as I had some difficulty hearing some of the between-song banter from my seats, but I can say “Panama Rag” and “Basin Street Blues” were both excellent. As you would expect, because Preservation Hall Jazz Band has been great the three or four times I’ve been fortunate enough to see them. Catching them at a sweet space like Capitol Theatre was quite a bonus.
Red Butte Garden has a tasty batch of shows filling its summer schedule in 2014, running the gamut of genres and generations.
Any regular readers of this space will not be shocked to hear that many of the highlights in my book come early in the season with the first three shows: Emmylou Harris, Janelle Monae and Jason Isbell. Later on, dance-friendly gigs by the likes of Santana, Tedeschi Trucks Band, and Galactic co-headlining with Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue are not to be missed.
Here’s the rundown to date; information about the new ticketing system for Red Butte Garden is below the schedule:
June 3: EMMYLOU HARRIS, $42 for Red Butte Garden members/$45 public
One of the best voices in music, Emmylou Harris just won the 2014 Grammy for Best Americana Album for her collaboration with Rodney Crowell on Old Yellow Moon. Now she’s touring in support of a reissue of her excellent Wrecking Ball album.
June 8: JANELLE MONAE, $57/$62
A fast-rising star, Monae is the show I’m personally most excited about this season. I’m seen her in clubs and arenas, and her charismatic stage presence and incredible attention to detail in her live concerts are always a treat. Think of a female Prince, Outkast or James Brown with a flair for fashion and leading a monster band. I can’t think of anything similar that’s ever been at Red Butte Garden.
June 17: JASON ISBELL/THE LONE BELLOW, $30/$35
Isbell is an excellent singer/songwriter of the roots-rock ilk, and his 2013 album Southeastern earned the former Drive-by Trucker much-deserved hype from all corners. The Lone Bellow crafted a great debut album themselves last year, and Red Butte audiences might remember their gig opening for Brandi Carlile.
June 20: ROBERT CRAY/MAVIS STAPLES, $35/$40
Cray is one smooth blues dude, and Staples is simply a soul music legend who has made regular visits to the garden in the past.
June 24: NATALIE COLE, $42/$47
The pop vocalist most recently delivered a critically praised album sung in Spanish.
June 29: GAVIN DEGRAW/MATT NATHANSON/MARY LAMBERT, $45/$50
This evening is full of pop-oriented singer/songwriters taking the stage.
June 30: FITZ AND THE TANTRUMS/MAX FROST & HOLY CHILD, $30/$35
This American indie rock-meets-neo-soul crew has become a festival favorite the past few years, and their tourmate Max Frost fits that description pretty well, too.
July 1: SARAH MCLACHLAN, $60/$65
More recently seen on Portlandia and animal-rights commercials than the charts lately, the founder of Lilith Fair is still sure to pack the place for her lush pop songs.
July 9: THE AVETT BROTHERS, $47/$53
The high-energy quartet has grown both creatively and commercially since they first played Red Butte a few years back.
July 10: BOB WEIR & RATDOG, $50/$55
Deadheads will rejoice at the idea of a night of Bob Weir and his Ratdog pals jamming at Utah’s best summer concert venue.
July 21: PAT METHENY UNITY GROUP/BRUCE HORNSBY, $42/$47
The guitar ace Metheny brings his latest band to town for a show pairing him with another instrumental master–pianist Bruce Hornsby.
July 22: TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND, $45/$50
The bluesy, worldbeat-influence sounds of guitarist Derek Trucks, his wife/guitarist/vocalist Susan Tedeschi and their crack band have become a regular part of Red Butte’s summer series.
July 25: LYLE LOVETT & HIS LARGE BAND, $47/$52
Lovett and his consistently excellent Large Band are old favorites at Red Butte.
July 27: GARY CLARK, JR., $32/$37
If you’re looking for incendiary guitar work and a star on the rise, Texan Gary Clark, Jr. fits the bill just fine.
July 28: AMOS LEE, $37/$43
Lee traded in a career as a school teacher to pursue his blend of folk, rock and soul music.
July 29: SANTANA, $95/$100
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer has been thrilling audiences of his live shows for more than four decades.
Aug. 3: JOHN HIATT & THE COMBO/TAJ MAHAL, $37/$42
Two old favorites join forces for a show sure to please blues-rock fans who have seen both Hiatt and Taj Mahal come to Red Butte for years.
Aug. 5: CHRIS ISAAK, $49/$54
An ace band he’s been playing with for years allows Isaak to put on remarkably entertaining roots-rock concerts with a retro vibe.
Aug. 6: JOHN BUTLER TRIO, $35/$40
The endlessly creative Butler is a live wonder.
Aug. 8: RAY LAMONTAGNE/THE BELLE BRIGADE, $47/$53
Neo-folkie LaMontagne is touring in support of his new Supernova set.
Aug. 10: TROMBONE SHORTY & ORLEANS AVENUE/GALACTIC, $38/$43
Talk about a serious dose of New Orleans in one night, this double-bill is sure to be one of the sweatiest shows of the summer.
Aug. 12: MICHAEL MCDONALD/TOTO, $57/$62
McDonald is one of the most recognizable voices in pop music thanks to his solo success and years with the Doobie Brothers; Toto is a band that I thought broke up around 1983. I bet they play “Rosanna.”
Aug. 14: SHERYL CROW, $69/$74
A Red Butte favorite in recent years, Crow’s most recent music skews towards country more than rock.
Aug. 19: PORTUGAL. THE MAN/GROUPLOVE, $35/$40
A fine combination of young rock acts–Portugal. The Man is a rock band hailing from the hometown of Sarah Palin; Grouplove is an L.A. crew with a dance vibe to their music.
Aug. 21: DAVID GRAY, $48/$53
The British singer/songwriter’s popularity in the states has remained intact far longer than I thought it would.
Aug. 24: BRANDI CARLILE, $39/$44
The charismatic folk-rocker is a regular at Red Butte these days, delivering spirited performances there nearly every summer in recent memory
Aug. 29: EARTH, WIND & FIRE, $60/$65
After having to cancel last fall, the soul and funk pioneers bring their show of familiar hits to town.
Sept. 11: AN ACOUSTIC EVENING WITH BEN HARPER, $48/$53
This man is a wicked player on any guitar he chooses, acoustic or electric, and a winning storyteller as well.
Sept. 14: CONOR OBERST, $35/$40
The alt-rock wunderkind is all grown up, and while most remember the 34-year-old Oberst for his Bright Eyes records, his recent work in his own name has been excellent. His new release, Upside Down Mountain, comes out in May.
HOW TO GET YOUR RED BUTTE GARDEN TICKETS
Red Butte Garden recently announced a change to its ticket-sales operation, one that is sure to streamline the process from the past years. Here’s the lowdown:
1. Tickets go on sale to members of Red Butte Garden on Monday, April 28 at 7 p.m., and will only be sold online until 9 a.m. on Tuesday, April 29, when in-person sales and phone sales at Red Butte Garden, as well as online sales via Ticketfly, will be available. Tickets will go on sale to the general public on May 5 at 9 a.m. So it remains advantageous to secure a membership to the garden to have a chance at your preferred shows. You can get a membership here.
2. Online ticket sales will now be handled by Ticketfly.com, which also has a phone-order option. To be able to act fast when you want to buy tickets online, set up a Ticketfly profile in addition to securing that Red Butte membership.
3. Red Butte Garden will be providing Ticketfly with its list of members at 6 p.m. Sunday, April 27, so be sure to get your membership by then if you want to get in on the members-only on-sale date April 28. Red Butte Garden will not be renewing memberships between 6 p.m. April 27 and 9 a.m. April 29.
4. Ticketfly purchases will have a ticket fee of $4.50 per ticket for online sales; in-person and phone-order sales at Red Butte Garden have no ticket fees. Buying through Ticketfly allows you to print your tickets at home, pick them up at Will Call, pick them up at the Red Butte Garden Visitor Center or have them mailed to your home.
5. There are no longer season-ticket packages available.
PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND, CAPITOL THEATRE, Monday, April 14, 7:30 p.m., $33.50
While I knew of the existence of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band for years before I heard them, I truly got into the group led by creative director Ben Jaffe in the post-Katrina focus on the struggles of New Orleans musicians after the hurricane. An album of collaborations between the traditional Big Easy jazz players and folks like My Morning Jacket, Steve Earle, Ani DiFranco and other non-jazz artists lured me in to the band’s sound. a later collaboration with the Del McCoury Band, my favorite bluegrass outfit, only made me more of a Preservation Hall Jazz Band fan. And my unabashed love was sealed when I saw them at one of the Jazz at the Sheraton shows a few years back, turning a hotel ballroom into a frenzied feast of soulful excellence. Now more than 50 years into its existence, the band just released That’s It, its first collection of all-original material, produced by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James. Expect to hear a heavy dose of it Monday night at the Capitol Theatre, along with the traditional faves that make Preservation Hall Jazz Band a must-see whether you’re visiting New Orleans or they’re appearing in your town.
Playwright Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles tackles the generation gap and family politics in a way that makes it easily one of the most engaging and gratifying scripts in recent memory. After seeing Salt Lake Acting Company’s production on opening night, it’s no surprise it was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2013, or winner of a 2013 Obie Award for Best American Play.
Perfectly balancing laugh-out-loud comedy and deeply emotional terrain in nearly every scene, 4000 Miles jumps right into the action at the moment when college-aged Leo (Austin Grant) shows up at the Manhatten doorstep of his elderly grandmother Vera (Joyce Cohen) at the tail-end of a cross-country bike trip. It’s 3 a.m., and Vera is both a bit leery and pleasantly surprised at seeing the young man for the first time in many years in her apartment–a fine example of the uneasy back-and-forth between the two characters that continues throughout.
While Leo claims he intends to stay for just one night, a traumatic incident during his journey makes a longer visit both necessary and inevitable, and Vera is pleased to reconnect with him. As the days pass, the two compare notes on their favored brands of lefty politics–she’s an old-school Communist while his leanings are more informed by hippie free-love tendencies. Another common link is both characters’ uneasy relationship with Leo’s mother, a woman who doesn’t share either of the duo’s more radical inclinations.
A series of scenes divided by regular fades to darkness on stage show the struggle each character has to understand the other. While they are clearly affectionate toward each other and looking out for each other’s best interests–a pot-smoking session they share to “celebrate the autumnal equinox” is a hilarious example–Leo and Vera have some struggles to overcome. For her, it’s the difficulty of aging gracefully as she struggles to “find her words” and deal with the loss of aging friends that seems to happen with increasingly regularity. For Leo, it’s dealing with the emotional weight of losing his girlfriend Bec (Shelby Andersen) before he started the trip, as well as the family issues he left behind back home.
Cohen, so good in so many Utah theater roles through the years, digs in to her role as the elderly Vera with aplomb; it’s a truly excellent performance from the opening scene to 4000 Miles‘ conclusion 90 minutes later. And Grant is a revelation as Leo, the 20-year-old theater newbie going toe-to-toe with Cohen and doing more than holding his own.
Likewise, two minor but vital characters help the audience, and playwright Herzog, flesh out the main characters. Andersen’s Bec is first the brunt of non-stop jokes from Vera about her “build,” but her scenes with Leo help illustrate both his stunted adolescence and maturation over the course of his time in New York. And Lily Hye Soo Dixon does a lot in the role of Amanda, a New York City hipster and rich kid who Leo brings home for an intended one night stand. What’s starts out as an over-the-top stereotype of a big city party girl quickly evolves into a thoughtful character who reveals how shallow the generally affable Leo can be at times–a necessary step for the audience to appreciate his evolution by show’s end.
Strung together gracefully by director Adrianne Moore, the collection of episodic scenes spanning three weeks’ time equate to a whole story that is remarkably satisfying. And with a script performed so well by all involved, 4000 Miles is a must-see spring production for Utah theater lovers.
4000 Miles runs at Salt Lake Acting Company through May 4. Visit the SLAC website for showtimes, tickets and more information. Photo courtesy Salt Lake Acting Company.
The first impressions I got of Lydia Loveless were from writers trying to describe the sound of the 23-year-old Ohio songwriter’s new Somewhere Else album, and most of them dropped names like The Replacements and the Pretenders, Springsteen and Stevie Nicks in their efforts. Naturally, I was intrigued enough to get a copy of Somewhere Else, and I can safely say I’ll be shocked if the set doesn’t end up on my list of fave 2014 releases. It’s her fourth album, and her sonic palette has already expanded dramatically from the honky-tonk vibes of the older releases I delved into after falling for Somewhere Else. The chemistry with long-time band members Ben Lamb (bass) and Todd May (guitar/vocals) is readily evident, and new drummer Nick German fits right in as Loveless and Co. tackle an array of roots and rock moves. There are two great options for seeing Loveless on Wednesday, either at a free in-store gig at The Heavy Metal Shop at 5 p.m., or a few hours later at The Garage.
One of the major components of the Utah summer concert scene revealed a slate that runs the gamut of musical styles, and includes genuinely thrilling headliners Punch Brothers and Muscle Shoals Live with Lisa Fischer (recently seen stealing the spotlight in the Oscar-winning doc Twenty Feet from Stardom.
Park City Institute’s St. Regis Big Stars, Bright Nights shows at Deer Valley typically are some of the best concert experiences one can have in Utah. The beautiful setting, the coolers-friendly guest policy and consistently diverse lineups have to thrill Park City locals, and are certainly a draw for SLC dwellers as a fine way to get out of the heat in the valley. This year, the acts run from country and bluegrass to pop and rock, and there is still one more yet to be announced.
Tickets for this summer’s shows go on sale to members of the Park City Performing Arts Foundation on Wednesday, April 9, and to the public on Wednesday, April 16. Visit the organization’s site to buy a membership and for more information on the shows.
Here’s the lineup for 2014:
The Bacon Brothers, June 28, $55-$75 reserved/$40 lawn
Punch Brothers (pictured), July 6, $55-$75 reserved/$40 lawn
Dierks Bentley, July 24, $65-$85 reserved/ $45 lawn
Kix Brooks, July 31, $65-$85 reserved/ $45 lawn
Muscle Shoals Live and Lisa Fischer, Aug. 3, $55-$75 reserved/$40 lawn
Five for Fighting, Aug. 16, $55-$75 reserved/$40 lawn
Trampled by Turtles, Aug. 19, $55-$75 reserved/$40 lawn
Nashville Cafe, Aug. 23, $65-$85 reserved/ $45 lawn
Vince Gill and the Time Jumpers, Aug. 30, $65-$85 reserved/ $45 lawn
BLUE MAN GROUP, KINGSBURY HALL, Tuesday, April 1-Sunday, April 6, various times, $32.50-$69.50 (depending on show time)
There’s a tendency to think that if you’ve seen one Blue Man Group show, you’ve seen them all. And there are certainly common themes that run through different shows and tours of the group through the years–the inherent innocence of the three painted men on stage, their naivete when it comes to the technology we see as commonplace, the percussion-as-language approach to their performances. Even so, it’s impossible to feel like what you’re witnessing on stage is anything but fresh and exciting. That was certainly my feeling watching opening night of the Blue Man Group’s current Salt Lake City visit, running through Sunday and including matinees on the weekend. The combination of flying paint, intricate lights and electronic effects and the trio’s stage movements made for a riveting 100 or so minutes of live performance. At times it felt like a rock concert, at others a late-night dance club or a sci-fi jazz joint of the future. Interactivity with the audience is a must at a Blue Man Group show, and it was no different at Kingsbury Hall thanks to segments of the show dedicated to “Digital Age Brain Building Exercises” or “modern plumbing.” A couple different audience members were pulled to the stage to join the fray, and the Blue Men often wandered out into the audience. At various points, you could hear both children and adults yelling requests toward the stage–yes, this is a “show for all ages.” And one well worth checking out in the cozy confines of Kingsbury. (Photos by Paul Kolnik)