PortFolio Weekly

PortFolio Weekly
September 12, 2006

In the Hot Seats

by Jim Newsom

Al di Meola
Friday, September 22 – 8:00 pm
Roper Performing Arts Center

Al di Meola became a guitar god as a member of Chick Corea’s Return to Forever in the mid ‘70s, when he was barely out of his teens. Though he only recorded three albums with that seminal jazz/rock fusion band, he was already a legend by the time he released his first solo album, Land of the Midnight Sun, in 1976. Since then, he’s explored a wide range of instrumental music, from the blazing electricity of his early days, to all-acoustic outings in the ‘90s incorporating world music elements that included a lengthy flirtation with the Argentine tango of Astor Piazzola. He kicks off a world tour in support of his new album, Consequence of Chaos, at the Roper.


Poco / Pure Prairie League / Firefall
September 24 – 7:00 pm
Ferguson Center for the Arts

They’re calling this “Legends of Country Rock,” and there’s some truth to the billing—Poco pretty much invented the genre when they emerged from the ashes of Buffalo Springfield in 1968. The other two were decent ‘70s bands with several hits each. The current edition of PPL is led by founder Craig Fuller and Firefall has one original member, Jock Bartley. Rusty Young has been with Poco since the beginning, while Paul Cotton is a near-original, having joined up in 1971. When they first came out, Poco was too rock for country radio and too country for rock radio, but today’s mainstream country music is a direct descendant.


Richie Havens
October 19 – 7:30 pm
Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts

Richie Havens’ cries of “Freedom, Freedom” on the Woodstock album and film captured the spirit of that festival and its times succinctly, making him an icon for the peaceloveflowers generation. Though he never really had a hit record, his soulful, gravel-enriched voice is one of the era’s most distinctive. He lost a little counterculture credibility by lending that voice to commercials for McDonald’s, Kodak and Budweiser, but he has maintained his commitment to social justice and occasionally adds something new to his discography. He tends to ramble a bit between songs, but his voice and his passionate performance style have changed little since the summer of ’69.


Erin Bode
October 26 – 7:30 pm
Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts

Though she records for the MaxJazz label and has a definite jazz sensibility, St. Louis-based Erin Bode may be more closely akin to singer/songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Jim Croce when he was serious and Norah Jones. Her first two albums show a budding young talent with wide ranging influences carving out a unique niche for herself. The first act in the Suffolk Center’s “emerging artists” series, she stands out from the dense pack of female vocalists with her own catchy originals and an outstanding choice of covers by Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and the Gershwin brothers.


Marian McPartland
October 30 – 8:00 pm
Chandler Recital Hall, ODU

Having been on the air since 1978, Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz is the longest running non-news program on National Public Radio, but it’s no longer carried locally on WHRV-FM. A fascinating mix of music and conversation, McPartland’s show has featured the giants of jazz and its musical cousins, including our own Bruce Hornsby. But McPartland’s career stretches back to the wartime ‘40s, and by the early 1950s, she had taken up residence at New York’s Hickory House where she anchored the big apple scene for the rest of the decade. Though the word “legend” gets thrown around a lot, Marian McPartland at age 88 is the real thing.


The Assad Brothers and Paquito D’Rivera
November 7 – 7:30 pm
American Theatre

A genre-bending, genre-blending show featuring three greats from the Latin American musical universe, this concert should be one of the most fascinating of the fall season. Sergio and Odair Assad are Brazilian classical guitarists whose repertoire incorporates elements outside the standard playbook, including folk songs from their native land and world music touches from around the globe. Cuban-born Paquito D’Rivera is a highly regarded, Grammy-winning jazz saxophonist and clarinetist who played with the Cuban National Symphony before he’d hit his teens. Last year he was named an NEA Jazz Master and received a National Medal of Arts.


Dianne Reeves
December 15 – 8:00 pm
Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts

Dianne Reeves finally got the public adulation she long deserved with her pivotal appearance in George Clooney’s award-winning film, Good Night and Good Luck. She won her fourth Grammy for that film’s soundtrack, and moved up another notch in the jazz vocal pantheon. She also released a superb holiday album two years ago called Christmas Time is Here, and that’s the theme of her December program in Suffolk. Because she spent the early years of her recording career bouncing between genres, it took longer for Reeves to reach the heights than it should have, but when it comes to singing jazz, few can compare.

copyright © 2006 Jim Newsom. All Rights Reserved.