Ken Maiuri’s Tuned In
PHOTO BY TIM DAVIS
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PHOTO COURTESY OF IHEG
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PHOTO BY NEIL KRUG
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Cuddle Magic is a great group — difficult to define. “Avant-pop orchestra.” “Chamber music songwriting collective.”
The indie band from Brooklyn/Philadelphia returns to the Valley by popular demand for a show at the Parlor Room at Signature Sounds in Northampton Thursday at 7 p.m.
The members studied their instruments at the New England Conservatory in Boston, and the band’s songs are radiant with detail and carefully chosen hues. Cuddle Magic is not a slapdash outfit.
Ben Davis (upright bass, banjo, ukulele, guitar, vocals), David Flaherty (drums, vibraphone), Cole Kamen-Green (trumpet), Christopher McDonald (keyboards, vocals), Kristin Slipp (vocals, glockenspiel) and Alec Spiegelman (clarinet, bass clarinet, guitar, vocals) — they’ve got a palette and they know how to use it.
The group’s original goal was to play music quietly, without amplification, in close proximity to each other and the audience (which is how the band’s name came about). Each instrument and vocal in the Cuddle Magic sound has a focus and a place, expertly arranged. One of the total joys of seeing the band live is how, in a song like “First Hippie On the Moon,” a meditative and haunting landscape suddenly blooms to include subsonic slippery synth bass, chiming bells and horn parts that flicker like a Philip Glass strobe light.
As Slipp once told an interviewer, “We love playing in intimate spaces; we’ve had some of our most magical shows in small, quiet rooms.” The listening-oriented Parlor Room couldn’t be more perfect for the fine-tuned ensemble. Very recommended.
The Happy Valley Guitar Orchestra — the spirited local collective of more than 20 guitarists of diverse musical backgrounds, skill levels and ages — performs at the Black Birch Vineyard in Southampton Friday at 6:30.
Jim James (of My Morning Jacket) ushers in summer with a show at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton Friday at 8. The Rocky Roberts Band opens.
Carrie Ferguson has a new single, “On the Way To Ashfield,” and a new video for an old song, “Girls Like Me,” shot at Wild Life Sanctuary Studio in Florence, and she’ll celebrate with a show at the Montague Bookmill Friday at 8. June and the Bee open.
Rabbit Rabbit celebrates its new album, “Holyoke,” with a release party at the Guilded Brick in (appropriately enough) Holyoke, Saturday at 9 p.m.
The Chapman Stick (related to the guitar but cradled and tapped with both hands) and clarinet — two unique instruments that sound cool together, and that’s what’s played by Flint Blade (who also sings) and Honeydew. The traveling duo will play a special afternoon show at Mocha Maya in Shelburne Falls Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Morning Teleportation, Giraffes? Giraffes!, Goddard and Dust Witch make up the quadruple-bill at the Elevens in Northampton Tuesday at 9 p.m.
Drummer Makaya McCraven, who grew up in the Pioneer Valley but now lives in Chicago, returns to the area with his quartet (Greg Ward on alto sax, Justin Thomas on vibraphone and Junius Paul on bass) to help the Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares concert series wrap up its first season. See McCraven and his ensemble at the Community Music School of Springfield Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
It’s a “duo-riffic” night of twosomes featuring Rebel Base (Greenfield guitar/drums raw rock), Holy Vex and Gold Medals (local instrumental bass/drums/trumpet band Golden Medallion performing as a duo) at the Sierra Grille in Northampton Thursday at 10 p.m.