The Beat Goes On: Music in the Valley Nov. 13-21

  • Noted composer and jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard, joined by his ensemble and the Turtle Island Quartet, will play two shows Nov. 14 at the Bombyx Center for Arts & Equity in Florence. From Terence Blanchard website

  • Master of four strings: Ukulele wizard Jake Shimabukuro comes to Holyoke’s Gateway City Arts Nov. 16.  From Jake Shimabukuro website

  • Ace guitarist Charlie Hunter, left, gigs with drummer Scott Amendola at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield on Nov. 16. Signature Sounds

  • Acclaimed blues guitarist and singer Ana Popović plays Gateway City Arts Nov. 17. Image from Ana Popović website

  • The eclectic ensemble ÌFÉ, which mixes hip-hop, Afro-Cuban rumba, chanting, and more, plays the Bombyx Center Nov. 18. Image from ÌFÉ website

  • Singer-songwriter Melissa Ferrick plays the Calvin Theatre in Northampton Nov. 20. Photo by Shervin Lainez

  • Underground System, seen here at the Green River Festival in August, plays Gateway City Arts Nov. 20. Photo by Paul Franz

  • The veteran mutli-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter David Brombreg brings his ensemble to the Shea Theater in Turners Falls Nov. 21. Image from David Bromberg website

Staff Writer
Published: 11/11/2021 4:05:05 PM

The new Bombyx Center for Arts & Equity, located in the historic Florence Congregational Church, began staging shows in late October, with an eclectic lineup that includes jazz, Afrobeat and Caribbean sounds. Jazz comes back in a big way this weekend when acclaimed composer and trumpet player Terence Blanchard plays two sets at the Bombyx Center on Sunday, Nov. 14, at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

When he came through the Valley a few years ago, Blanchard, a New Orleans native who over four decades has gigged with a who’s who of jazz stars and won five Grammy awards, played the main concert hall at the (recently renamed) Randolph W. Bromery Center for the Arts at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Now, joined by his ensemble, the E-Collective, and the Turtle Island Quartet, the genre-busting string group, he’ll be playing a cozy church sanctuary that seats 330.

“He told us this is the smallest venue he’s played in years,” says Cassandra Holden, creative director for Laudable Productions, the Easthampton company that has opened the Bombyx Center. “We’re really thrilled to bring him here.”

For good reason: Among his many accomplishments, Blanchard was a key member of the seminal group Jazz Messengers and he’s composed the music for numerous Spike Lee films; he’s twice been nominated for Academy Awards for his scores. In September, meanwhile, New York’s Metropolitan Opera presented his work “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” — the first time the 138-year-old opera house had ever featured work by a Black composer.

In a video interview on the Bombyx website, Blanchard talks about the varied influences on his music, noting how he was inspired by Charles Coltrane, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Wayne Shorter and many other players. Music and art, he says, have “the power to change hearts and souls. It has for me.”

 

Jake Shimabukuro, Gateway City Arts, Holyoke, Nov. 16 at 8 p.m. — Another musician who’s soaked up varied influences is ukulele maestro Shimabukuro, who’s turned the popular but humble uke to jazz, rock, blues, flamenco and points in between. The Hawaii native became an international sensation in 2006 not long after someone posted a video to YouTube of him playing a stirring version of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

Shimabukuro has released multiple albums featuring a combination of intricate fingerstyle playing and taut strumming on his ukulele. While he’s most known for his solo work, Shimabukuro has also collaborated with other players, both on stage and in the studio.

Just in time for his Gateway gig, he’s released a new album, “Jake & Friends,” on which he duets or plays as part of a small ensemble with numerous other players — Willie Nelson, Ziggy Marley, Jimmy Buffett, Bette Midler, Jesse Colin Young, Vince Gill and Amy Grant — on 16 songs (including more Beatles cuts), several of which feature vocals by the guest singers.

“I have to pinch myself when I see those names on my own album,” Shimabukuro says. “It’s like, ‘Did that really happen?’ Making the album was a real challenge, but I’m deeply honored that all of the artists agreed to record with me.”

 

Charlie Hunter, Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center, Greenfield, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. — Hunter has long been hailed for his “mind-boggling” technique on guitar, specifically the way he simultaneously plays bass lines, chords and melodies on his custom-made instruments, at first with eight strings and now with seven.

But Hunter has also earned much praise as a composer and bandleader, especially with various jazz and blues ensembles; he’s worked with scores of musicians including Norah Jones, Mos Def and John Mayer.

One of his longtime collaborators is drummer and composer Scott Amendola, who first gigged with Hunter in 1993 when the guitarist had to grab him pretty much last-minute for a gig that Hunter’s regular drummer couldn’t make. Now, nearly 30 years later, Hunter and Amendola will play together at Hawks & Reed.

 More music on tap

 The Psychedelic Furs first made a splash in post-punk Britain in the late 1970s and early 1980s with hits including “Pretty in Pink” and “Love My Way.” Last year they released “Made of Rain,” their first new album in 29 years, and critics say the new music has the old appeal. They play Northampton’s Academy of Music on Nov. 16 at 8 p.m. English vocalist/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Royston Langdon opens the show.

Blues/rock guitar slingerAna Popović comes to Gateway City Arts Nov. 17 at 8 p.m.

ÌFÉ, which plays the Bombyx Center on Nov. 18 at 8 p.m., is led by percussionist Otura Mun, who was born Mark Underwood and grew up in Indiana, one of only a handful of Black students in his school. A visit to, and then a lengthy stay in, Puerto Rico led him to become a Yoruban high priest and create electronic music that explores the African diaspora.

With ÌFÉ, Mun has created what Bombyx calls “an incredible fusion of hip-hop, dancehall, trap, and Afro-Cuban rumba.”

Pianist and composer Christian Sands, a Jazz Artist in Residence at UMass Amherst, was nominated for a Grammy for a song off his most recent album, “Be Water.” He comes to the Bromery Center for the Arts on Nov. 18 at 7:30 p.m. with his ensemble.

Saturday, Nov. 20 will be an especially busy day musically in the region, with the following artists all playing that evening:

Still going strong at age 67, legendary jazz guitarist and composer Pat Metheny has a new album out, “Side-Eye,” and he’ll play cuts from it when he comes to the Academy of Music at 8 p.m.

Veteran singer-songwriter Melissa Ferrick plays Northampton’s Calvin Theatre. The 7 p.m. show will be opened by local favorite Carrie Ferguson, the singer/songwriter/pianist who in late spring released “The Grumpytime Club,” her first kids’ record.

Underground System, a female-fronted, seven-member band from New York that offers a hard-to-define sound — “post-afrobeat electro-disco” is one description — comes to Gateway City Arts at 8 p.m. They played the Green River Festival in August, where their mix of flute, trumpet, guitar, keyboards, drums, congas and sampling was a hit.

Folk-rocker Jake Klar of Turners Falls has a new EP out, “Witness,” that he and his band first started recording before the pandemic. They finally got a chance to finish it this summer, and they’ll play New City Brewery in Easthampton at 8 p.m. It’s a free show.

Not Nov. 20: Multi-instrumentalist David Bromberg, who’s been playing his unique mix of bluegrass, folk, blues and country swing for more than 50 years, brings his quintet to the Shea Theater in Turners Falls Nov. 21 at 8 p.m.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.


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