Cubo-klezmer-folk madness: Fall 2001 Pop Preview
by Seth Rogovoy

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., September 16, 2001) – Fans of klezmer and Cuban music have reason to celebrate this season. So do fans of contemporary folk and old-time American roots and bluegrass music, as promoters and venues scramble to capitalize on the sudden growth in interest in these genres spurred on by the success of recent films that showcased these various styles of musics.

Cuban music has been enjoying a burst of creative interest since the surprise hit documentary, “Buena Vista Social Club,” and the recordings associated with it. Cuban fans can catch the classic sounds from Havana at Club Helsinki (528-3394) on October 12, when singer Pio Levya returns with a new group, Les Tres de la Habana, and again on November 10, when Jane Bunnett and the Spirits of Havana make their Helsinki debut.

The Berkshire Museum (443-7171) is also jumping on the Cuban bandwagon, with a program featuring Estudiantina Invasora, a Cuban ensemble featuring guitars, horns, drums, bass, singers and percussion whose roots go back to its founding 75 years ago in Santiago, on October 28.

Ever since Itzhak Perlman brought his traveling klezmer festival to the PBS airwaves with his “In the Fiddler’s House” documentary and his subsequent concert tour which stopped at Tanglewood several years ago, klezmer has been a nearly sure bet to sell out for venues in the Berkshires and the greater region. Interested concertgoers will want to reserve tickets early for shows by New York city ensemble Metropolitan Klezmer, a jazzy, versatile big-band, at Club Helsinki (528-3394) on October 24, and for klezmer clarinet great Andy Statman, who will be performing his idiosyncratic improvisations on Hasidic soul music at the Spencertown (N.Y.) Academy (518-392-3693) on November 17. Look for a few other klezmer shows later in the season at area venues.

After a bit of a lull, the Clark Art Institute (458-2302) is back in the business of producing themed concert series with “American Roots: Traditional Music from the Rural South,” inspired by the success of the Coen Brothers’ film, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?,” whose unlikely hit soundtrack included traditional folk, country and gospel songs performed by the likes of Ralph Stanley, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, the Whites and the late John Hartford.

The Clark series kicks off on October 19 with a performance by the legendary singer and guitar flat-picker Doc Watson. Watson is followed on November 3 by singer-guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Norman Blake, who was featured on the “O Brother” soundtrack. The series will continue in the winter with performances by Jay Ungar and Molly Mason (January 19), Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart (February 2), and Cajun ensemble Beausoleil with Mark Doucet (February 22).

The Berkshires’ own venerable folksinger, Arlo Guthrie, headlines at the Guthrie Center in Great Barrington (528-1955) for a three-night stand from October 5 through 7.

The Railway Café (664-6393) is the latest in a long line of attempts to establish a North County home for a singer-songwriter series. Based at St. John’s Episcopal Church, the series kicks off on September 29 with a performance by Dana Robinson and Lui Collins. Darryl Purpose follows on October 27, and the Berkshires’ own Bernice Lewis performs on November 24.

The Berkshire Museum (443-7171) stakes its claim to folk music with a series kicking off next Saturday night, September 29, with topical singer-songwriter Tom Paxton. The museum series continues on October 20 with a show by Nerissa and Katryna Nields, the singing sisters at the core of the folk-rock ensemble the Nields, and with comic singer-songwriter Cheryl Wheeler on January 11, 2002.

Meanwhile, Club Helsinki continues to present nationally-known singer-songwriters such as Richard Shindell (October 17) and Steve Forbert (October 18), in addition to its typical array of blues, funk and rock bands. The fall lineup at the downtown nightclub includes the return of Tom Tom Club, featuring Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, the husband-and-wife rhythm section of Talking Heads, tomorrow night, and the Holmes Brothers next Friday. Other upcoming acts include Eddie Shaw and the Wolf Gang (September 29), honky-tonker Phil Lee (October 5), roots-rockers Tarbox Ramblers (October 6), bluesman Alvin Youngblood Hart (October 13), and bluegrass band Jim and Jennie and the Pine Tops (October 26).

Legendary rockabilly artists Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen make their Helsinki debut on November 2, followed by a double-bill of second- and third-generation folk royalty in the Mammals and the Drunk Stuntmen on November 8. Rock band the Lost Trailers perform on November 17 and husband-and-wife duo Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion celebrate the release of their respective solo album debuts on November 30.

Helsinki occasionally features jazz, too, and tonight Pittsfield native Sean Hurley -- bassist with platinum-selling national act Vertical Horizon -- brings his band Lucky Stereo, featuring guitarist Bobby Keyes and Vertical Horizon drummer Ed Toth, to Helsinki.

Canada’s answer to the Velvet Underground, Cowboy Junkies, are at Mass MoCA in North Adams (662-2111) next Saturday, September 29. MoCA will also continue its series of dance parties on October 13 with Afropop artists Obo Addy and Kukrudu, followed by Tex-Mex accordionist/singer and Grammy Award-winner Santiago Jimenez Jr. in a “Day of the Dead” party on October 31. MoCA will also continue its mission to present interdisciplinary, cutting-edge performance works with “Shadow Bang,” a collaboration by the Bang on a Can All-Stars and Balinese puppet master I Wayan Wija, on October 19 and 20. Pioneering performance artist Laurie Anderson will end a week-long residency at MoCA with a back-to-basics solo work-in-progress on December 14-15.

“Rave Review,” the vanity series at Searles Castle in Great Barrington featuring pianist Robert Kelly in performance with visiting, traditional jazz artists, continues on October 6 with horn player Kenny Wensel, reed player Dick Johnson on November 3, and clarinetist Andy Sherwood on December 1.

Beyond the Berkshires, there is plenty of concert action to the east and west. In Northampton (1-800-THE-TICK), John Prine headlines at the Calvin Theatre tomorrow night, followed by Medeski, Martin and Wood on October 4 and Dar Williams on October 5. The eclectic menu at the Iron Horse features the Dave Holland Quintet next Wednesday, Andy Stochansky on September 27, Keller Williams on September 28, Fred Eaglesmith on October 4, the Willem Breuker Kollektief on October 9, and spoken-word artist Everton Sylvester on October 16. Pearl Street boasts Robert Randolph and Deep Banana Blackout on Sept. 26, Addison Groove Project on September 29, and Granola Funk Express on October 31.

Rock band Counting Crows is at Smith College on October 16, and jam-rock group String Cheese Incident is at the Mullins Center at Umass-Amherst on October 26. String Cheese is also at the RPI Fieldhouse in Troy, N.Y., on October 27.

In Albany, Graham Parker is at Valentines on Sunday night. Rock band Tool is at the Pepsi Arena on October 4, followed by rapper Snoop Dogg on October 7 and teen-pop idol Britney Spears on December 3.

In Troy, guitarists Charlie Hunter and John Scofield bring acid-jazz groove music to the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall on September 29, and in Schenectady, Mandy Patinkin brings his solo act to Proctor’s Theatre on October 20.

[This article originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on September 21, 2001. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2001. All rights reserved.]

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