Cynthia Hopkins, Breuker Kollektief, Sheri Bauer-Mayorga
by Seth Rogovoy

(GREAT BARRINGTON, September 19, 2002) -- Cynthia Hopkins keeps popping up in the strangest places. She made her area debut with her band, Gloria Deluxe, as the surprise opener at the memorable Patti Smith show at Mass MoCA in North Adams a few years back. She then returned to MoCA a half year later to play a very weird concert as part of an event celebrating the unveiling of the “Uberorgan,” the football-field-sized biomorphic sound machine designed by Tim Hawkinson. Hopkins composed and performed original music, which she played on Hawkinson’s instrument, and then played a set with her band in the Mass MoCA gallery.

Then this summer, Hopkins was a lead performer and collaborator in Big Dance Theater’s experimental theater work, “Shunkin,” at Jacob’s Pillow. Hopkins appeared as the title character – a spoiled, contemporary pop diva ostensibly based on a character from “A Portrait of Shunkin,” a Japanese story by Junichiro Tanizaki. But Hopkins’s Shunkin spouted dialogue suspiciously reminiscent of that spoken by Bob Dylan in D.A. Pennebaker’s groundbreaking rock documentary, “Don’t Look Back.”

Hopkins also wrote and performed several original songs for the show, accompanying herself on accordion on numbers found on her CD, “Devotionals (Songs for Shunkin),” which alternates relatively conventional rock songs like “This Is a Love Song” – imagine Nanci Griffith as lead singer of the Velvet Underground – with more experimental work featuring orchestral arrangements, such as “This Dreary Life (Lost and Not Knowing Anything).”

A true original, Hopkins performs at Club Helsinki (528-3394) with Gloria Deluxe – featuring bassist Chris Bonner and violinist Philippa Thompson -- tonight at 9.

Breuker Kollektief: Dizzying journey

A concert by the Willem Breuker Kollektief is always a journey. Bandleader/composer Breuker has an omnivorous musical appetite, as heard on last year’s CD, “Thirst,” which kicked off with a title track (there are actually three title tracks) that made dizzying twists and turns through marching band music, big-band swing and blazing bebop before deconstructing into fragmentary free jazz. Other tunes referenced circus music, tango, waltz and classical music, with arrangements of works by Ornette Coleman, Bela Bartok and Ravel.

Besides Breuker originals, other favorite composers of the 10-member ensemble include Gershwin, Kurt Weill, Ennio Morricone and Rachmaninoff. But it’s the way in which the band combines the sound of a big band with intimate improvisations that sets it apart from conventional big bands or small bebop ensembles. The Dutch-based group has been together for over a quarter-century, performing all over Europe as well as North America, Mexico and India. “Thirst” was the second CD in a trilogy that began with “Hunger” and concludes with “Misery,” music from which the group will premiere at the Iron Horse in Northampton (413-586-8686) on Tuesday at 7.

Sheri Bauer-Mayorga: Border songs

Bad luck and hard times have always been fodder for songwriters, especially those working the blues, jazz and folk idioms. So Chatham, N.Y., vocalist Sheri Bauer-Mayorga decided to put together an entire program of songs focusing on life along social, racial and economic boundaries in a show called “On the Wrong Side of the Railroad Tracks: Life at the Border,” at the Spencertown Academy (518-392-3693), on Friday night at 8. The concert marks the release of a CD by the same name, and will include original arrangements of traditional folk songs as well as compositions by Ewan MacColl, Randy Newman, Duke Ellington, Malvina Reynolds and Bauer-Mayorga originals. In concert, Bauer-Mayorga, who plays accordion and guitar, will be joined by her husband, pianist Lincoln Mayorga, and Otto Gardner on acoustic bass.

Radio Beat

Another in our series of periodic tallies of the most-played recordings -- most new, some old – on our imaginary radio station:

1. Bruce Springsteen, “The Rising” (Columbia)
2. Alastair Moock, “A Life I Never Had” (Bad Moock Rising)
3. The Coma Savants, “Coma Savants” (Uvulittle)
4. Wolf Krakowski, “Goyrl: Destiny” (Tzadik)
5. Pharaoh’s Daughter, “Exile” (Knitting Factory)
6. Alarm Will Sound/Ossia, “Steve Reich: Tehillim/The Desert Music” (Cantaloupe)
7. Alice Peacock, “Alice Peacock” (Aware/Columbia)
8. Ani DiFranco, “So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter” (Righteous Babe)
9. Jen Chapin/Stephan Crump, “Open Wide” (Purple Chair Music)
10. Bang on a Can, “Renegade Heaven” (Cantaloupe)

[This column originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on September 19, 2002. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2002. All rights reserved.]

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

To send a message to Seth Rogovoy
content management programming and web design