Arts Fuse critics select the best in music, dance, film, and theater that’s coming up this week.
By The Arts Fuse Staff
Agganis Arena, Boston, MA
Last September, Arctic Monkeys played Paradise Rock Club and gave one of the best shows of the year. It was bound to be a special performance — after years of being one of the biggest bands in every part of the world that isn’t the United States of America, the Monkeys were finally starting to make a surge on this side of the pond thanks to their 2013 release AM, and everyone in the crowd knew they’d probably never again see the band in such close quarters. Sure enough, the L.A.-by-way-of-Sheffield band’s return to town finds them literally a stone’s throw away from Paradise, at the larger Agganis Arena. They won’t be intimidated by the size of the venue though. After all, when the band headlined the Glastonbury Festival in the U.K. a few months ago there were more than 100,000 people present.
Upcoming and On Sale…
Bob Weir & RatDog (2/24/2014, House of Blues); Bob Weir & RatDog (2/25/2014, House of Blues); Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks (2/25/2014, Paradise Rock Club); St. Vincent (2/27/2014, House of Blues); Paul Simon and Sting “On Stage Together” (3/3/2014, TD Garden); Broken Bells (3/5/2014, House of Blues); Lorde (3/14/2014, Orpheum Theatre); London Grammar (4/11/2014, Paradise Rock Club); Haim (5/13/2014, House of Blues); Primal Scream (5/14/2014, Royale); Arcade Fire (8/19/2014, Comcast Center)
– Adam Ellsworth
January 31-February 1
Institute of Contemporary Art
With a surrealist, butoh-like vision, American choreographer Andrea Miller reflects on the dangers of pack mentality in the Boston premiere of Wonderland. She will be on hand to discuss this challenging work with me in a public interview thirty minutes before each performance.
#hereandnow with SPUNKandCOmpany
January 31-February 1
Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts
Want a side of dance with your instant gratification? The impatience of contemporary life is at the heart of the exploration SPUNKandCOmpany has engaged in during its month-long residency at the Boston Center for the Arts.
“The Eros of Oral History” by Jeff Friedman
Alumnae Hall, Simmons College
This free lecture and mini-performance addresses how oral histories, textual interpretations and other literary and social science techniques can help shape contemporary performance practice. Former Boston dancer and Simmons visiting scholar Friedman offers an example in his solo, “Muscle Memory.”
and further afield
Savion Glover in STePz
Providence, Rhode Island
With music ranging from the theme to Mission Impossible to Shostakovitch and a nod in the direction of Sammy Davis Jr.’s take on Mr. Bojangles, virtuoso hoofer Savion Glover offers a jazz-themed show alongside a number of hand-picked colleagues including Marshall Davis Jr. and 3CW(3 Controversial Women) Robyn Watson, Ayodele Casel and Sarah Savelli.
– Debra Cash
With Earthsound, Jason Davis combines dual interests — he has master’s degrees in interdisciplinary ecology and classical bass. He also happens to be one of the most distinguished jazz bassists in town, with a special feel for South American as well as other folkloric dance rhythms. And so, ambient field recordings play a part in Earthsound’s performances. Expect to hear beautifully played Brazilian choro and samba, Peruvian valse criollo, Turkish belly-dance music, and the occasional chirping tree frog or the clicks, sucks, and whistles of Antarctic seals, with improvisations based on their music as well. Davis is joined by flutist Amir Milstein, pianist Doug Johnson, and drummer Bertram Lehmann.
January 31-February 1, 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Regattabar, Cambridge MA
The ferocious alto saxophonist (and former Miles Davis sideman) comes into town working his latest release, Pushing the World Away (Mack Avenue), which pays tribute some of his heroes: Donald Brown, Chick Corea, Chucho Valdés, and Sonny Rollins.
January 31-February 1, 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Scullers, Boston MA
Forty-four-year-old trumpeter Roy Hargrove has spent his share of time playing electric jazz funk, but most recently he’s been working his acoustic chops, mostly in the form of driving hard bop.
February 4, 8 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston MA
When he was at Berklee College of Music in Boston the São Paulo-born guitarist Ricardo Grilli felt a little overwhelmed, so he figured “the best way to get people to play with me was to write interesting music they would want to play with me.” That talent still serves him well on his debut album, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler (Dark House). Its evocative, winding themes and odd meters are meant to conjure the narrative of its namesake novel by Italo Calvino, but they also suggest what’s special about Grilli’s own playing, his probing lines and glowing tone. He plays Scullers with a band that includes trumpeter Jason Palmer, pianist Christian Li, bassist Edward Perez, and drummer Lee Fish.
February 5, 7:30 p.m.
Regattabar, Cambridge, MA
The 78-year-old pianist, composer, and New England Conservatory guru emeritus’s local performances are too few and far between. With an unparalleled ear for harmony and a distinct keyboard attack that cuts to the inner drama of every song he plays, Blake will undoubtedly draw on his vast repertoire of film noir scores (real and imagined), unlikely standards, gospel, folk, and his own uncanny originals.
February 5, 8 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston MA
Houston-born pianist and composer Helen Sung made a name for herself gigging around Boston as a member of the inaugural class of the Thelonious Monk Institute when it was housed at New England Conservatory in the ’90s. Now, after a move to New York and five albums on various indie labels, she returns to town celebrating Anthem for a New Day, her debut on major label Concord. It’s a diverse collection of post-bop that shows off Sung’s chops as composer as well as player. At Scullers she’ll be joined by trumpeter Alex Norris, alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, bassist Boris Kozlov, and drummer Obed Calvaire.
The Bad Plus
February 6-7, 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston MA
Pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson, and drummer David King have been upending the expectations of jazz audiences — and attracting a few anti-jazz holdouts — since they came together as the Bad Plus in 2000. In fact, with their instrumental covers of Neil Young, Nirvana, and Black Sabbath, the group have drawn the equivalent of the “anti-jazz” epithet a few times themselves. But really the heart of this band is in their thorny originals, delivered with combination of tongue-in-cheek humor and utmost seriousness. And each musician is a phenomenal player in his own right.
– Jon Garelick
Pianist Kirill Gerstein
Friday, January 31
Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory, Boston
The Celebrity Series of Boston presents the acclaimed pianist performing Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” Schumann’s “Carnival,” and works by Timothy Andres and Haydn.
Chameleon Arts Ensemble
Saturday, February 1, 8 p.m.
First Church, 66 Marlboro Street, Boston
Also on Sunday, 4 p.m
The Goethe Institute of Boston, 170 Beacon Street, Boston
The wonderful group presents the provocatively entitled program “Melodies, at a Distance, Heard.” The lineup includes Beethoven’s “Variations for cello and piano on See the conqu’ring hero comes,” Britten’s seductive “Lachrymae for viola and piano,” Saint-Saens’s Sonata No 1 in d minor for violin and piano, and works by Marin Marais and Judith Shatin.
Saturday, February 1, 8 p.m.
At St. Paul’s Church, Bow and Arrow Streets, Cambridge
The Boston Early Music Festival brings Sequentia to town. The evening’s program is entitled “Mystical Voices of Medieval Germany: Masterpieces of the Benedictine visionary and composer Hildegard von Bingen.”
A Far Cry
Saturday, February 1, 4 p.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 1 Roanoke Ave., Jamaica Plain.
Also on Sunday, February 2, 1:30 p.m. at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston
The acclaimed conductorless orchestra teams up with violist Hellen Callus to play works of CPE Bach, JS Bach, Hindemith, Elgar, and Purcell. The program is entitled The Kings’ Feast — arresting music from the German court of Frederick the Great combines with Hindemith’s requiem for Henry V and an ode to the mythological King Arthur.”
– Susan Miron
World and Roots Music
Tue. Feb. 4
Johnny D’s, Somverville
Of all the great deep soul singers of the ’60s, only a handful are still active, and an even smaller number are still making noteworthy recordings and touring year-round. As it happens, two of the best are coming to town this week.
Mavis’ voice became famous via her leads with the Staple Singers and her high-profile appearances with the Band and Bob Dylan. Until recently, Bettye LaVette’s voice was heard by almost no one given her history of bad record deals that kept great music from becoming hits. Both have put out a string of brilliant records on the Anti label that feature the work of contemporary songwriters.
Mavis, like the recently departed Pete Seeger, carries on the inspiring, inclusive approach she learned in church and on the Civil Rights trail. She’s got a tasteful band led by ArtsFuse interview subject Rick Holmstrom. Bettye, who grew up outside the church in a home that appreciated hard R&B, lets the audience in on her remarkable story and, with the help of her skin-tight band, goes in for the kill. Both are unmissable.
The South African a capella giants have become a multi-generational ensemble in the decades following their fame via “Graceland.” This afternoon show should be especially poignant in the wake of Nelson Mandela’s passing.
What football game? Boston’s great multi-ethnic ensemble is joined by Armenian master Martin Haroutunian on the duduk, shvi and saz.
Country Soul Revue (7 p.m.); Debo Band (9 p.m.)
Thursday, Feb. 6
Lizard Lounge, Cambridge
If next Thursday is another chilly night you can see two phenomenal shows without venturing far away from home. The all-star cast of Chris Cote, Dennis Brennan and Roy Sludge will share the stage playing country-soul classics with the guitarists who back each of them up impeccably — Duke Levine and Kevin Barry — plus the hot rhythm section of Paul Bryan and Jay Bellerose. Later that night Boston’s Ethiopian-funk masters continue their weekly residency.
Detroit gospel stars the Clark Sisters scored a fluke disco hit with “You Bought the Sunshine” and have been icons of the contemporary gospel field ever since. They’ve been both influential and controversial, making them the perfect subjects for the interview which will precede their set of hits backed by Berklee musicians.
– Noah Schaffer
Reelabilities Disabilities Film Festival
Jan 30 – Feb 6
Various Venues in Boston, Cambridge, Dorchester, West Newton, Hanover
Check the website for the full schedule.
This is the largest festival in the country dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories, and artistic expressions of people with different disabilities. Brought to the Boston area by the Jewish Film Festival, the films are revelatory tales of passion and triumph. The opening night film Wretches & Jabberers typifies selections in this festival. It is about two men on a global quest to change attitudes about disability and intelligence and autism. But these movies are not just ‘feel good’ stories’ of triumph — they set out to deepen our understanding of humanity while altering stereotypical preconceptions about people with disabilities. Two of the films, Wampler’s Ascent and Getting Up, have been reviewed by The Arts Fuse.
Silent Film Classics Series
January 31 – February 2
The Somerville Theater
The theater celebrates its 100th year with a special program featuring Silent Movie Queens in classic films accompanied by the live performances of pianist Jeff Rapsis. The series begins on Friday with the 1926 film Sparrows, produced and starring Mary Pickford (plus Pickford shorts). On Saturday, Lillian Gish stars in Way Down East, while Clara Bow is at the center of Wings on Sunday.
The Films of Lars von Trier
February 1 – February 23
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
In anticipation of the spring release of his controversial two-part film Nymphomaniac, the MFA brings the iconoclastic director’s entire oeuvre to Boston. Love him or hate him, von Trier is a nervy provocateur who experiments wildly with his filmmaking, pushing the limits of both style and storytelling. He was one of the original Dogme 95 filmmakers who took a “vow of chastity” to eschew all arty effects, technology, false locations, artificial lighting, tripods for cameras, even the idea of being credited. While not always adhering to these rules, the stringent aesthetic did lead to such striking films as The Idiots, Breaking the Waves (with a great performance by Emily Watson), and Dancer in the Dark, the haunting and innovative musical starring Björk. Some of the films will not be for every taste. Dogville and its sequel Manderlay are long and difficult, but brilliant. The former has a performance by Nichole Kidman that should not to be missed. Antichrist is not for the squeamish. Melancholia tackles nothing less than creating poetry for the world’s end. These are films like no other. Highly recommended.
Brattle Theater Cambridge
This is just one entry in a series at the Brattle Theater that features films you may have missed last year. In Viola, Argentine auteur Matías Piñeiro continues to explore his fascination for Shakespeare in a dazzling riff on Twelfth Night with intersecting characters falling into a roundelay of dalliances, intrigues and burgeoning revelations. Other highly regarded films, many on numerous ‘Best’ lists, include: Computer Chess, Much Ado About Nothing, Leviathan, Wadjda, Museum Hours, Short Term 12, Francis Ha, The Act of Killing, Drinking Buddies, and The World’s End. Check the Brattle schedule for dates and times: many will be screened as part of double features.
– Tim Jackson
Absence by Peter M. Floyd, Directed by Megan Schy Gleeson
February 6 – March 2
Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, Odyssey Theatre, Boston
The script “tells the story of 76-year-old Helen, whose lapses in memory have not diminished her need to control her family, and as the family’s matriarch, she is used to getting her own way. But now Helen’s world is growing more chaotic by the minute.” Absence was a co-winner of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival’s Jean Kennedy Smith Award in 2012. It was also a 2012 finalist in the Alliance Theatre’s Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition. The Boston production stars veteran actress Joanna Merlin, who has appeared in six Broadway shows: she made her Broadway debut opposite Laurence Olivier in Becket and created the role of Tzeitel, Tevye’s eldest daughter, in Fiddler on the Roof.
Witness Uganda, by Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews. Directed by Diane Paulus.
February 4 – March 16
Presented by the American Repertory Theater at the Loeb Drama Center, Cambridge
The plot of his musical is inspired by a true story: “When Griffin, a young man from New York City, volunteers for a project in Uganda, he finds himself on a journey that will change his life forever.” Recipient of the 2012 Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theater, ASCAP’s Dean Kay Award, ASCAP’s Harold Adamson Award, the show “exposes the challenges confronted by American aid workers and the complex realities of trying to change the world.” A world premiere.
– Bill Marx