Coming Attractions: February 26 Through March 14 — What Will Light Your Fire
As the age of Covid-19 more or less wanes, Arts Fuse critics supply a guide to film, dance, visual art, theater, author readings, and music. More offerings will be added as they come in.
Boston Globe Black History Month Festival
Various venues and online
In its third year, the festival celebrates the lives and culture of Black Americans all February long. The lineup includes new and vintage films; each screening will be followed by a virtual panel event to provide insight and context for these stories of strength, joy, and love.Tickets and information available here.
2023 Oscar Nominated Shorts
Screenings at the Institute of Contemporary Art
Oscar Shorts play throughout February and early March on a rotating schedule. Times and dates
February 28 at 7 p.m.
Brattle Theater in Cambridge
The Brattles’ Elements of Cinema Series returns with a free screening and discussion led by Shaun Clarke of Emerson College. This 1943 classic is thin on plot but chockablock with Black talent. The crème de la crème includes Lena Horne, Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson, Cab Calloway, Katherine Dunham, Fats Waller, Nat King Cole, and The Nicholas Brothers.
The Quiet Girl
March 1 at 7:30 p.m.
Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline.
IFFBoston Screening Series presents one of the nominees for Best International Feature Film at the Oscars. Set in rural Ireland in the ’80s, the story concerns nine-year-old Cait, who is sent away from her overcrowded, dysfunctional family to live with foster parents for the summer. Quietly struggling at school and at home, she has learned to hide in plain sight from those around her. She blossoms in their care but, in this house where not supposed to be secrets, she discovers a painful truth. Director Colm Bairéad will join the audience following the screening for a Q&A, moderated by Dawn Morrissey from Irish Film Festival Boston.
Return to Seoul
Opens March 3
Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline
Freddie, raised in France, returns to Korea her country of origin to meet her birth parents. Newcomer Ji-Min Park plays the reserved — and not always sympathetic — protagonist with minimal affect. The story takes place over many years as Freddie grows older but not always wiser. The film accumulates power through its patient cultivation of a network of themes, motifs, interrelationships, and behaviors. This is a complex coming-of-age story with insights into a Korea we don’t often see. Winner of Best Film of 2022 from the Boston Society of Film Critics.
Annie Laurie and Cinderella
March 5 at 2 p.m.
Somerville Theater in Davis Square
A Silents, Please! double feature. Annie Laurie (1927) is a rarely-screened MGM epic about warring Scottish clans that places silent-era megastar Lillian Gish amid legions of men in kilts going to battle. Also on the bill: an early adaptation of Cinderella (1914) starring film industry pioneer Mary Pickford. The man at the digital synthesizer will be ace silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis.
All That Breathes
Brattle Theater in Cambridge
This Academy Award documentary nominee is a verité-style documentary of two brothers who take it upon themselves to save the birds (Kites) of New Delhi. Their effort to build a hospital for the kites, a bird often regarded as a pest, becomes a poetic meditation on the interrelationship of all living things. The film is a brilliant balancing act between fly-on-the-wall environmental non-fiction and an moving, character-driven story of three quirky men who are dedicated to their calling. As one brother says: “Life itself is kinship. We all share a community of air.” (Arts Fuse review)
Pick of the Week
The Boy from Nowhere (2023) Streaming on Amazon
Canadian documentarian S.J. Finlay’s debut feature film, which he wrote, directed, and produced, was shot guerrilla style in Bukidnon in the southern Philippines. It features a cast of non-actors whose lives are similar to the tale told. Gary (Gary Jumawan), a young Filipino, is caught up in chain of events beyond his control. After losing his father and home when his fishing village is burned down in an attack, this lost and gentle boy sets off inland to find his mother and her tribe. He is a true innocent, vulnerable and malleable, uncertain of his place in the world. Battling hunger and needing guidance, he finds a mentor in Nack Nack (Nack Nack Abugyan), a member of a gang whose behavior has been influenced by American films like Rambo and cowboy pictures. Eventually, he is captured and trained as a child soldier for the New People’s Army which is fighting corporate land takeovers. But his journey will not end there. Another film, Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire’s Johnny Mad Dog (2008) is a grim look at child soldiers in Liberia. It is also cast with non-professional actors. Unlike that effort, The Boy from Nowhere keeps violence at a distance in order to tell a compassionate coming-of–age story.
— Tim Jackson
Dancing Through Motherhood
March 6 at 6 p.m.
The Dance Complex
This unique workshop explores the concept of motherhood through movement, writing, improvisation, and visual arts while connecting within a community of mothers, and offering support and empowerment. This is an opportunity for self-care through movement and the arts. The workshop will be held in Studio 7, a ground floor level space at The Dance Complex, and uses pay-what-you-can registration.
Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company
Choreographed by Tony Award-winning Bill T. Jones, Janet Wong, and the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, Curriculum II is a timely new work pulling from historians and theorists. Exploring the ideas of Cameroonian historian and political theorist Achille Mbembe, Nigerian-born Afrofuturism scholar Louis Chude-Sokei, and Jamaican writer and cultural theorist Sylvia Wynter, Curriculum II delves into the historical connection between race and technology and the pursuit of what is human.
Boston Dance Theater and Khambatta Dance Company
March 11 & 12
The Dance Complex
Boston Dance Theater (BDT) and the Seattle-based Khambatta Dance Company (KDC) present a split-bill performance. This March, KDC will be joining BDT in Boston for a week-long residency at The Dance Complex. This dynamic collaboration includes performances of selections from each company’s own repertory, in addition to a new work created during the residency.
And further afield…
Motion State Dance Festival
Wilbury Theatre Group & WaterFire Arts Center
Enjoy an evening of boundary-pushing contemporary dance performances, dance films, and artist-audience interactions at Motion State Dance Festival. Live performances include works by legendary choreographer Bebe Miller with long-time collaborators Angie Hauser and Darrell Jones (all New York Dance & Performance “Bessie” Award winners); Aretha Aoki and Ryan MacDonald (“weaving dance/punk/glam/goth/synthwave with Kabuki”) and “Bessie” Award nominee Doron Perk.
— Merli V. Guerra
COVID PROTOCOLS: Check with specific theaters; requirements often include proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 rapid test. Also, companies are requiring masks at indoor performances.
Seven Guitars by August Wilson. Directed by Maurice Emmanuel Parent. Staged by Actors’ Shakespeare Project at Hibernian Hall, 184 Dudley St #200, Boston, through March 5.
“In Pittsburgh’s historic Hill District, six friends gather to mourn and reminisce after the untimely death of blues guitarist Floyd ‘Schoolboy’ Barton. As the characters recount Floyd’s last days in 1948, the script spins a tale of what happens when dreams of stardom collide with harsh reality.” Pulitzer-winning playwright Tony Kushner has called Wilson’s play a “vast, troubled, complicated drama.” The production features ASP resident acting company members Johnnie Mack and Omar Robinson.
Frankenstein, adapted from the novel by Mary Shelley. Concept and storyboards by Drew Dir. Devised by Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, and Julia Miller. A Manual Theatre staging presented by Arts Emerson at the Emerson Paramount Theatre in the Robert Orchard L Stage, 559 Washington Street, Boston, February 26.
“Using more than 500 handmade puppets, old school projectors, as well as live actors, a music ensemble and cinematic elements, the Chicago-based performance collective imaginatively stitches together the classic tale of Frankenstein with the biography of its author, Mary Shelley, to create an unexpected story about the beauty and horror of creation. The real-life and fictional narratives of Shelley, Victor Frankenstein, and Frankenstein’s monster expose how family, community, and education shape personhood — or destroy it by their absence.”
Alma by Benjamin Benne. Directed by Elena Velasco. Presented by Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, through March 26.
“2016. Alma and her daughter, Angel, made wishes long ago, among them good health, carne asada, and perfect SAT scores to earn a spot at UC Davis. However, Angel, now 17 and on the eve of that important test, has a different vision of the future.” The question at the center of this conflict: “Who does the American Dream belong to?” Benjamin Benne’s script won the National Latinx Playwriting Award.
a.dick.ted/ OR, learning to breathe underwater; a ritual of lemons. also known as, I love you, I hate you, shut up & tell me everything! [a mostly-true entirely-honest tale of recovery], a solo punk rock epic poem by Teddy Lytle. Directed by Harmon dot aut. Presented by The Wilbury Theatre Group 475 Valley Street, Providence, through March 4.
“When you can’t remember the single most important event that profoundly changed your life, do you stand a chance at changing for the better? More than a concert, less than a play; a disjointed collection of true events in a semi-interactive multimedia exploration of mental illness, addiction, recovery, and superheroes.”
The Great Leap by Lauren Yee. Directed by Michael Hisamoto. Staged by the Lyric Stage Company of Boston, 40 Clarendon Street, 2nd Floor, Boston, through March 19.
“It’s 1989 San Francisco and Manford Lum, a gifted, fast-talking teenager, dominates the high school basketball courts. Facing an uncertain future, he convinces Saul, a cynical and crusty coach, to let him travel to Beijing for a “friendship” game in China. Waiting there is a Chinese national coach with unfinished business, both with Saul and with Manford. On the eve of historic demonstrations, all three men are challenged to define their pasts and their futures.” The cast includes Barlow Adamson, Jihan Haddad, and Gary Thomas Ng.
Fairview by Jackie Sibblies Drury. Directed by Pascale Florestal. Staged by SpeakEasy Stage Company at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, Boston, through March 11.
A Pulitzer prize-winning comedy: “When the play opens, we meet the Frasiers, a seemingly typical, middle class Black American family trying desperately to make everything perfect for Grandma’s birthday celebration. But not too far into the festivities, we see the Frasiers’ story through a whole new lens.” Dom Carter, Lyndsay Allyn Cox, Yewande Odetoyinbo, and Victoria Omoregie are featured in the cast. CONTENT ADVISORY: Fairview contains adult content & language, racism and racial slurs, and some violence. Arts Fuse review
A Story Beyond, written and directed by Jason Slavick. Music and Lyrics by Nathan Leigh. Puppetry design and direction, FayeDupras. Staged by Liars & Believers at The Foundry, 101 Rogers St., Kendall Square, Cambridge, through February 25.
A revival of a critically admired show. “A young heroine struggles to save her village from the looming Dark Cloud. The stories we tell create the reality we live, in an original fable told with music, masks, and puppetry. Inspired by folklore from around the world, this is a new fable for our time.”
The Wife of Willesden, adapted by Zadie Smith from Chaucer’s “The Wife of Bath” from The Canterbury Tales. Directed by Indhu Rubasingham. Staged by the Kiln Theatre and presented in association with BAM by the American Repertory Theater at the Loeb Drama Center, Harvard Square, Cambridge, February 25 through March 18. Following its North American premiere at the Loeb Drama Center, the production will receive its New York premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) through March 17.
“The Wife of Willesden follows Alvita, a Jamaican-born British woman in her mid-50s, as she tells her life story to a band of strangers in a small pub on the Kilburn High Road. Wearing fake gold chains, dressed in knock-off designer clothes, and speaking in a mixture of London slang and patois, Alvita recalls her five marriages in outrageous, bawdy detail, rewrites her mistakes as triumphs, and shares her beliefs on femininity, sexuality, and misogyny with anyone willing to listen.” Arts Fuse review
Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles by Luis Alfaro. Directed by Laurie Woolery. Staged by Yale Rep at 222 York Street, New Haven, CT, March 10 through April 1.
“Medea, a Mexican seamstress of extraordinary skill, barely survived the perilous border crossing into the United States and lives uneasily in a borrowed Los Angeles house with her husband Hason and their young son Acan: the tension between their traditional values and assimilation is a matter of life and death.”
Just Tell No One, a multi-media, site specific event, produced by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and Arlekin Players Theatre. The production will be presented in person at the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center, NYC, on March 6 at 7:30 p.m. ET. The event will also be streamed worldwide. It is a benefit for Worldwide Ukrainian Play Readings, a project of the International Center for Theatre Development.
This is a free staged reading, directed by Igor Golyak, of material by Natal’ya Vorozhbit & Oksana Savchenko as translated by Sasha Dugsdale & John Freedman with Natalia Bratus. Performers will include Jessica Hecht, Bill Irwin, David Krumholtz, Nathan Malin, Will Manning & Tedra Millan. The presentation will make use of the theater’s “media wall, with five cameras running, visual effects, and actors interacting with architectural elements throughout the space.”
“This incredible project has commissioned plays from over 30 Ukrainian playwrights, translated them beautifully, and partnered on over 300 play readings globally since the war began in 2022. It is our honor be part of this international effort, and this is a critical moment to shine a light on the artistry and powerful perspectives of Ukrainian artists.”
How I Learned What I Learned by August Wilson. Co-Conceived by Todd Kreidler. Directed by Jade King Carroll. Staged by Portland Stage at 25A Forest Avenue, Portland, ME, March 1 through 19.
“This one-man play tells the story of August Wilson’s journey from a young, struggling poet in the Hill District of Pittsburgh to becoming one of the most celebrated and respected playwrights of our time.” Originally, this script was performed by Wilson himself. For this production, Lance E. Nichols steps into the role.
Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon. Directed by Tony Estrella. At The Gamm Theatre at 1245 Jefferson Blvd., Warwick, R.I., March 2 through 26.
Joshua Harmon’s award-winning play is billed as “a deliciously savage comedy about family, faith and the complications of identity. The plot: “a beloved grandfather and Holocaust survivor has died, leaving a treasured heirloom with religious significance up for grabs. But who among a group of brawling cousins should get it?”
Cointelshow: A Patriot Act by L.M. Bogad. Directed by Nick Slie and Dan Pruksarnukul, Performed by Bruce J. Bowling. A Mondo Bizzrro Production presented by Arts Emerson as a Virtual Event, March 8 through 12.
A political satire about COINTELPRO, “the FBI’s counterintelligence program with which they sabotaged, disrupted, and repressed domestic groups like the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, the American Indian Movement, along with individuals like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Fred Hampton. Over the course of an hour, this interactive, virtual experience takes audiences under the redaction marks of actual, heavily-censored COINTELPRO documents into an underworld haunted by its victims.”
K-I-S-S-I-N-G by Lenelle Moïse. Directed by Dawn M. Simmons. Staged by Front Porch Arts Collective and The Huntington at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, with digital access to the filmed performance available until April 16.
The world premiere production of a play by award-winning poet, playwright, screenwriter, and performer Lenelle Moïse, who thinks of the script as “a date-night for revolutionary thinkers.” The story “follows high school student Lala as she makes fine art on the back of pizza boxes. A sweet and sticky summer inspires her to romance Dani, a budding feminist – and Albert, his smooth-talking twin.”
The Conductor by Ishmael Reed. Directed by Carla Blank. At Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. NY, NY, March 9 to 26. (Simultaneously available for both in person and livestreamed audiences)
Productions of August Wilson scripts are omnipresent at the moment, so I wanted to point to the world premiere of a drama by another powerful Black writer, Ishmael Reed, who is now 85 and still slinging sharp satire, which makes him less palatable for mainstream audiences. He has published over 30 books of poetry, prose, essays, and plays, as well as penned hundreds of lyrics for musicians ranging from Taj Mahal to Macy Gray. His work is known for its acidic, ironic take on race and literary tradition, as well as its innovative, post-modern technique. My favorites among his novels is Mumbo Jumbo (1972), Flight to Canada (1976), and Reckless Eyeballing (1986). His most recent novel is The Terrible Fours (2021). To my knowledge, none of his plays have been professionally produced in Boston.
In this drama, Reed “attacks the race-baiting and divisiveness that were widely seen in the recent, widely-reported San Francisco School Board Recall.” Here are the opponents at ideological and racial loggerheads: “In San Francisco, former school board members Alison Collins and Gabriela López were objects of threats because they sought to replace a scandal ridden test system with what they deemed a fairer Lottery system. The neo-liberal corporate press joined extremists groups in their condemnation of the two. For some, the two are ultra-progressives. To others, they are the Rosa Parks and Dolores Huertas of the school reform movement.”
— Bill Marx
Unearthing the history of African-Americans before the Civil War is not an easy task. In census records, slaves were listed by number, not names; other records can be fragmentary and full of gaps; and products and work produced by slaves are often recorded only under the names of their owners. But the task is not entirely hopeless. Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina, which opens at the MFA on March 4, brings together some 60 ceramic works created by African-American slaves in a major stoneware production center in South Carolina along with new information recently recovered about their creators.
The Edgefield pottery was factory-produced and utilitarian, intended for food storage and the like, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t express the individual talent, expression, and creativity of its enslaved makers. Rediscovered through archival research, more than 100 individual potters and ceramic workers are featured in the show, including Dave (who appears in later records as David Drake) who signed, dated, and inscribed verses on many of his jars. Other works include powerful face vessels likely made for the potters’ own use and decorations that may have been inspired by the traditions of Africans illegally brought to the region shortly before the Civil War.
The MFA exhibition also includes works by contemporary Black ceramic artists which resonate with the Edgefield potters, including Theaster Gates, Simone Leigh, and Robert Pruitt.
The complex colonial legacy of Spain in the New World, which began more than a century before Great Britain and France made their first territorial claims in the Americas, is the subject of From the Andes to the Caribbean: American Art from the Spanish Empire, which opens March 3 at the Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge.
The exhibition, organized around 26 paintings from the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Foundation with objects from the Harvard Art Museums collections, includes oil paintings from what is now the nations of Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela, along with works on paper, Peruvian silver, Cuban and Honduran mahogany, suggesting the Spanish empire’s legacies of cultural and religious upheaval, hybrid identities, and cultural economy, including, once again, slavery.
Although he lived most of his adult life in New York and London, the leading financier of industrial America, J. Pierpont Morgan, remained loyal to his native city of Hartford, Connecticut, and especially to its leading art institution, the Wadsworth Atheneum. Morgan’s gifts to the Wadsworth from his vast personal collections included classical antiquities, European porcelain, and colonial era American furniture.
Figures from the Fire: J. Pierpont Morgan’s Ancient Bronzes at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art opens on March 2 at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, ME. The show features twenty choice small classical sculpture that Morgan collected from 1906 to 1916 and were given to the museum in 1917 by his son, J.P. Morgan, Jr. The selection tells not only of Morgan, Sr.’s highly influential tastes but explains the domestic scale of these works, which were mostly meant for private homes.
Fifty-four short videos from the people of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Mongolia, Myanmar, Turkey, and other Asian regions underrepresented in American museums will be on view in After Hope: Videos of Resistance, opening March 11 at the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem. Along with the immersive video installations are drawings, photos, booklets, and posters that provide context for these expressions of hope, both fulfilled and unfulfilled.
Four exhibitions open on March 2 at the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester. They include solo shows of the work of Brianna Dowd, Marsha Guggenheim, and Anne Piessens and Ties That Bind | Threaded Narratives, which includes the work of three artists (Carolle Benitah, Astrid Reischwitz, and JO Terlizzi) who look at “the idea of family and the rewriting of history, myth and personal narratives.”
— Peter Walsh
February 28 at 7:30 p.m.
Jordan Hall, Boston
As a player, bassist Michael Formanek has been touring professionally since he was a teenager (with Tony Williams and Joe Henderson). These days, he’s seen most often with Thumbscrew (with guitarist Mary Halvorson and drummer Tomas Fujiwara) and his own bands. As a composer, he has been pushing jazz composition forward — combining form and freedom in engaging, startling ways, usually in small ensembles. But his 2016 ECM release The Distance, with his 18-piece all-star Ensemble Kolossus, was one of the best jazz releases of that year and one of the best large-ensemble jazz recordings of any year. At this NEC show, he’ll being leading the NEC players in his compositions, first playing in a quartet and then, after the interval, conducting the NEC Jazz Composers’ Workshop Orchestra in pieces that will include “The Distance.” There’s also an open masterclass at 2 p.m. in Jordan’s Eben Ensemble Room. It’s all free, but tickets are required.
Bert Seager’s Heart of Hearing
March 1 at 6:30 p.m.
Lilypad, Cambridge, Mass.
You still can’t beat this monthly short-and-sweet early-bird special from pianist Bert Seager and his Heart of Hearing band, with saxophonist Rick DiMuzio, bassist Max Ridley, drummer Dor Herskovits, and singer Lili Shires. The set list comes together in spontaneous improvisations that include all manner of international rhythms, jazz standards, and, always, one Monk tune, with Shires singing out-of-the-way, beautifully chosen American Songbook classics.
“Jazz and the Struggle for Freedom and Equality”
March 2 at 7:30 p.m.
Jordan Hall, Boston
This two-part New England Conservatory program begins with jazz studies chair Ken Schaphorst conducting the NEC Jazz Orchestra in Carla Bley’s arrangement of “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika,” Charles Mingus’s “Freedom” and “Haitian Fight Song” as well as selections from Duke Ellington’s “Black, Brown and Beige.” For the second half, NEC alum, and distinguished composer, Omar Thomas conducts his “We Will Know: An LGBT Civil Rights Piece in Four Movements,” featuring another NEC alum, singer Nedelka Prescod. Thomas delivers an artist talk on Wednesday, March 1, at 1:30 p.m. in NEC’s Burnes Hall. Both events are free and open to the public, though tickets are recommended for the concert, available at the NEC website.
Rick McLaughlin Trio
March 2 at 7:30 p.m.
Peabody Hall, Parish of All Saints, Dorchester, Mass.
Bassist Rick McLaughlin — a mainstay of Boston’s Either/Orchestra among many bands and projects over the years, as well as being a professor of harmony and composition at Berklee — joins forces with his Berklee colleagues Sheryl Bailey (assistant chair of the school’s guitar department) and Yoron Israel (percussion department chair). These three players draw on a range of experience that’s both broad and deep.
Phil Scarff and Jerry Leake
March 3 at 7 p.m.
Spaulding Hall, Alden Memorial Building, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Mass.
Saxophonist Phil Scarff has worked with plenty of adventurous jazz bands in the Boston area and elsewhere, but he’s especially valued for his deep knowledge of Northern Indian classical music and the many forms of ragas from that tradition. (You can hear some of this practice in Scarff’s world music ensemble Natraj.) For this show he’ll be joined by frequent collaborator Jerry Leake, a master of Indian tablas.
Uri Caine with the BSO
March 3 at 8 p.m.
Symphony Hall, Boston, Mass.
(Program repeats March 5.)
Pianist and composer Uri Caine has made some wonderful recordings melding the music of Bach (“Goldberg Variations”), Wagner, and Mahler with his own jazz sensibility. You’d think a performance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra would mean that Caine is truly crossing over for this one, except that the program includes him playing with his trio (bassist Mike Boone and drummer Clarence Penn). So we’ll claim it for jazz. Caine’s featured piece, billed as “the centerpiece of these concerts,” is the “gospel and popular music-based The Passion of Octavius Catto, which tells of the 19th-century civil rights leader’s fight for justice.” Also on the bill is William Grant Still’s 1930 Afro-American Symphony, “his best-known work . . . a blues-tinged panorama of the composer’s heritage.” André Raphel conducts the BSO with singer Barbara Walker and the Catto Chorus. The program, part of the BSO’s “Voices of Loss, Reckoning, and Hope” festival presentation, repeats on March 4 and 5, with the addition of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Petite Suite de Concert.
March 4 at 8 p.m.
Berklee Performance Center
The Hot Sardines “effortlessly channel New York speakeasies, Parisian cabarets, and New Orleans jazz halls to transform songs from past eras into music for the 21st century.” But don’t hold that against them — the kids can play. Leading the troupe, singer Elizabeth Bougerol and pianist Evan Palazzo know what they’re doing.
The tricky part will be for the Berklee Performance Center to accommodate the swing-dance contingent — always an essential component of gigs like these.
Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra
March 6 at 8 p.m.
Berklee Performance Center, Boston
In case you missed it last month at the Lilypad and at Arlington High School, the redoubtable Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra is repeating some of that program at Berklee Performance Center, with two wonderful pieces by JCA composer and violinist Mimi Rabson, “In Bb,” written in honor of minimalist composer Terry Riley’s famous “In C,” and “Construction,” a meditation on the construction of Boston University’s new Center for Computing & Data Sciences, popularly known as “the Jenga building.” This version of the show will include Darrell Katz’s composition“December 30, 1994,” “a programmatic piece dealing with gun violence and women’s reproductive rights, set to a poem by the late Paula Tatarunis and featuring vocalist Debo Ray.” You can also expect new pieces by member composers David Harris, Darrell Katz, and Bob Pilkington as well a “a few pieces from the JCA’s 2020 album Live at the BPC.”
Tony Malaby “Firebath”
March 7 at 8 p.m.
Lilypad, Cambridge, Mass.
The commanding tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby began this “Firebath” residency last month. The crew returns, playing Malaby’s compositions in various configurations: Malaby with Sam Childs and Charlie Kolhase on saxophones; violist Amelia Hollander; violinist Zoe Rose de Paz; bassists Max Ridley, Brittany Karlson, and Akiva Jacobs; pianist Tatiana Castro Mejia; and drummers Nat Mugavaro and Curt Newton. Special guests are bassist Nate McBride and Doyeon Kim on the traditional Korean 12-stringed zither, the gayageum.
March 8 at 7 p.m.
Artists for Humanity EpiCenter, South Boston, Mass.
Tenor saxophonist and composer Melissa Aldana — “the first female instrumentalist to win the Thelonious Monk Award” — has a silky tone and breathless control, with ideas to match. 12 Stars, her Blue Note debut from last year, was a standout. She kicks off the weekend Celebrity Series Jazz Festival in this show with pianist Lex Korten, bassist Pablo Menares, and drummer Kush Abadey.
Kevin Harris: “When We Persist”
March 9 at 8 p.m.
Pickman Hall, Longy School of Music, Cambridge, Mass.
The excellent pianist and composer Kevin Harris “shares the stage with Longy faculty and student ensembles in a program of original compositions, interconnected by themes of perseverance and hope.” Harris will lead “multiple ensembles, from duet to septet, through a stylistically varied set that twists and turns through intricate grooves and soulful swing; always with a deep commitment to both the traditions of jazz and the unbounded potential of improvisations to come.” The Longy faculty ringer joining Harris is saxophonist Noah Preminger.
March 10 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston, Mass.
Listening to the wonderful Cleveland-born trumpeter Dominick Farinacci for the first time in years — his exquisite reading of “Ghost of a Chance” — I thought: Ruby Braff. Turns out, I had made that connection when I first wrote about Farinacci in 2011. Call it Braff’s extolling of “the adoration of the melody.” Or at least the melodic line. Farinacci told me back then that he likes to learn to words of songs he plays, even when it’s “E lucevan le stelle,” the last-act tenor aria from Tosca. Farinacci plays these ballad-tempo pieces honestly, with warmth and invention but without a hint of schmaltz. I’ll be curious to hear what he’s up to these days. For this show, he’ll be joined by pianist Adam Birnbaum, bassist Luques Curtis, and drummer Carmen Intorre.
Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol Trio
March 10 at 8 p.m.
Hope Central Church, Jamaica Plain, Mass.
Composer Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol’s work combining his native Turkish traditional music with modern jazz has had some intoxicating results — including large-orchestra pieces, an opera, and, as on the 2021 release An Elegant Ritual, jazz trio. In this fundraiser for victims of the earthquake in Turkey, Sanlıkol, on piano, voice, and ney, will be joined by his trio-mates from that album, bassist James Heazlewood Dale and percussionist George Lernis, on drums, gong, gamelan, and bendir. The concert is “the first in a yearlong series of jazz fundraising concerts produced by New England Jazz Connections thanks to funding from the Boston Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture.”
March 10 at 7 p.m.
Artists for Humanity EpiCenter, Boston
Nnenna Freelon’s formative training as a singer, growing up in Cambridge, Mass., was in church. That training has stood her in good stead through more than a dozen CDs and a half-dozen Grammy nominaitons, including one for last year’s Time Traveler, as best jazz vocal album. In a field where everyone has the chops, Freelon’s technique serves uncommon emotional depth.
March 11 at 7 p.m.
Artists for Humanity EpiCenter, Boston
The phenomenally gifted trumpeter and composer Ambrose Akinmusire comes to the EpiCenter with a band ridiculously top-heavy in talent: the exciting young pianist Sullivan Fortner (you’ve heard him with Cécile McLorin Salvant), bassist Joe Sanders, drummer Justin Brown, and “special guest,” guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, who is a draw just by his own self. It will be fun to see how the chemistry comes together here.
March 11 at 7 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston
Trumpeter David Weiss served as Freddie Hubbard’s right-hand man and music director through that great artist’s final years. He’s done the Hubbard legacy proud, leading a band named after one of Hubbard’s legendary live records but also aggressively doing their own thing over the course of six albums. And it’s a true supergroup: Weiss with Eddie Henderson on trumpets; tenor saxophonist Billy Harper, alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, pianist George Cables, bassist Cecil McBee, and drummer Billy Hart.
— Jon Garelick
BPYO plays Bartók and Tchaikovsky
Presented by Boston Philharmonic
March 10, 8 p.m.
Symphony Hall, Boston
The Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra’s season resumes with a pair of orchestral show pieces: Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. Benjamin Zander conducts.
Presented by Boston Cecilia
March 11, 8 p.m.
All Saints Church, Brookline
Boston Cecilia presents a concert inspired by Joseph Horowitz’s eponymous book focusing on the music of Black and White composers around the time of Antonin Dvorak’s mid-1890s residency in New York City.
Presented by Coro Allegro
March 12, 3 p.m.
Church of the Covenant, Boston
Coro Allegro marks the centenary of composer Daniel Pinkham, as well as the 150th birthday of Ralph Vaughan Williams, with a program of works by those two composers. Also on tap is the local premiere of Shawn Crouch’s Paradise.
— Jonathan Blumhofer
Boston Symphony Chamber Players
Symphony Hall, Boston
March 7 at 7:30 p. m.
The Chamber Players, composed of the principal soloists of the BSO, contribute their talents to the goals of the festival with a program “exploring themes of cultural and musical identity” in Symphony Hall itself – a rare chamber event on an even rarer Tuesday night in the Big Room. The program will include spoken introductions by the composers and a post-performance discussion. As of this writing, only two works have been scheduled, but these are interesting enough in themselves to put you in the hall. The first is “song was sweeter even so” (1987), for flute, clarinet, bassoon, violin, cello, percussion, and voice on tape by Pulitzer-Prize-winning composer Anthony Davis. The second is “Sergeant McCauley” (2019) for string quartet and wind quintet, a work inspired by the Great Migration that incorporates themes from spirituals and work songs, by Jessie Montgomery, who has been very active with the Sphinx Ensemble as violinist and composer and now is Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony.
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Symphony Hall, Boston
March 9 at 7:30 p. m.
March 10 at 1:30 p. m.
March 11 at 8 p. m.
This concert is another display of the talents of composers and performers of color, led by Thomas Wilkins, who has championed these kinds of programs with the BSO for four years. He has led several very memorable events in previous seasons, including a performance of Roberto Sierra’s Saxophone Concerto with James Carter in March 2019 that brought the house down. The longer works in this program are Margaret Bonds’s tuneful and urgent “Montgomery Variations” (1963), a spiritual-inspired tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., and William Dawson’s pioneering “Negro Folk Symphony” (1934). Shorter but no less compelling is the third work, a concerto for clarinet and bass clarinet by Pulitzer-Prize-winning composer Anthony Davis called You Have the Right to Remain Silent, inspired by the composer’s own run-in with law enforcement.
— Steve Elman
2013 Blues Hall of Fame inductee did not record his first album, 1986’s Cold Is the Night, until he was 36. He is now twice that age (plus one year), and February 17 saw the release of Weight of the World, the latest in a discography that includes more than two dozen entries.
Walker has been awarded six Blues Music Awards in his career and has been nominated for nearly 50. The latter fact is unsurprising given the multiple honors that he is frequently in contention for in the same year. For example, he was nominated in five categories in 2010 (when Between a Rock and the Blues was named Album of the Year) and four in 2013.
Having given Weight of the World a spin, I’d be a fool to bet against his adding to both his nominations and wins totals this year. Make sure that you are one of the lucky ones who can say, “I saw him at City Winery on March 5” when he does.
Jerry Harrison is best recognized as the guitarist for Talking Heads. However, he is probably most beloved among Boston rock and roll fans for having been a member of the immeasurably influential Jonathan Richman-led quartet The Modern Lovers.
Adrian Belew is a revered guitarist whose one-of-a-kind technique has graced numerous solo albums and ones by (among others) Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Cyndi Lauper, Paul Simon, Lauri Anderson, and Nine Inch Nails. (Click here for my 2022 Rock and Roll Globe interview.)
Most importantly for my current purposes, however, is the fact that he appeared on Talking Heads’ 1980 masterpiece Remain In Light (and the 1982 live album The Name of this Band is Talking Heads). Although any number of their albums would surely be named as favorites by individual devotees, Remain In Light has earned the distinction of being the generally agreed upon crown in the jewel of Talking Heads’ output.
Harrison himself does not seem to dispute its status, saying, “Remain In Light is a high point in my career. Adrian and I had often discussed the magic of the 1980 tour and the sheer joy it brought to audiences.”
Of the nationwide trek that includes a stop at the House of Blues on March 11, he said, “It is such a delight to see and bring that joy once again to crowds on this upcoming tour.”
Richard Lloyd casts an immeasurable shadow over post-1977 non-mainstream popular music.
His immortal guitar playing was essential to the sound of the Modern Lovers-level influential late-70s band Television, whose albums Marquee Moon (1977) and Adventure (1978) were lodestones for decades of post-punk, alternative, and indie musicians.
Lloyd went on to play on numerous Matthew Sweet (click for my Arts Fuse interview) albums between 1989 and 2008, including the 1991 latter-day power pop touchstone Girlfriend. In 2018, he released The Countdown, his fifth solo album of original material and first of any sort since 2009. On top of all of this, he is the author of the 2017 memoir Everything is Combustible: Television, CBGB’s, and Five Decades of Rock and Roll.
The 71-year-old will likely pay homage to his recently deceased Television colleague Tom Verlaine (click for Paul Robicheau’s Arts Fuse remembrance) when he beguiles an in-the-know audience at Haymarket Lounge on March 11 (and at Bull Run Restaurant on April 28).
— Blake Maddux
Roots and World Music
A Celebration of the Music of David Crosby
February 27, 7:30 p.m.
The recently departed David Crosby left behind a lifetime of songs, which will be interpreted by a wide range of New England artists at this benefit for Boston’s Folk Americana Roots Hall of Fame. Among those diving into the music of the Byrds, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and Crosby’s solo career, will be Tom Rush, Butcher, Baglio & Estes, Mark Erelli, Kemp Harris, Mary Lou Lord & Annabelle Lord-Patey, and Guy Davis.
Hamilton de Holanda & Nduduzo Makhathini
March 1, 7:30 p.m.
In the hands of Hamilton de Holanda the Brazilian bandolin has been turned from an 8-stringed choro instrument to a ten-stringed vehicle for jazz improvisations of the highest caliber. Always searching for a new vehicle for his virtuosity, during the pandemic de Holanda’s livestreamed some songs via a remote connection with South African pianist Nduduzo Makhathini. Now the two are finally going to be able to make music in the same room in front of an audience.
A cross-cultural exchange takes place every time Boston’s Sawaari is onstage. The wide-ranging outfit draws on everything from Italian folk to Moroccan grooves to create its own distinctive sound. The current lineup is percussionist Fabio Pirozzolo, bassist and sintir plater Mike Rivard, saxophonist and clarinetist Andy Bergman and tabla player Amit Kavthekar.
The Sinclair, Cambridge
Local bluegrass fans might recall that Hull was already a budding teenage mandolin star when she enrolled in Berklee nearly 15 years ago. She’s been on the ascend ever since. In the last year or so Hull has played Boston with funk guitarist Cory Wong and with Bela Fleck’s My Bluegrass Heart band. Now she’s back with her own newgrass combo, a group of fine pickers with the right energy for a standing room club date.
Oceanside Ballroom, Revere
If you missed Brazil’s Carnival last month, the carnival is now coming to Boston. Monobloco is a renowned street band with their own Carnival parade in Rio, and they’ve got a high-energy touring ensemble. The presentation is part of the ongoing Favela Encantada party.
— Noah Schaffer
Dr. Farzon Nahvi with Gabrielle Emanuel at brookline booksmith
Code Gray: Death, Life, and Uncertainty in the ER
February 28 at 7 p.m.
“In the tradition of books by such bestselling physician-authors as Atul Gawande, Siddhartha Mukherjee, and Danielle Ofri, this beautifully written memoir by an emergency room doctor takes place during one of his routine shifts at an urban ER.” Farzon Nahvi’s intimate narration follows the experiences of real patients and is filled with fascinating, adrenaline-pumping scenes of rescues and deaths, and the critical, often excruciating follow-through in caring for the patients’ families.”
Melissa de la Cruz with Karen McManus — brookline booksmith
The Headmaster’s List
February 27 at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $30 with book
“One of Us Is Lying meets Riverdale in The Headmaster’s List, an edge-of-your-seat YA thriller about a fatal car crash and the dangerous lengths one teen will go to uncover the truth about what really happened.”
Ernest Owens at Harvard Book Store
The Case for Cancel Culture: How This Democratic Tool Works to Liberate Us All
February 28 at 7 p.m.
“___ is canceled.”
Chances are, you’ve heard this a lot lately. What might’ve once been a niche digital term has been legitimized in the discourse of presidents, politicians, and lawmakers.
But what really is cancel culture? Blacklisting celebrities? Censorship? Until now, this has been the general consensus in the media. But it’s time to raise the bar on our definition― to think of cancel culture less as scandal or suppression, and more as an essential means of democratic expression and accountability.
The Case for Cancel Culture does just that. This cultural critique from award-winning journalist Ernest Owens offers a fresh progressive lens in favor of cancel culture as a tool for activism and change. Using examples from politics, pop culture, and his own personal experience, Owens helps readers reflect on and learn the long history of canceling (spoiler: the Boston Tea Party was cancel culture); how the left and right uniquely equip it as part of their political toolkits; how intersections of society wield it for justice; and ultimately how it levels the playing field for the everyday person’s voice to matter.”
Virtual Event: Tara Schuster Presents Glow in the F*cking Dark — brookline booksmith
March 1 at 5 p.m.
“Tara Schuster thought she was on stable ground. For years, she’d worked like hell to repair the emotional wounds inflicted during what she refers to as her “mess-wreck disaster” of a childhood. She’d brought radical healing rituals and self-love into her life. On most days, she was a happy, stable adult. She even wrote a book about it!
But then she lost her job, the one on which she had staked her entire identity. Cue a panic-attack-doom-spiral that brought her harshest childhood traumas to the surface. Finally, after experiencing a terrifying dissociative episode while driving down the highway, she realized that enough was enough; she needed to slow down and pull over—literally. It was time for Tara to stop the hustling and to reclaim her essential, free, and loving self. ”
Kate Zernike at the Brattle Theatre – Harvard Book Store
The Exceptions: Nancy Hopkins, MIT, and the Fight for Women in Science
March 2 at 6 p.m. (doors at 5:30)
Tickets are $32 with book, $6 without
“In 1999, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology admitted to discriminating against women on its faculty, forcing institutions across the country to confront a problem they had long ignored: the need for more women at the top levels of science. Written by the journalist who broke the story for The Boston Globe, The Exceptions is the untold story of how sixteen highly accomplished women on the MIT faculty came together to do the work that triggered the historic admission.
The Exceptions centers on the life of Nancy Hopkins, a reluctant feminist who became the leader of the sixteen and a hero to two generations of women in science. Hired to prestigious universities at the dawn of affirmative action efforts in the 1970s, Dr. Hopkins and her peers embarked on their careers believing that discrimination against women was a thing of the past—that science was, at last, a pure meritocracy. For years they explained away the discrimination they experienced as the exception, not the rule. Only when these few women came together after decades of underpayment and the denial of credit, advancement, and equal resources to do their work did they recognize the relentless pattern: women were often marginalized and minimized, especially as they grew older. Meanwhile, men of similar or lesser ability had their career paths paved and widened.”
Gabrielle Blair — Porter Square Books: Boston Edition
Ejaculate Responsibly: A Whole New Way to Think About Abortion
March 7 at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $14, including copy of book
“In a series of 28 brief arguments, Blair deftly makes the case for moving the abortion debate away from controlling and legislating women’s bodies and instead directs the focus on men’s lack of accountability in preventing unwanted pregnancies.
Highly readable, accessible, funny, and unflinching, Blair builds her argument by walking readers through the basics of fertility (men are 50 times more fertile than women), the unfair burden placed on women when it comes to preventing pregnancy (90% of the birth control market is for women), the wrongheaded stigmas around birth control for men (condoms make sex less pleasurable, vasectomies are scary and emasculating), and the counterintuitive reality that men, who are fertile 100% of the time, take little to no responsibility for preventing pregnancy.”
Margaret Atwood at Sanders Theatre – Harvard Book Store
Old Babes in the Wood: Stories
March 9 at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $45 including book
“Margaret Atwood has established herself as one of the most visionary and canonical authors in the world. This collection of fifteen extraordinary stories—some of which have appeared in The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine — explore the full warp and weft of experience, speaking to our unique times with Atwood’s characteristic insight, wit and intellect.
The two intrepid sisters of the title story grapple with loss and memory on a perfect summer evening; “Impatient Griselda” explores alienation and miscommunication with a fresh twist on a folkloric classic; and “My Evil Mother” touches on the fantastical, examining a mother-daughter relationship in which the mother purports to be a witch. At the heart of the collection are seven extraordinary stories that follow a married couple across the decades, the moments big and small that make up a long life of uncommon love—and what comes after.”
Rebecca Mahoney in conversation with Nicole Lesperance — Porter Square Books: Boston Edition
The Memory Eater
March 14 at 7 p.m.
“A teenage girl must save her town from a memory-devouring monster in this piercing exploration of grief, trauma, and memory, from the author of The Valley and the Flood.
For generations, a monster called the Memory Eater has lived in the caves of Whistler Beach, Maine, surviving off the unhappy memories of those who want to forget. And for generations, the Harlows have been in charge of keeping her locked up—and keeping her fed.
After her grandmother dies, seventeen-year-old Alana Harlow inherits the family business. But there’s something Alana doesn’t know: the strange gaps in her memory aren’t from an accident. Her memories have been taken—eaten. And with them, she’s lost the knowledge of how to keep the monster contained.”
— Matt Hanson