Coming Attractions: March 26 Through April 8 — 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.
Return to Seoul
Screening at Coolidge Corner Theatre, 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. Arts Fuse review
Screening at Kendall Square Cinema, Cambridge, and select AMC Theaters
Willem Dafoe gives a tour-de-force solo performance as an unnamed art thief who has gained entrance to a penthouse apartment while the owner is overseas. Via a walkie-talkie, he is tasked with stealing four Egon Schiele paintings, including a $3 million-dollar self-portrait. When Dafoe enters an incorrect code on the apartment’s high tech alarm system, it sets off a screeching alarm, shutting off gas, water, and all access to the outside. Abandoned by by his accomplice, he is trapped, isolated from the world. A security camera and a plasma screen allow him to see people coming and going in the halls and in the lobby but the alarm system has drawn no attention. No one can hear his screams or his pounding on the door.
The thief proves that he has “fucked up his whole life” as he proceeds to demolish tradition, along with everything else, in this moneyed art collector’s apartment. Inside is more than a survival thriller: it is an allegory about the art of self-destruction. The gaps in logic and credibility should be put aside. This is a comic tragedy, a dark satire. The thief’s suffering becomes his path to transcendence. Arts Fuse review
Salem Film Fest
through April 3
Now the largest international documentary film festival in Massachusetts, SFF presents features, shorts, and special events. This hybrid 16th edition will be both in-person and virtual, with filmmaker Q&As as well as parties and other special events. SFF continues virtually with a lineup of Virtual Screenings March 27 through April 3. Full virtual schedule
March 28 at 4 p.m.
Kendall Square Cinema, Cambridge
This lush, epic film version of Boris Pasternak’s Nobel Prize–winning novel, painted against a detailed backdrop of the Russian Revolution, is one of the most popular romances ever filmed. Omar Sharif stars with Julie Christie and the co-stars include Geraldine Chaplin, Rod Steiger, Alec Guinness, and Tom Courtenay. Winner of five Academy Awards, including Best Cinematography. Directed by David Lean.
What the Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears?
March 28 – March 30 at 7:30 p.m.
Regent Theater, Arlington
In 1970, Blood, Sweat & Tears was one of the biggest bands in the world. The group had sold millions of records and had won multiple Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year (beating out The Beatles’ Abbey Road). BS&T was a darling of the mainstream and rock press, icon of the counterculture, and inspiration for a generation of horn-based bands. It was among the headliners in the legendary Woodstock festival. Their future seemed to be limitless. And then, during a trip to Eastern Europe, it all went wrong. Through rare, unseen footage, the film chronicles the unexpected (and sudden) fall of the band.
Picture a Scientist
March 28 at 7 p.m.
Coolidge Corner Theatre, Brookline
Science on Screen presents a film that chronicles the groundswell of researchers who are writing a new chapter for the presence and influence of women scientists. The documentary chronicles the challenges women experience in the sciences, ranging from brutal harassment to subtle slights that never seem to end. Along the way, from cramped laboratories to spectacular field stations, we encounter passionate scientific luminaries — including social scientists, neuroscientists, and psychologists — who talk about ways in which science can be made more diverse, equitable, and open to all. A post-film conversation with MIT Amgen Professor of Biology Emerita Nancy Hopkins and Harvard Law Professor and Judge Nancy Gertner (Ret.) will be moderated by the film’s executive producer, Amy Brand.
April 3 at 7:30 p.m.
Apple Cinema at Fresh Pond, Cambridge
Belmont World Film presents a Ukrainian film that tells the story of twin Serbian brothers, Kolya and Vasya, who head to Luxembourg to say good-bye to their father, an ex-gangster, who may be critically ill. Having abandoned the family when the boys were six, he is recalled, in the opening scene, as a tough character. Kolya’s voice-over introduces the film’s premise: “They say that when a son looks like his mother, he is born happy. Even though we are twins, Vasya looks like our mother; I look like our dad.” Grown up, Vasya works in the police force, while Kolya drives a bus and sells marijuana. There are twists aplenty throughout this surprisingly witty comedy-drama. The deadpan comic presence of lead actors Ramil and Amil Nasirov supplies humor in unexpected places throughout the charming film. The twins are also members of the Ukrainian hip-hop group Kurgan & Agregat, and are currently raising money for the country’s military, procuring ammunition, medicine, and other necessities.
Wicked Queer: Boston’s LGBTQ+ Film Festival
Brattle Theatre, Cambridge, Bright Family Screening Room, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Wicked Queer is the fourth-longest running LGBTQ+ Film Festival in North America, with a mission to build community and to celebrate Queer storytelling and filmmaking through the uplifting of voices and stories not yet heard and to present and preserve vibrant histories. This year’s full schedule plays across a range of time and venues, so it is best to check the Full Schedule
Picks of the Week
Amazon and Criterion
A double feature recommendation. Navalny was winner of this year’s Academy Award for Documentary Feature. It follows the trials and tribulations of the leader of the Russia of the Future party and founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation. It took months, but he survived an assassination attempt, via poisoning with a lethal nerve agent in August 2020. Investigating the plan to murder him, he makes shocking discoveries and decides to return home. A stunning, heartbreaking , and important fly-on-the-wall documentary.
Witchhammer was conceived by Czech director Otakar Vávras in 1970 as a metaphor for the political trials during Communist rule in the ’50s, but it is all too relevant to authoritarian Russia today, particularly to Navalny’s capture and imprisonment. Shot in rich black-and-white, the narrative draws on texts from Malleus Maleficarum, the Catholic treatise on witchcraft that used detailed legal and theological theory to justify the extermination of witches. From 1678 to 1695, this book permitted blackmail, torture, and psychological manipulation to be used to trick and force confessions from individuals who were charged with being in league with the devil.
— Tim Jackson
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.
Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles by Luis Alfaro. Directed by Laurie Woolery. Staged by Yale Rep at 222 York Street, New Haven, 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.”
The Inferior Sex by Jacqueline E. Lawton. Directed by Tatyana-Marie Carlo. Staged by Trinity Repertory Company at the Dowling Theater, Providence, 201 Washington Street, through April 16.
A world premiere: “It’s the summer of 1972. The battle to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment is ramping up across the nation. Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm is campaigning for president. And in midtown Manhattan, a group of women have created a magazine ‘for feminists who love fashion.’ As the war in Vietnam intensifies, and the Watergate scandal erupts, the charged political and social climate challenges friendships and the future of the magazine itself.”
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.”
Wild Goose Dreams by Hansol Jung. Directed by Seonjae Kim. Staged by the SpeakEasy Stage Company at The Roberts Studio Theatre in the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street in Boston’s South End, through April 8.
The plot of this New England premiere: “In an age where technology offers easy connection, Nanhee and Minsung are alone in Seoul, South Korea. Nanhee is a North Korean defector with no way to contact her family. Minsung is a gireogi appa or “goose father,” working in Seoul to send money to his family in Texas. But after a chance encounter on the internet, the pair strike up an unlikely romance within the noise of the 21st century.”
The Cake by Bekah Brunstetter. Directed by Todd Brian Backus. Staged by Portland Stage at 25A Forest Avenue, Portland, ME, April 5 through 23.
A much-produced comedy that promises to have “characters that are human, layered, and true, and a story that asks us all to evaluate our beliefs and our capacity to love.” The plot: “Della has planned to bake Jen’s wedding cake since she was a little girl, but when Jen comes back from NYC with her fiancée Macy, Della doesn’t know what to do. This deliciously funny comedy asks what happens when what we believe comes in conflict with those we love.”
Clyde’s by Lynn Nottage. Directed by Taylor Reynolds. A Huntington Theatre co-production with Berkeley Repertory Theatre. At the The Huntington Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave., Boston, through April 23.
“A truck stop sandwich shop offers its formerly incarcerated kitchen staff a shot at reclaiming their lives. Even as the shop’s callous owner tries to keep them under her thumb, the staff members are given purpose and permission to dream by the enigmatic, zen-like chef and his belief in the possibility of the perfect sandwich.”
Plays for the Plague Year, a revival of a theatrical concert written by and featuring Suzan-Lori Parks. Directed by Niegel Smith. Staged by The Public Theater at Joe’s Pub, 25 Lafayette Street (at Astor Place), New York, NY, April 5 through 30.
Boston’s theaters have pretty much put the Covid years into the rear view mirror, aside from having to grapple — at times awkwardly — with what rules to set for mask-wearing. So I wanted to salute this reminder, at New York’s Public Theater, of recent history and what lessons it has for us going forward. This production is a remount of a show whose initial run was truncated due to Covid-19 cases.
“On March 13, 2020, as theaters shut their doors and so many of us went into lockdown, Suzan-Lori Parks picked up her pen and her guitar and set out to write a play every day. What emerged is a breathtaking anthology of plays and songs that chronicle our collective experience and the hope and perseverance that occurred throughout that troubling year. Performed in the intimate music venue Joe’s Pub, Plays for the Plague Year is a theatrical concert featuring the music and plays of Suzan-Lori Parks. At once, both a personal story of one family’s daily lives, as well as a sweeping account of all we faced as a city, a nation, and a global community.”
Coriolanus by William Shakespeare in a new verse translation by Sean San José. Directed by A. Nora Long. Staged by Actors’ Shakespeare Company in partnership with Play On Shakespeare at the Plaza Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street Boston, March 29 through April 23.
Playwright Sean San José’s new Play On modern verse translation offers a new lens into the impact of violence and political power on marginalized populations.
The pitch for today’s audiences: “Equal parts war epic, political drama, and psychological thriller, Shakespeare’s Coriolanus echoes with the immediacy of 2023. As war and famine destabilize the Roman republic, the eyes of the citizens turn to celebrated general Caius Martius Coriolanus. No one knows battlefield prowess like Caius, but the theater of war is nothing compared to the bloodthirsty theater of politics. Can Caius win the voice of the people, or will his arrogance and wrath be his downfall?”
Shadows Cast Direction and choreography by Raphaëlle Boitel. Artistic collaborator, lighting, and set design by Tristan Baudoin. Original music by Arthur Bison. Machinery, rigging, apparatus, safety maintained by Nicolas Lourdelle. Presented by Arts Emerson at the Emerson Paramount Center, 559 Washington St, Boston, March 30 through April 2.
“Family represents the ultimate cocoon where we seek protection from a very young age. But what if this cocoon is also where we find trauma? What goes unsaid? These secrets and unspoken truths become like ghosts hiding in the shadows of ourselves and our families. A potent mix of dance, circus, and cinema, Raphaëlle Boitel’s latest piece draws inspiration from cinematic visionaries like David Lynch, Fritz Lang, and Alfred Hitchcock. It is a journey into one’s most intimate thoughts, highlighting the perilous dangers of lying to ourselves and others.”
Sister Act Music by Alan Menken. Lyrics by Glenn Slater. Book by Bill and Cheri Steinkellner with additional materials by Douglas Carter Beane. Directed by Leigh Barrett. Musical direction by David F. Coleman and Choreography by Dan Sullivan. Staged by the Lyric Stage Company of Boston, 140 Clarendon Street, 2nd Floor, Boston, April 7 through May 14.
For those who enjoy this kind of jovial fantasy, the Lyric Stage’s publicity proclamation pretty well sums it up: Sister Act, based on the beloved hit movie, will have audiences relishing “heavenly” voices and jubilant performances. Featuring a choir of cheeky, lovable nuns led by the fabulous, unforgettable, (and sequin loving!) Deloris Van Cartier, toes will be tapping and spirits will be lifted at this celebration of friendship, the joy of music, and the importance of togetherness.” Love those toes a-tapping.
— Bill Marx
Mina Loy’s astonishing creative range (poet, playwright, novelist, actress, feminist polemicist, painter, designer of lamps) and bewilderingly unconventional biography amid avant-garde circles and sometimes bohemian poverty in London, Munich, Paris, Florence, Greenwich Village, Mexico City, and Buenos Aires, along with her diverse lovers and husbands (one of whom, a professional boxer, vanished without a trace but haunted her for the rest of her life), may actually have delayed her recognition as a first-generation modernist, known, and sometimes admired, by many of the great figures of the movement, from Ezra Pound to Gertrude Stein to the Italian Futurists.
Born in 1882 as Mina Gertrude Loewy in the Hampstead district of London, Loy is now the subject of her first monographic art exhibition, Mina Loy: Strangeness is Inevitable, which opens at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick, Maine, on April 6. Gathered from a dozen institutional and private lenders, the 80 plus paintings, drawings, and constructions will be supplemented with previously unseen archival materials that document the life and career of “this brave soul [who] had the courage and wit to be original.”
Something very strange began to happen in France around 1870: what had been the established order in the visual arts turned on its head. By the turn of the 20th century, a group of strange painters first dismissed as “Impressionists” overtook established members of the French Academy as the leading artists in Europe. The once-ridiculed artistic movement became one of the most popular in history, spreading to other parts of Europe, the United States, and even to Japan on the other side of the globe. In the 20th century, Impressionism and Impressionists became a favorite subject for art museum “blockbusters.”
Impressionism was an early hit in New England and had already reached Worcester before the Worcester Art Museum opened more than a century ago. Worcester’s exhibition Frontiers of Impressionism, which opens April 1, is a chance to show off its fine Impressionist collections and to trace the spread of the movement around the world. Starting off with works by the great names — Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Cassatt — the selection includes many less familiar artists. About half the works will be on view for, the museum claims, “the first time in decades.”
Long superseded by later developments in photographic technology, the tintype retains a strong fascination. A cheap alternative to miniature paintings, which they quickly replaced, tintype photographic portraits were colored by hand and most were enclosed in elaborate decorative frames that protected them from damaging light. Popular in the US in the years before and after the Civil War, tintypes were often produced by itinerant photographers and were kept by almost everyone as remembrances of loved ones and records of family history.
The MFA’s exhibition Painted Tintypes: Photography for the People, opening April 1, includes about 40 hand-painted examples from a private collection, along with a pair that belong to the museum. Together, they explore “the rich tradition of this quintessentially American art form, paying tribute to the photographers, sitters, and frame makers who made this form of photography so popular.”
During Japan’s Edo period of self-isolation (1615-1868) — a time of peace and prosperity, when outsiders were excluded and the Japanese looked inward to concentrate on their own native tastes and traditions — many things essentially Japanese flourished, including culinary culture. Eating in Edo, which opens at the RISD Museum in Providence, features 18 Edo Period woodblock prints exploring the richness, wide variety of ingredients, and sometimes fantastic presentation of this important era’s food.
Gu Wenda, one of several contemporary Chinese-born artists to build important careers in the West in recent decades, began as an ink painter. He now lives in the United States. By 1993 he had begun his United Nations series, whose primary material is human hair. Gu Wenda: United Nations, which opens at Salem’s Peabody Essex Museum on April 1, is a huge installation of 188 national flags, each measuring 6.5 by 4 feet, made from human hair collected from barber shops, beauty salons, and volunteers from around the world and “weaving a collective portrait of human connection.” The exhibition includes a selection of the artist’s drawings and illustrations and reveals his process of making ink from human hair.
The Chicago-born artist Simone Leigh represented the United States in the 2022 edition of the prestigious international exhibition of contemporary art, the Venice Biennale. Simone Leigh, opening at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art on April 6, is the start of a US tour of selection of her Venice presentation supplemented by some important works from throughout her career.
MIT’s List Visual Arts Center in Cambridge opens two shows on April 6 dealing with 21st-century social issues: Sung Tieu: Civic Floor and Lex Brown: Carnelian. German-Vietnamese artist Tieu’s work “reflects her research into bureaucratic systems and their affective spaces as well as her lived experience with them.” The steel sculptures and plaster tablets of Civic Floor evoke detention systems and asylum petitions.
Carnelian, the first museum solo exhibition for Philadelphia artist Lex Brown, includes recent video sculptures and drawings. She is known for her work satirizing contemporary corporate culture, in particular through a fictional conglomerate named “Omnesia.”
— Peter Walsh
March 26 at 7:30 p.m.
Swedenborg Chapel, Cambridge
The singer-songwriter-cellist Helen Gillet was born in Belgium, raised in Singapore, and has lived for the past few decades in New Orleans, where she developed a singular polyglot style. A classically trained cellist who was drawn to jazz and the avant-garde, she uses live looping, layering cello parts and vocal lines, mixing French chanson of the ’40s, Belgian folk tunes sung in Walloon, a mix of rock and punk from the likes of PJ Harvey and X-Ray Spex, and her own affecting originals. A favorite on the New Orleans scene, Gillet is with this show making her first official solo appearance in the Boston area. Tickets can be reserved at email@example.com. Masks are required in Swedenborg Chapel.
Arlington Jazz Festival
March 30-April 2
Various Locations, Arlington
The marquee event for the 12th annual Arlington Jazz Festival will be the April 2 performance by the John Patitucci Trio, with the longtime Wayne Shorter Quartet bassist joined by saxophonist Chris Potter and drummer Obed Calvaire (Regent Theatre, 7 p.m.) The rest of the lineup includes a “Jazz Vocal Showcase” with Debby Larkin and opener Debbie Lane (March 30 at 7:30 p.m., Arlington Center for the Arts); Los Zorros and the Plamen Karadonev/Elena Koleva Group (March 31, 7:30 p.m., Arlington Community Center); Jesse Williams Group (March 31, 9:30 p.m.-11:30 p.m., Menotomy Grill & Tavern, FREE); a “Guitar Showcase” with String Theory and the Jon Wheatley/Sheryl Bailey Duo (April 1, 1 p.m.-3 p.m., Old Schwamb Mill); the Tiger Wizard Band, directed by Julian Carpenter (April 1, 3 p.m.-5 p.m., Arlington Community Center); Estefanía Núñez Villamandos Group and the Francisco Mela Trio with George Garzone (April 1, 7:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m., Arlington Community Center); “Brazilian Styles in Jazz Drumming” workshop with Rafael Barata (April 2, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Morningside Music Studio, Arlington Center; limited capacity, advance registration recommended).
April 1 at 8 p.m.
Club Passim, Harvard Square, Cambridge
Guitarist and composer Grant Gordy lives in that place with jazz crosses over with bluegrass, with hints of the Roma swing of the Hot Club of France. (He likes the guitar/violin front line.) His credits include a long stint with David Grisman as well as gigs with Tony Trischka, Aoife O’Donovan and, currently, a band called Mr Sun with fiddler Darol Anger. At Passim he’ll be celebrating the release of the very appealing Peripheral Visions with violinist Alex Hargreaves on violin (from Billy Strings’s band), bassist Aidan O’Donnell (Mr Sun, Steve Kuhn, Ben Monder), and mandolinist Jacob Jolliff (Yonder Mountain String Band, Béla Fleck).
April 1 at 8 p.m.
Sanders Theatre, Cambridge
The distinguished jazz singer and songwriter Carmen Lundy — for years the vocal director of the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Program at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts — will be the featured artist with the Harvard Jazz Band, led by Yosvany Terry, in “Daughter of the Universe: The Music of Carmen Lundy,” part of the Harvard Office of the Arts Jazz Program. As a Jazz Master in Residence at Harvard, Lundy will is working with undergraduates in the Harvard Jazz Band to put together a concert of her own songs, including from her latest, Grammy-nominated album, Fade to Black.
Craig Taborn and Tomeka Reid
April 1 at 8 p.m.
Crystal Ballroom, Somerville
This is really a standout show in a week of standouts. Two longtime adventurers in all manner of jazz and improvised music — pianist Craig Taborn and cellist Tomeka Reid, who have played in other configurations — here take the stage as a duo. Each is a stellar performer in any context.
April 1 at 8 p.m.
Arts at the Armory, Somerville, MA
The Center for the Arts at the Armory’s new Spotlight Series is venturing into jazz — tonight it’s guitar master John Scofield, playing solo. (Coming up in May, Bill Frisell will front a trio with drummer Rudy Royston and bassist Tony Sherr.) Scofield, who in the past had concertized mostly with bands, evidently took to solo performances prompted by the pandemic. His was the first show at the “reopened” City Winery in Boston, back in May 2021. It was wonderful. Opening this show are bassist Noah Harrington and mandolinist Ethan Setiawan of jazzy string band Acoustic Nomads.
A Far Cry with Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol
April 2 at 2 p.m.
WBUR CitySpace, Boston
In 1993, when the Turkish Cypriot composer and multi-instrumentalist Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol moved to Boston to study at Berklee, it was with the intention of “escaping” his native land and forgetting everything about Turkey and Turkish music. But gradually, his Turkish roots found a way into his music in arrangements for varied-size jazz ensembles, including big band and piano trio; a “coffeehouse opera,” Othello in the Seraglio; and other pieces he classifies variously as “contemporary classical” and “new Ottoman,” with a mix of traditional Western and Turkish instruments. Now comes A Gentleman of Istanbul, a four-movement symphony commissioned by the celebrated contemporary classical collective A Far Cry. A CD of the piece will follow this premiere performance, on April 7. The piece is described as a blend of “Turkish, western classical, and jazz in celebration of a 17th-century Ottoman traveler and of the cultural diversity within Islam.”
April 7 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston
The incomparably versatile and deep New Orleans drummer Herlin Riley — who was for years the heartbeat of Wynton Marsalis’s septet as well as of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and whose credits also include Dr. John, Ahmad Jamal, Cassandra Wilson, and many others — comes to Scullers with the fine alto saxophonist Godwin Lewis and Boston regulars Kevin Harris on piano and Max Ridley on bass.
Tony Malaby’s Firebath
April 7 at 10 p.m.
One of the best shows I saw last month (and I saw a few) was saxophonist and composer Tony Malaby’s “Firebath” Tuesday residency at the Lilypad, with a large ensemble that followed lead sheets and Malaby’s cues for directed passages of free improvisation, breaking into various subsets (duos, trios, quartets, etc.) and producing passages of delicate transparency as well as an occasional full-ensemble glorious racket. (A favorite moment: the small room vibrating with the sound of three double-basses bowed in the bottom register.) This month the band moves to a Friday late show, with Malaby, Sam Childs, and Charlie Kohlhase again on saxophones, violinist Zoe Rose dePaz, pianist Tatiana Castro Mejía, drummers Nat Mugavaro and Curt Newton, and the basses of Bruno Råberg, and Louis Stringer.
Ann Hampton Callaway
April 8 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston
The distinguished vocalist Ann Hampton Callaway celebrates the release of her latest CD, Fever: The Peggy Lee Century, a tribute to that often underrated vocalist, better known for her pop hits “Fever” and “Is That All There Is?” than for her career as a big band jazz singer and her extensive book as a songwriter. We’re expecting Callaway to correct that misperception in fine form.
— Jon Garelick
Paul Robicheau described the instrumental acoustic guitarist Yasmin Williams as an “unorthodox fingerpicker” in his Arts Fuse review of the 2021 Newport Folk Festival.
In January of that year, Williams had released Urban Driftwood, which reviewers at (among others) Pitchfork, Dusted, NPR Music, Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, and The New York Times all lavishly praised. This LP was the follow-up to her 2018 debut, Unwind, and her third release overall. The EP Serendipity had appeared in 2012, when Williams was in high school.
In January, Pitchfork included the 26-year-old Alexandria, VA native among its 25 New and Rising Artists Shaping the Future of Music in 2023.
Her show at Crystal Ballroom on Friday is a not-to-be-missed chance to experience Williams’s unique artistry while she is still playing venues that offer such intimacy.
Robyn Hitchcock is exceedingly generous with his visits to the Boston area. However, that hardly makes any particular opportunity to see him any less special. Any chance that you might hear him perform one of your personal favorites or an exquisitely well-chosen cover of one of his own is worth the price of a ticket. His upcoming show at City Winery is of particular note given that the recently turned 70-year-old released his first collection of new material, Shufflemania, last October and is set to unveil his first all-instrumental offering, Life After Infinity, in April. (Here is Scott McLennan’s Arts Fuse review of Hitchcock’s and here is the interview that I did with him two years before that.)
Ron Gallo is a southern New Jersey native who cofounded Toy Soldiers in 2007 while studying at Philly’s Temple University. This band released several EPs and two LPs between 2010 and 2013, received recognition from the Independent Music Awards and USA Today, and was the subject of a 2013 documentary, The Maybe Trails.
Since that band’s 2014 demise, Gallo has recorded four albums as a solo artist. The first three (plus an EP) appeared on New West Records and his latest, Foreground Music, dropped on March 3 via Kill Rock Stars.
Among his dozen new songs are full-on rockers, thoughtful social and political observations, and well-crafted personal songwriting, sometimes all within the same song. Old fans and newcomers alike are sure to be pleased by the selections he makes at The Middle East Upstairs on April 5.
Prateek (pruh-TEEK) Poddar is a New England Music Awards nominee and who was also a contender in two categories – Folk Singer and 617Sessions Artist of the Year – at the 2020 Boston Music Awards.
The Worcester Telegram & Gazette’s Victor D. Infante has twice chosen one of Prateek’s recordings for his “Song To Get You Through the Week” column: “Diamonds” (2018) and “The Gang’s All Gone” (2019), and Victoria Wasylak has showcased the latter and “Emma” in Vanyland’s “New Sounds” feature. (His 2020 live LP The Band’s All Gone includes each of these songs along with covers of “Fat-Bottomed Girls” and “Careless Whisper.”)
Prateek has recorded two EPs, Walking in My Sleep (2016) and All You Do Is Drown (2019), and he will celebrate the April 7 release of his full-length debut, ‘Til June, at Club Passim the night before. Cape Cod native and Salem State University music theory and classical composition student Gabriella Simpkins will open the show. (And be on the lookout for Prateek’s forthcoming NPR World Café session.)
— Blake Maddux
Roots and World Music
Etran de L’Aïr
Crystal Ballroom at the Somerville Theatre
The term “wedding band” often yields derision — but surely an exception can be made when the band in question rules the wedding circuit of Agadez in Niger, as Etran de L’Aïr have for years. While a number of Tuareg bands have won over Western audiences with their rock influence, Etran de L’Aïr embrace a more pan-African sound. This is one of the first dates on their debut US tour. Boston’s Children of the Flaming Wheel open.
Club Passim, Cambridge
For decades, the quartet Väsen served as worldwide ambassadors of Swedish folk music. Now a duo — multi-instrumentalists Mikael Marin and Olov Johansson — the group and their affinity for instruments like the three-rowed Nyckelharpais remain an enormous draw: their early Passim show is sold out. Tickets remain for the 9:30 p.m. performance.
National Treasures: Yary Livan
Lowell National Historical Park
Throughout 2023 the National Council for the Traditional Arts, which co-produces the Lowell Folk Festival, is honoring American traditional arts masters at events at national parks throughout the country. The series is coming to New England with this evening devoted to ceramicist and National Heritage Fellow Yary Livan. Performances by Lowell’s Angkor Dance Troupe and the Wong Pleng Khmer Band will be part of the evening. Admission is free but RSVPs are requested at firstname.lastname@example.org
Palm Sunday Gospel Concert
April 2 at 3 p.m.
St. John Baptist Church, Roxbury
While Boston’s traditional gospel scene still isn’t as active as it was prior to Covid, things are picking up. There will be a big program in June, and on Palm Sunday local legend Clarence Thompson Sr. is bringing in groups from New York (Joy Wonders), New Haven (Blessing), as well as singing with his own group. Boston’s own Sound of Men, New Corinthians, and Bishop Harold Branch round out the bill which is emceed by Sister Joyce Weston of the Crayton Family.
Le Vent du Nord
City Winery, Boston
One of my top live performances of 2022 was Quebec’s high-energy Le Vent du Nord. As I proclaimed about that show, if you don’t think you’re a fan of Quebecois folk, this band will change your mind. Global Arts Live is now bringing them back to town.
Oceanside Ballroom, Revere
The Oceanside presents top stars from Puerto Rico, Mexico, Haiti, and Brazil nearly every weekend. But it’s rare to have an act from Honduras come to town. It’s even rarer for that act to be as special as Kazzabe, the stars of Punta, the Afro-percussive heavy sound of the Garifuna people. This dance party should be a spring highlight for anyone interested in Afro-Caribbean culture.
— Noah Schaffer
Christine Kenneally at Harvard Book Store
Ghosts of the Orphanage: A Story of Mysterious Deaths, a Conspiracy of Silence, and a Search for Justice
March 28 at 7 p.m.
“For much of the 20th century, a series of terrible events — abuse, both physical and psychological, and even deaths — took place inside orphanages. The survivors have been trying to tell their astonishing stories for a long time, but disbelief, secrecy, and trauma have kept them from breaking through. For 10 years, Christine Kenneally has been on a quest to uncover the harrowing truth.
“Centering her story on St. Joseph’s, a Catholic orphanage in Vermont, Kenneally has written a stunning account of a series of crimes and abuses. But her work is not confined to one place. Following clues that take her into the darkened corners of several institutions across the globe, she finds a trail of terrifying stories and a courageous group of survivors who are seeking justice. Ghosts of the Orphanage is an incredible true crime story and a reckoning with a past that has stayed buried for too long, with tragic consequences.”
Be the Change with Sherry Boschert – Porter Square Books
37 Words: Title IX and Fifty Years of Fighting Sex Discrimination
March 26 at 3 p.m.
“By prohibiting sex discrimination in federally funded education, the 1972 legislation popularly known as Title IX profoundly changed the lives of women and girls in the United States, accelerating a movement for equal education in classrooms, on sports fields, and in all of campus life. 37 Words is the story of Title IX. Filled with rich characters — from Bernice Resnick Sandler, an early organizer for the law, to her trans grandchild — the story of Title IX is a legislative and legal drama with conflicts over regulations and challenges to the law.
“It’s also a human story about women denied opportunities, students struggling for an education free from sexual harassment, and activists defying sexist discrimination. These intersecting narratives of women seeking an education, playing sports, and wanting protection from sexual harassment and assault map gains and setbacks for feminism in the last fifty years and show how some women benefit more than others. Award-winning journalist Sherry Boschert beautifully explores the gripping history of Title IX through the gutsy people behind it.”
Lizzie Stark at Harvard Book Store – Harvard Book Store
Egg: A Dozen Ovatures
March 31 at 7 p.m.
“From Mali to Finland, mythologies around the globe have invested the egg with powers of regeneration and fecundity, often ascribing the origin of the world to a cosmic egg. An oracle to Romans, fought over by Gold Rush gangs, used as the foundation of the Clown Egg Registry, and blasted into space, the egg has taken on larger proportions than, say, the ovum of an ostrich.
“It has starred in global dishes from the Korean comfort food ttukbaegi gyeranjjim to the less regaled yet iconic soft-boiled egg. Stark writes a biography of French-born chef Jacques Pépin through his egg creations, and weaves in her personal experiences, like attempting to make the perfect omelet or trying her hand at pysanky ― the Ukrainian art of egg decoration. She also explores her fraught relationship to the eggs in her body due to a familial link to cancer, and shares her delight in becoming a mother.
“Filled with colorful characters and fascinating morsels, Egg is playful, informative, and guarantees that you’ll never take this delicate ovoid for granted again.”
Maxim D. Shrayer in conversation with Linda K. Wertheimer – Porter Square Books
April 3 at 7 p.m.
“Please join us for an evening with acclaimed author and Boston College professor Maxim D. Shrayer as he reads from and discusses his new book Immigrant Baggage: Morticians, Purloined Diaries, and Other Theatrics of Exile. In this witty and wise literary memoir, Shrayer writes about traversing the borders and boundaries of the three cultures that have nourished him — Russian, Jewish, and American. The award-winning Boston-based journalist Linda K. Wertheimer will moderate the event.”
Bill Littlefield – Wellesley Books
April 6 at 7 p.m.
Wellesley Books, Wellesley MA
Tickets are $5
“Mercy is a novel made up of interrelated stories in which various characters are seeking mercy, whether or not they know it.
“Looming over the action of the novel is the life and legend of Arthur Baladino, a career criminal who has spent much of his life in prison. Early on, he’s released from prison so he can die at home. He takes his time doing it, which irritates his probation officer no little and quite some.
“Baladino’s wife finds mercy and companionship with a neighbor whose husband has lost her money and his own by day-trading in the basement of the home the bank is about to seize. Katherine Baladino has picked up some of her husband’s cunning over the years, and she’s acquainted with two of his former associates, a couple of arsonists named Gibby and Francis. Gibby’s best shot at mercy is the memory of a sweltering day on the Jersey shore many years earlier, when a woman he’d never seen before pulled him off the sand and dragged him into the surf, thereby instantly curing the world’s worst hangover. He doubts that anyone has been as kind to him since, but the memory’s there. The woman, now comfortable in a suburb where small houses are being replaced by big houses, remembers the incident, too, and doubts she’d be capable as an adult of such spontaneous giving.
“There’s more, but the idea is that mercy comes at unexpected times, in unexpected places, from unexpected sources.”
At Congregation Kehillath Israel: What Is Happiness and Why Does It Elude Us? An Intergenerational Dialogue with Adam Sandel and Michael Sandel — brookline booksmith
April 9 at 4:30 p.m.
In person as well as on Zoom.
“What is happiness and why does it elude us? An Intergenerational Dialogue with Adam Sandel and Michael Sandel. How can you be a better friend and even be better company with yourself? In this season of renewal, how can we improve our dynamic with nature and with time itself?
“Join Congregation Kehillath Israel, Combined Jewish Philanthropies and Brookline Booksmith as we share a rare visit with a father and son duo of philosophers and authors — Michael and Adam Sandel — in pursuit of practical wisdom for the path toward flourishing and higher purpose. In person as well as on Zoom on Sunday April 9. Book signing of Adam’s new book, Happiness in Action to follow the event. A representative of Brookline Booksmith will be on site from 4 to 6:30, selling copies of the book, for signing after the talk.”
Susan Crawford – Harvard Book Store
Charleston: Race, Water, and the Coming Storm
April 11 at 7 p.m.
“In Charleston, we meet Rev. Joseph Darby, a well-regarded Black minister with a powerful voice across the city and region who has an acute sense of the city’s shortcomings when it comes to matters of race and water. We also hear from Michelle Mapp, one of the city’s most promising Black leaders, and Quinetha Frasier, a charismatic young Black entrepreneur with Gullah-Geechee roots who fears her people’s displacement. And there is Jacob Lindsey, a young white city planner charged with running the city’s ten-year ‘comprehensive plan’ efforts who ends up working for a private developer. These and others give voice to the extraordinary risks the city is facing.
“The city of Charleston, with its explosive gentrification over the last thirty years, crystallizes a human tendency to value development above all else. At the same time, Charleston stands for our need to change our ways — and the need to build higher, drier, more densely-connected places where all citizens can live safely. Illuminating and vividly rendered, Charleston is a clarion call and filled with characters who will stay in the reader’s mind long after the final page.”
— Matt Hanson