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Diverse musical styles, geographic locales and time periods are represented in this week’s picks of the tix on the arts and entertainment calendar.
Top billing goes to the East Pointers, a trad trio from Prince Edward Island. Recently nominated for a Juno Award – Canada’s Grammy – the East Pointers will be motoring into Portland on Friday.
Also on Friday, saxophonist, composer and professor Frank Mauceri, a leading exponent of modern jazz, will bring his eponymous ensemble to the Portland Conservatory of Music. This concert opens the spring semester of the conservatory’s long-running Dimensions in Jazz series.
Also in the jazz department, the Portland Jazz Orchestra, which mostly comprises prominent music educators, will make its monthly appearance a week later than usual this month, on Feb. 23.
Compositions from the pre-classical era of Italy and England will be featured on Saturday in Portland when Music’s Quill takes the stage.
Alan Cumming’s Saturday show defies simple categorization. But we do know that Cumming hails from Scotland. Not only that, he’s been officially recognized as a Great Scot.
Toe-tapping dance tunes, mostly original compositions that honor the traditions of Canada’s Maritime Provinces, are the stock in trade of the East Pointers, a trio from Prince Edward Island. Two of the musicians, fiddler Tim Chaisson and his cousin, banjoist Koady Chaisson, are seventh-generation scions of PEI’s first family of folk music. Guitarist Jake Charron has been nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award.
Before turning full-time professional the three men had diverse day jobs, including lobsterman, kinesthesiologist and ski coach. Nowadays they’re on the road most of the year, with several tours of Canada, Great Britain and Australia already completed.
Their music combines instrumental virtuosity with occasional vocals, with the three guys alternating on leads. Their debut album, “Secret Victory,” was nominated for a Juno Award, Canada’s equivalent of the Grammy.
Their mission is to create a new market for old-timey Canadian music. “That’s something the East Pointers are trying to accomplish – breathe some new, original life into traditional music,” explains Tim Chaisson. “A lot of times, people think of it as music for an older generation but we’re hoping to introduce a whole new generation of listeners.”
Catch the East Pointers at 8 p.m. Feb. 17 at One Longfellow Square, corner of State and Congress in Portland. Call 761-1757.
The Portland Conservatory of Music is well into its spring semester (laugh if you want to) and the first offering in its longstanding Dimensions in Jazz series is about to start. DIJ curator Paul Lichter has scheduled 11 concerts between now and June, with the first slated for Friday.
Frank Mauceri, a saxophonist, composer and music educator, brings his eponymous ensemble for an evening of progressive jazz.
Mauceri, who teaches at Bowdoin College and the University of Maine at Augusta, comes from an interesting background. He studied composition at Oberlin College and at the University of Illinois, where his doctoral research focused on the social effects of music technology and on computer-assisted composition. Currently he is developing interactive computer systems for use with improvising musicians.
Catch the Frank Mauceri Ensemble at 8 p.m. Feb. 17 at the Portland Conservatory of Music, 202 Woodford St. Call Dimensions in Jazz at 828-1310.
Big band music in a tiny intimate space: That’s one way of looking at the Portland Jazz Orchestra’s monthly concert at One Longfellow Square. It’s become a red-letter day for southern Maine jazz aficionados and often sells out. I attend about four per year, and I’m always pleased.
The PJO is the creation of Chris Oberholtzer, a trombone virtuoso and professor of jazz studies at the University of Southern Maine School of Music. Seventeen other players are almost entirely drawn from the ranks of Maine and New Hampshire music educators. Some, like drummer Les Harris, are fellow USM profs, while others lead high school jazz ensembles. Most have been part of renowned jazz orchestras.
The PJO plays the standard repertoire from the libraries of Count Basie, Woody Herman and Stan Kenton. Other favorite composers include Tom Kubis, Matt Harris, Bob Mintzer, Bill Holman and Maria Schneider. The PJO also performs pieces written by its own members.
Although usually slated for the third Thursday of each month, this month’s PJO concert will be Feb. 23 at 8 p.m. at One Longfellow Square, corner of State and Congress in Portland. Call 761-1757.
Fans of early music – roughly defined as pre-1800 classical – have a chance to hear a number of seldom-performed pieces from England and Italy this Saturday, when Music’s Quill appears at St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland.
Music’s Quill comprises lutenist Timothy Burris and tenor Timothy Neill Johnson. The lute was the predecessor to the modern guitar. Burris also plays theorbo, which has an exotic look, like a guitar on steroids. For Saturday’s concert, Burris and Johnson will be joined by cellist Raffael Scheck.
The program features songs by Giulio Caccini and Henry Purcell, as well as instrumental solos by Domenico Gabrielli and Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger. The common denominator that links these works is that they feature an improvised bass line, a distinctive compositional practice of the two centuries beginning about 1600.
Catch Music’s Quill at 7 p.m. Feb. 18 at St. Luke’s Cathedral, 143 State St. in Portland. Visit baroquelute.com.
Hailing from Scotland, Alan Cumming has become a formidable talent on the world stage as an actor, singer, television personality and writer. Cumming’s trophy collection includes a Tony Award for playing the eerily androgynous emcee in the 1998 Broadway revival of “Cabaret,” plus he’s been recognized in his homeland as a Great Scot and Icon of Scotland.
Among his broad palette of creative talents Cumming has a nightclub act that debuted in New York in 2015 and is currently touring. Called “Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs,” the show arrives at Merrill Auditorium this Saturday, courtesy of Portland Ovations.
The format is simple. Backed by a pianist, cellist and drummer, Cumming sings with rare passion and authority. He covers a huge gamut of material, including songs performed and/or written by Adele, Noel Coward, Lady Gaga, Annie Lennox, Katy Perry, Stephen Sondheim, Elaine Stritch and Rufus Wainwright.
Portland Ovations presents “Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs” at 8 p.m. Feb. 18 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.
The East Pointers, a trad trio from Prince Edward Island, will be the featured act this Friday at One Longfellow Square in Portland. The trio was recently nominated for a Juno Award – the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy.