SPOLETO 2006 » Buzz-O-Meter

BUZZ-O-METER ‌ Jazz, Blues, & Roots Music

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Spoleto Festival USA's Wachovia Jazz Series continues to impress with a varied selection of musicians from across the globe, including American jazz legend Hank Jones. Scatmaster Kurt Elling headlines the Spoleto Soirée event, a performance and party double bill. Piccolo fills the concert halls and nightclubs with a wide range of jazz, blues, and roots music, featuring a special musical performance by actor Jeff Daniels.


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Solveig Slettahjell

What is it? Soulful and seductive, Grammy award-winning Solveig Slettahjell is one of Norway's top jazz vocalists. Why see it? Slettahjell, 35, and her backing group, The Slow Motion Quintet, will deliver their own elegant renditions of vintage jazz standards, tunes from the Great American Songbook, and newer works by emerging composers. Critics rave about the singer's world-class performance style. Her impressive depth, range, and sense of emotion are demonstrated on her latest album, Pixiedust (Curling Legs). Who should go? The serene setting of the Cistern along with the lilting performance of Slettahjell and The Slow Motion Quintet should provide a memorable experience for fans of classic Disney soundtracks, George Gershwin, Sarah Vaughan, Diana Krall, and Tom Waits. Buzz: Alongside the Latin-tinged lineup for the Wachovia Jazz series, Slettahjell's icy-cool repertoire is a major standout and expected to be a highlight of the entire festival. (T. Ballard Lesemann)

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SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • $25-$40 • 1 hour 15 min. • May 26, 27 at 9 p.m. • The Cistern, 66 George St. • 579-3100


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Marco Zurzolo

What is it? Marco Zurzolo is an Italian-born composer, flutist, and alto saxophonist known for his percussive attack, trills, and peppery accents. Why see it? Among a generation of post-bop Italian musicians, Zurzolo emerged as a top player and interpreter of both American jazz and Mediterranean folk music. His most recent recording, 7 e Mezzo, follows a triple album that explored "the ethnic roots of Mediterranean and Neapolitan folk music traditions." The album features an international blend of themes, melodies, and rhythms and is hailed by jazz critics as a major step forward in his artistic evolution. Who should go? Those hardcore jazz fans who appreciate the cultural distinction of Naples and its rich musical history ... and those who appreciate a mid-range sax tone that smooths out, much like that of Paul Desmond's, to be almost clarinet-like. Buzz: Zurzolo and his combo (trombone, guitar, bass, and drums) will be playing only their third U.S. performance during the Wachovia Jazz series, and there's plenty of anticipation. (T. Ballard Lesemann)

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SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • $25-$40 • 1 hour 30 min. • May 28 at 9 p.m. • The Cistern, 66 George St. • 579-3100


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Hank Jones Trio

What is it? The legendary Hank Jones — the granddaddy of jazz piano — and his trio swing, bob, and stride through a most exquisite set of the oldest American music art form. Why see it? Pianist Hank Jones, 87, is the brother of the late jazz drummer Elvin Jones and the late cornetist and jazz composer Thad Jones. He never stopped playing and never stopped learning — through his young days in Mississippi to his heyday in New York City on stage with the legendary Jazz at the Philharmonic ensemble and with such greats as Charlie Parker, Gene Krupa, Ella Fitzgerald, and Benny Goodman. Some critics lament that he's gone under-appreciated and underexposed. Fellow musicians acknowledge him as one of the masters of the 20th century. Who should go? Swing and bebop buffs will be thrilled to see Jones in action with his careful but loose style on the keys. So will anyone who appreciates the innovations of Fats Waller, Art Tatum, Duke, and Bird. Buzz: The guy is the real thing and his eagerness to play and interact with new musicians only solidifies his love of jazz and on-stage performance — a true highlight of the series. He'll give a special talk at the Avery Research Center on May 30 at 5 p.m. (T. Ballard Lesemann)

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SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • $25-$40 • 1 hour 30 min. • May 29 at 7 p.m. • Sottile Theatre, 44 George St. • 579-3100


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The Lovell Sisters

What is it? A bluegrass quintet out of Calhoun, Ga. fronted by the three precocious, talented Lovell sisters. Why see it? The Lovell sisters — Jessica (20), Megan (17), and Rebecca (15) — began their musical educations on violin and piano at the tender age of five. Eventually, their natural curiosity led them toward bluegrass and traditional country music, and the girls adopted new instruments, as Jessica's violin became a fiddle, Megan picked up a resophonic guitar, and Rebecca, the tallest of the three girls, began to master the tiniest instrument: the mandolin. Since embarking on their bluegrass odyssey in 2004, the sisters, along with guitarist Brad Frazier and bassist Andy Nall, have traveled the country and won NPR's A Prairie Home Companion National Talent Competition in February 2005. Who should go? The whole family, from the six-month-old, who will grin at the soothing sounds of the Lovell voices harmonizing, to Great Grandma, who will appreciate the girls' reverence for the foundations of the music they play. Buzz: Anyone who saw The Lovell Sisters last year, either at their solo shows or with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, can tell you that they provide a pleasant, educational, and, above all, entertaining afternoon for even the most casual fans of bluegrass and traditional music. (Sara Miller)

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PICCOLO SPOLETO • $25, $22 seniors/students • June 1, 4 at 1 p.m.; June 2, 3 at noon • Charleston Music Hall, 37 John St. • 554-6060


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Marcus Tardelli

What is it? Brazilian guitarist Marcus Tardelli, a young veteran of the notorious and acclaimed Maogani Quartet, performs a four-day stint of solo shows in support of his first solo album, Unha e Carne. Why see it? Tardelli, only 29, earned the praise and respect of Brazilian composer and guitarist Guinga, who calls him "the greatest acoustic guitar player ever produced by Brazil." His appearance at the Simons Center during the Wachovia Jazz series marks his debut in the U.S. Who should go? Fans of Latin-jazz and acoustic guitar music of all shades — from classical and folk to samba, bossa nova, choro, and swing. Buzz: The virtuoso guitarist operates from his unique mix of melody, rhythm, and high technique and comes from the same pipeline of rich talent that Spoleto has established from Brazil, which resulted in memorable appearances by both Monica Salmaso and Guinga. (T. Ballard Lesemann)

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SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • $25 • 1 hour • June 7-10, 7 and 9 p.m. • Recital Hall, Albert Simons Center, 54 St. Philip St. • 579-3100


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Geoff Achison

What is it? Australian guitarist with a following in the U.S. and U.K. plays the blues with a modern flair. Why see it? Back by popular demand, Geoff Achison returns to Charleston for his third Piccolo appearance. This blues guitarist has created his own style of R&B music labeled "souldiggin'." His distinctive form of music infuses old beats with new flavor. Who should go? Hardcore blues fans will appreciate the classic style and newcomers to the blues scene will find out what it means to be innovative in the genre. Buzz: An international, critically-acclaimed music man who's laid-back enough to play in a local bar for the third year in a row. (Anna Miller)

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PICCOLO SPOLETO • $10 • May 29, May 30, 4-7 p.m. • Cumberland's, 301 King St. • 554-6060


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Steve & The Stilettos

What is it? A blues band with a fresh take on soul music led by Steve "O.J" Hardy. Why see it? Even though these "tough rock and blues musicians" come from Pittsburgh, they've made their presence felt on the local scene with energy-infused soul and an electric twist. Who should go? The leader of the band has a following, but blues lovers should check out this group if they haven't already. Buzz: A good local act, guaranteed to be feisty. (Anna Miller)

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PICCOLO SPOLETO • $10 • May 30 at 9 p.m. • Cumberland's, 301 King St. • 554-6060


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Kurt Elling

What is it? Preceding the fancy "Spoleto Soirée" festivities, cutting-edge jazz vocalist and six-time Grammy Award nominee Kurt Elling sings and scats through two sets of standards and originals in dapper fashion, backed by a full orchestral ensemble. Why see it? A superior singer, Elling's soulful and almost playful approach to singing is heavily influenced by Sinatra's heyday. Something of a neo-traditionalist, he breathes new life into well-worn jazz standards — often by the use of "vocalese" (writing and singing lyrics to previously recorded instrumental solos). This special concert includes a dramatic lineup: a 17-piece big band along with Elling's own Chicago-based quartet (featuring pianist Laurence Hobgood). Who should go? Traditionalists, fans of big band standards and smart interpretations of Sinatra tunes — and visiting fest-goers looking for one the more lavish jazz events of the week. Buzz: Kurt Elling knows how to play his voice like an instrument ... and he knows how to work a crowd. (T. Ballard Lesemann)

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SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • 1 hour 30 min • $75 (includes Soirée ticket) • Fri. June 2 at 8 p.m. (the Soirée starts at 10 p.m.) • Gaillard Municipal Auditorium, 77 Calhoun St. • 579-3100


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Sérgio Santos

What is it? A native of Minas Gerais, Brazil, singer/guitarist, composer, and arranger Sérgio Santos embraces the various musical elements of his homeland and arranges them in his own poetic way. Why see it? This one-night-only event allows festival-goers the opportunity to catch one of South America's rising stars in a wonderful setting. Santos and his writing partner, poet Paulo Cesar Pinheiro, have written over 200 songs propelled by samba and bossa nova rhythms, lilting harmonies, and acoustic guitar playing. With his current combo (woodwinds, piano, bass, and drums), Santos will surely blend more than a few sounds from his youth in grand fashion. Who should go? Music lovers who dig an authentic Latin-jazz sound and appreciate the colorful Afro-Brazilian musical tradition. Buzz: Santos's experience with Brazil's best-known genre, the samba, goes a long way. Critics, fans, and musical colleagues across the globe recognize his talents and goals, which is quite impressive. (T. Ballard Lesemann)

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SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • $25-$40 • 1 hour 15 min. • June 3 at 9 p.m. • The Cistern, 66 George St. • 579-3100


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An Evening with Jeff Daniels

What is it? Actor Jeff Daniels plays "folk country with a dash of blues" in a solo acoustic show. Why see it? This is no sudden vanity project for Daniels; he's been writing bluesy story-songs for over 30 years and regularly sells out annual concerts at The Purple Rose Theatre, the base for the repertory company he founded in his hometown of Chelsea, Mich., in 1991. Even ignoring the decades-long film career and the recent Oscar nomination (for the excellent The Squid and the Whale), Daniels has spent years cultivating his individualism in an industry that encourages conformity. The charisma required of a big-name actor should be readily apparent in his breezy, humorous performance. Who should go? Anyone with even a passing interest in either Daniels, the folksinger blues, or a laid-back evening that could make for a great anecdote. Buzz: Daniels is a hot property right now, and he's one of the biggest "household name" stars appearing at a Piccolo event this year. Look for this one-night-only performance to sell out quickly. (Sara Miller)

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PICCOLO SPOLETO • $35 • June 3 at 8 p.m. • 2 hours • Charleston Music Hall, 37 John St. • 554-6060


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Traditional Music of the Old South

What is it? A series of three concerts featuring the soulful music of Charleston as performed by locals steeped in Old South history. Why see it? This series is spread out across the peninsula, and includes a performance of spirituals and excerpts from George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess by the Choraliers Music Club of Charleston; an "Old Time Camp Meeting" that'll send your arm hairs shooting to attention with the hand-clappin', foot-stompin' religious music sung in Gullah by the Mt. Zion Spiritual Singers; and Praise House, an evening of Gullah music, poetry, and stories as performed by local torch songstress Ann Caldwell and the revered Magnolia Singers. Who should go? Those with an interest in Gullah culture and history, or anyone with a desire to walk nearer to the Lord — he loves a good roof-raising gospel sing-a-thon. Buzz: While some may think of Gullah culture as sweetgrass baskets, Frogmoore stew, and gospel singing, this series sets out to educate and entertain not just out-of-towners, who will doubtless be enthralled by the songs, stories, and spirituals that give insight into Lowcountry life then and now, but locals, too. (Sara Miller)

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PICCOLO SPOLETO • CHORALIERS: $15, $12 seniors/students • May 28 at 6 p.m., June 3 at 7 p.m., June 9 at 8 p.m. • Emanuel AME Church, 110 Calhoun St. • OLD TIME CAMP MEETING: $15, $12 seniors/students • May 28, June 2 and 4 at 8 p.m. • Mt. Zion AME Church, 5 Glebe St. • PRAISE HOUSE: $20 • May 30, June 2, 6, and 9, 7 p.m, June 2 and 9, 8:30 p.m. • Buxton's East Bay Theatre, 184 E. Bay St. • 554-6060


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Big Bucket/ New Power Trio

What is it? A return performance from modern jazz/fusion keyboardist Nate Shaw and two of his regular combos. Why see it? Contemporary jazz veteran Nate Shaw is well-known in New York and beyond for his compositions, production work on soundtracks for television and film, and for his two performance combos, The New Power Trio and Big Bucket. The New Power Trio is propelled by drummer Mark Suter's (a member of Yo Yo Ma's Silk Road Project and Brazilian group) ambidextrous percussion skills. The Big Bucket digs even deeper into the origins of "fusion" with an unexpected sophistication. Who should go? Fans of organ and keyboard-driven electric jazz — from Medeski, Martin & Wood to Chick Corea to Miles Davis' groovier brews. Buzz: Both trios can get an audience dancing with a mix of Latin, funk, and rock rhythms, so be prepared. (T. Ballard Lesemann)

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PICCOLO SPOLETO • $10 • May 27, 28 at 8 p.m. • Tonik Club, 479 King St. • 554-6060


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Blues on the Dock

What is it? The good ol' Folly Beach boys call this rustic blues/folk jam session a "back-porch celebration of the Lowcountry's down-home musical heritage." The "Blues on the Dock" events are part of Piccolo's Blues/Jazz series, as are "Keys at the Crossroads" (featuring blues pianists Teddy Midnite and Shrimp City Slim) and "Divas of the Blues" (featuring vocalists Miss Wanda Johnson and harmonica player Octavia). Why see it? No matter the venue, it's a always a treat to hear and watch local blues cat, vocalist, and harmonica player Andy "Smoky" Weiner in action. He usually performs with his own band, the Hot Links, Here, at a locally celebrated, no-frills venue, he'll lead his acoustic trio, Old Crow (featuring harmonica player Juke Joint Johnny and guitarist Nature Boy Nik), through some soulful renditions of Americana classics and original tunes. They'll switch around on harp, fiddle, Dobro guitar, and upright bass as well — what a scene! Who should go? Those who appreciate creekside beauty, authentic blues and roots music, and homespun Lowcountry humor. Buzz: As Gary "Shrimp City Slim" Erwin says, "Smoky Weiner is the Holy City's blues raconteur ... he tickles your funny bone and makes you think at the same time." Definitely a fun addition to the festivities. (T. Ballard Lesemann)

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PICCOLO SPOLETO • $12 • KEYS AT THE CROSSROADS: May 26, 6:30-9 p.m. • DIVAS OF THE BLUES: May 28, 4-8 p.m. • SMOKY WEINER: June 4, 4-8 p.m. • Bowens Island Restaurant, 1870 Bowens Island Road • 554-6060


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