From Bill's Desk
This April at McCarter features a variety of different performers, including Emmy Award-winning Bill Murray, the charmingly hilarious storyteller David Sedaris, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, a visit from the national tour of Million Dollar Quartet, jazz from Cuba, a juggler, a magician, and six-time Tony Award®-winning Audra McDonald headlining our annual Gala.
Read the note below from Bill Lockwood, McCarter’s Special Programming Director, about three of his favorite performances this month.
Chucho Valdés - Jazz Batá
Special opening performance by Edmar Castaneda, jazz harp and Grégoire Maret, chromatic harmonica
Thursday, April 12 at 7:30pm
No celebration of jazz from Cuba would be complete without including the man who epitomizes the art form itself and has been the most influential figure in the evolution of Latin and Afro-Cuban jazz since—well, I think it’s safe to say, forever. The winner of six Grammys as a composer, pianist, arranger, and bandleader, Chucho Valdés has long proved himself a virtuoso of seemingly limitless abilities. His latest project is Jazz Batá, which he will play at McCarter joined by Yelsy Heredia on bass and Dreiser Durruthy Bombalé on percussion and voice. Valdés describers the repertoire of Jazz Batá as almost all new music, representing both a “look forward and a closing of pending business,” since the music was originally created in 1972 and its roots stem from his legendary Afro-Cuban jazz-rock ensemble, Irakere.
But wait, there’s even more: The Colombian harpist Edmar Castenada was one of my “discoveries” of 2017, and his feats of cross-rhythms layered with chordal nuances are mind-boggling; he and the chromatic harmonica virtuoso Grégoire Maret (heir to the great Toots Thielemans) have both revolutionized the way audiences and critics have traditionally viewed their respective instruments. And after hearing this duo, you will join the chorus.
Greg Kennedy: Innovative Juggler
Sunday, April 15 at 3pm
He calls himself “the innovative juggler,” but that’s an understatement if there ever was one. Philadelphia’s Greg Kennedy spent five years with Cirque du Soleil, honing the skills that have twice won him the Gold Medal at the International Jugglers’ Association Championships. But in addition to what you might expect from a master juggler (like taking ordinary objects and doing extraordinary things with them), Kennedy uses the principles of geometry and physics to create ground-breaking work with original apparatus, in the process creating new forms of manipulation. And his show, Spherus, adds yet another dimension, incorporating the acrobatics of two aerial dancers. The result: a display of kinetic beauty which creates a thrill in simply watching the precarious balance of objects in motion. (Area jugglers alert: following his performance, Greg Kennedy will do a Q&A and might even show you a thing or two to try at home).
Jazz of Cuba:
Tuesday, April 24th at 7:30pm
The history and evolution of jazz in Cuba encompasses several generations, ranging from legendary masters like Chucho Valdés (April 12) to the emerging artists who represent the new generation, like the pianist/composer Roberto Fonseca, who brings his trio to the Berlind Theatre on April 24. Fonseca already dominates the “new Cuban scene,” and his influence extends well beyond his own music-making as the Artistic Director of Cuba’s Jazz Plaza Festival in Santiago, Cuba’s second largest city. “Innovative” is probably the best word to describe his sound, which lies at the crossroads of jazz, traditional Cuban music, and soul—all faithful to his Afro-Cuban roots. His latest CD release ABUC is dedicated to the island he calls home—it’s Cuba spelled backwards, after all—and the album incorporates elements of the island’s traditions such as contradanza, mambo, danzon and bolero, all infused with the spirit of the “descarga jam” and even hip-hop. So here’s a chance to hear what’s happening in Cuban jazz today from an artist whose mission is to concentrate on the culture of what he calls “Tierra Santa—the holy land of Cuba.”