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Fall Arts Preview 2019: Visual Arts

Galleries and gatherings, plastic and static, memories and narratives

SIDEBAR: Reject the Box

SIDEBAR: Atlanta’s airport art gallery

Same as it ever was, the visual arts scene in Atlanta is in a state of flux, particularly at the street level where the West and Southwest flanks of downtown mark the next major front for the newest of the new to appear. With the Goat Farm closing and morphing into who-knows-what; the construction of The MET continuing apace and attracting entities like MINT and Mammal Gallery; and The Bakery executing its inspiring, if sometimes bewilderingly eclectic, strategy with characteristic DIY aplomb (while facing a move in the next year, as the lease on the arts center’s Warner Street building will not be renewed), the west side is the best side for seeking out the edges of Atlanta’s art/art music/art performance scene.

“Atlanta’s strong suit for the 40-something years I’ve been here is how incredibly active the grassroots community is,” says Louise Shaw, curator of the Senser Museum at the Centers for Disease Control and cofounder of Idea Capital, an arts funding group. “People, particularly young people, are continually trying to reinvent the art scene.”

Otherwise, the more things change, the more stalwart venues, such as the High Museum, Atlanta Contemporary, Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, the major arts institutions and fine art galleries, keep moving forward with their respective missions. At the same time, public art, street art, mural painting, and graffiti are exerting a particular influence on the Atlanta art scene for which the city is becoming increasingly recognized nationally and internationally.

“The street art trend is really exciting,” says Shaw. “The work along Edgewood and in Cabbagetown, the Krog Tunnel, these works that stay up for a few months and are then replaced by new work — this kind of activity creates a vibrancy and excitement lacking in many cities.” 

From gleaming white halls and walls to sandblasted slabs of brick and concrete to just about any flat accessible surface with a sightline, Atlanta’s visual artists, curators and gallery owners use whatever means are available to satisfy the muse. That’s how it works.

Atlanta Celebrates Photography

Entering its third decade, Atlanta Celebrates Photography (ACP) — www.acpinfo.org — is both an annual festival and the name of the organization responsible for staging the event. Billed as the largest community photography event in America, the 2019 edition of the ACP festival, which begins in mid-September and runs through the end of October, features more than 100 happenings including five lectures, three professional development workshops, a photobook fair, a film series, and numerous exhibits. This panoply of activity takes place at site-specific outdoor installations including the BeltLine, arts facilities, museums, galleries, retail businesses, and special venues spread across metro Atlanta.

“The ACP festival provides a comprehensive platform not only for people to experience our events, but to participate as creators,” says ACP Executive Director Amy Miller. “This allows for a true celebration of all that photography can be — a multifaceted art form with the power to change lives and connect people.”

The ACP has no event facility to call its own. All exhibits, lectures, screenings, and sundry programs are arranged through partnerships with other organizations and institutions. “The beauty of this business model is that the entire city becomes our venue,” Miller says. “The ACP festival raises awareness of arts venues and cultural organizations throughout the city, which creates a rising tide that, hopefully, lifts all boats.”

Highlights of the 2019 Atlanta Celebrates Photography Festival include:

The FENCE (Atlanta BeltLine’s Westside Trail): This truly mega-outdoor photo exhibition returns to Atlanta with more than 40 photographers from around the world, selected by a jury of 40 experts from a  global call for entries, spreading the joy of their craft along a 700+-foot-long fence.

ACP Auction Gala (Saturday, September 14): Cocktail reception, open bar, dinner, plus a silent auction at The Landmark honoring Dr. Sarah Kennel, newly installed curator of photography at the High Museum of Art. The auction serves as the primary fundraising event for ACP and the 2019 ACP Festival.

ACP Special Exhibition: Teen Spirit at Mason Fine Artwww.masonfineartandevents.com – (Artists Reception, Thursday, September 19, 6-9 p.m., Exhibition September 19-October 11, free and open to the public). Volunteer photographers, led by ACP co-founder Corinne Adams, guide teens at Scottish Rite and Egleston hospitals in an exploration of identity, including (or in spite of) their diagnosis, through writing and photographic self-portraiture. This exhibition showcases the creative work produced by the teens during the past 12 months.

Photobook Fair (October 4-5): The photo book event of the Southeast at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia. For the complete list of exhibitors, artist talks, and book-signings, please visit ACPinfo.org 

Chris Verene’s “Home Movies” (Thursday, October 10): The Landmark Midtown Art Cinema hosts a one-night-only screening of “home movies” (video clips) shot by renowned photographer Chris Verene during the course of documenting his family’s life in rural Illinois, which has been the former Atlantan’s primary subject for the past three decades. A post-screening panel discussion will feature photographer Ashley Reid and Mona Bennett, ambassador of the Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition, moderated by Felicia Feaster.

In conjunction with the Landmark screening of “Home Movies,” Marcia Wood Gallery – www.marciawoodgallery.com – which represents Verene, will be exhibiting a large selection of the artist’s photographs during the ACP Festival. Verene will be in attendance at the gallery opening in the Castleberry Hill neighborhood on September 18 and closing reception on October 12.

Atlanta Contemporary Arts Center

In 2015, the Atlanta Contemporary dropped the “Arts Center” from its name and fully embraced the institutionalized practice of “free admission, every day.” Today, Atlanta Contemporary – www.atlantacontemporary.org – occupies a special position in the arts community not only because of the price of admission to the facility, but also by virtue of its varied offerings, which include showcasing and commissioning new work by emerging artists; diverse educational programs, such as Contemporary Kids, Contemporary Cocktails, and Contemporary Talks; and on-site subsidized studio space for working artists through the Studio Artist Program. Atlanta Contemporary, incidentally, also throws great art parties and openings.

“Any city that is a beacon for tourism and advancement in technology, any city that wants to be recognized as a destination, needs a contemporary art center that advocates for what’s happening today,” says Executive Director Veronica Kessenich.

With the departure of curator Daniel Fuller at the end of June, Kessenich is moving forward with a full slate of previously scheduled fall exhibitions and looking with anticipation toward a new chapter in the evolution of the Westside arts center.

“Daniel was such an integral part of Atlanta Contemporary over the last four and a half years,” says Kessenich. “We will surely miss him and thank him for his leadership and service to Atlanta Contemporary.”

On tap between Saturday, August 24, and Sunday, December 22, are solo exhibitions by Bryan Graf and Emma McMillan, plus Contemporary On-Site projects featuring Coco Hunday, an artist-run exhibition space in Tampa, Florida; Atlanta-based artist Wihro Kim; and Bailey Scieszka who lives and works in Detroit.

In “Landlines,” Bryan Graf explores a range of photographic approaches and subjects, seeking balance or an equivalence between conceptual, visceral, and narrative elements. “The photographs in this show are notes, recordings, observations, and questions from specific places and times,” notes the Atlanta Contemporary press release. “This is an optical research into the debris of the days; a self-portrait of the dust that sculpts us.”

Emma McMillan’s “Project X” is inspired by the work of Atlanta architect John Portman, whose influence on the contours of the Atlanta skyline can scarcely be understated. Appropriating the name of an unrealized 1969 utopian residential building, Project X conjures up the architect’s design theory and manifest legacy in a series of large oil and aquarelle paintings, which are displayed across aluminum scaffolding, creating an immersive environment reminiscent of Portman’s iconic downtown Atlanta structures.

EBD4

Coinciding with the Atlanta Celebrates Photography Festival, EBD4 – www.EBD4.com – an industrial space for creatives in Chamblee, is staging a special “ACP at EBD4” exhibition. “1980’s ATL Portraits of Drag Queens & Club Kids (think RuPaul)” by Al Clayton showcases Clayton’s chronicling of the intersectional-before-it-was-cool club scene in Atlanta back when the local celebrity head count included RuPaul, Larry Tee, LaHoma, Sable Chanel, Charlie Brown, and Spike, among others. 

The exhibition will also display images from Clayton’s landmark 1969 book, Still Hungry in America, along with select images of Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Townes van Zandt, Tammy Wynette and other luminaries from Ken Burns’ documentary Country Music. The Clayton family will have prints from the photographer’s personal collection available, as well as limited edition prints.

Opening: Saturday, October 19, 2019, 6:30. Dance party starts at 8:30, admission $10.

Open House: Wednesday, October 23–Saturday, October 26, 1–5 p.m. or by appointment.

It may come as a surprise to some that the City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs has its own art gallery. Opened in 2014, Gallery 72 — www.ocaatlanta.com — is located downtown on the first floor of the 72 Marietta Street building. During the past five years, Gallery 72 has hosted a variety of exhibitions addressing relevant topics ranging from human trafficking, civil and human rights, memory and ritual, to the growth of local arts organizations (e.g., Wonderroot, The Creatives Project) and the rise of hip-hop. 

“Gallery 72 is a space where artists can push the experimental aesthetics of their work, which they may not choose to pursue in more commercial venues,” says gallery director Kevin Sipp. “It is also important that the gallery represents Atlanta as it is now, which is a melting pot of vibrant cultures, political views, and ideas.”

Gallery 72 will host two exhibitions in the fall: In “Reclaim/Proclaim Blandtown” (October 10-November 22), Gregor Turk takes up the subject of a long-neglected Westside Atlanta neighborhood. In the 1950s, the African-American community of Blandtown, which once boasted more than 200 houses, was rezoned to heavy industrial without proper public review. Today, much of the area, which is bisected by the BeltLine, is being rezoned back to residential for rapid redevelopment. Of the four original remaining houses, one was converted by Turk in 2003 into his studio. Comprising wall-mounted sculpture and photography, “Reclaim/Proclaim Blandtown” is part history lesson, part manifesto, and part civic rousing. In 2017, Turk received an Idea Capital grant for developing this project followed by an Artist Project Grant the next year from the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs.

"Contrapunto: A Latin American Art Collective in Atlanta" (November 28-February 7) celebrates the work of a Latin art collective founded in 2008 by Carlos Solis. In addition to Solis, Contrapunto members, all of whom are based in Atlanta, included in the exhibition are Jorge Arcos, Pedro Fuertes, Catalina Gomez Beuth, Dora López, and Graciela Núñez Bedoya, Their work ranges from surrealist, cubist, and abstract to realist and naturalistic. In Spanish, “contrapunto” usually refers to the musical practice of joining two or more melodies to create harmony while maintaining the individual quality of each player’s contribution.

Says Sipp, “The narratives that fuel Atlanta and its present growth have expanded beyond past narratives to include transcendent global perspectives from all corners of the world.”

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AT HATHAWAY GALLERY: Fran O’Neill, 2018. Photo credit: HATHAWAY GALLERY



Established in 2015 in what is now a thriving Westside neighborhood jam-packed with live-work spaces, restaurants, and entertainment venues, Hathaway Gallery – www.hathawaygallery.com  – strives to “foster and expand the contemporary art collector base in the Southeast through inclusivity and education.” Hathaway’s fall exhibition schedule includes:

No Place Like Home” (July 20–September 7): A three-person exhibition of works by Jaime Bull, In Kyoung Chun, and Maryam Palizgir. Each of the artists brings a distinctly expressive technique and vision to bear on the idea of “home.” 

Changing Tides” (September 14–November 9): A solo exhibition featuring the highly kinetic, vividly colorful abstract paintings of Fran O’Neill. 

High Museum

In the realm of mainstream visual arts, every major metropolitan city has its leader of the pack. The museum with the largest and deepest collection, the curatorial punch, and the financial wherewithal to make things happen that other institutions can’t and, truth be told, don’t need to match.

In Atlanta, the High Museum of Art – www.high.org – has filled that role since the founding of the Atlanta Art Association (the museum’s organizational precursor) in 1905. In 2019, the sensually curvaceous, gleaming white structure, situated on a gently rising grassy slope at the corner of Peachtree and 16th streets, stands alongside the Alliance Theater and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as one of three pillars girding the Woodruff Arts Center.

In 2018, the High undertook a total reconfiguration of its almost 94,000 square feet of gallery space. The massive makeover allowed for the rearrangement of artwork from the museum’s 16,000-piece permanent collection and the inclusion of a trove of never-before-exhibited artistic treasure. Among those treasures were selections from a 2017 acquisition of visionary folk art from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, which shone new light on the art of Thornton Dial, Sr., Lonnie Holley, Henry Church, Mary T. Smith, and the fabulous quilts created by the women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama.

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AT THE HIGH: “Mecklenburg County Railroad Shack Sporting House” (1978), from Romare Bearden’s Profile Series. Photo credit: COURTESY OF THE HIGH MUSEUM

At the end of last year, the High Museum presented Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrors,” a wildly popular exhibition seen by 136,000 people before closing in February. For a minute at least, it seemed like Kusama-mania had imbued the museum with a rejuvenating hipness, tagging the joint as being worthy of regular visitation by a new generation or two of art-curious fans.


“We’re always committed to presenting the finest examples of artistic achievement we can get our hands on,” says High Museum director Rand Suffolk.

Three exhibitions distinguish the High Museum’s fall calendar:

Something Over Something Else,” Romare Bearden’s Profile Series (Sept. 14, 2019– Feb. 2, 2020):

Organized by the High, this touring exhibition brings together dozens of works from Romare Bearden’s “Profile” series for the first time since its debut nearly 40 years ago. A series of collages conjures up the original presentations from 1978 and 1981, which featured accompanying wall texts written by Bearden (who died in 1988) in collaboration with essayist, jazz critic, and novelist Albert Murray.

A Thousand Crossings,” Sally Mann (Oct. 19, 2019–Feb. 2, 2020): 

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DEFIANT SOUTHERN ROOTS: Sally Mann, from the exhibit “A Thousand Crossings,” at the High Museum of Art. Photo credit: COURTESY OF THE HIGH MUSEUM

One of the preeminent art photographers of the last half-century, Sally Mann (American, born 1951) is a Virginia native whose work is often deeply, sometimes defiantly, rooted in her journey as a Southerner. Notes the High’s press preview: “The exhibition is both a sweeping overview of Mann’s artistic achievement over the past four decades and a focused exploration of how the South emerges in her work as a powerful and provocative force…”


Figures of Speech,” Virgil Abloh (Nov. 9, 2019–March 8, 2020): 

Organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, where it debuted in June, “Figures of Speech” showcases the work of Virgil Abloh, the 39-year-old creative operator at the console of a thoroughly modern matrix enveloping art, music, fashion, and celebrity. The exhibition includes clothing designs for Louis Vuitton (Abloh is the first person of African descent to lead the Parisian fashion house’s ready-to-wear line for men); videos of fashion shows, which have garnered no small amount of viral online attention; and Abloh’s distinctive furniture designs (some for IKEA) and graphic art.

“Each exhibition also complements our permanent collection, adding context and insight across multiple collecting areas,” says Suffolk. “Presenting one of these shows would be exceptional.  Having all three here this fall is extraordinary.”

Jackson Fine Art

Widely recognized as one of the most important supporters of contemporary fine art photography in Atlanta and beyond, Jackson Fine Art – www.jacksonfineart.com – caters to artists, collectors, museums and corporate clients with services ranging from curating and managing collections to framing and installing.

For the fall season, Jackson Fine Art is showcasing a large selection of photographs by Sally Mann to supplement her retrospective at the High Museum (see above). Specifically, the exhibit (October 18–December 21) draws heavily from “Remembered Light,” a series that produced a book of photographs documenting painter-sculptor Cy Twombly’s studio in Lexington, Virginia, where both artists grew up.

Michael C. Carlos Museum

2019 marks the centennial celebration of the formal establishment of a museum to house Emory University’s collection of art and antiquities, which was relocated in 1919 from the original campus in Oxford, Georgia, to the main campus in Atlanta. In 1985, with the support of local philanthropist Michael C. Carlos, the museum moved into the old law school building following a complete renovation by architect Michael Graves. In 1993, an expanded museum and new conservation laboratory, which also benefited from Carlos’s largesse and Graves’ architectural acumen, opened as the Michael C. Carlos Museum – www.carlos.emory.edu.

Today, the Carlos Museum serves as a repository for more than 16,000 works, including what is arguably the largest ancient art collection in the Southeast. In addition to ancient artifacts from Rome, Egypt, Greece, the Near East, and the Americas; works of Asian art and sub-Saharan African art from the 19th and 20th centuries; and works on paper from the Middle Ages to the present, the museum also presents special exhibitions and educational events open to students of all ages and the general public. “The Carlos Museum’s collection of ancient art is unique in Atlanta and the Southeast, but we’re so much more than mummies,” says Allison Hutton, director of communications and marketing. “The oldest piece in our collection was created around 6,500-6,000 BC and the ‘youngest,’ a print by Tom Hück, was created in 2018, so we have quite a range.”

The museum recently launched SmARTy Packs, which lets families learn about art together in the galleries through hands-on projects. This fall, in conjunction with the exhibition “Through a Glass, Darkly” (see below), the museum will host an engraving workshop with artist Andrew Raftery. 

Through a Glass, Darkly: Allegory and Faith in Netherlandish Prints from Lucas van Leyden to Rembrandt” (August 31-December 1) considers the form, function, and meaning of allegorical prints produced in the Low Countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg) between the 16th and 18th centuries.

Minor White Unburdened: Photographs from the Collection of Lindsay W. Marshall” (October 12-December 15) features works by Minor White alongside photographs by friends and colleagues including Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and Rose Mandel. Accompanying the photographs will be a selection of White’s writings in which he reflects upon his career and lifelong personal struggles with religion, sexuality, and the constitution of the spirit.

MODA

In 2011, the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA) – www.museumofdesign.org – celebrated its grand relocation to the sleek, stylish, ground-floor confines of Perkins + Will, a renowned architecture firm on Peachtree Street across from the High Museum, with an exhibit titled “Passione Italiana: Design of the Italian Motorcycle.” Since then, MODA has pursued its mission “to advance the understanding and appreciation of design as the convergence of creativity and functionality.”

“MODA is the only design museum in the Southeastern United States, which makes us different from institutions in Atlanta and far beyond,” says Executive Director Laura Flusche. “Our exhibitions and our programs demonstrate that design can inspire change, transform lives, and make the world a better place.”

MODA has mounted exhibitions that celebrate beautiful products (espresso machines, motorcycles), graphic designers and architects (Paul Rand, Eero Saarinen, Louise Fili), wearable technology (biofeedback devices), activist art and craft, urban design, landscape architecture, and food production techniques and distribution methodology. The museum organizes public lectures and educational programs that tackle serious topics and engage the imagination.

“Attendance at MODA has skyrocketed in the past 18 months,” says Flusche. “We’re attracting a young, diverse group of design-lovers who are passionate about social justice and human rights issues and the ways that design can address those things.”

On display at the gallery through Sunday, September 29, is “Wire & Wood: Designing Iconic Guitars”, which explores the basics of guitar design and construction alongside the ways in which musicians use the instrument to shape their public image. Included in the exhibition, curated and designed by W. Todd Vaught, are a number of instruments which have acquired legendary status by virtue of the musicians who wielded them on concert stages around the world.

Among the famed axes on display in “Wire & Wood” are Bo Diddley’s Gretsch 6138, Buck Owens’ Harmony Acoustic, Derek Trucks’ Gibson SG, Jack White’s Diddley Bow (from It Might Get Loud), Junior Brown’s Custom Guit-Steel, Kurt Cobain’s Fender Stratocaster, Steve Vai’s Ibanez EVO, and St. Vincent’s Signature Ernie Ball Music Man.

“Wire & Wood” confronts the age-old conundrum of whether form follows function or vice-versa by first presenting the guitar in its simplest form along with information about the ways in which traditional design elements and materials affect sound. The exhibit then discusses advancements in the luthier’s art, including mass manufacturing and alternative materials, accompanied by stories explaining how and why certain modern guitars are endowed with a status beyond their mere existence.

Museum of Contemporary Art  of Georgia

It’s right there in the name: The Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia (MOCA GA) — www.mocaga.org — collects and archives significant, contemporary works by artists who hail from or reside in the state of Georgia. That said, to provide context and accommodate relational concepts, the museum’s exhibitions include Georgia artists and artists from around the world. 

Co-founded in 2000 by David S. Golden, then president of CGR Advisors, and Annette Cone-Skelton, an accomplished Georgia artist and now President/CEO/Director of MOCA GA, the museum’s collection includes more than 1,000 works by 330 Georgia artists in a variety of mediums including painting, sculpture, photography, and installation.

“Before MOCA GA, much of the work being exhibited locally was by artists imported from other urban centers, which did not necessarily acknowledge the narratives that were important to this area,” says Cone-Skelton. “This left a tremendous void in the landscape of arts institutions in Atlanta.”

Consequently, the Atlanta arts community experienced an exodus of talent to cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. MOCA GA stepped into the void with a mission based on programs that create a forum for interchange between artists and the community, and a platform from which to launch local artists and their works into the orbit of the global arts community.  

Recently, Atlanta Contemporary announced Cone-Skelton and Atlanta mixed-media artist Kevin Cole as recipients of the 2019 Nexus Award. The award recognizes “individuals, groups, or organizations that have made significant contributions to the contemporary arts landscape and celebrates local leaders who are instrumental in making Atlanta an exceptionally vibrant arts community.” 

MOCA GA fall schedule:

Tuesday, August 13: Working Artist Project (WAP) Fellow Krista Clark artist talk for “Base Line of Appraisal” exhibition, 6:30-8:30 pm

Thursday, September 5:Dorothy O’Connor: Scenes” opening reception, 6:30-8:30 pm

Friday, September 6: Public panel and reception for the Latin American Association exhibition (unnamed at press time), 6-9 pm

Friday, September 13: WAP Fellow Myra Greene’s opening reception (unnamed at press time), 6:30-8:30 pm

Tuesday, October 1: WAP Fellow Myra Greene artist talk, 6:30-8:30 pm

Friday & Saturday, October 4-5: MOCA GA hosts the Atlanta Celebrates Photography Photobook Fair

Friday, October 18: MOCA GA hosts the Atlanta Photography Group panel

Friday, November 15: WAP Fellow Cosmo Whyte’s opening reception (unnamed at press time), 6:30-8:30 pm

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AT {POEM 88}: The work of Raymond Goins. Photo credit: {POEM 88}

{Poem 88}

Opened in 2010 and curated by writer and filmmaker, Robin Bernat, Poem88 – www.poem88.net  – declared a reorganization of its roster of artists. Consequently, 70 percent of the artists on the Poem 88 roster are women while approximately 28 percent represent ethnic or cultural minorities and 42 percent are 50 years of age or older. As a woman-owned business, Poem 88 is committed to supporting and nurturing “a community that is frequently sidelined in today’s contemporary art world.”

Raymond Goins: Infallible Beauty” (Saturday, September 7–Saturday, October 19): This exhibition will provide an unadorned and decontextualized view of the work of Raymond Goins, a self-taught artist who moves fluidly between the realms of interior design, decorative art, and fine art. 

Established in 1989 by Georgia-born owners Debbie Hudson and Robin Sandler, Sandler Hudson www.sandlerhudson.com  — Gallery specializes in innovative and provocative contemporary art that spans a multitude of disciplines including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, video, and new media. For the fall season, Sandler Hudson is presenting three exhibitions:

Recent Drawings” (June 28–September 14): A group exhibition featuring works by Krista Clark, William Downs, Yanique Norman, and Rocío Rodríguez, “Recent Drawings” explores a variety of mark-making using various instruments, techniques, and mediums.

JET” (September 20–October 19): Los Angeles-based artist Erin D. Garcia brings his vibrant and colorful paintings to the south for the first time. “JET” will present Garcia’s distinctly rendered varicolored gradient shapes on his largest canvases to date, along with multiple works on paper.

Blue Distant” (October 25–November 30): A solo exhibition of new paintings, sculpture, and works on paper by Savannah artist Namwon Choi. Choi’s elegantly offbeat works fuse conceptual notions of Eastern and Western art into a wondrously personal vision.

SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film

The Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) opened its Midtown Atlanta campus in 2005. Among its prominent facilities is the SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film – www.scadfash.org. With nearly 10,000 square feet of exhibition space, SCAD FASH serves as a teaching museum for students and a platform for public presentations of fashion-focused designs, films, gallery talks, and lectures.

“SCAD FASH’s exhibitions and programs are curated in collaboration with world-renowned designers and artists, and are developed to inspire and engage visitors with varied backgrounds, not only fashionistas!” says SCAD’s public relations director Jeanette McWilliams. 

Past exhibitions have featured fashion luminaries, such as Oscar de la Renta, Guo Pei, Mary Katrantzou and Carolina Herrera, and fashionable work including costumes from The Handmaid’s Tale television series (SCAD exhibit ends August 12).

“The public’s interest in fashion has never been more ardent and continues to grow,” says McWilliams. “Last May, our first-ever student runway show sold out almost as quickly as the tickets went online.”

During the fall season, SCAD FASH is hosting three exhibitions:

Aura and Invention: Alternative Processes in Photography” (September 26–November 14) showcases works by SCAD students and recent alumni from the Atlanta and Savannah campuses. According to a SCAD press release, “Works in this exhibition were chosen for their inventiveness in process and design, by young artists who are pushing the limits and potential for photography in an image-saturated society. Through alternative perspectives in the composition of photography, these artists challenge modes of reproduction, and offer alternatives to a culture of instant production and dissemination of images.”

Form & Function: Shoe Art by Chris Francis” (August 13–December 8) puts the spotlight on the Los Angeles-based street artist-turned-shoe-designer who learned his trade by consulting with and acquiring vintage machines and tools from immigrant cobblers. Francis credits the punk movement for inspiring the independent design house where he crafts small batches of wildly stylized shoes, many of which have been worn by rock stars including Mötley Crüe’s Mick Mars, Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, and former Runaways guitarist Lita Ford.

Isabelle de Borchgrave exhibition:w” (October 22–January 12) explores five centuries of fashion through the trompe l’oeil masterpieces of Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave. Using paper and paint, de Borchgrave creates sculptural replicas of garments found in early European paintings and collections. The exhibition includes de Borchgrave’s series “Les Ballet Russes,” which interprets costumes designed by Léon Bakst, Giorgio de Chirico, and Pablo Picasso, as well as her “Kaftans” series, which was inspired by the Silk Road textiles of central Asia. The exhibition also includes work by eccentric early 20th-century artist Mariano Fortuny, whose famous Delphos gown debuted in 1907.

Whitespace

In a converted 1893 carriage house on Edgewood Avenue behind her Inman Park Victorian residence, Whitespace – ww.whitespace814.com – owner Susan Bridges stages exhibitions of contemporary art along with the occasional chamber ensemble performance. Opened in 2007, Whitespace was the Creative Loafing Reader’s Choice for Best Gallery in 2013.

On Singing the Body Formless and Electric” (Friday, August 2–Saturday, August 31): In the spirit of poet Walt Whitman’s “I sing the body electric,” Whitespace hosts a tripartite exhibition curated by Atlanta native Lisa Alembik, assistant professor at Perimeter College of Georgia State University on the Clarkston campus. The main gallery will feature eight artist or artist groups, which include Carrie Hawks, Catherine Lucky Chang, Eleanor Aldrich, Hannah Adair, Hannah Ehrlich, Larkin Ford & Joe Hadden, Michelle Laxalt, and Parker Thornton. In the Whitespec space, the two-artist collaborative of Pinky/MM Bass and Carolyn DeMeritt will display their work, while Amanda Britton commandeers Shedspace. 

7th Annual Short Shorts 2019, Jiffy Louvre: Leave Worry Behind” (Thursday, August 29, 7:30-9 p.m.): An evening of one- to five-minute films selected by guest juror, painter, sculptor, and animator Joseph Peragine, director of the Ernest G. Welch School of Art & Design at Georgia State University.

ZUCKERMAN MUSEUM OF ART

Opened in 2014, the Bernard A. Zuckerman Museum of Art (ZMA) — www.arts.kennesaw.edu/zuckerman — on the Kennesaw State University campus encompasses three exhibition galleries, a collection research center, and a two-story-high glass atrium, which is the most striking feature of the 9,200-square-foot facility designed by Stanley Beaman & Sears. The museum regularly presents works from the university’s 6,000-piece permanent collection along with exhibitions of contemporary works by local, national, and international artists. The ZMA's Fine Arts Satellite Gallery in the Wilson Building features faculty, student, and alumni projects.

“The ZMA team, which has significantly altered in the past year, is proud of what we accomplished in the institution's first five years,” says Teresa Bramlette Reeves, director of curatorial affairs, who will have resigned from her position by the time this article is published. “We routinely presented exhibitions of depth and variety, supported local artists, shared the work of nationally and internationally recognized artists, and produced associated brochures and catalogues.”

The ZMA’s two main fall exhibitions open on Saturday, August 24, with a free reception and special programming from 3-5 p.m. 

"Painting Who?" (through December 15) presents a series of paintings by multiple artists, which serve multiple roles and stretch the definition and traditional boundaries of painting. “I see them as alive,” wrote Moira Dryer (1957-1992) about her work, which is featured in the show. “I see them as walking away from the wall. It’s a feeling I have that the work is active, active in our own world, not separate.” The other artists showcased in Painting Who?” are Jeff Conefry, Gracie Devito, Chris Hood and Wihro Kim.

"Fruitful Labors" (through November 10) focuses on strategies and tactics for coping, according to a ZMA press release. Ranging from the absurd to the essential, the tactics include conversation, repetitive labor, intergenerational storytelling, and healing practices. The artwork “reflects our innate fear of uncertainty and the unknown while simultaneously valuing the power of belief in the face of struggle.” Featured artists include Lenka Clayton, Harry Dodge/Stanya Kahn, Shanequa Gay, Stanya Kahn, Michelle Laxalt, Shana Moulton, and Kaitlynn Redell.

Reject the Box

Atlanta-based artist-musician Lonnie Holley ruminates on the journey from obscurity to notoriety in the art world.

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BOUND FOR GLORY: Lonnie Holley. Photo credit: MATT ARNETT


We struggle too long and some give up.

Ridiculed.

Criticized.

Rejected.

Not appreciated in the world.

Not appreciated in the art world.

We weren’t invited into it.

We’ve never really been invited into it.

So we had to create our own way of making and seeing the world.

I just kept pushing the boundaries of what I thought I was capable of. I kept going.

I saw so much material out there that I couldn’t stop.

I had so many other issues I had to face in my life that I couldn’t focus on the rejection. Or the criticism. In some ways I had to keep ahead of the criticism.

I kept doing my art. And kept reminding myself that my art was the purpose. It was more important than me and my feelings. I had studied and learned so many things just by looking. And listening. And doing. And looking at what National Geographic and encyclopedias contained.

Which came first, the artist or the art?

I always say, “Which will you drop first, the baby or the bomb?”

Sometimes we are on a journey and we think we are alone. And it’s scary to be alone.

But then you find out you are not alone and it gives you power. It makes you work harder.

I was not alone. I was not even alone in Alabama. People like Thornton Dial did the same thing. They had to. Mose Tolliver. Arlonzia Pettway and Nettie Young and Mary Lee Bendolph and Rita Mae Pettway and so many others, in Gee’s Bend, did the same thing. They even taught their children, so you have Louisiana Bendolph and she was paying attention. Thornton Dial’s children looked and listened. I hope my children watched, too.

Jimmie Lee Sudduth used mud and his fingers to be heard.

Ronald Lockett cut tin.

Joe Minter, right in Birmingham, had to build an entire African Village in America, to call attention to the fact that he was there. His people were there. Like me, the city tried to condemn his land and make his call go away. He didn’t.

Purvis Young in Florida painted and painted and put his paintings on a big wall. Crying out to be heard. “I have a voice,” is all he was trying to say.

Ms. Mary T. Smith painted on whatever she could find, even after losing her real voice, and surrounded her house with her work. “HEY, I AM HERE. CAN YOU SEE ME?”

Joe Light in Memphis covered his house with paintings and signs. He had something to say.

Across town from him, Hawkins Bolden, who couldn’t even see but still wanted to be seen. Even if it was just the birds that would see him.

I cried out, too.

Sometimes it only takes a few people to listen and look and understand. Bill Arnett heard our calls. And he answered them. Our story exists because he, too, wanted us to be heard. And seen. And appreciated. I thank him all the time for seeing and understanding.

I want to be looked at as an American Artist. I didn’t want to be put in categories that made feel lesser than an artist.

I was called an outsider. Folk artist. Self-taught. An orphan in a storm. A passionate visionary. All these titles they were giving me, I didn’t want to be called those names. We were always called names.

All those names clung to me like an ill-fitting suit.

The trail that I took as an artist was pretty well like my whole life. Going up and down the ditches and the creeks. Playing and messing with the debris. Stacking the stones and broken glass. Moving things out of the creek so the water could continue to run. I was like the caretaker of something much bigger than me, when I was a child, and now that I’m an older man, I see the same ditches and walk the same railroad tracks, and I’m in the same alleys, but I see waste material so much different now. I can’t help but be drawn towards making a difference with the material. And hopefully teaching others about our wasteful ways.

At one time or another, we were all dismissed. Hopefully those days are over.

The artists I mentioned can now be seen all over the country and the world. Most of them are not alive anymore, but their lives and their art lives.

In the Metropolitan Museum. The Philadelphia Museum. The Whitney Museum (Joe Minter is in the Whitney Biennial right now). The de Young Museum. The LA County Museum. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. And maybe most importantly, in the High Museum, the Birmingham Museum, the New Orleans Museum, and the other museums in the region that once rejected us.

My message to young people trying to make art. Or music. Or write. Or dance. Or whatever. Is this: Believe in yourself. Be true to who you are. Be like a duck and let the water run right off your back. It may take time, but if you are doing something that makes you happy, don’t stop. It takes people time to change. If they want to put you in a box that you don’t fit in, reject the box.

And Thumbs Up for Mother Universe.

 

A good place to be if your flight is delayed

An exhibit to honor Georgia civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis is one of the first art installations you see when walking into the vast atrium at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
Dedicated in April 2019, the “John Lewis — Good Trouble” wall display is a tribute to his life that includes artifacts, photographs, videos, and music. Above the display is a three-dimensional painting by Atlanta-based Cuban artist Alexi Torres titled “The Hero’s Journey” that employs an intricate “basket-weaving” style to portray famous faces and images from the Civil Rights Movement. 
That’s just for starters: Atlanta’s entire airport has become a rich environment for all kinds of art and artists, with multiple installations, displays, galleries, and sculptures throughout the facility, and plenty more are in the works.

desc
HUMANITY’S QUEST FOR FLIGHT: Installed in 1999, Colleen Sterling’s “Flight of the Spirit” lifts viewers into the cosmos.Photo credit: COURTESY OF HARTSFIELD-JACKSON ATLANTA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (ATL)
Close to 270,000 passengers use Hartsfield every day. Benjamin Austin, co-manager of the Airport Art Program, told CL there are advantages to showing art in an airport. “It’s a massive audience that we have. We don’t have to worry if people are going to show up.” He added, “There are a lot of things that are stressful about traveling, and what we’re doing is providing some kind of alleviation from that.” 

An enormous, permanent installation called “Flight Paths” has proved popular with weary travelers. Conceived by the late artist Steven Waldeck and costing more than $4 million, it’s a multisensory walk through a Georgia forest, according to David Vogt, Austin’s colleague. “The sculptural canopy is mostly made of tin,” he said. “Trays of LED lights create the lights of the forest canopy. The sounds of the birds, insects, reptiles, and amphibians are all indigenous to Georgia.” Effects include sun shafts, rain showers, and ceiling videos showing bird species, and the installation evolves as you continue through it, becoming “more reflective of Georgia mountains and deciduous forests,” Vogt said. “You’ll see red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures, swallows, and then it transitions to Georgia’s wetlands with species such as ospreys, cranes, and black ducks.” 
He continued, “Part of what the artist was envisioning is the power of memory to connect people to experiences in nature that can soothe and lower blood pressure. The idea is to bring in a bit of nature and hopefully conjure a bit of awe. I think it’s been very successful at that.”
The Transportation Mall where “Flight Paths” is located hosts two other major projects: “Zimbabwe Culture: a Tradition in Stone” was installed in 2001 and features 20 different pieces by 12 prominent Zimbabwean sculptors, and Vogt calls it one of the most significant publicly held collections in the world for this type of art, second only to the country’s National Gallery in Harare. Traditional music accompanies the sculptures as well as images of local wildlife by South African photographer Denny Allen. Two of the works in this permanent exhibit are by Gedion Nyanhongo, a master of the traditional techniques and style of what Zimbabweans call Shona Sculpture. 
The third installation in this part of the airport is “A Walk Through Atlanta History,” a multimedia collaboration with the Atlanta History Center that depicts milestone events in the city’s past. Filmmaker Gary Moss created short historical-reenactment films that are part of the mix. “We were responding to the need to create a sense of place without resorting to cliches like images of the skyline. We wanted much more substance, ” said Vogt. “The History Center helped define the narrative of the chapters in Atlanta’s history.” The “walking museum” features wall murals and displays that showcase eight significant time periods in the life of Atlanta.  

desc
CONCOURSE E: An exhibit of contemporary art from Haitian and Haitian diaspora artists will open in October. Among the works will be “Queen of Time” by Claes Gabriel. Photo credit: CLAES GABRIEL
Then there is “Youth Art,” one of two projects at the airport featuring art by Georgia students. Vogt said, “We get a lot of positive feedback about this. The work is playful, spontaneous, and over the years quite a few pieces have been purchased by passengers. It’s nice for the students to make a bit of money and get recognition at the world’s busiest airport.”      

“Pushing Portraiture” has been getting a lot of attention too. The rotating exhibits, displayed in four different corridors, combine work from four photographers — Manuel Archain, Rob MacInnis, Ulric Collette, and Laena Wilder — known for extending the limits of contemporary portraiture by using digital manipulation to create surreal or hyperreal effects in their work. Austin said they “wanted to focus on different photographers who all had a quirkier take on portraiture.” He conceded that some of the photos are “a little unsettling” but insisted any art at the airport “has to be visually arresting, otherwise people won’t notice it.” 
Special climate-controlled display cases are used to protect much of the art. “We have UV-laminated glass and filtration systems that create a positive airflow and don’t allow a lot of dust to enter the case. Our newer cases all have that system,” Austin said. 
The process of acquiring commission pieces for Hartsfield begins with identifying sites and then shortlisting artists, Austin said. “Then we’ll either ask those artists to submit proposals for that particular site or we’ll select artists based on past work and qualification. Then we convene a selection panel, and we interview the artists and select one based on their recommendation. For the rotating exhibit program, it’s a mix between getting proposals from entities and us reaching out to people and soliciting proposals from them.” 
Vogt and Austin are busily planning more exhibits for the coming months and years: “In October we’re going to be putting in an impressive exhibit of contemporary art from Haiti. That will run for one year in our display cases on Concourse E,” Vogt said. There will also be works from the late folk artist Eddie Owens Martin, who created a seven-acre art compound called Pasaquan in rural Georgia.
“Next year we will have an artist named Nancy Judd who makes clothing out of recycled materials,” Vogt said. “It’s a more environmentally-themed exhibit. The garments she makes are exquisite, but they are intended to focus on our wasteful consumerism.” 
Ned Kahn, a MacArthur “genius grant” recipient, does environmentally-based work too and has been commissioned to do a large kinetic wind-activated piece on the facade of a new parking deck in College Park. A recurring employee art show is scheduled for later this year, as is a photo exhibit in the atrium in conjunction with the annual Atlanta Celebrates Photography festival.  
Photographer Joel Sartore of National Geographic fame has embarked on a project to document every living species on the planet, and Vogt is hoping to land an exhibition of his work as well. 
As if all that wasn’t enough, Vogt added, “We just passed legislation to contract with artists to create a six-part sculptural installation for a tiered granite step that follows the up escalators to Concourse D.”

desc
HARTSFIELD-JACKSON ATLANTA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: In early 2020 Ned Kahn’s large-scale kinetic façade will adorn the ATL West Deck, a new long-term parking deck currently under construction in College Park. Photo credit: Artist Rendering

Return to Fall Arts Preview 2019



More By This Writer

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  string(8175) "Embracing pandemical shelter, masking up for an errand run, ducking and covering from microbial dread, we suffer the remedial, yet essential, tasks made all the more anxiety-inducing by the dictates of corrupt leadership and the selfish belligerence of willfully ignoratnt fellow citizens. Given the revolting cast and gloomy plot of this summer blockbuster, Listening Post offers a few diversionary pursuits as a temporary antidote.

Everyone is by now familiar with virtual streaming concerts and other types of online musical programming. Back in March, one of the first examples encountered by your correspondent was billed as a “Facebook Live” event featuring Richard Thompson. Filmed at his New Jersey home with partner Zara Phillips lending support and occasional backing vocals, the hour-long concert presented Thompson in typically poised, wry form. Watching him tossing off amazing guitar riffs with the greatest of ease, singing with serious intent when the material called for it, all while cracking wise and sitting on a couch in his living room, made for a hugely enter-taining experience.

Closer to home (proximally speaking), Listening Post has been especially enjoying the mostly local fare offered by Kimono My House, a virtual concert series on Facebook launched in March and administered by Kim Ware, Andy Gish, and The Yum Yum Tree. Fave installments so far include performances by Jeff Evans’ Chickens & Pigs, Bad Friend, Nerdkween, In Sonitus Lux, Al Shelton, Zentropy, Christo Case, and TT Mahoney.

Part of the fun of Kimono My House and similar series is watching the artist(s) perform in their natural habitat. Whether it’s a studio, rec room, back porch, or kitchen, the casual, mistakes-don’t-matter setting makes for a refreshingly engaging vibe. When the audience’s comments and emojis are acknowledged, a kind of rapport is conjured up, which adds to the “live” ambience. Sometimes, the banter between songs is as entertaining as the music itself. It’s no substitute for hanging out with friends at 529, Buteco, Eddie’s Attic, The Masquerade, Variety Playhouse, or The Earl, but this virtual gig thing can still be a lot of fun.

*  *  *

 On May 14, the Rialto Center for the Arts kicked off its “Homegrown Artists Series” with a noontime mini-concert by saxophonist, clarinetist and composer Jeff Crompton, who is no stranger to regular Listening Post readers. Curated by Rialto Stage Manager Nathan Brown, the series showcases local musicians via short (15-20 minutes) artist-submitted videos streamed on all of the Rialto’s social media platforms at 12 noon.


In May, the “Homegrown Artists Series” featured Jeffrey Butzer (May 21) and Zentropy (Allen Welty-Green) with Oblique Audio Haikus (May 28). Scheduled in June are singer-guitarist Bridget Leen (June 4) and tuba wizard Bill Pritchard (June 11) with additional performances TBD. Pritchard will be performing under the moniker Amplituba, which denotes his work incorporating electronic digital processing and effects.

For the “Homegrown” concert, Pritchard will play two compositions, one of which, ElevenTwelve, was written in 2019 for the tubist by Joanna Ross Hersey, inspired by Hildegard von Bingen, whose life and career as a nun, Abbess, composer, author, political figure and spiritual leader spanned the 11th and 12th centuries (1098-1170). Hersey advises the performer of ElevenTwelve thusly: “The soloist’s musical choices evoke an overall atmosphere of peace and serenity, through the use of flowing and meditative melodic lines. These melodies bring to mind Hildegard’s chant music, sung by the nuns during the worship at Disibodenburg (site of the convent’s abbey in Germany), honoring their lives and work, worship and community.”

Separately, the Rialto’s Brown is virtually spinning a full jazz album every evening at 7 p.m. Links to the albums are posted on the Rialto Center for the Arts Facebook page by searching #7pmJazz.

*  *  *

Another cool home-alone program is “Banjo House Lockdown,” featuring Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn. Live-streamed on Fridays at 7 p.m. EST (also archived on YouTube) from the couple’s Nashville residence, the show is part serious banjo fandango and part all-in-the-family sitcom, the latter aspect stemming from impromptu and staged participation by Fleck and Washburn’s impossibly cute sons, Juno, six, and Theo, two. A typical episode setlist includes an Appalachian murder ballad, an 18th-century ghost song, a 19th-century sea shanty, a 20th-century coal miner’s protest song, something from Fleck’s or Washburn’s vast personal repertoire, and original material the dynamic duo is still honing. One of my favorite segments is “Sheroes in the Shower,” which, oddly enough, features Washburn singing a cappella in the shower, taking advantage of the space’s special acoustic properties. There are kids’ songs complete with puppets and hand-crayoned sets, an abundance of virtuosic frailing and flatpicking, and more knee-slapping family-friendly entertainment than an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies. (I wonder how many readers will get the comparison). 

*  *  *

NPR Music has a terrific site, which lists live concert audio and video streams from around the world. The calendar includes performances by the Metropolitan Opera and New York City Ballet; various chamber ensembles and solo instrumental recitals; folk, jazz, rock, and bluegrass bands; all of which are accessible on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. As NPR notes, some of the programming requires registration or a subscription, but most of it is free. That said, as with most pandemic programming, audiences should be predisposed to digitally tip the artists and avail themselves of opportunities to directly support the performers by buying music and merchandise.

*  *  *

Speaking of buying music and merch, on two recent Fridays, Bandcamp waived its standard revenue share on sales, thereby increasing the amount of income flowing to artists who use the company’s online platform to distribute and sell music and related wares. On a typical Friday, according to Bandcamp founder and CEO Ethan Diamond, the site registers about 47,000 orders. On March 20, fans placed 800,000 orders for music and stuff worth $4.3 million; at peak activity, Bandcamp was registering 11 sales per second. Two months later, on Friday, May 1, the 24-hour tally amounted to $7.1 million. With all indications pointing to the Coronavirus going nowhere but everywhere with the inexorable stubbornness of a tsunami, Bandcamp extended its revenue waiver program to include the first Friday of the next two months. On June 5 and July 3, from midnight to midnight PDT, musicians will substantially benefit from “duty free” sales placed through Bandcamp. Remember, kids, the COVID-19 Christmas season is just around the corner.

*  *  *

From King Crimson founder Robert Fripp comes “Music for Quiet Moments,” a series of ambient instrumental soundscapes available online every week for 50 weeks. “Something to nourish us, and help us through these uncertain times,” notes the inventor of Frippertronics. “Quiet moments are when we put time aside to be quiet. Sometimes quiet moments find us. Quiet may be experienced with sound, and also through sound; in a place we hold to be sacred, or maybe on a crowded subway train hurtling towards Piccadilly or Times Square. Quiet moments of my musical life, expressed in soundscapes, are deeply personal; yet utterly impersonal: they address the concerns we share within our common humanity.” Who is Listening Post to disagree? The first three installments were exactly what one would expect: gracefully distinctive guitar effects eddying, gliding, and pirouetting above an undulating, fathoms-deep modal ocean. Choose your favorite mantra and Zen away the coronal chaos with Fripp. Also deserving mention is the “Sunday Lockdown Lunch” series, which stars Fripp and Toyah Wilcox cavorting in brief, humorous music videos. My top pick so far is the “Swan Lake” episode. —CL—"
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Everyone is by now familiar with virtual streaming concerts and other types of online musical programming. Back in March, one of the first examples encountered by your correspondent was billed as a “Facebook Live” event featuring Richard Thompson. Filmed at his New Jersey home with partner Zara Phillips lending support and occasional backing vocals, the hour-long concert presented Thompson in typically poised, wry form. Watching him tossing off amazing guitar riffs with the greatest of ease, singing with serious intent when the material called for it, all while cracking wise and sitting on a couch in his living room, made for a hugely enter-taining experience.

Closer to home (proximally speaking), Listening Post has been especially enjoying the mostly local fare offered by Kimono My House, a virtual concert series on Facebook launched in March and administered by Kim Ware, Andy Gish, and The Yum Yum Tree. Fave installments so far include performances by Jeff Evans’ Chickens & Pigs, Bad Friend, Nerdkween, In Sonitus Lux, Al Shelton, Zentropy, Christo Case, and TT Mahoney.

Part of the fun of Kimono My House and similar series is watching the artist(s) perform in their natural habitat. Whether it’s a studio, rec room, back porch, or kitchen, the casual, mistakes-don’t-matter setting makes for a refreshingly engaging vibe. When the audience’s comments and emojis are acknowledged, a kind of rapport is conjured up, which adds to the “live” ambience. Sometimes, the banter between songs is as entertaining as the music itself. It’s no substitute for hanging out with friends at 529, Buteco, Eddie’s Attic, The Masquerade, Variety Playhouse, or The Earl, but this virtual gig thing can still be a lot of fun.

__*  *  *__

 On May 14, the Rialto Center for the Arts kicked off its “Homegrown Artists Series” with a noontime mini-concert by saxophonist, clarinetist and composer Jeff Crompton, who is no stranger to regular Listening Post readers. Curated by Rialto Stage Manager Nathan Brown, the series showcases local musicians via short (15-20 minutes) artist-submitted videos streamed on all of the Rialto’s social media platforms at 12 noon.


{img fileId="31427" stylebox="float: right; margin-left:25px;" desc="desc" max="400px"}In May, the “Homegrown Artists Series” featured Jeffrey Butzer (May 21) and Zentropy (Allen Welty-Green) with Oblique Audio Haikus (May 28). Scheduled in June are singer-guitarist Bridget Leen (June 4) and tuba wizard Bill Pritchard (June 11) with additional performances TBD. Pritchard will be performing under the moniker Amplituba, which denotes his work incorporating electronic digital processing and effects.

For the “Homegrown” concert, Pritchard will play two compositions, one of which, ''ElevenTwelve'', was written in 2019 for the tubist by Joanna Ross Hersey, inspired by Hildegard von Bingen, whose life and career as a nun, Abbess, composer, author, political figure and spiritual leader spanned the 11th and 12th centuries (1098-1170). Hersey advises the performer of ''ElevenTwelve'' thusly: “The soloist’s musical choices evoke an overall atmosphere of peace and serenity, through the use of flowing and meditative melodic lines. These melodies bring to mind Hildegard’s chant music, sung by the nuns during the worship at Disibodenburg (site of the convent’s abbey in Germany), honoring their lives and work, worship and community.”

Separately, the Rialto’s Brown is virtually spinning a full jazz album every evening at 7 p.m. Links to the albums are posted on the Rialto Center for the Arts Facebook page by searching #7pmJazz.

__*  *  *__

Another cool home-alone program is “Banjo House Lockdown,” featuring Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn. Live-streamed on Fridays at 7 p.m. EST (also archived on YouTube) from the couple’s Nashville residence, the show is part serious banjo fandango and part all-in-the-family sitcom, the latter aspect stemming from impromptu and staged participation by Fleck and Washburn’s impossibly cute sons, Juno, six, and Theo, two. A typical episode setlist includes an Appalachian murder ballad, an 18th-century ghost song, a 19th-century sea shanty, a 20th-century coal miner’s protest song, something from Fleck’s or Washburn’s vast personal repertoire, and original material the dynamic duo is still honing. One of my favorite segments is “Sheroes in the Shower,” which, oddly enough, features Washburn singing a cappella in the shower, taking advantage of the space’s special acoustic properties. There are kids’ songs complete with puppets and hand-crayoned sets, an abundance of virtuosic frailing and flatpicking, and more knee-slapping family-friendly entertainment than an episode of ''The Beverly Hillbillies''. (I wonder how many readers will get the comparison). 

__*  *  *__

NPR Music has a terrific site, which lists live concert audio and video streams from around the world. The calendar includes performances by the Metropolitan Opera and New York City Ballet; various chamber ensembles and solo instrumental recitals; folk, jazz, rock, and bluegrass bands; all of which are accessible on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. As NPR notes, some of the programming requires registration or a subscription, but most of it is free. That said, as with most pandemic programming, audiences should be predisposed to digitally tip the artists and avail themselves of opportunities to directly support the performers by buying music and merchandise.

__*  *  *__

Speaking of buying music and merch, on two recent Fridays, Bandcamp waived its standard revenue share on sales, thereby increasing the amount of income flowing to artists who use the company’s online platform to distribute and sell music and related wares. On a typical Friday, according to Bandcamp founder and CEO Ethan Diamond, the site registers about 47,000 orders. On March 20, fans placed 800,000 orders for music and stuff worth $4.3 million; at peak activity, Bandcamp was registering 11 sales per second. Two months later, on Friday, May 1, the 24-hour tally amounted to $7.1 million. With all indications pointing to the Coronavirus going nowhere but everywhere with the inexorable stubbornness of a tsunami, Bandcamp extended its revenue waiver program to include the first Friday of the next two months. On June 5 and July 3, from midnight to midnight PDT, musicians will substantially benefit from “duty free” sales placed through Bandcamp. Remember, kids, the COVID-19 Christmas season is just around the corner.

__*  *  *__

From King Crimson founder Robert Fripp comes “Music for Quiet Moments,” a series of ambient instrumental soundscapes available online every week for 50 weeks. “Something to nourish us, and help us through these uncertain times,” notes the inventor of Frippertronics. “Quiet moments are when we put time aside to be quiet. Sometimes quiet moments find us. Quiet may be experienced with sound, and also through sound; in a place we hold to be sacred, or maybe on a crowded subway train hurtling towards Piccadilly or Times Square. Quiet moments of my musical life, expressed in soundscapes, are deeply personal; yet utterly impersonal: they address the concerns we share within our common humanity.” Who is Listening Post to disagree? The first three installments were exactly what one would expect: gracefully distinctive guitar effects eddying, gliding, and pirouetting above an undulating, fathoms-deep modal ocean. Choose your favorite mantra and Zen away the coronal chaos with Fripp. Also deserving mention is the “Sunday Lockdown Lunch” series, which stars Fripp and Toyah Wilcox cavorting in brief, humorous music videos. My top pick so far is the “Swan Lake” episode. __—CL—__"
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  string(9055) " 2 Wu Fei & Abigail Washburn By Shervin Lainez 7  2020-06-03T21:34:25+00:00 2_Wu_Fei_&_Abigail_Washburn_by_Shervin_Lainez_7.jpg   Thanks Doug.  Good article. listeningpost Online diversions offer respite for listeners and support for musicians 31428  2020-06-03T21:35:23+00:00 LISTENING POST: Don’t pandemic! jim.harris@creativeloafing.com Jim Harris DOUG DELOACH Doug DeLoach 2020-06-03T21:35:23+00:00  Embracing pandemical shelter, masking up for an errand run, ducking and covering from microbial dread, we suffer the remedial, yet essential, tasks made all the more anxiety-inducing by the dictates of corrupt leadership and the selfish belligerence of willfully ignoratnt fellow citizens. Given the revolting cast and gloomy plot of this summer blockbuster, Listening Post offers a few diversionary pursuits as a temporary antidote.

Everyone is by now familiar with virtual streaming concerts and other types of online musical programming. Back in March, one of the first examples encountered by your correspondent was billed as a “Facebook Live” event featuring Richard Thompson. Filmed at his New Jersey home with partner Zara Phillips lending support and occasional backing vocals, the hour-long concert presented Thompson in typically poised, wry form. Watching him tossing off amazing guitar riffs with the greatest of ease, singing with serious intent when the material called for it, all while cracking wise and sitting on a couch in his living room, made for a hugely enter-taining experience.

Closer to home (proximally speaking), Listening Post has been especially enjoying the mostly local fare offered by Kimono My House, a virtual concert series on Facebook launched in March and administered by Kim Ware, Andy Gish, and The Yum Yum Tree. Fave installments so far include performances by Jeff Evans’ Chickens & Pigs, Bad Friend, Nerdkween, In Sonitus Lux, Al Shelton, Zentropy, Christo Case, and TT Mahoney.

Part of the fun of Kimono My House and similar series is watching the artist(s) perform in their natural habitat. Whether it’s a studio, rec room, back porch, or kitchen, the casual, mistakes-don’t-matter setting makes for a refreshingly engaging vibe. When the audience’s comments and emojis are acknowledged, a kind of rapport is conjured up, which adds to the “live” ambience. Sometimes, the banter between songs is as entertaining as the music itself. It’s no substitute for hanging out with friends at 529, Buteco, Eddie’s Attic, The Masquerade, Variety Playhouse, or The Earl, but this virtual gig thing can still be a lot of fun.

*  *  *

 On May 14, the Rialto Center for the Arts kicked off its “Homegrown Artists Series” with a noontime mini-concert by saxophonist, clarinetist and composer Jeff Crompton, who is no stranger to regular Listening Post readers. Curated by Rialto Stage Manager Nathan Brown, the series showcases local musicians via short (15-20 minutes) artist-submitted videos streamed on all of the Rialto’s social media platforms at 12 noon.


In May, the “Homegrown Artists Series” featured Jeffrey Butzer (May 21) and Zentropy (Allen Welty-Green) with Oblique Audio Haikus (May 28). Scheduled in June are singer-guitarist Bridget Leen (June 4) and tuba wizard Bill Pritchard (June 11) with additional performances TBD. Pritchard will be performing under the moniker Amplituba, which denotes his work incorporating electronic digital processing and effects.

For the “Homegrown” concert, Pritchard will play two compositions, one of which, ElevenTwelve, was written in 2019 for the tubist by Joanna Ross Hersey, inspired by Hildegard von Bingen, whose life and career as a nun, Abbess, composer, author, political figure and spiritual leader spanned the 11th and 12th centuries (1098-1170). Hersey advises the performer of ElevenTwelve thusly: “The soloist’s musical choices evoke an overall atmosphere of peace and serenity, through the use of flowing and meditative melodic lines. These melodies bring to mind Hildegard’s chant music, sung by the nuns during the worship at Disibodenburg (site of the convent’s abbey in Germany), honoring their lives and work, worship and community.”

Separately, the Rialto’s Brown is virtually spinning a full jazz album every evening at 7 p.m. Links to the albums are posted on the Rialto Center for the Arts Facebook page by searching #7pmJazz.

*  *  *

Another cool home-alone program is “Banjo House Lockdown,” featuring Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn. Live-streamed on Fridays at 7 p.m. EST (also archived on YouTube) from the couple’s Nashville residence, the show is part serious banjo fandango and part all-in-the-family sitcom, the latter aspect stemming from impromptu and staged participation by Fleck and Washburn’s impossibly cute sons, Juno, six, and Theo, two. A typical episode setlist includes an Appalachian murder ballad, an 18th-century ghost song, a 19th-century sea shanty, a 20th-century coal miner’s protest song, something from Fleck’s or Washburn’s vast personal repertoire, and original material the dynamic duo is still honing. One of my favorite segments is “Sheroes in the Shower,” which, oddly enough, features Washburn singing a cappella in the shower, taking advantage of the space’s special acoustic properties. There are kids’ songs complete with puppets and hand-crayoned sets, an abundance of virtuosic frailing and flatpicking, and more knee-slapping family-friendly entertainment than an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies. (I wonder how many readers will get the comparison). 

*  *  *

NPR Music has a terrific site, which lists live concert audio and video streams from around the world. The calendar includes performances by the Metropolitan Opera and New York City Ballet; various chamber ensembles and solo instrumental recitals; folk, jazz, rock, and bluegrass bands; all of which are accessible on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. As NPR notes, some of the programming requires registration or a subscription, but most of it is free. That said, as with most pandemic programming, audiences should be predisposed to digitally tip the artists and avail themselves of opportunities to directly support the performers by buying music and merchandise.

*  *  *

Speaking of buying music and merch, on two recent Fridays, Bandcamp waived its standard revenue share on sales, thereby increasing the amount of income flowing to artists who use the company’s online platform to distribute and sell music and related wares. On a typical Friday, according to Bandcamp founder and CEO Ethan Diamond, the site registers about 47,000 orders. On March 20, fans placed 800,000 orders for music and stuff worth $4.3 million; at peak activity, Bandcamp was registering 11 sales per second. Two months later, on Friday, May 1, the 24-hour tally amounted to $7.1 million. With all indications pointing to the Coronavirus going nowhere but everywhere with the inexorable stubbornness of a tsunami, Bandcamp extended its revenue waiver program to include the first Friday of the next two months. On June 5 and July 3, from midnight to midnight PDT, musicians will substantially benefit from “duty free” sales placed through Bandcamp. Remember, kids, the COVID-19 Christmas season is just around the corner.

*  *  *

From King Crimson founder Robert Fripp comes “Music for Quiet Moments,” a series of ambient instrumental soundscapes available online every week for 50 weeks. “Something to nourish us, and help us through these uncertain times,” notes the inventor of Frippertronics. “Quiet moments are when we put time aside to be quiet. Sometimes quiet moments find us. Quiet may be experienced with sound, and also through sound; in a place we hold to be sacred, or maybe on a crowded subway train hurtling towards Piccadilly or Times Square. Quiet moments of my musical life, expressed in soundscapes, are deeply personal; yet utterly impersonal: they address the concerns we share within our common humanity.” Who is Listening Post to disagree? The first three installments were exactly what one would expect: gracefully distinctive guitar effects eddying, gliding, and pirouetting above an undulating, fathoms-deep modal ocean. Choose your favorite mantra and Zen away the coronal chaos with Fripp. Also deserving mention is the “Sunday Lockdown Lunch” series, which stars Fripp and Toyah Wilcox cavorting in brief, humorous music videos. My top pick so far is the “Swan Lake” episode. —CL—    Shervin Lainez For the housebound, Listening Post recommends Bela Fleck and Abigal Washburn's "Banjo House Lockdown," a free, weekly (Fridays at 7 p.m.) DIY concert program live-streamed on Facebook and archived on YouTube. Shown above, Washburn (Fleck's wife and frequent musical collaborator) and Chinese guzheng player Wu Fei recently released a duo album on Smithsonian Folkways  0,0,10    listeningpost                             LISTENING POST: Don’t pandemic! "
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Wednesday June 3, 2020 05:35 pm EDT
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  string(9661) "Here we are, a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic. Hitherto relatively normal citizens are executing pre-dawn raids on Publix, Piggly Wiggly, and Walmart to secure inordinate caches of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, surgical masks, Pringles, and microwavable dinner entrees. The stock market has taken a dump, and the general economy teeters on the brink of DEFCON 2. After Senate Republicans ensured that assistance to the least advantaged Americans was pared down to the barest minimum and the largest corporations jacked up for another stock buyback bonanza, checks that might cover a monthly mortgage payment and, in some cases, maybe a week’s worth of groceries, are trickling into the coffers of the proletariat.

Lunatics, for the most part, are running the pandemic response asylum. The president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, offers guidance based on hunches, selfish whims, and exhaust gasses from the right-wing scream machine. By the time you read these words, the White House may or may not have discontinued daily televised briefings co-starring the handpicked Coronavirus Task Force. Previous episodes featured the president’s fapping assessment of his great and unmatched wisdom coupled with deranged rantings at critics real and imagined. Sometimes, tidbits of factual, helpful information by scientists and health experts, cowed into gurgling subservience, made their way into the script. Regardless of whether the White House network cancels the COVID-19 reality show, whose ratings Trump touts as a praiseworthy achievement, the public can expect ongoing obfuscation and disinformation from the president’s sycophantic representatives dutifully following the dictum that chaos favors the powers that be.

Closer to home, buoyed by not quite unanimous approval from the state legislature and supported by a body politic inclined toward herd stupidity, Governor Brian Kemp, the former Secretary of State who oversaw his own election, is ignoring the global consensus of epidemiological experts, not to mention the federal government’s official guidelines, in favor of his own strategy for handling COVID-19. While it’s too early to draw hard conclusions about Kemp’s approach, it doesn’t take a PhD in epidemiology to predict a less than desirable outcome resulting from opening up businesses and encouraging public gatherings, for example, at shopping malls and restaurants, regardless of whatever safety measures are being observed at any given locale.

Thank the goddesses, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is disinclined to follow Kemp’s lead. On March 19, with the rising number of coronavirus cases and deaths caused by the disease showing no sign of leveling off, Bottoms ordered the closure of all nightclubs, private social clubs, fitness centers, gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys and arcades within the city limits “until further notice.” At press time, restaurants and bars are limited to offering take-out and curbside pickup service. Individually, metro area county and city officials have issued executive orders and announced strong recommendations regarding what residents and businesses within their jurisdictions can and cannot do. Check your local listings, as they say, for the latest details.

In this time of pandemic sheltering, here are a couple of Listening Post recommendations:

Buy and read Jim Tate’s Bruce Hampton: The Early Years (1962-1970). Tate was a close adolescent friend of the late iconoclastic musician and actor (Sling Blade) who passed away May 1, 2017, while performing onstage at the Fox Theatre during his 70th birthday celebration. Only a man of preternatural essence could pull off such a dramatically compelling mortal uncoiling. Tate’s brief, 50-odd-page, anecdotal account confirms the presence of this essence in his friend at an early age. During their teenage years, Tate and Hampton lived a few doors apart on Millbrook Drive near Chastain Park. They shot basketballs, raced bicycles in the dirt, and did the usual stuff teenagers do together. Except, this was Bruce Hampton, which means “the usual stuff” also included strange powers of prognostication, unearthly athletic feats, and the incitement of a near-riot on Live Atlanta Wrestling. All of the shenanigans described in the book transpired before the formation of the Hampton Grease Band, which marked the beginning of Hampton’s journey to avant-jazz-rock before “the Colonel”’s jam band fame, acknowledging small details in the mirror of embarrassment, and cosmic immortality. Get Tate’s book and discover the latent reality behind the myth tangential to the enigma wrapped around the conundrum, which forever remains Bruce Hampton.

Elsewhere in this issue, Chad Radford provides details on Halocline, a new release from Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel, and Six Feet Apart, a three-track mini-album featuring DfTaLS lap steel specialist Frank Schultz and percussionist Klimchak performing as a duo. Bandcamp is the place to download and preorder both albums, with proceeds from sales going to Giving Kitchen and the Atlanta Musicians’ Emergency Relief Fund.

Halocline is a superbly crafted work of electronic ambience, the best release yet by Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel’s Scott Burland and Schultz. Texturally variant, richly layered, irresistibly immersive, the eight tracks entice the listener into an alternate dimension of contemplative spaces. Think of Halocline as an antidote to pandemic-induced anxiety.

The tracks were taken from improvised sessions during February, March, and April of 2019. Three songs feature Louisville, Kentucky-based Dane Waters, an operatically trained singer with an exquisitely light, precise, and alluring voice. DfTaLS sent three tracks to Waters who sang and improvised non-lyrical melodic lines for incorporation into the final mix. Her contribution lends a gracious, human presence to the instrumental proceedings.

“We met Dane while on tour in 2019 and fell in love with her voice,” says Schultz. “After seeing her perform in Louisville, we went to her house the next day and asked her to provide some vocal tracks for our upcoming album.”

The album’s title refers to an oceanic phenomenon in which the salinity of water changes rapidly in a vertical gradient, causing dramatic differences in the water’s density and clarity, which produces visually observable effects. “We saw a similar phenomenon in the music we chose for the album,” says Burland. “Some is shapeless, murky, dense, while other pieces are melodic and sparse.”

With track titles such as “Swell,” “Brinicle,” and “Sea of Eternal Gloom,” the aquatic theme runs deeply through the album. Years ago, a reviewer described Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel’s music as “a long-lost soundtrack to a deep-sea documentary,” which Burland says “describes Halocline perfectly.”

Regarding Six Feet Apart, Schultz says he enjoyed the collaboration-at-a-distance with Klimchak, even though some aspects of the process took some getting used to. The music was conceived and mixed before sheltering in place became the operational norm. Schultz recorded his tracks alone, while experimenting with preparing and playing the lap steel with chopsticks, then sent the completed tracks to Klimchak.

“What is missing is being in the same room and making on-the-spot decisions, whether agreements or changes, as well as that feeling of urgency, immediacy, and instant gratification,” says Schultz.

The idea of collaborating in a more conventional setting was something the two musicians had been discussing for some time. When he initially received the three tracks from Schultz, Klimchak says it seemed like a good idea from a convenience standpoint.

“I was in the midst of several other big projects, so it was actually a way to jump right in without having to fit a practice session around other deadlines,” he says. “It really only seemed odd after the fact, now that long-distance collaboration is something we have to do.”

The music on Six Feet Apart is a captivating mixture of modal undercurrents created by waves of synthesized sound; sharply percussive accents, modified natural and electronic noise elements, and what sounds like horror movie samples from Klimchak’s fathomless bag of tricks; and a distinctly gamelan-like metallic reverberation imparted partly by Schultz’ chopsticks on lap steel technique. The mélange of exotically beautiful, vaguely Asiatic tonal colors and deeply sinuous world grooves make for a perfectly wondrous listening experience.


“While Frank’s parts were improvised, mine were not improvised, although improv was a part of the composing process,” Klimchak explains. “Because I had his finished tracks before starting on mine, I had the luxury of listening to his parts at length and trying different things to see what worked best. After picking out the individual instruments that I wanted to use, I sat down and wrote the parts, then recorded them.”

Klimchak is currently in the middle of a long-distance collaboration with percussionist Sean Hamilton in Grand Junction, Colorado. The duo decided to record an album in lieu of a planned five-week West Coast tour in April/May. “It’s been really easy going because of the experience doing Six Feet Apart,” says Klimchak.

If there is a silver lining to the coronavirus pandemic, it might turn out to be the different ways in which musicians and other artists are forced to collaborate at a distance. Even beset by a plague, the muse always finds a way. —CL—"
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  string(9800) "Here we are, a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic. Hitherto relatively normal citizens are executing pre-dawn raids on Publix, Piggly Wiggly, and Walmart to secure inordinate caches of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, surgical masks, Pringles, and microwavable dinner entrees. The stock market has taken a dump, and the general economy teeters on the brink of DEFCON 2. After Senate Republicans ensured that assistance to the least advantaged Americans was pared down to the barest minimum and the largest corporations jacked up for another stock buyback bonanza, checks that might cover a monthly mortgage payment and, in some cases, maybe a week’s worth of groceries, are trickling into the coffers of the proletariat.

Lunatics, for the most part, are running the pandemic response asylum. The president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, offers guidance based on hunches, selfish whims, and exhaust gasses from the right-wing scream machine. By the time you read these words, the White House may or may not have discontinued daily televised briefings co-starring the handpicked Coronavirus Task Force. Previous episodes featured the president’s fapping assessment of his great and unmatched wisdom coupled with deranged rantings at critics real and imagined. Sometimes, tidbits of factual, helpful information by scientists and health experts, cowed into gurgling subservience, made their way into the script. Regardless of whether the White House network cancels the COVID-19 reality show, whose ratings Trump touts as a praiseworthy achievement, the public can expect ongoing obfuscation and disinformation from the president’s sycophantic representatives dutifully following the dictum that chaos favors the powers that be.

Closer to home, buoyed by not quite unanimous approval from the state legislature and supported by a body politic inclined toward herd stupidity, Governor Brian Kemp, the former Secretary of State who oversaw his own election, is ignoring the global consensus of epidemiological experts, not to mention the federal government’s official guidelines, in favor of his own strategy for handling COVID-19. While it’s too early to draw hard conclusions about Kemp’s approach, it doesn’t take a PhD in epidemiology to predict a less than desirable outcome resulting from opening up businesses and encouraging public gatherings, for example, at shopping malls and restaurants, regardless of whatever safety measures are being observed at any given locale.

Thank the goddesses, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is disinclined to follow Kemp’s lead. On March 19, with the rising number of coronavirus cases and deaths caused by the disease showing no sign of leveling off, Bottoms ordered the closure of all nightclubs, private social clubs, fitness centers, gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys and arcades within the city limits “until further notice.” At press time, restaurants and bars are limited to offering take-out and curbside pickup service. Individually, metro area county and city officials have issued executive orders and announced strong recommendations regarding what residents and businesses within their jurisdictions can and cannot do. Check your local listings, as they say, for the latest details.

In this time of pandemic sheltering, here are a couple of Listening Post recommendations:

Buy and read Jim Tate’s ''Bruce Hampton: The Early Years (1962-1970)''. Tate was a close adolescent friend of the late iconoclastic musician and actor (''Sling Blade'') who passed away May 1, 2017, while performing onstage at the Fox Theatre during his 70th birthday celebration. Only a man of preternatural essence could pull off such a dramatically compelling mortal uncoiling. Tate’s brief, 50-odd-page, anecdotal account confirms the presence of this essence in his friend at an early age. During their teenage years, Tate and Hampton lived a few doors apart on Millbrook Drive near Chastain Park. They shot basketballs, raced bicycles in the dirt, and did the usual stuff teenagers do together. Except, this was Bruce Hampton, which means “the usual stuff” also included strange powers of prognostication, unearthly athletic feats, and the incitement of a near-riot on ''Live Atlanta Wrestling''. All of the shenanigans described in the book transpired before the formation of the Hampton Grease Band, which marked the beginning of Hampton’s journey to avant-jazz-rock before “the Colonel”’s jam band fame, acknowledging small details in the mirror of embarrassment, and cosmic immortality. Get Tate’s book and discover the latent reality behind the myth tangential to the enigma wrapped around the conundrum, which forever remains Bruce Hampton.

Elsewhere in this issue, Chad Radford provides details on ''Halocline,'' a new release from Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel, and ''Six Feet Apart,'' a three-track mini-album featuring DfTaLS lap steel specialist Frank Schultz and percussionist Klimchak performing as a duo. Bandcamp is the place to download and preorder both albums, with proceeds from sales going to Giving Kitchen and the Atlanta Musicians’ Emergency Relief Fund.

''Halocline'' is a superbly crafted work of electronic ambience, the best release yet by Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel’s Scott Burland and Schultz. Texturally variant, richly layered, irresistibly immersive, the eight tracks entice the listener into an alternate dimension of contemplative spaces. Think of ''Halocline'' as an antidote to pandemic-induced anxiety.

The tracks were taken from improvised sessions during February, March, and April of 2019. Three songs feature Louisville, Kentucky-based Dane Waters, an operatically trained singer with an exquisitely light, precise, and alluring voice. DfTaLS sent three tracks to Waters who sang and improvised non-lyrical melodic lines for incorporation into the final mix. Her contribution lends a gracious, human presence to the instrumental proceedings.

“We met Dane while on tour in 2019 and fell in love with her voice,” says Schultz. “After seeing her perform in Louisville, we went to her house the next day and asked her to provide some vocal tracks for our upcoming album.”

The album’s title refers to an oceanic phenomenon in which the salinity of water changes rapidly in a vertical gradient, causing dramatic differences in the water’s density and clarity, which produces visually observable effects. “We saw a similar phenomenon in the music we chose for the album,” says Burland. “Some is shapeless, murky, dense, while other pieces are melodic and sparse.”

With track titles such as “Swell,” “Brinicle,” and “Sea of Eternal Gloom,” the aquatic theme runs deeply through the album. Years ago, a reviewer described Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel’s music as “a long-lost soundtrack to a deep-sea documentary,” which Burland says “describes ''Halocline'' perfectly.”

Regarding ''Six Feet Apart'', Schultz says he enjoyed the collaboration-at-a-distance with Klimchak, even though some aspects of the process took some getting used to. The music was conceived and mixed before sheltering in place became the operational norm. Schultz recorded his tracks alone, while experimenting with preparing and playing the lap steel with chopsticks, then sent the completed tracks to Klimchak.

“What is missing is being in the same room and making on-the-spot decisions, whether agreements or changes, as well as that feeling of urgency, immediacy, and instant gratification,” says Schultz.

The idea of collaborating in a more conventional setting was something the two musicians had been discussing for some time. When he initially received the three tracks from Schultz, Klimchak says it seemed like a good idea from a convenience standpoint.

“I was in the midst of several other big projects, so it was actually a way to jump right in without having to fit a practice session around other deadlines,” he says. “It really only seemed odd after the fact, now that long-distance collaboration is something we have to do.”

The music on ''Six Feet Apart'' is a captivating mixture of modal undercurrents created by waves of synthesized sound; sharply percussive accents, modified natural and electronic noise elements, and what sounds like horror movie samples from Klimchak’s fathomless bag of tricks; and a distinctly gamelan-like metallic reverberation imparted partly by Schultz’ chopsticks on lap steel technique. The mélange of exotically beautiful, vaguely Asiatic tonal colors and deeply sinuous world grooves make for a perfectly wondrous listening experience.

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“While Frank’s parts were improvised, mine were ''not'' improvised, although improv was a part of the composing process,” Klimchak explains. “Because I had his finished tracks before starting on mine, I had the luxury of listening to his parts at length and trying different things to see what worked best. After picking out the individual instruments that I wanted to use, I sat down and wrote the parts, then recorded them.”

Klimchak is currently in the middle of a long-distance collaboration with percussionist Sean Hamilton in Grand Junction, Colorado. The duo decided to record an album in lieu of a planned five-week West Coast tour in April/May. “It’s been really easy going because of the experience doing ''Six Feet Apart'',” says Klimchak.

If there is a silver lining to the coronavirus pandemic, it might turn out to be the different ways in which musicians and other artists are forced to collaborate at a distance. Even beset by a plague, the muse always finds a way. __—CL—__"
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  string(10570) " LP #1 DfT&LS By Jeffrey Grove  2020-05-11T20:37:19+00:00 LP_#1_DfT&LS_by_Jeffrey_Grove.jpg   Thanks for the mention of my book: Bruce Hampton - The Early Years. It is available here on Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/ybdum8sg listeningpost New music and a small book for the untimely sheltered 31021  2020-05-01T04:15:00+00:00 LISTENING POST: Persevering through the plague jim.harris@creativeloafing.com Jim Harris DOUG DELOACH Doug DeLoach 2020-05-01T04:15:00+00:00  Here we are, a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic. Hitherto relatively normal citizens are executing pre-dawn raids on Publix, Piggly Wiggly, and Walmart to secure inordinate caches of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, surgical masks, Pringles, and microwavable dinner entrees. The stock market has taken a dump, and the general economy teeters on the brink of DEFCON 2. After Senate Republicans ensured that assistance to the least advantaged Americans was pared down to the barest minimum and the largest corporations jacked up for another stock buyback bonanza, checks that might cover a monthly mortgage payment and, in some cases, maybe a week’s worth of groceries, are trickling into the coffers of the proletariat.

Lunatics, for the most part, are running the pandemic response asylum. The president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, offers guidance based on hunches, selfish whims, and exhaust gasses from the right-wing scream machine. By the time you read these words, the White House may or may not have discontinued daily televised briefings co-starring the handpicked Coronavirus Task Force. Previous episodes featured the president’s fapping assessment of his great and unmatched wisdom coupled with deranged rantings at critics real and imagined. Sometimes, tidbits of factual, helpful information by scientists and health experts, cowed into gurgling subservience, made their way into the script. Regardless of whether the White House network cancels the COVID-19 reality show, whose ratings Trump touts as a praiseworthy achievement, the public can expect ongoing obfuscation and disinformation from the president’s sycophantic representatives dutifully following the dictum that chaos favors the powers that be.

Closer to home, buoyed by not quite unanimous approval from the state legislature and supported by a body politic inclined toward herd stupidity, Governor Brian Kemp, the former Secretary of State who oversaw his own election, is ignoring the global consensus of epidemiological experts, not to mention the federal government’s official guidelines, in favor of his own strategy for handling COVID-19. While it’s too early to draw hard conclusions about Kemp’s approach, it doesn’t take a PhD in epidemiology to predict a less than desirable outcome resulting from opening up businesses and encouraging public gatherings, for example, at shopping malls and restaurants, regardless of whatever safety measures are being observed at any given locale.

Thank the goddesses, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is disinclined to follow Kemp’s lead. On March 19, with the rising number of coronavirus cases and deaths caused by the disease showing no sign of leveling off, Bottoms ordered the closure of all nightclubs, private social clubs, fitness centers, gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys and arcades within the city limits “until further notice.” At press time, restaurants and bars are limited to offering take-out and curbside pickup service. Individually, metro area county and city officials have issued executive orders and announced strong recommendations regarding what residents and businesses within their jurisdictions can and cannot do. Check your local listings, as they say, for the latest details.

In this time of pandemic sheltering, here are a couple of Listening Post recommendations:

Buy and read Jim Tate’s Bruce Hampton: The Early Years (1962-1970). Tate was a close adolescent friend of the late iconoclastic musician and actor (Sling Blade) who passed away May 1, 2017, while performing onstage at the Fox Theatre during his 70th birthday celebration. Only a man of preternatural essence could pull off such a dramatically compelling mortal uncoiling. Tate’s brief, 50-odd-page, anecdotal account confirms the presence of this essence in his friend at an early age. During their teenage years, Tate and Hampton lived a few doors apart on Millbrook Drive near Chastain Park. They shot basketballs, raced bicycles in the dirt, and did the usual stuff teenagers do together. Except, this was Bruce Hampton, which means “the usual stuff” also included strange powers of prognostication, unearthly athletic feats, and the incitement of a near-riot on Live Atlanta Wrestling. All of the shenanigans described in the book transpired before the formation of the Hampton Grease Band, which marked the beginning of Hampton’s journey to avant-jazz-rock before “the Colonel”’s jam band fame, acknowledging small details in the mirror of embarrassment, and cosmic immortality. Get Tate’s book and discover the latent reality behind the myth tangential to the enigma wrapped around the conundrum, which forever remains Bruce Hampton.

Elsewhere in this issue, Chad Radford provides details on Halocline, a new release from Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel, and Six Feet Apart, a three-track mini-album featuring DfTaLS lap steel specialist Frank Schultz and percussionist Klimchak performing as a duo. Bandcamp is the place to download and preorder both albums, with proceeds from sales going to Giving Kitchen and the Atlanta Musicians’ Emergency Relief Fund.

Halocline is a superbly crafted work of electronic ambience, the best release yet by Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel’s Scott Burland and Schultz. Texturally variant, richly layered, irresistibly immersive, the eight tracks entice the listener into an alternate dimension of contemplative spaces. Think of Halocline as an antidote to pandemic-induced anxiety.

The tracks were taken from improvised sessions during February, March, and April of 2019. Three songs feature Louisville, Kentucky-based Dane Waters, an operatically trained singer with an exquisitely light, precise, and alluring voice. DfTaLS sent three tracks to Waters who sang and improvised non-lyrical melodic lines for incorporation into the final mix. Her contribution lends a gracious, human presence to the instrumental proceedings.

“We met Dane while on tour in 2019 and fell in love with her voice,” says Schultz. “After seeing her perform in Louisville, we went to her house the next day and asked her to provide some vocal tracks for our upcoming album.”

The album’s title refers to an oceanic phenomenon in which the salinity of water changes rapidly in a vertical gradient, causing dramatic differences in the water’s density and clarity, which produces visually observable effects. “We saw a similar phenomenon in the music we chose for the album,” says Burland. “Some is shapeless, murky, dense, while other pieces are melodic and sparse.”

With track titles such as “Swell,” “Brinicle,” and “Sea of Eternal Gloom,” the aquatic theme runs deeply through the album. Years ago, a reviewer described Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel’s music as “a long-lost soundtrack to a deep-sea documentary,” which Burland says “describes Halocline perfectly.”

Regarding Six Feet Apart, Schultz says he enjoyed the collaboration-at-a-distance with Klimchak, even though some aspects of the process took some getting used to. The music was conceived and mixed before sheltering in place became the operational norm. Schultz recorded his tracks alone, while experimenting with preparing and playing the lap steel with chopsticks, then sent the completed tracks to Klimchak.

“What is missing is being in the same room and making on-the-spot decisions, whether agreements or changes, as well as that feeling of urgency, immediacy, and instant gratification,” says Schultz.

The idea of collaborating in a more conventional setting was something the two musicians had been discussing for some time. When he initially received the three tracks from Schultz, Klimchak says it seemed like a good idea from a convenience standpoint.

“I was in the midst of several other big projects, so it was actually a way to jump right in without having to fit a practice session around other deadlines,” he says. “It really only seemed odd after the fact, now that long-distance collaboration is something we have to do.”

The music on Six Feet Apart is a captivating mixture of modal undercurrents created by waves of synthesized sound; sharply percussive accents, modified natural and electronic noise elements, and what sounds like horror movie samples from Klimchak’s fathomless bag of tricks; and a distinctly gamelan-like metallic reverberation imparted partly by Schultz’ chopsticks on lap steel technique. The mélange of exotically beautiful, vaguely Asiatic tonal colors and deeply sinuous world grooves make for a perfectly wondrous listening experience.


“While Frank’s parts were improvised, mine were not improvised, although improv was a part of the composing process,” Klimchak explains. “Because I had his finished tracks before starting on mine, I had the luxury of listening to his parts at length and trying different things to see what worked best. After picking out the individual instruments that I wanted to use, I sat down and wrote the parts, then recorded them.”

Klimchak is currently in the middle of a long-distance collaboration with percussionist Sean Hamilton in Grand Junction, Colorado. The duo decided to record an album in lieu of a planned five-week West Coast tour in April/May. “It’s been really easy going because of the experience doing Six Feet Apart,” says Klimchak.

If there is a silver lining to the coronavirus pandemic, it might turn out to be the different ways in which musicians and other artists are forced to collaborate at a distance. Even beset by a plague, the muse always finds a way. —CL—    Jeffrey Grove WATERS RUN DEEP: Halocline, recently released on Bandcamp by Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel (Frank Schultz, left, and Scott Burland, right), is a full-length album featuring Louisville, Kentucky-based vocalist Dane Waters. Proceeds from album sales benefit Giving Kitchen and the Atlanta Musicians’ Emergency Relief Fund.  0,0,10    listeningpost                             LISTENING POST: Persevering through the plague "
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Article

Friday May 1, 2020 12:15 am EDT
New music and a small book for the untimely sheltered | more...
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  string(71) "The Atlanta Opera‘s 2020-21 season reaches for next-level performance"
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  string(18452) "As this was posted prior to concerns regarding the global coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak, please check to see if these events are still occurring. Be safe. Be healthy. Wash your hands.

The last time Creative Loafing checked in with Tomer Zvulun, the general and artistic director of the Atlanta Opera, he was preparing for the 2019 Atlanta premier of Dead Man Walking. The opera by Jake Heggie is based on the book by Sister Helen Prejean who became spiritual advisor to a man on death row in Louisiana. Last December, following its Atlanta run, Zvulun traveled to Israel to direct the Israeli Opera, the company with which he began his career, in a series of performances of Dead Man Walking. Opening night in the Tel Aviv Opera House marked the first time a contemporary American opera was ever staged in Israel.

“The most telling moment for me occurred when I met the head of the makeup department,” Zvulun recalled, chuckling. “They’re used to working with wigs and costumes for classic operas. When they asked what kind of wigs we used for Dead Man Walking, I laughed and replied, ‘The opera is set in New Orleans in the 1980s. I don’t have any wigs, but I do have tattoos.’”

In January, the Atlanta Opera announced its 2020-21 season, which starts in November. The lineup includes four main-stage productions at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center: Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème, Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music, and Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold. The Atlanta Opera’s Discoveries Series, which showcases newer, more intimate works, will present The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs by Mason Bates at the Ferst Center for the Arts on the Georgia Tech campus and Laura Kaminsky’s As One at the Out Front Theater on the west side of Downtown.

Remaining on the 2019-20 Atlanta Opera calendar are two major operas and one Discoveries production. George and Ira Gershwin’s masterpiece, Porgy and Bess, runs March 7-15, while Puccini’s beloved Madama Butterfly runs May 2-10 at the Cobb Center. Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied, which tells the tragic tale of Col. Jim Thompson, America’s longest-held prisoner of war, opens May 21 and closes May 24 on the Hertz Stage at the Woodruff Arts Center.

::::

Doug DeLoach: Reflecting on the critical acclaim and popular success of Dead Man Walking and other contemporary operas, it seems like opera is on a roll in the 21st century.

Tomer Zvulun: There is something really exciting happening, historically, right now in the world of opera, especially in America. It’s like a renaissance. So many new pieces are being written. Opera America recently published a survey, which noted that there are a couple of hundred new pieces — chamber operas, full-scale operas — written every year. A lot of companies make it a point to commission new operas, including the Atlanta Opera, which will be staging a world premiere in 2022.

Grand old opera is all of a sudden relevant again.

TZ: We’re seeing more operas with a conscience, operas that are focused on social justice, and themes that are relevant, such as LBGTQ issues, bullying in school, veterans’ experiences, or familiar characters, like Steve Jobs. Those pieces are different from the classic boy-meets-girl, boy-falls-in-love-with-girl, girl-dies stories. We still love the classic operas, but it’s hard to find social context in many of them. We find humanity and universality in those operas, but there is something very immediate about new operas, which we find especially fascinating.

When I came to the Atlanta Opera in 2013, I insisted on running a modern American opera every year. That first year it was Three Decembers by Jake Heggie with a libretto by Gene Scheer. Then we did Soldier Songs about the life of a veteran. The following year, it was Out of Darkness: Two Remain about the Holocaust. Then came Silent Night about World War I, followed by Dead Man Walking. Next year, we’re doing As One, which is about the journey of a transgender woman; and an opera about one of the most iconic people in recent history, Steve Jobs.

We are living in a great period in opera history.

The music has to match the theme in terms of its ability to engage with the audience, which was not always the case after the end of the bel canto era and the turn of the 20th century.

TZ: Opera experienced a crisis in the 20th century. If you look at the 18th and 19th centuries, you have composers like Verdi, Mozart, Donizetti, Puccini, Bizet, and Wagner. Then you think about the 20th century and who comes to mind? Berg, Schoenberg, Britten. There was all this atonal music, which was popular in the academic world, but which did not grab audiences. Cerebrally, philosophically, it’s fascinating — and, in many cases, it was tremendous music. But a lot of times, it was alienating because it lacked the raw emotion, tonality, and melodic style which characterized those composers from the 18th and 19th centuries.

In the late 20th century, people like Jake Heggie, Gregory Speers, and other emerging composers were not afraid of embracing tonality, melody, the tonic world — a world in which audiences can still hum what they hear in the opera house.

Did you approach programming the 2020-21 season any differently than previous seasons?

TZ: Whenever we are planning the season, it’s like planning a meal for friends. You’ve got your protein, your vegetable, a nice dessert, good wine.

We start with two of the most famous operas in the canon, La bohème and The Barber of Seville, presented in new interpretations with visually stunning productions, great voices and orchestra. With these works, people who want to introduce friends to opera know they can return and see something they will love.

Then we are doing what is maybe the most challenging opera in the company’s history, Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold. The Ring Cycle is generally considered to be the pinnacle, the most rewarding operatic masterpiece ever written. Then we’re doing a brand new work, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, at Georgia Tech as part of our Discoveries Series, and an opera about transgender, As One.

We’re also presenting The Sound of Music, a very well-known musical theater piece, a crossover work, like we’ve done in the past with Sweeney Todd, West Side Story, and The Pirates of Penzance. The Sound of Music is a  completely new production, which we are doing with a partner, the Glimmerglass Festival in Houston.

We are serving different flavors to accommodate the different palates of our dinner guests.

What does the live musical presentation of The Sound of Music bring to the party, which is different from the famous film?

TZ: I’m a huge film buff. Movies inform my vocabulary as a director. But there is a competitive advantage to live performance, which movies or Netflix will never have. That advantage is the feeling of community when 2,500 people gather in the same room, breathing the same air, feeling the energy from the stage, and transmitting their own energy back to the performers on the stage.

The second advantage to producing these pieces in the opera house comes from the kind of singers we are getting for those shows, classically trained singers backed by a world-class orchestra. The quality that you are getting is very high. I would love to program future productions of Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret — there are so many great musical theater pieces, which deserve to be seen through an operatic lens.

What distinguishing elements will the Atlanta Opera bring to the production of Das Rheingold?

TZ: It’s an altogether new production, which I have been working on for the past four years. I have been preparing for the time when the company is ready to do something monumental, which requires an extraordinary level of excellence and commitment. If you look at the landscape right now in North America, there are very few companies producing Wagner on a high level: The Met, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Toronto, maybe Washington. From the marketing department to the orchestra to the production and technical abilities of the company, to do something so grand is a daunting undertaking. It’s like saying to an athlete, “You are going to the Olympics.” The training is at a different level. The nutrition is at a different level.

The opera we are putting on right now (January 2020), Richard Strauss’ Salome, isn’t Wagner, but it’s close. Strauss was a disciple of Wagner. Salome has a similar style and other requirements. You need a large orchestra capable of handling very technically challenging music. You need dramatic singers who can overcome that sort of orchestration, and you need production elements on the highest level supported by the technical ability to make everything work flawlessly. It takes years to build a company that can manage all of those things.

Das Rheingold is using the same production team as Salome. I’m going to direct. My colleague, Erhard Rom, is creating the set projections. Mattie Ullrich is creating the costumes. We are very excited about the production team.

How do you describe or characterize the stylistic elements, which the Atlanta Opera is bringing to productions like Salome and Das Rheingold?

TZ: This style is something we have been bringing to our audiences in the hope that they will appreciate what we’re doing. With productions such as Eugene Onegin, Dead Man Walking, Silent Night, Madama Butterfly, and La bohème? — all pieces we’ve done here with the same team — the term we use to describe this style is ‘timeless mythology.’

One of the things that I think functions as a cliché or trap for opera productions is when the first thing the audience asks is, “What time period is this?” or “What is the location?” I think that’s a cop-out. If you’re thinking, “I am going to do Eugene Onegin in 1982 in Soviet Russia,” that’s where the idea ends. It will never match what the composer had in mind because the opera was written in the 18th century. And the production will be dated because 1982 might be interesting right now, but, in 20 years, it might not be so interesting; it won’t feel organic.

In “timeless mythology” you are abstracting the time and creating a mythological world. When you’re watching Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, you never ask yourself, “What time period is this?” or “Is that an 18th- or 19th-century gown the princess is wearing?” Instead, you are immersed in the story, the characters, and the psychology of the characters. That’s an important word for me and my team: psychology.

The most fascinating thing about great operas is the psychology of the characters and the relationship between them. That’s what opera does so well, because music and the human voice allow you to penetrate a psychological world in a way mere words do not allow.

::::
Does this strategy represent a conscious attempt to break from tradition?


TZ: I’m not inventing anything new here. I’m not trying to be the world’s greatest innovator. We believe that opera is a combination of all the art forms: It is theater as much as it is music. It’s the voice as much as it is design. Projections and scenery and costumes and makeup — all of those art forms are coming together to create a magical evening at the theater.

Opera is primarily storytelling. It’s universal. It’s about humanity. It’s supposed to move you emotionally. I get a little worried about psychological theories, Freudian theories, Jungian theories, whatever. At some point, that kind of discussion distracts from the fact that opera is the most emotionally powerful art form you can imagine.

We’re not trying to cerebralize anything. We’re trying to strip away distraction and focus on the human character in a way that brings forward the music and the human voice. Salome is a great example. When Oscar Wilde wrote his play, his departure point was the Bible, but he didn’t write a biblical story. More than anything else, Wilde wrote a story about forbidden love, obsession, phobias, and all the things that were on Oscar Wilde’s mind, which also happened to be on Richard Strauss’ mind, which happen to be on our minds today.

Think about forbidden love taken to extremes, such as necrophilia and incest. Think about Wilde and his struggles in his own time. We’re dealing with these struggles in our time with issues related to LBGTQ. The point is, I don’t care about the biblical setting of this opera. If you’re focusing on that, you’re missing the point. All of the operas we are doing are going in that direction: What is this story about? What is this character about? Not what a dress in 1882 should look like.

How does this conceptual strategy apply to the remaining 2020 productions, Porgy and Bess and Madama Butterfly?

TZ: Porgy and Bess is a very successful production by Francesca Zambello who is one of our frequent collaborators. She runs the Glimmerglass Festival at the Washington National Opera. The production has traveled extensively in America from Chicago to Seattle to New York, and it will be done in Washington immediately after Atlanta. The cast is fantastic. Morris Robinson and Kristin Lewis who sang the opera in La Scala a couple of years ago. When it was presented in Atlanta in 2005 and 2011 to sold-out crowds, the Atlanta Opera Chorus was such a force of nature that when the Opera Comique in Paris decided to do Porgy and Bess, they chose the Atlanta Opera Chorus to perform with them all over Europe. Not to mention the fact that the story takes place in the South, not far away from us, in South Carolina.

The same team that’s doing Butterfly did Salome and are doing Das Rheingold. We have great respect for the Japanese setting and style, but, at the same time, we are telling a universal story. A foreigner in a different country falls in love with a girl. Despite the differences between them, they find something that deeply connects them. Circumstances separate them, and heartbreak ensues. When you think about Puccini writing Madama Butterfly or La fanciulla del West or Turandot, he’s never been to Japan or the Wild West or China. He’s an Italian guy who was really interested in a universal tale that combines love, death, and sex — the things we love about opera.

What about the person who can hum all the arias from Madama Butterfly, but has never been to the opera? How do you lure that person into the Cobb Center to experience Madama Butterfly as it should be experienced?

TZ: Number one, you do it with the people who are starring in this production of Madama Butterfly, who will knock your socks off. Gianluca Terranova, who sings Pinkerton, is a world-class tenor who was here for Turandot, La bohème, and Carmen. He is one of the greatest singers of our time. Yasko Sato, who plays Madama Butterfly, is a Japanese soprano who has sung this role all over the world with great success. She embodies the character of Cio-Cio San. The character of Sharpless is sung by Michael Chioldi, an American baritone making his Atlanta Opera debut. He possesses a powerful voice and is very charismatic. Suzuki is sung by Katharine Goeldner, a mezzo-soprano who has sung the role at The Met and every other major opera house. The conductor, Carlo Montanaro, is an Italian who specializes in Puccini. I did La bohème with him in Seattle several years ago. He is so charismatic and musical and will be exciting for the orchestra to work with.

So, you have this incredible cast and this rich storytelling combined with modern technology, such as lighting effects, projections, and other visual effects, which let us get into the characters’ minds in ways we were not able to do before.

In contrast to traditional operatic themes, Glory Denied, the remaining production in the 2020 season, is about as topical as an opera can get.

TZ: We have a program for veterans, which started when I arrived. We did Soldier Songs, an opera by David T. Little, and Silent Night by composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell, which is about World War I and the universal experience of being a soldier. Those two pieces paved the way for us to create an initiative for veterans supported by Home Depot, which, to date, has brought 7,000 veterans to see our shows free of charge. Every season 2,500 veterans get to see Atlanta Opera productions. On opening night for Salome, 750 veterans were in the audience. 

Glory Denied continues this tradition. It’s about the longest-held prisoner of war, Colonel Jim Thompson, who was captured in Vietnam in 1964 and released in 1973. When he came back, his life was shattered. His family was broken. His wife was with someone else. Four children — he came back to a world that was completely different.

Michael Mayes, who starred in Sweeney Todd and Dead Man Walking, stars in a role he created. He is also co-directing the opera with me. He brings so much passion to his work. I think he’s one of the greatest singing actors of our time. It’s a small cast of four with an orchestral ensemble of 13 or so musicians. We open it on the weekend of Memorial Day, which is often seen as a holiday when you go to the beach and barbecue in the backyard, but originated as a day to honor our soldiers and veterans.

In what way does the 2020-21 season represent the next evolutionary step in the growth and development of the Atlanta Opera?

TZ: Next season is what we have been waiting for and building toward for seven years. In 2013, we did three rental productions, Faust, The Barber of Seville, and Tosca. We were a $5 million opera company. Today, the Atlanta Opera is a $10 million company. We’ve been in the black for the last four years, and we will be in the black this season. We are doing six productions, three of which are brand new, with a diversity of programming and a caliber of singers, conductors, designers, directors, and staff that can stand with any opera company in the world. We have an infrastructure, largely created over the last two years, which has garnered a level of support that allows us to accomplish our mission: We believe this major international city deserves a major international opera company."
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The last time Creative Loafing checked in with Tomer Zvulun, the general and artistic director of the Atlanta Opera, he was preparing for the 2019 Atlanta premier of Dead Man Walking. The opera by Jake Heggie is based on the book by Sister Helen Prejean who became spiritual advisor to a man on death row in Louisiana. Last December, following its Atlanta run, Zvulun traveled to Israel to direct the Israeli Opera, the company with which he began his career, in a series of performances of Dead Man Walking. Opening night in the Tel Aviv Opera House marked the first time a contemporary American opera was ever staged in Israel.

“The most telling moment for me occurred when I met the head of the makeup department,” Zvulun recalled, chuckling. “They’re used to working with wigs and costumes for classic operas. When they asked what kind of wigs we used for Dead Man Walking, I laughed and replied, ‘The opera is set in New Orleans in the 1980s. I don’t have any wigs, but I do have tattoos.’”

In January, the Atlanta Opera announced its 2020-21 season, which starts in November. The lineup includes four main-stage productions at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center: Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème, Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music, and Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold. The Atlanta Opera’s Discoveries Series, which showcases newer, more intimate works, will present The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs by Mason Bates at the Ferst Center for the Arts on the Georgia Tech campus and Laura Kaminsky’s As One at the Out Front Theater on the west side of Downtown.

Remaining on the 2019-20 Atlanta Opera calendar are two major operas and one Discoveries production. George and Ira Gershwin’s masterpiece, Porgy and Bess, runs March 7-15, while Puccini’s beloved Madama Butterfly runs May 2-10 at the Cobb Center. Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied, which tells the tragic tale of Col. Jim Thompson, America’s longest-held prisoner of war, opens May 21 and closes May 24 on the Hertz Stage at the Woodruff Arts Center.

::{img fileId="29681" desc="desc" styledesc="text-align: left;" max="800"}::

__Doug DeLoach: Reflecting on the critical acclaim and popular success of ____''Dead Man Walking''____ and other contemporary operas, it seems like opera is on a roll in the 21st century.__

__Tomer Zvulun__: There is something really exciting happening, historically, right now in the world of opera, especially in America. It’s like a renaissance. So many new pieces are being written. Opera America recently published a survey, which noted that there are a couple of hundred new pieces — chamber operas, full-scale operas — written every year. A lot of companies make it a point to commission new operas, including the Atlanta Opera, which will be staging a world premiere in 2022.

__Grand old opera is all of a sudden relevant again__.

__TZ__: We’re seeing more operas with a conscience, operas that are focused on social justice, and themes that are relevant, such as LBGTQ issues, bullying in school, veterans’ experiences, or familiar characters, like Steve Jobs. Those pieces are different from the classic boy-meets-girl, boy-falls-in-love-with-girl, girl-dies stories. We still love the classic operas, but it’s hard to find social context in many of them. We find humanity and universality in those operas, but there is something very immediate about new operas, which we find especially fascinating.

When I came to the Atlanta Opera in 2013, I insisted on running a modern American opera every year. That first year it was Three Decembers by Jake Heggie with a libretto by Gene Scheer. Then we did Soldier Songs about the life of a veteran. The following year, it was Out of Darkness: Two Remain about the Holocaust. Then came Silent Night about World War I, followed by Dead Man Walking. Next year, we’re doing As One, which is about the journey of a transgender woman; and an opera about one of the most iconic people in recent history, Steve Jobs.

We are living in a great period in opera history.

__The music has to match the theme in terms of its ability to engage with the audience, which was not always the case after the end of the bel canto era and the turn of the 20th century.__

__TZ__: Opera experienced a crisis in the 20th century. If you look at the 18th and 19th centuries, you have composers like Verdi, Mozart, Donizetti, Puccini, Bizet, and Wagner. Then you think about the 20th century and who comes to mind? Berg, Schoenberg, Britten. There was all this atonal music, which was popular in the academic world, but which did not grab audiences. Cerebrally, philosophically, it’s fascinating — and, in many cases, it was tremendous music. But a lot of times, it was alienating because it lacked the raw emotion, tonality, and melodic style which characterized those composers from the 18th and 19th centuries.

In the late 20th century, people like Jake Heggie, Gregory Speers, and other emerging composers were not afraid of embracing tonality, melody, the tonic world — a world in which audiences can still hum what they hear in the opera house.

__Did you approach programming the 2020-21 season any differently than previous seasons?__

__TZ__: Whenever we are planning the season, it’s like planning a meal for friends. You’ve got your protein, your vegetable, a nice dessert, good wine.

We start with two of the most famous operas in the canon, La bohème and The Barber of Seville, presented in new interpretations with visually stunning productions, great voices and orchestra. With these works, people who want to introduce friends to opera know they can return and see something they will love.

Then we are doing what is maybe the most challenging opera in the company’s history, Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold. The Ring Cycle is generally considered to be the pinnacle, the most rewarding operatic masterpiece ever written. Then we’re doing a brand new work, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, at Georgia Tech as part of our Discoveries Series, and an opera about transgender, As One.

We’re also presenting The Sound of Music, a very well-known musical theater piece, a crossover work, like we’ve done in the past with Sweeney Todd, West Side Story, and The Pirates of Penzance. The Sound of Music is a  completely new production, which we are doing with a partner, the Glimmerglass Festival in Houston.

We are serving different flavors to accommodate the different palates of our dinner guests.

__What does the live musical presentation of The Sound of Music bring to the party, which is different from the famous film?__

__TZ__: I’m a huge film buff. Movies inform my vocabulary as a director. But there is a competitive advantage to live performance, which movies or Netflix will never have. That advantage is the feeling of community when 2,500 people gather in the same room, breathing the same air, feeling the energy from the stage, and transmitting their own energy back to the performers on the stage.

The second advantage to producing these pieces in the opera house comes from the kind of singers we are getting for those shows, classically trained singers backed by a world-class orchestra. The quality that you are getting is very high. I would love to program future productions of Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret — there are so many great musical theater pieces, which deserve to be seen through an operatic lens.

__What distinguishing elements will the Atlanta Opera bring to the production of ____''Das Rheingold''____?__

__TZ__: It’s an altogether new production, which I have been working on for the past four years. I have been preparing for the time when the company is ready to do something monumental, which requires an extraordinary level of excellence and commitment. If you look at the landscape right now in North America, there are very few companies producing Wagner on a high level: The Met, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Toronto, maybe Washington. From the marketing department to the orchestra to the production and technical abilities of the company, to do something so grand is a daunting undertaking. It’s like saying to an athlete, “You are going to the Olympics.” The training is at a different level. The nutrition is at a different level.

The opera we are putting on right now (January 2020), Richard Strauss’ Salome, isn’t Wagner, but it’s close. Strauss was a disciple of Wagner. Salome has a similar style and other requirements. You need a large orchestra capable of handling very technically challenging music. You need dramatic singers who can overcome that sort of orchestration, and you need production elements on the highest level supported by the technical ability to make everything work flawlessly. It takes years to build a company that can manage all of those things.

Das Rheingold is using the same production team as Salome. I’m going to direct. My colleague, Erhard Rom, is creating the set projections. Mattie Ullrich is creating the costumes. We are very excited about the production team.

__How do you describe or characterize the stylistic elements, which the Atlanta Opera is bringing to productions like ____''Salome''____ and ____''Das Rheingold''____?__

__TZ__: This style is something we have been bringing to our audiences in the hope that they will appreciate what we’re doing. With productions such as Eugene Onegin, Dead Man Walking, Silent Night, Madama Butterfly, and La bohème? — all pieces we’ve done here with the same team — the term we use to describe this style is ‘timeless mythology.’

One of the things that I think functions as a cliché or trap for opera productions is when the first thing the audience asks is, “What time period is this?” or “What is the location?” I think that’s a cop-out. If you’re thinking, “I am going to do Eugene Onegin in 1982 in Soviet Russia,” that’s where the idea ends. It will never match what the composer had in mind because the opera was written in the 18th century. And the production will be dated because 1982 might be interesting right now, but, in 20 years, it might not be so interesting; it won’t feel organic.

In “timeless mythology” you are abstracting the time and creating a mythological world. When you’re watching Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, you never ask yourself, “What time period is this?” or “Is that an 18th- or 19th-century gown the princess is wearing?” Instead, you are immersed in the story, the characters, and the psychology of the characters. That’s an important word for me and my team: psychology.

The most fascinating thing about great operas is the psychology of the characters and the relationship between them. That’s what opera does so well, because music and the human voice allow you to penetrate a psychological world in a way mere words do not allow.

::{img fileId="29682" desc="desc" styledesc="text-align: left;" max="800"}::
__Does this strategy represent a conscious attempt to break from tradition?__


__TZ__: I’m not inventing anything new here. I’m not trying to be the world’s greatest innovator. We believe that opera is a combination of all the art forms: It is theater as much as it is music. It’s the voice as much as it is design. Projections and scenery and costumes and makeup — all of those art forms are coming together to create a magical evening at the theater.

Opera is primarily storytelling. It’s universal. It’s about humanity. It’s supposed to move you emotionally. I get a little worried about psychological theories, Freudian theories, Jungian theories, whatever. At some point, that kind of discussion distracts from the fact that opera is the most emotionally powerful art form you can imagine.

We’re not trying to cerebralize anything. We’re trying to strip away distraction and focus on the human character in a way that brings forward the music and the human voice. Salome is a great example. When Oscar Wilde wrote his play, his departure point was the Bible, but he didn’t write a biblical story. More than anything else, Wilde wrote a story about forbidden love, obsession, phobias, and all the things that were on Oscar Wilde’s mind, which also happened to be on Richard Strauss’ mind, which happen to be on our minds today.

Think about forbidden love taken to extremes, such as necrophilia and incest. Think about Wilde and his struggles in his own time. We’re dealing with these struggles in our time with issues related to LBGTQ. The point is, I don’t care about the biblical setting of this opera. If you’re focusing on that, you’re missing the point. All of the operas we are doing are going in that direction: What is this story about? What is this character about? Not what a dress in 1882 should look like.

__How does this conceptual strategy apply to the remaining 2020 productions, ____''Porgy and Bess''____ and ____''Madama Butterfly''____?__

__TZ__: Porgy and Bess is a very successful production by Francesca Zambello who is one of our frequent collaborators. She runs the Glimmerglass Festival at the Washington National Opera. The production has traveled extensively in America from Chicago to Seattle to New York, and it will be done in Washington immediately after Atlanta. The cast is fantastic. Morris Robinson and Kristin Lewis who sang the opera in La Scala a couple of years ago. When it was presented in Atlanta in 2005 and 2011 to sold-out crowds, the Atlanta Opera Chorus was such a force of nature that when the Opera Comique in Paris decided to do Porgy and Bess, they chose the Atlanta Opera Chorus to perform with them all over Europe. Not to mention the fact that the story takes place in the South, not far away from us, in South Carolina.

The same team that’s doing Butterfly did Salome and are doing Das Rheingold. We have great respect for the Japanese setting and style, but, at the same time, we are telling a universal story. A foreigner in a different country falls in love with a girl. Despite the differences between them, they find something that deeply connects them. Circumstances separate them, and heartbreak ensues. When you think about Puccini writing Madama Butterfly or La fanciulla del West or Turandot, he’s never been to Japan or the Wild West or China. He’s an Italian guy who was really interested in a universal tale that combines love, death, and sex — the things we love about opera.

__What about the person who can hum all the arias from ____''Madama Butterfly''____, but has never been to the opera? How do you lure that person into the Cobb Center to experience ____''Madama Butterfly''____ as it should be experienced?__

__TZ__: Number one, you do it with the people who are starring in this production of Madama Butterfly, who will knock your socks off. Gianluca Terranova, who sings Pinkerton, is a world-class tenor who was here for Turandot, La bohème, and Carmen. He is one of the greatest singers of our time. Yasko Sato, who plays Madama Butterfly, is a Japanese soprano who has sung this role all over the world with great success. She embodies the character of Cio-Cio San. The character of Sharpless is sung by Michael Chioldi, an American baritone making his Atlanta Opera debut. He possesses a powerful voice and is very charismatic. Suzuki is sung by Katharine Goeldner, a mezzo-soprano who has sung the role at The Met and every other major opera house. The conductor, Carlo Montanaro, is an Italian who specializes in Puccini. I did La bohème with him in Seattle several years ago. He is so charismatic and musical and will be exciting for the orchestra to work with.

So, you have this incredible cast and this rich storytelling combined with modern technology, such as lighting effects, projections, and other visual effects, which let us get into the characters’ minds in ways we were not able to do before.

__In contrast to traditional operatic themes, ____''Glory Denied''____, the remaining production in the 2020 season, is about as topical as an opera can get.__

__TZ__: We have a program for veterans, which started when I arrived. We did Soldier Songs, an opera by David T. Little, and Silent Night by composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell, which is about World War I and the universal experience of being a soldier. Those two pieces paved the way for us to create an initiative for veterans supported by Home Depot, which, to date, has brought 7,000 veterans to see our shows free of charge. Every season 2,500 veterans get to see Atlanta Opera productions. On opening night for Salome, 750 veterans were in the audience. 

Glory Denied continues this tradition. It’s about the longest-held prisoner of war, Colonel Jim Thompson, who was captured in Vietnam in 1964 and released in 1973. When he came back, his life was shattered. His family was broken. His wife was with someone else. Four children — he came back to a world that was completely different.

Michael Mayes, who starred in Sweeney Todd and Dead Man Walking, stars in a role he created. He is also co-directing the opera with me. He brings so much passion to his work. I think he’s one of the greatest singing actors of our time. It’s a small cast of four with an orchestral ensemble of 13 or so musicians. We open it on the weekend of Memorial Day, which is often seen as a holiday when you go to the beach and barbecue in the backyard, but originated as a day to honor our soldiers and veterans.

__In what way does the 2020-21 season represent the next evolutionary step in the growth and development of the Atlanta Opera?__

__TZ__: Next season is what we have been waiting for and building toward for seven years. In 2013, we did three rental productions, Faust, The Barber of Seville, and Tosca. We were a $5 million opera company. Today, the Atlanta Opera is a $10 million company. We’ve been in the black for the last four years, and we will be in the black this season. We are doing six productions, three of which are brand new, with a diversity of programming and a caliber of singers, conductors, designers, directors, and staff that can stand with any opera company in the world. We have an infrastructure, largely created over the last two years, which has garnered a level of support that allows us to accomplish our mission: We believe this major international city deserves a major international opera company."
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  string(19015) " LP La Boheme Atlanta Opera Jeff Roffman Web  2020-03-03T16:43:52+00:00 LP_La_boheme_Atlanta_Opera_Jeff_Roffman_web.jpg     The Atlanta Opera‘s 2020-21 season reaches for next-level performance 29679  2020-03-03T16:33:07+00:00 LISTENING POST: Opera unbound  will.cardwell@gmail.com Will Cardwell DOUG DELOACH  2020-03-03T16:33:07+00:00  As this was posted prior to concerns regarding the global coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak, please check to see if these events are still occurring. Be safe. Be healthy. Wash your hands.

The last time Creative Loafing checked in with Tomer Zvulun, the general and artistic director of the Atlanta Opera, he was preparing for the 2019 Atlanta premier of Dead Man Walking. The opera by Jake Heggie is based on the book by Sister Helen Prejean who became spiritual advisor to a man on death row in Louisiana. Last December, following its Atlanta run, Zvulun traveled to Israel to direct the Israeli Opera, the company with which he began his career, in a series of performances of Dead Man Walking. Opening night in the Tel Aviv Opera House marked the first time a contemporary American opera was ever staged in Israel.

“The most telling moment for me occurred when I met the head of the makeup department,” Zvulun recalled, chuckling. “They’re used to working with wigs and costumes for classic operas. When they asked what kind of wigs we used for Dead Man Walking, I laughed and replied, ‘The opera is set in New Orleans in the 1980s. I don’t have any wigs, but I do have tattoos.’”

In January, the Atlanta Opera announced its 2020-21 season, which starts in November. The lineup includes four main-stage productions at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center: Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème, Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music, and Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold. The Atlanta Opera’s Discoveries Series, which showcases newer, more intimate works, will present The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs by Mason Bates at the Ferst Center for the Arts on the Georgia Tech campus and Laura Kaminsky’s As One at the Out Front Theater on the west side of Downtown.

Remaining on the 2019-20 Atlanta Opera calendar are two major operas and one Discoveries production. George and Ira Gershwin’s masterpiece, Porgy and Bess, runs March 7-15, while Puccini’s beloved Madama Butterfly runs May 2-10 at the Cobb Center. Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied, which tells the tragic tale of Col. Jim Thompson, America’s longest-held prisoner of war, opens May 21 and closes May 24 on the Hertz Stage at the Woodruff Arts Center.

::::

Doug DeLoach: Reflecting on the critical acclaim and popular success of Dead Man Walking and other contemporary operas, it seems like opera is on a roll in the 21st century.

Tomer Zvulun: There is something really exciting happening, historically, right now in the world of opera, especially in America. It’s like a renaissance. So many new pieces are being written. Opera America recently published a survey, which noted that there are a couple of hundred new pieces — chamber operas, full-scale operas — written every year. A lot of companies make it a point to commission new operas, including the Atlanta Opera, which will be staging a world premiere in 2022.

Grand old opera is all of a sudden relevant again.

TZ: We’re seeing more operas with a conscience, operas that are focused on social justice, and themes that are relevant, such as LBGTQ issues, bullying in school, veterans’ experiences, or familiar characters, like Steve Jobs. Those pieces are different from the classic boy-meets-girl, boy-falls-in-love-with-girl, girl-dies stories. We still love the classic operas, but it’s hard to find social context in many of them. We find humanity and universality in those operas, but there is something very immediate about new operas, which we find especially fascinating.

When I came to the Atlanta Opera in 2013, I insisted on running a modern American opera every year. That first year it was Three Decembers by Jake Heggie with a libretto by Gene Scheer. Then we did Soldier Songs about the life of a veteran. The following year, it was Out of Darkness: Two Remain about the Holocaust. Then came Silent Night about World War I, followed by Dead Man Walking. Next year, we’re doing As One, which is about the journey of a transgender woman; and an opera about one of the most iconic people in recent history, Steve Jobs.

We are living in a great period in opera history.

The music has to match the theme in terms of its ability to engage with the audience, which was not always the case after the end of the bel canto era and the turn of the 20th century.

TZ: Opera experienced a crisis in the 20th century. If you look at the 18th and 19th centuries, you have composers like Verdi, Mozart, Donizetti, Puccini, Bizet, and Wagner. Then you think about the 20th century and who comes to mind? Berg, Schoenberg, Britten. There was all this atonal music, which was popular in the academic world, but which did not grab audiences. Cerebrally, philosophically, it’s fascinating — and, in many cases, it was tremendous music. But a lot of times, it was alienating because it lacked the raw emotion, tonality, and melodic style which characterized those composers from the 18th and 19th centuries.

In the late 20th century, people like Jake Heggie, Gregory Speers, and other emerging composers were not afraid of embracing tonality, melody, the tonic world — a world in which audiences can still hum what they hear in the opera house.

Did you approach programming the 2020-21 season any differently than previous seasons?

TZ: Whenever we are planning the season, it’s like planning a meal for friends. You’ve got your protein, your vegetable, a nice dessert, good wine.

We start with two of the most famous operas in the canon, La bohème and The Barber of Seville, presented in new interpretations with visually stunning productions, great voices and orchestra. With these works, people who want to introduce friends to opera know they can return and see something they will love.

Then we are doing what is maybe the most challenging opera in the company’s history, Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold. The Ring Cycle is generally considered to be the pinnacle, the most rewarding operatic masterpiece ever written. Then we’re doing a brand new work, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, at Georgia Tech as part of our Discoveries Series, and an opera about transgender, As One.

We’re also presenting The Sound of Music, a very well-known musical theater piece, a crossover work, like we’ve done in the past with Sweeney Todd, West Side Story, and The Pirates of Penzance. The Sound of Music is a  completely new production, which we are doing with a partner, the Glimmerglass Festival in Houston.

We are serving different flavors to accommodate the different palates of our dinner guests.

What does the live musical presentation of The Sound of Music bring to the party, which is different from the famous film?

TZ: I’m a huge film buff. Movies inform my vocabulary as a director. But there is a competitive advantage to live performance, which movies or Netflix will never have. That advantage is the feeling of community when 2,500 people gather in the same room, breathing the same air, feeling the energy from the stage, and transmitting their own energy back to the performers on the stage.

The second advantage to producing these pieces in the opera house comes from the kind of singers we are getting for those shows, classically trained singers backed by a world-class orchestra. The quality that you are getting is very high. I would love to program future productions of Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret — there are so many great musical theater pieces, which deserve to be seen through an operatic lens.

What distinguishing elements will the Atlanta Opera bring to the production of Das Rheingold?

TZ: It’s an altogether new production, which I have been working on for the past four years. I have been preparing for the time when the company is ready to do something monumental, which requires an extraordinary level of excellence and commitment. If you look at the landscape right now in North America, there are very few companies producing Wagner on a high level: The Met, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Toronto, maybe Washington. From the marketing department to the orchestra to the production and technical abilities of the company, to do something so grand is a daunting undertaking. It’s like saying to an athlete, “You are going to the Olympics.” The training is at a different level. The nutrition is at a different level.

The opera we are putting on right now (January 2020), Richard Strauss’ Salome, isn’t Wagner, but it’s close. Strauss was a disciple of Wagner. Salome has a similar style and other requirements. You need a large orchestra capable of handling very technically challenging music. You need dramatic singers who can overcome that sort of orchestration, and you need production elements on the highest level supported by the technical ability to make everything work flawlessly. It takes years to build a company that can manage all of those things.

Das Rheingold is using the same production team as Salome. I’m going to direct. My colleague, Erhard Rom, is creating the set projections. Mattie Ullrich is creating the costumes. We are very excited about the production team.

How do you describe or characterize the stylistic elements, which the Atlanta Opera is bringing to productions like Salome and Das Rheingold?

TZ: This style is something we have been bringing to our audiences in the hope that they will appreciate what we’re doing. With productions such as Eugene Onegin, Dead Man Walking, Silent Night, Madama Butterfly, and La bohème? — all pieces we’ve done here with the same team — the term we use to describe this style is ‘timeless mythology.’

One of the things that I think functions as a cliché or trap for opera productions is when the first thing the audience asks is, “What time period is this?” or “What is the location?” I think that’s a cop-out. If you’re thinking, “I am going to do Eugene Onegin in 1982 in Soviet Russia,” that’s where the idea ends. It will never match what the composer had in mind because the opera was written in the 18th century. And the production will be dated because 1982 might be interesting right now, but, in 20 years, it might not be so interesting; it won’t feel organic.

In “timeless mythology” you are abstracting the time and creating a mythological world. When you’re watching Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, you never ask yourself, “What time period is this?” or “Is that an 18th- or 19th-century gown the princess is wearing?” Instead, you are immersed in the story, the characters, and the psychology of the characters. That’s an important word for me and my team: psychology.

The most fascinating thing about great operas is the psychology of the characters and the relationship between them. That’s what opera does so well, because music and the human voice allow you to penetrate a psychological world in a way mere words do not allow.

::::
Does this strategy represent a conscious attempt to break from tradition?


TZ: I’m not inventing anything new here. I’m not trying to be the world’s greatest innovator. We believe that opera is a combination of all the art forms: It is theater as much as it is music. It’s the voice as much as it is design. Projections and scenery and costumes and makeup — all of those art forms are coming together to create a magical evening at the theater.

Opera is primarily storytelling. It’s universal. It’s about humanity. It’s supposed to move you emotionally. I get a little worried about psychological theories, Freudian theories, Jungian theories, whatever. At some point, that kind of discussion distracts from the fact that opera is the most emotionally powerful art form you can imagine.

We’re not trying to cerebralize anything. We’re trying to strip away distraction and focus on the human character in a way that brings forward the music and the human voice. Salome is a great example. When Oscar Wilde wrote his play, his departure point was the Bible, but he didn’t write a biblical story. More than anything else, Wilde wrote a story about forbidden love, obsession, phobias, and all the things that were on Oscar Wilde’s mind, which also happened to be on Richard Strauss’ mind, which happen to be on our minds today.

Think about forbidden love taken to extremes, such as necrophilia and incest. Think about Wilde and his struggles in his own time. We’re dealing with these struggles in our time with issues related to LBGTQ. The point is, I don’t care about the biblical setting of this opera. If you’re focusing on that, you’re missing the point. All of the operas we are doing are going in that direction: What is this story about? What is this character about? Not what a dress in 1882 should look like.

How does this conceptual strategy apply to the remaining 2020 productions, Porgy and Bess and Madama Butterfly?

TZ: Porgy and Bess is a very successful production by Francesca Zambello who is one of our frequent collaborators. She runs the Glimmerglass Festival at the Washington National Opera. The production has traveled extensively in America from Chicago to Seattle to New York, and it will be done in Washington immediately after Atlanta. The cast is fantastic. Morris Robinson and Kristin Lewis who sang the opera in La Scala a couple of years ago. When it was presented in Atlanta in 2005 and 2011 to sold-out crowds, the Atlanta Opera Chorus was such a force of nature that when the Opera Comique in Paris decided to do Porgy and Bess, they chose the Atlanta Opera Chorus to perform with them all over Europe. Not to mention the fact that the story takes place in the South, not far away from us, in South Carolina.

The same team that’s doing Butterfly did Salome and are doing Das Rheingold. We have great respect for the Japanese setting and style, but, at the same time, we are telling a universal story. A foreigner in a different country falls in love with a girl. Despite the differences between them, they find something that deeply connects them. Circumstances separate them, and heartbreak ensues. When you think about Puccini writing Madama Butterfly or La fanciulla del West or Turandot, he’s never been to Japan or the Wild West or China. He’s an Italian guy who was really interested in a universal tale that combines love, death, and sex — the things we love about opera.

What about the person who can hum all the arias from Madama Butterfly, but has never been to the opera? How do you lure that person into the Cobb Center to experience Madama Butterfly as it should be experienced?

TZ: Number one, you do it with the people who are starring in this production of Madama Butterfly, who will knock your socks off. Gianluca Terranova, who sings Pinkerton, is a world-class tenor who was here for Turandot, La bohème, and Carmen. He is one of the greatest singers of our time. Yasko Sato, who plays Madama Butterfly, is a Japanese soprano who has sung this role all over the world with great success. She embodies the character of Cio-Cio San. The character of Sharpless is sung by Michael Chioldi, an American baritone making his Atlanta Opera debut. He possesses a powerful voice and is very charismatic. Suzuki is sung by Katharine Goeldner, a mezzo-soprano who has sung the role at The Met and every other major opera house. The conductor, Carlo Montanaro, is an Italian who specializes in Puccini. I did La bohème with him in Seattle several years ago. He is so charismatic and musical and will be exciting for the orchestra to work with.

So, you have this incredible cast and this rich storytelling combined with modern technology, such as lighting effects, projections, and other visual effects, which let us get into the characters’ minds in ways we were not able to do before.

In contrast to traditional operatic themes, Glory Denied, the remaining production in the 2020 season, is about as topical as an opera can get.

TZ: We have a program for veterans, which started when I arrived. We did Soldier Songs, an opera by David T. Little, and Silent Night by composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell, which is about World War I and the universal experience of being a soldier. Those two pieces paved the way for us to create an initiative for veterans supported by Home Depot, which, to date, has brought 7,000 veterans to see our shows free of charge. Every season 2,500 veterans get to see Atlanta Opera productions. On opening night for Salome, 750 veterans were in the audience. 

Glory Denied continues this tradition. It’s about the longest-held prisoner of war, Colonel Jim Thompson, who was captured in Vietnam in 1964 and released in 1973. When he came back, his life was shattered. His family was broken. His wife was with someone else. Four children — he came back to a world that was completely different.

Michael Mayes, who starred in Sweeney Todd and Dead Man Walking, stars in a role he created. He is also co-directing the opera with me. He brings so much passion to his work. I think he’s one of the greatest singing actors of our time. It’s a small cast of four with an orchestral ensemble of 13 or so musicians. We open it on the weekend of Memorial Day, which is often seen as a holiday when you go to the beach and barbecue in the backyard, but originated as a day to honor our soldiers and veterans.

In what way does the 2020-21 season represent the next evolutionary step in the growth and development of the Atlanta Opera?

TZ: Next season is what we have been waiting for and building toward for seven years. In 2013, we did three rental productions, Faust, The Barber of Seville, and Tosca. We were a $5 million opera company. Today, the Atlanta Opera is a $10 million company. We’ve been in the black for the last four years, and we will be in the black this season. We are doing six productions, three of which are brand new, with a diversity of programming and a caliber of singers, conductors, designers, directors, and staff that can stand with any opera company in the world. We have an infrastructure, largely created over the last two years, which has garnered a level of support that allows us to accomplish our mission: We believe this major international city deserves a major international opera company.    Jeff Roffman THE ATLANTA OPERA: Maria Luigia Borsi as Mimi and Gianluca Terranova as Rodolfo in the Atlanta Opera’s production of ‘La bohème.’  0,0,1                                 LISTENING POST: Opera unbound  "
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Article

Tuesday March 3, 2020 11:33 am EST
The Atlanta Opera‘s 2020-21 season reaches for next-level performance | more...
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  string(125) "Kelly Hogan and Bill Taft (W8ing4UFOs) recount misty-colored memories prior to their sold-out show at the Vista Room tonight"
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  string(18116) "!!!Children of the night … what music they make.
!!!— Bela Lugosi (Dracula, 1931)
 

Friends, Atlantans, comrades in hot buttered soul and the American Songbook, lend me your ears (or eyeballs, as it were). As we plunge headlong into the second decade of the 21st century, precariously poised on the precipice, I come to praise two of the finest musical talents ever nurtured by our fair metropolis. Three decades and change after reigning supreme over the local alt-indie-progressive music scene as founding members of The Jody Grind, three years after a similar all-star reunion during Christmas season 2016, chanteuse extraordinaire Kelly Hogan and guitarist-banjoist-singer-songwriter-and-occasional-cornetist Bill Taft will once again share a bill Friday night, fronting their respective bands at the Vista Room.

For the sold-out (sorry, kids) concert, Hogan will be grounded by regular rhythm-mates Nora O’Connor (Andrew Bird, The Decemberists) on bass and John Carpender (Expo ’76) on drums, augmented by hometown guitar hero Andy Hopkins (one-half of FLAP) who has played with Hogan in multiple settings over the millennia. Taft will be commandeering W8ing4UFOs, the most recent in a long line of misfit savant troupes to fall under his sway. This one features Brian Halloran (cello), Katie Butler (viola), Billy Fields (keyboards), Sean Dunn (electric guitar), and Will Fratesi (drums, squeezebox).

Today, Hogan’s resume includes multiple solo albums, national television appearances, world tours, and recorded collaborations with artists ranging from Rock*A*Teens, Mavis Staples, and Jakob Dylan to Drive-By Truckers and Neko Case. Many Listening Post readers already know much of the deeper backstory. An Atlanta native, after graduating from Douglas County High School, Class of 1983, Hogan became immersed in the flourishing underground music scene. A year later, the classically trained singer with the sultry Southern voice was in her element, slaying audiences with The Jody Grind’s irresistibly imaginative amalgam of jazz, Appalachian balladry, country twang, and power pop swagger.

The tragic closing act of The Jody Grind saga has been recounted multiple times by this correspondent and others. Let it suffice to mention that any concert featuring Hogan, Taft, Halloran, and Fratesi automatically qualifies both as a memorial for and celebration of the lives and art of their late compatriots — Deacon Lunchbox (Tim Ruttenber) and former Jody Grind members Robert Hayes and Rob Clayton — who were killed when their vehicle was struck by a drunk motorist on Easter Sunday 1992.

Taft, Halloran, and Fratesi have been playing together since forever in myriad congregations including the Opal Foxx Quartet, Smoke, Hubcap City, and Smoke That City. Fields is a seasoned veteran of the Atlanta scene with credits including Follow for Now, Rev Rebel, Seek, and Antagonizers ATL. Rounding out the UFOers are Dunn, electric-guitar-shredder-maximus from Athens-based Five-Eight, and Butler, whose viola also elevates the evocative escapades of Evan Stepp & the Piners and The Chumblers.

Tonight's concert at the Vista Room promises to be one helluva gathering of the tribe. Expect cross-pollination between bands, an excessive amount of revelry and remembrance, and more laughing and crying than you can shake a “cheese and pickle sandwich squished flat under a sofa cushion and thrown to the infield from the roof of a rented Ryder rig in gastronomical disgust” at (Deacon Lunchbox from Some Different Kinds of Songs).

Listening Post posed a few questions to Taft and Hogan. Both eagerly followed through with answers, the responses only slightly edited for clarity.

Listening Post: It wasn’t very long after moving to Atlanta in 1982 that you started playing music around town. As briefly as possible, tell the story about meeting Kelly and forming The Jody Grind.

Bill Taft: Turtles, the record store (where Hogan was working at the time). Kelly let me hang out there. She laughed at my jokes. Her laugh had a hint of danger to it, like, if I asked her to rob a few banks with me, she would be all in. I also saw her a lot at Atkins Park. We’d hang out there and talk about music. She could talk about the Beastie Boys and Duke Ellington, REM and Billie Holiday. And she knew a lot about country music.

I tend to book the gig first, then see who can help play the show. This method brought Kelly and me together. I had a Monday-night gig at the Little Five Points Pub. I asked her to sing some songs as part of the set. She fit right in. And then other places asked us to play. Under the name An Evening with the Garbage Man, we played with friends at the Little Five Points Pub and the White Dot a lot. The White Dot was a lot of fun because we could do just about anything. They also gave Deacon Lunchbox much support.

LP: Where did the name An Evening with the Garbageman come from?

BT: I liked variety shows, vaudeville, ironic lounge music, and blues. I saw a poster for a Tony Bennett show, something like “An Evening with Tony Bennett.” I wanted a name for the ever-changing group that tied all those elements together. When I was little, four or five, I wanted to be a garbage man. I wanted to ride around on the back of the truck and toss trash into the mouth of the machine and watch it go away. All the other kids wanted to be astronauts and cowboys and baseball players. Not me.

After a while, the sound of the group with Kelly became consistent and steady. So we needed a new name, something that reflected the new sound: The Jody Grind. We found a book that included a section on jazz slang. The term comes from a World War II-era joke about women doing “the Jody grind” while their husbands and boyfriends were away overseas.

LP: Over the years, you’ve fronted a lot of bands: The Jody Grind, Chowder Shouters, Smoke, Smoke That City, and now W8ing4UFOs. Is there a common theme or impetus, which ties the bands together or explains why you keep forming bands?

BT: People keep asking me to play shows, so I keep showing up with friends. A lot of what I’ve always done is bring groups together in order to play shows.

Music has given me a chance to make all of my childhood dreams come true.

::::

Listening Post: In a previous interview, you told me about the first time you sang in front of an audience, something about a camp retreat and being in a bathing suit.

Kelly Hogan: It was Girl Scout summer camp, Camp Tanglewood, in Martinez, Georgia, around 1976 or ’77. I walked around camp for three days in a damp bathing suit because my tent-mates stole my clothes while I was in swim class. They refused to give them back until I agreed to sing at the closing ceremony on the last day. I sang “Memories” from The Way We Were, a cappella, in front of about 200 people: counselors, parents, campers. I was barefooted, wearing raggedy denim cut-offs and a red-white-and-blue t-shirt that read, “Eat Beans. America Needs the Gas.” 

LP: When and where was your first gig with a real band?

KH: Unbeknownst to my parents, I sat in on a few jazz standards with (I think it was) Tim Settimi’s band at Cafe Debris in Buckhead on Thanksgiving night, 1982. I was 17. 

LP: Bill (Taft) said he wasn’t sure, but you might remember when and where was the first official Jody Grind gig?

KH: Hard to say, because we evolved so gradually from the Evening with the Garbageman open mic nights at the White Dot. Our little snowball of dog hair, dryer lint, and duct tape just kept rolling along until it got big enough to put a real name on it.

LP: When was the first "Kelly Hogan" solo/headliner gig?

KH: Dang, also hard to say. The Star Bar probably, 1995 or so, with the Noxzema Three (Andy Hopkins, Jo Jameson, Andrew Barker) while we were working on my first solo record (The Whistle Only Dogs Can Hear, 1996).

LP: What’s your favorite song to perform from the mythical Great American Songbook?

KH: When I was around four or five years old, I used to love to sing along with Mitch Miller records with my teenage Aunt Debbie in her bedroom at my grandparents’ house in Marietta. "Toot, Toot, Tootsie (Goodbye)" was my stone cold jam. I still have a tiny soft spot for barbershop, but I try not to waft that towards anyone else. 

LP: What’s your favorite song to perform that was written for you?

KH: "Ways of This World" by Vic Chesnutt. I had the great honor and pleasure of knowing Vic, although not very well. Yet, somehow, in that song he told me the story of my own life. Pretty much verbatim. I’m not worthy. None of us are. Vic is the king.

LP: What is the craziest/funniest thing that happened during or at a live gig?

KH: I can’t use any “-est” qualifiers for these answers. I’m too old and have too many miles on me. However, one time in the middle of a Jody Grind show in the early ’90s, Bill Taft helped me cut off my hair with a Bowie knife, onstage at Sluggo’s in Pensacola. It was an unplanned, impulsive act (a recent divorce + Jägermeister). I'd managed to saw off one foot-long braid with some dull office scissors I’d found backstage, but the second braid was taking too long (so long that the soundman had started playing Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” over the PA). Finally, Bill wordlessly walked over to me with his guitar still strapped on, whipped his knife out of his back pocket, and cut off the other braid with one quick and clean swipe, all the way to my nape — and we kicked into our next song. They nailed that sliced braid above the soundboard where it stayed, covered in gummy cobwebs, for many years. I still have the scissored one in my sock drawer.

LP: What’s the most embarrassing/goofiest thing that ever happened during or at a gig (might be the same as craziest/funniest thing)?

KH: Again, no way to pick the “-est”; there are at least 10,000,000+ embarrassing stage things in my life. But, one time I was sick during a Jody Grind show at The Downstairs in Athens. I realized during the middle of a song that I was gonna throw up. So I yelled “Take it!” to our bass player, Robert Hayes, and ran to the bathroom as fast as I could, barfed my guts up, and ran back onstage in time to do the last verse of the song. I found out later that, because the club was so small, the audience could hear me puking almost as loudly as Robert’s bass solo. They gave me a round of applause for finishing the song.

More recently, I’ve been onstage after singing most of a set, once with Neko Case and once with my band The Flat Five, before realizing my dress was on inside out. That’s one of the perils of having to get ready for a show behind a dumpster outside the rock club.

And this one’s for the ladies. Show of hands, please: Who else here has started their period very unexpectedly while onstage at the Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco, one song into their set while going commando in a skirt? Anyone? Woohoo! Good times! Thankfully, it never got gory. No one but me ever knew. I just stood completely still while singing for 30 minutes and then kinda bunny-hopped offstage to the bathroom. And that’s what showbiz is all about, Charlie Brown.

LP: What’s your favorite band/van/road story?

KH: There are way too many to tell, so here’s just one. We were on a Jody Grind tour opening for Robyn Hitchcock on a freezing cold night in Fell’s Point in Baltimore. It was our bass player Robert Hayes’s turn to sleep in the van to keep our gear safe overnight. He bedded down in our Ford XLT, drank a big bottle of Valpolicella to stay warm, but then had to pee. He peed in the empty wine bottle, corked it, and sat it outside on the cobblestones to throw away in the morning.

Later during the night, Robert heard two dudes jiggling the van door handles and then saw them start trying to siphon our gas tank. He yelled and scared them off. In the morning, Robert saw that his pee bottle was missing. It delighted him to no end to believe that the buttholes trying to break into our van and steal our gas had found that full wine bottle and taken a few swigs. Well, at least one.

LP: What’s your favorite Atlanta venue in which to perform?

KH: For a thousand reasons, I’ll always have a crush on The Star Bar. I also have super-fond memories about playing The Point with The Rock*A*Teens. I cried all the way through my farewell show with them there when I was moving to Chicago.

And I’ll never forget our album release show at The Point during a really horrible ice storm. The sound man was making fun of our crappy gear and our yowly songs during soundcheck. Then he looked up at the weather report on the bar TV and said, “I’ll tell y'all one thing. Ain’t nobody coming out to this fucking show tonight.” But, it ended up being a super-fun and sweaty packed-to-the-rafters SOLD OUT show. It was the best-ever revenge.

LP: What’s your favorite Atlanta venue in which to be in the audience?

KH: The Fox Theater. I adore every brick in that joint. I’ve seen so many great shows there. B-52s, R.E.M., Eurythmics, Sinead O’Connor, Tony Bennett, X, Linda Ronstadt, Devo, Puddles Pity Party, The Judds, Iggy Pop, umm, Liberace. Yeah! All very great!

LP: What’s the best-ever meal on the road, including internationally?

KH: Damn. There are soooooo many “worst-ever road meals,” but I’ve been very lucky to have had lots of “best of” meals, too. I can’t possibly name the absolute best, so I’ll name the very first one that sprang to mind: a surprise feast that was waiting for all of us very road-weary Decemberists in our dressing room after soundcheck at the State Theater in Portland Maine. Big platters of warm messy-buttery lobster rolls and endless dozens of raw oysters on ice (with a nice dude standing there shucking ’em on demand.) I think my fellow oyster-loving back-up singing buddy Nora O’Connor and I both started crying with happiness and gratitude.

LP: What’s the best-ever meal in Atlanta?

KH: I’ll have a Varsity chili slaw dog with onion rings and a P.C. with ice, thank you. And oh man, we had a spectacular band meal (with my mom and stepdad along too) at Miller Union on a rare off-night during our 2017 Decemberists tour. I think that’s my personal ATL acme meal. Incredible. Satterfield in 2020!

LP: What’s your favorite dish to cook?

KH: Damn, I love to cook anything and everything. I love winging it with whatever I have in the pantry and making a big pot of chicken and dumplings or pozole or spaghetti sauce or something else that steams up the windows and takes all day (best when it’s snowing outside). Recently, I’ve been hankering to slow roast some cocoa-spice-rub bone-in pork butt. It’s ridiculously delicious and makes your house smell incredible.

LP: What’s your favorite dish to eat?

KH: My mom Hilda’s country-fried deer steak with gravy and buttermilk biscuits. Sushi and cold sake at Sai Cafe in Chicago. A big glass of red wine and a big bowl of pasta e fagioli at La Scarola in Chicago (this last combo is also best when it’s snowing outside}.

LP: What’s your favorite dog story?

KH: I have tons of stories involving my late, great poodle mix, Augie. She toured with every band I was ever in since she was three months old until she was almost 15. Back in the early ’00s, my solo band was on tour opening for Indigo Girls, with us in our cruddy van, trailing them in their tour bus. On our way to Toronto from Niagara Falls, we all arrived at the Canadian border for a routine crossing in the wee hours of the morning. As our vehicles pulled in we were all immediately surrounded by a big crowd of agitated-looking border patrol agents shining flashlights in our faces. What the hell?!

They gruffly mustered Amy and Emily and their band and crew off their tour bus and us out of our van and had us all stand there on the asphalt. A dozen agents started to search the tour bus, and as another dozen came towards our van to do the same, I blurted out, “Hey! Our dog is in there!” The group of agents all immediately froze in place and their hands went to their holstered guns. A female agent yelled, “Is it aggressive?!” Me, panicking: “No! Not at all!”

They crept to the van en masse in excruciating slow-motion and gingerly slid the side door open to reveal my wiggly little dog sitting there on the bench seat with her tennis ball in her mouth, happy as hell to see so many people. The agents collectively exhaled and relaxed and we all started laughing. After a cursory van search, they finally chilled out enough to tell us they were expecting Eminem’s tour entourage at the border at some point that night, and that Eminem (at the time) was forbidden to come into Canada.

When they saw our bus and van pulling in, they'd thought we were him. Hence, the massive and stiff reception. I always kinda felt sorry for them. They were all bowed up for Slim Shady, but instead just got a bunch of sleepy folk-rockers and a 20-pound mutt hoping for a fetch.

LP: What’s your favorite thing to do when not doing professional music stuff?

KH: Kayaking on the Sugar River near my house in Wisconsin with my dogs. Hands down. It keeps me from killing myself. Or others.

LP: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

KH: My Spotify playlist is extremely not-cool. All my friends know how very square I am. I love harmony, so, yeah, I listen to lots of the Free Design and The Hollies and Andy Bey and the Bey Sisters. But, I also listen to the Osmond Brothers and Jackie and Roy. I’m dirty. I have no shame.

And I live alone, so when I’m home I can do whatever the hell I want most of the time. This Christmas, I gave myself a one-night pass to eat a ton of those little crunchy french-fried onions straight out of the can while binge-watching Glow Up on Netflix. I’m still brushing the grease off my tongue a week later, but at the time it kicked holiday ass. —CL—"
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  string(18425) "!!!''Children of the night … what music they make.''
!!!— Bela Lugosi (''Dracula'', 1931)
 

Friends, Atlantans, comrades in hot buttered soul and the American Songbook, lend me your ears (or eyeballs, as it were). As we plunge headlong into the second decade of the 21st century, precariously poised on the precipice, I come to praise two of the finest musical talents ever nurtured by our fair metropolis. Three decades and change after reigning supreme over the local alt-indie-progressive music scene as founding members of The Jody Grind, three years after a similar all-star reunion during Christmas season 2016, chanteuse extraordinaire Kelly Hogan and guitarist-banjoist-singer-songwriter-and-occasional-cornetist Bill Taft will once again share a bill Friday night, fronting their respective bands at the [https://www.thevistaroom.com/music|Vista Room].

For the sold-out (sorry, kids) concert, Hogan will be grounded by regular rhythm-mates Nora O’Connor (Andrew Bird, The Decemberists) on bass and John Carpender (Expo ’76) on drums, augmented by hometown guitar hero Andy Hopkins (one-half of FLAP) who has played with Hogan in multiple settings over the millennia. Taft will be commandeering W8ing4UFOs, the most recent in a long line of misfit savant troupes to fall under his sway. This one features Brian Halloran (cello), Katie Butler (viola), Billy Fields (keyboards), Sean Dunn (electric guitar), and Will Fratesi (drums, squeezebox).

Today, Hogan’s resume includes multiple solo albums, national television appearances, world tours, and recorded collaborations with artists ranging from Rock*A*Teens, Mavis Staples, and Jakob Dylan to Drive-By Truckers and Neko Case. Many Listening Post readers already know much of the deeper backstory. An Atlanta native, after graduating from Douglas County High School, Class of 1983, Hogan became immersed in the flourishing underground music scene. A year later, the classically trained singer with the sultry Southern voice was in her element, slaying audiences with The Jody Grind’s irresistibly imaginative amalgam of jazz, Appalachian balladry, country twang, and power pop swagger.

The tragic closing act of The Jody Grind saga has been recounted multiple times by this correspondent and others. Let it suffice to mention that any concert featuring Hogan, Taft, Halloran, and Fratesi automatically qualifies both as a memorial for and celebration of the lives and art of their late compatriots — Deacon Lunchbox (Tim Ruttenber) and former Jody Grind members Robert Hayes and Rob Clayton — who were killed when their vehicle was struck by a drunk motorist on Easter Sunday 1992.

Taft, Halloran, and Fratesi have been playing together since forever in myriad congregations including the Opal Foxx Quartet, Smoke, Hubcap City, and Smoke That City. Fields is a seasoned veteran of the Atlanta scene with credits including Follow for Now, Rev Rebel, Seek, and Antagonizers ATL. Rounding out the UFOers are Dunn, electric-guitar-shredder-maximus from Athens-based Five-Eight, and Butler, whose viola also elevates the evocative escapades of Evan Stepp & the Piners and The Chumblers.

Tonight's concert at the Vista Room promises to be one helluva gathering of the tribe. Expect cross-pollination between bands, an excessive amount of revelry and remembrance, and more laughing and crying than you can shake a “cheese and pickle sandwich squished flat under a sofa cushion and thrown to the infield from the roof of a rented Ryder rig in gastronomical disgust” at (Deacon Lunchbox from ''Some Different Kinds of Songs).''

Listening Post posed a few questions to Taft and Hogan. Both eagerly followed through with answers, the responses only slightly edited for clarity.

__Listening Post__: It wasn’t very long after moving to Atlanta in 1982 that you started playing music around town. As briefly as possible, tell the story about meeting Kelly and forming The Jody Grind.

__Bill Taft__: Turtles, the record store (where Hogan was working at the time). Kelly let me hang out there. She laughed at my jokes. Her laugh had a hint of danger to it, like, if I asked her to rob a few banks with me, she would be all in. I also saw her a lot at Atkins Park. We’d hang out there and talk about music. She could talk about the Beastie Boys and Duke Ellington, REM and Billie Holiday. And she knew a lot about country music.

I tend to book the gig first, then see who can help play the show. This method brought Kelly and me together. I had a Monday-night gig at the Little Five Points Pub. I asked her to sing some songs as part of the set. She fit right in. And then other places asked us to play. Under the name An Evening with the Garbage Man, we played with friends at the Little Five Points Pub and the White Dot a lot. The White Dot was a lot of fun because we could do just about anything. They also gave Deacon Lunchbox much support.

__LP__: Where did the name An Evening with the Garbageman come from?

__BT__: I liked variety shows, vaudeville, ironic lounge music, and blues. I saw a poster for a Tony Bennett show, something like “An Evening with Tony Bennett.” I wanted a name for the ever-changing group that tied all those elements together. When I was little, four or five, I wanted to be a garbage man. I wanted to ride around on the back of the truck and toss trash into the mouth of the machine and watch it go away. All the other kids wanted to be astronauts and cowboys and baseball players. Not me.

After a while, the sound of the group with Kelly became consistent and steady. So we needed a new name, something that reflected the new sound: The Jody Grind. We found a book that included a section on jazz slang. The term comes from a World War II-era joke about women doing “the Jody grind” while their husbands and boyfriends were away overseas.

__LP__: Over the years, you’ve fronted a lot of bands: The Jody Grind, Chowder Shouters, Smoke, Smoke That City, and now W8ing4UFOs. Is there a common theme or impetus, which ties the bands together or explains why you keep forming bands?

__BT__: People keep asking me to play shows, so I keep showing up with friends. A lot of what I’ve always done is bring groups together in order to play shows.

Music has given me a chance to make all of my childhood dreams come true.

::{img fileId="27631" desc="desc" styledesc="text-align: left;" max="800"}::

__Listening Post__: In a previous interview, you told me about the first time you sang in front of an audience, something about a camp retreat and being in a bathing suit.

__Kelly Hogan__: It was Girl Scout summer camp, Camp Tanglewood, in Martinez, Georgia, around 1976 or ’77. I walked around camp for three days in a damp bathing suit because my tent-mates stole my clothes while I was in swim class. They refused to give them back until I agreed to sing at the closing ceremony on the last day. I sang “Memories” from ''The Way We Were'', a cappella, in front of about 200 people: counselors, parents, campers. I was barefooted, wearing raggedy denim cut-offs and a red-white-and-blue t-shirt that read, “Eat Beans. America Needs the Gas.” 

__LP__: When and where was your first gig with a real band?

__KH__: Unbeknownst to my parents, I sat in on a few jazz standards with (I think it was) Tim Settimi’s band at Cafe Debris in Buckhead on Thanksgiving night, 1982. I was 17. 

__LP__: Bill (Taft) said he wasn’t sure, but you might remember when and where was the first official Jody Grind gig?

__KH__: Hard to say, because we evolved so gradually from the Evening with the Garbageman open mic nights at the White Dot. Our little snowball of dog hair, dryer lint, and duct tape just kept rolling along until it got big enough to put a real name on it.

__LP__: When was the first "Kelly Hogan" solo/headliner gig?

__KH__: Dang, also hard to say. The Star Bar probably, 1995 or so, with the Noxzema Three (Andy Hopkins, Jo Jameson, Andrew Barker) while we were working on my first solo record (''The Whistle Only Dogs Can Hear'', 1996).

__LP__: What’s your favorite song to perform from the mythical ''Great American Songbook''?

__KH__: When I was around four or five years old, I used to love to sing along with Mitch Miller records with my teenage Aunt Debbie in her bedroom at my grandparents’ house in Marietta. "Toot, Toot, Tootsie (Goodbye)" was my stone cold jam. I still have a tiny soft spot for barbershop, but I try not to waft that towards anyone else. 

__LP__: What’s your favorite song to perform that was written for you?

__KH__: "Ways of This World" by Vic Chesnutt. I had the great honor and pleasure of knowing Vic, although not very well. Yet, somehow, in that song he told me the story of my own life. Pretty much verbatim. I’m not worthy. None of us are. Vic is the king.

__LP__: What is the craziest/funniest thing that happened during or at a live gig?

__KH__: I can’t use any “-est” qualifiers for these answers. I’m too old and have too many miles on me. However, one time in the middle of a Jody Grind show in the early ’90s, Bill Taft helped me cut off my hair with a Bowie knife, onstage at Sluggo’s in Pensacola. It was an unplanned, impulsive act (a recent divorce + Jägermeister). I'd managed to saw off one foot-long braid with some dull office scissors I’d found backstage, but the second braid was taking too long (so long that the soundman had started playing Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” over the PA). Finally, Bill wordlessly walked over to me with his guitar still strapped on, whipped his knife out of his back pocket, and cut off the other braid with one quick and clean swipe, all the way to my nape — and we kicked into our next song. They nailed that sliced braid above the soundboard where it stayed, covered in gummy cobwebs, for many years. I still have the scissored one in my sock drawer.

__LP__: What’s the most embarrassing/goofiest thing that ever happened during or at a gig (might be the same as craziest/funniest thing)?

__KH__: Again, no way to pick the “-est”; there are at least 10,000,000+ embarrassing stage things in my life. But, one time I was sick during a Jody Grind show at The Downstairs in Athens. I realized during the middle of a song that I was gonna throw up. So I yelled “Take it!” to our bass player, Robert Hayes, and ran to the bathroom as fast as I could, barfed my guts up, and ran back onstage in time to do the last verse of the song. I found out later that, because the club was so small, the audience could hear me puking almost as loudly as Robert’s bass solo. They gave me a round of applause for finishing the song.

More recently, I’ve been onstage after singing most of a set, once with Neko Case and once with my band The Flat Five, before realizing my dress was on inside out. That’s one of the perils of having to get ready for a show behind a dumpster outside the rock club.

And this one’s for the ladies. Show of hands, please: Who else here has started their period very unexpectedly while onstage at the Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco, one song into their set while going commando in a skirt? Anyone? Woohoo! Good times! Thankfully, it never got gory. No one but me ever knew. I just stood completely still while singing for 30 minutes and then kinda bunny-hopped offstage to the bathroom. And that’s what showbiz is all about, Charlie Brown.

__LP__: What’s your favorite band/van/road story?

__KH__: There are way too many to tell, so here’s just one. We were on a Jody Grind tour opening for Robyn Hitchcock on a freezing cold night in Fell’s Point in Baltimore. It was our bass player Robert Hayes’s turn to sleep in the van to keep our gear safe overnight. He bedded down in our Ford XLT, drank a big bottle of Valpolicella to stay warm, but then had to pee. He peed in the empty wine bottle, corked it, and sat it outside on the cobblestones to throw away in the morning.

Later during the night, Robert heard two dudes jiggling the van door handles and then saw them start trying to siphon our gas tank. He yelled and scared them off. In the morning, Robert saw that his pee bottle was missing. It delighted him to no end to believe that the buttholes trying to break into our van and steal our gas had found that full wine bottle and taken a few swigs. Well, at least one.

__LP__: What’s your favorite Atlanta venue in which to perform?

__KH:__ For a thousand reasons, I’ll always have a crush on The Star Bar. I also have super-fond memories about playing The Point with The Rock*A*Teens. I cried all the way through my farewell show with them there when I was moving to Chicago.

And I’ll never forget our album release show at The Point during a really horrible ice storm. The sound man was making fun of our crappy gear and our yowly songs during soundcheck. Then he looked up at the weather report on the bar TV and said, “I’ll tell y'all one thing. Ain’t nobody coming out to this fucking show tonight.” But, it ended up being a super-fun and sweaty packed-to-the-rafters SOLD OUT show. It was the best-ever revenge.

__LP__: What’s your favorite Atlanta venue in which to be in the audience?

__KH:__ The Fox Theater. I adore every brick in that joint. I’ve seen so many great shows there. B-52s, R.E.M., Eurythmics, Sinead O’Connor, Tony Bennett, X, Linda Ronstadt, Devo, Puddles Pity Party, The Judds, Iggy Pop, umm, Liberace. Yeah! All very great!

__LP__: What’s the best-ever meal on the road, including internationally?

__KH:__ Damn. There are soooooo many “worst-ever road meals,” but I’ve been very lucky to have had lots of “best of” meals, too. I can’t possibly name the absolute best, so I’ll name the very first one that sprang to mind: a surprise feast that was waiting for all of us very road-weary Decemberists in our dressing room after soundcheck at the State Theater in Portland Maine. Big platters of warm messy-buttery lobster rolls and endless dozens of raw oysters on ice (with a nice dude standing there shucking ’em on demand.) I think my fellow oyster-loving back-up singing buddy Nora O’Connor and I both started crying with happiness and gratitude.

__LP__: What’s the best-ever meal in Atlanta?

__KH__: I’ll have a Varsity chili slaw dog with onion rings and a P.C. with ice, thank you. And oh man, we had a spectacular band meal (with my mom and stepdad along too) at Miller Union on a rare off-night during our 2017 Decemberists tour. I think that’s my personal ATL acme meal. Incredible. Satterfield in 2020!

__LP__: What’s your favorite dish to cook?

__KH__: Damn, I love to cook anything and everything. I love winging it with whatever I have in the pantry and making a big pot of chicken and dumplings or pozole or spaghetti sauce or something else that steams up the windows and takes all day (best when it’s snowing outside). Recently, I’ve been hankering to slow roast some cocoa-spice-rub bone-in pork butt. It’s ridiculously delicious and makes your house smell incredible.

__LP__: What’s your favorite dish to eat?

__KH__: My mom Hilda’s country-fried deer steak with gravy and buttermilk biscuits. Sushi and cold sake at Sai Cafe in Chicago. A big glass of red wine and a big bowl of pasta e fagioli at La Scarola in Chicago (this last combo is also best when it’s snowing outside}.

__LP__: What’s your favorite dog story?

__KH__: I have tons of stories involving my late, great poodle mix, Augie. She toured with every band I was ever in since she was three months old until she was almost 15. Back in the early ’00s, my solo band was on tour opening for Indigo Girls, with us in our cruddy van, trailing them in their tour bus. On our way to Toronto from Niagara Falls, we all arrived at the Canadian border for a routine crossing in the wee hours of the morning. As our vehicles pulled in we were all immediately surrounded by a big crowd of agitated-looking border patrol agents shining flashlights in our faces. What the hell?!

They gruffly mustered Amy and Emily and their band and crew off their tour bus and us out of our van and had us all stand there on the asphalt. A dozen agents started to search the tour bus, and as another dozen came towards our van to do the same, I blurted out, “Hey! Our dog is in there!” The group of agents all immediately froze in place and their hands went to their holstered guns. A female agent yelled, “Is it aggressive?!” Me, panicking: “No! Not at all!”

They crept to the van en masse in excruciating slow-motion and gingerly slid the side door open to reveal my wiggly little dog sitting there on the bench seat with her tennis ball in her mouth, happy as hell to see so many people. The agents collectively exhaled and relaxed and we all started laughing. After a cursory van search, they finally chilled out enough to tell us they were expecting Eminem’s tour entourage at the border at some point that night, and that Eminem (at the time) was forbidden to come into Canada.

When they saw our bus and van pulling in, they'd thought we were him. Hence, the massive and stiff reception. I always kinda felt sorry for them. They were all bowed up for Slim Shady, but instead just got a bunch of sleepy folk-rockers and a 20-pound mutt hoping for a fetch.

__LP__: What’s your favorite thing to do when not doing professional music stuff?

__KH__: Kayaking on the Sugar River near my house in Wisconsin with my dogs. Hands down. It keeps me from killing myself. Or others.

__LP__: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

__KH__: My Spotify playlist is extremely not-cool. All my friends know how very square I am. I love harmony, so, yeah, I listen to lots of the Free Design and The Hollies and Andy Bey and the Bey Sisters. But, I also listen to the Osmond Brothers and Jackie and Roy. I’m dirty. I have no shame.

And I live alone, so when I’m home I can do whatever the hell I want most of the time. This Christmas, I gave myself a one-night pass to eat a ton of those little crunchy french-fried onions straight out of the can while binge-watching ''Glow Up'' on Netflix. I’m still brushing the grease off my tongue a week later, but at the time it kicked holiday ass. __—CL—__"
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  string(18767) " Hogan Sepia RESZD  2020-01-17T13:56:08+00:00 Hogan sepia RESZD.jpg     Kelly Hogan and Bill Taft (W8ing4UFOs) recount misty-colored memories prior to their sold-out show at the Vista Room tonight 27628  2020-01-17T13:27:52+00:00 LISTENING POST: The tribe that won’t shut up! tony.paris@creativeloafing.com Tony Paris DOUG DELOACH Doug DeLoach 2020-01-17T13:27:52+00:00  !!!Children of the night … what music they make.
!!!— Bela Lugosi (Dracula, 1931)
 

Friends, Atlantans, comrades in hot buttered soul and the American Songbook, lend me your ears (or eyeballs, as it were). As we plunge headlong into the second decade of the 21st century, precariously poised on the precipice, I come to praise two of the finest musical talents ever nurtured by our fair metropolis. Three decades and change after reigning supreme over the local alt-indie-progressive music scene as founding members of The Jody Grind, three years after a similar all-star reunion during Christmas season 2016, chanteuse extraordinaire Kelly Hogan and guitarist-banjoist-singer-songwriter-and-occasional-cornetist Bill Taft will once again share a bill Friday night, fronting their respective bands at the Vista Room.

For the sold-out (sorry, kids) concert, Hogan will be grounded by regular rhythm-mates Nora O’Connor (Andrew Bird, The Decemberists) on bass and John Carpender (Expo ’76) on drums, augmented by hometown guitar hero Andy Hopkins (one-half of FLAP) who has played with Hogan in multiple settings over the millennia. Taft will be commandeering W8ing4UFOs, the most recent in a long line of misfit savant troupes to fall under his sway. This one features Brian Halloran (cello), Katie Butler (viola), Billy Fields (keyboards), Sean Dunn (electric guitar), and Will Fratesi (drums, squeezebox).

Today, Hogan’s resume includes multiple solo albums, national television appearances, world tours, and recorded collaborations with artists ranging from Rock*A*Teens, Mavis Staples, and Jakob Dylan to Drive-By Truckers and Neko Case. Many Listening Post readers already know much of the deeper backstory. An Atlanta native, after graduating from Douglas County High School, Class of 1983, Hogan became immersed in the flourishing underground music scene. A year later, the classically trained singer with the sultry Southern voice was in her element, slaying audiences with The Jody Grind’s irresistibly imaginative amalgam of jazz, Appalachian balladry, country twang, and power pop swagger.

The tragic closing act of The Jody Grind saga has been recounted multiple times by this correspondent and others. Let it suffice to mention that any concert featuring Hogan, Taft, Halloran, and Fratesi automatically qualifies both as a memorial for and celebration of the lives and art of their late compatriots — Deacon Lunchbox (Tim Ruttenber) and former Jody Grind members Robert Hayes and Rob Clayton — who were killed when their vehicle was struck by a drunk motorist on Easter Sunday 1992.

Taft, Halloran, and Fratesi have been playing together since forever in myriad congregations including the Opal Foxx Quartet, Smoke, Hubcap City, and Smoke That City. Fields is a seasoned veteran of the Atlanta scene with credits including Follow for Now, Rev Rebel, Seek, and Antagonizers ATL. Rounding out the UFOers are Dunn, electric-guitar-shredder-maximus from Athens-based Five-Eight, and Butler, whose viola also elevates the evocative escapades of Evan Stepp & the Piners and The Chumblers.

Tonight's concert at the Vista Room promises to be one helluva gathering of the tribe. Expect cross-pollination between bands, an excessive amount of revelry and remembrance, and more laughing and crying than you can shake a “cheese and pickle sandwich squished flat under a sofa cushion and thrown to the infield from the roof of a rented Ryder rig in gastronomical disgust” at (Deacon Lunchbox from Some Different Kinds of Songs).

Listening Post posed a few questions to Taft and Hogan. Both eagerly followed through with answers, the responses only slightly edited for clarity.

Listening Post: It wasn’t very long after moving to Atlanta in 1982 that you started playing music around town. As briefly as possible, tell the story about meeting Kelly and forming The Jody Grind.

Bill Taft: Turtles, the record store (where Hogan was working at the time). Kelly let me hang out there. She laughed at my jokes. Her laugh had a hint of danger to it, like, if I asked her to rob a few banks with me, she would be all in. I also saw her a lot at Atkins Park. We’d hang out there and talk about music. She could talk about the Beastie Boys and Duke Ellington, REM and Billie Holiday. And she knew a lot about country music.

I tend to book the gig first, then see who can help play the show. This method brought Kelly and me together. I had a Monday-night gig at the Little Five Points Pub. I asked her to sing some songs as part of the set. She fit right in. And then other places asked us to play. Under the name An Evening with the Garbage Man, we played with friends at the Little Five Points Pub and the White Dot a lot. The White Dot was a lot of fun because we could do just about anything. They also gave Deacon Lunchbox much support.

LP: Where did the name An Evening with the Garbageman come from?

BT: I liked variety shows, vaudeville, ironic lounge music, and blues. I saw a poster for a Tony Bennett show, something like “An Evening with Tony Bennett.” I wanted a name for the ever-changing group that tied all those elements together. When I was little, four or five, I wanted to be a garbage man. I wanted to ride around on the back of the truck and toss trash into the mouth of the machine and watch it go away. All the other kids wanted to be astronauts and cowboys and baseball players. Not me.

After a while, the sound of the group with Kelly became consistent and steady. So we needed a new name, something that reflected the new sound: The Jody Grind. We found a book that included a section on jazz slang. The term comes from a World War II-era joke about women doing “the Jody grind” while their husbands and boyfriends were away overseas.

LP: Over the years, you’ve fronted a lot of bands: The Jody Grind, Chowder Shouters, Smoke, Smoke That City, and now W8ing4UFOs. Is there a common theme or impetus, which ties the bands together or explains why you keep forming bands?

BT: People keep asking me to play shows, so I keep showing up with friends. A lot of what I’ve always done is bring groups together in order to play shows.

Music has given me a chance to make all of my childhood dreams come true.

::::

Listening Post: In a previous interview, you told me about the first time you sang in front of an audience, something about a camp retreat and being in a bathing suit.

Kelly Hogan: It was Girl Scout summer camp, Camp Tanglewood, in Martinez, Georgia, around 1976 or ’77. I walked around camp for three days in a damp bathing suit because my tent-mates stole my clothes while I was in swim class. They refused to give them back until I agreed to sing at the closing ceremony on the last day. I sang “Memories” from The Way We Were, a cappella, in front of about 200 people: counselors, parents, campers. I was barefooted, wearing raggedy denim cut-offs and a red-white-and-blue t-shirt that read, “Eat Beans. America Needs the Gas.” 

LP: When and where was your first gig with a real band?

KH: Unbeknownst to my parents, I sat in on a few jazz standards with (I think it was) Tim Settimi’s band at Cafe Debris in Buckhead on Thanksgiving night, 1982. I was 17. 

LP: Bill (Taft) said he wasn’t sure, but you might remember when and where was the first official Jody Grind gig?

KH: Hard to say, because we evolved so gradually from the Evening with the Garbageman open mic nights at the White Dot. Our little snowball of dog hair, dryer lint, and duct tape just kept rolling along until it got big enough to put a real name on it.

LP: When was the first "Kelly Hogan" solo/headliner gig?

KH: Dang, also hard to say. The Star Bar probably, 1995 or so, with the Noxzema Three (Andy Hopkins, Jo Jameson, Andrew Barker) while we were working on my first solo record (The Whistle Only Dogs Can Hear, 1996).

LP: What’s your favorite song to perform from the mythical Great American Songbook?

KH: When I was around four or five years old, I used to love to sing along with Mitch Miller records with my teenage Aunt Debbie in her bedroom at my grandparents’ house in Marietta. "Toot, Toot, Tootsie (Goodbye)" was my stone cold jam. I still have a tiny soft spot for barbershop, but I try not to waft that towards anyone else. 

LP: What’s your favorite song to perform that was written for you?

KH: "Ways of This World" by Vic Chesnutt. I had the great honor and pleasure of knowing Vic, although not very well. Yet, somehow, in that song he told me the story of my own life. Pretty much verbatim. I’m not worthy. None of us are. Vic is the king.

LP: What is the craziest/funniest thing that happened during or at a live gig?

KH: I can’t use any “-est” qualifiers for these answers. I’m too old and have too many miles on me. However, one time in the middle of a Jody Grind show in the early ’90s, Bill Taft helped me cut off my hair with a Bowie knife, onstage at Sluggo’s in Pensacola. It was an unplanned, impulsive act (a recent divorce + Jägermeister). I'd managed to saw off one foot-long braid with some dull office scissors I’d found backstage, but the second braid was taking too long (so long that the soundman had started playing Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” over the PA). Finally, Bill wordlessly walked over to me with his guitar still strapped on, whipped his knife out of his back pocket, and cut off the other braid with one quick and clean swipe, all the way to my nape — and we kicked into our next song. They nailed that sliced braid above the soundboard where it stayed, covered in gummy cobwebs, for many years. I still have the scissored one in my sock drawer.

LP: What’s the most embarrassing/goofiest thing that ever happened during or at a gig (might be the same as craziest/funniest thing)?

KH: Again, no way to pick the “-est”; there are at least 10,000,000+ embarrassing stage things in my life. But, one time I was sick during a Jody Grind show at The Downstairs in Athens. I realized during the middle of a song that I was gonna throw up. So I yelled “Take it!” to our bass player, Robert Hayes, and ran to the bathroom as fast as I could, barfed my guts up, and ran back onstage in time to do the last verse of the song. I found out later that, because the club was so small, the audience could hear me puking almost as loudly as Robert’s bass solo. They gave me a round of applause for finishing the song.

More recently, I’ve been onstage after singing most of a set, once with Neko Case and once with my band The Flat Five, before realizing my dress was on inside out. That’s one of the perils of having to get ready for a show behind a dumpster outside the rock club.

And this one’s for the ladies. Show of hands, please: Who else here has started their period very unexpectedly while onstage at the Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco, one song into their set while going commando in a skirt? Anyone? Woohoo! Good times! Thankfully, it never got gory. No one but me ever knew. I just stood completely still while singing for 30 minutes and then kinda bunny-hopped offstage to the bathroom. And that’s what showbiz is all about, Charlie Brown.

LP: What’s your favorite band/van/road story?

KH: There are way too many to tell, so here’s just one. We were on a Jody Grind tour opening for Robyn Hitchcock on a freezing cold night in Fell’s Point in Baltimore. It was our bass player Robert Hayes’s turn to sleep in the van to keep our gear safe overnight. He bedded down in our Ford XLT, drank a big bottle of Valpolicella to stay warm, but then had to pee. He peed in the empty wine bottle, corked it, and sat it outside on the cobblestones to throw away in the morning.

Later during the night, Robert heard two dudes jiggling the van door handles and then saw them start trying to siphon our gas tank. He yelled and scared them off. In the morning, Robert saw that his pee bottle was missing. It delighted him to no end to believe that the buttholes trying to break into our van and steal our gas had found that full wine bottle and taken a few swigs. Well, at least one.

LP: What’s your favorite Atlanta venue in which to perform?

KH: For a thousand reasons, I’ll always have a crush on The Star Bar. I also have super-fond memories about playing The Point with The Rock*A*Teens. I cried all the way through my farewell show with them there when I was moving to Chicago.

And I’ll never forget our album release show at The Point during a really horrible ice storm. The sound man was making fun of our crappy gear and our yowly songs during soundcheck. Then he looked up at the weather report on the bar TV and said, “I’ll tell y'all one thing. Ain’t nobody coming out to this fucking show tonight.” But, it ended up being a super-fun and sweaty packed-to-the-rafters SOLD OUT show. It was the best-ever revenge.

LP: What’s your favorite Atlanta venue in which to be in the audience?

KH: The Fox Theater. I adore every brick in that joint. I’ve seen so many great shows there. B-52s, R.E.M., Eurythmics, Sinead O’Connor, Tony Bennett, X, Linda Ronstadt, Devo, Puddles Pity Party, The Judds, Iggy Pop, umm, Liberace. Yeah! All very great!

LP: What’s the best-ever meal on the road, including internationally?

KH: Damn. There are soooooo many “worst-ever road meals,” but I’ve been very lucky to have had lots of “best of” meals, too. I can’t possibly name the absolute best, so I’ll name the very first one that sprang to mind: a surprise feast that was waiting for all of us very road-weary Decemberists in our dressing room after soundcheck at the State Theater in Portland Maine. Big platters of warm messy-buttery lobster rolls and endless dozens of raw oysters on ice (with a nice dude standing there shucking ’em on demand.) I think my fellow oyster-loving back-up singing buddy Nora O’Connor and I both started crying with happiness and gratitude.

LP: What’s the best-ever meal in Atlanta?

KH: I’ll have a Varsity chili slaw dog with onion rings and a P.C. with ice, thank you. And oh man, we had a spectacular band meal (with my mom and stepdad along too) at Miller Union on a rare off-night during our 2017 Decemberists tour. I think that’s my personal ATL acme meal. Incredible. Satterfield in 2020!

LP: What’s your favorite dish to cook?

KH: Damn, I love to cook anything and everything. I love winging it with whatever I have in the pantry and making a big pot of chicken and dumplings or pozole or spaghetti sauce or something else that steams up the windows and takes all day (best when it’s snowing outside). Recently, I’ve been hankering to slow roast some cocoa-spice-rub bone-in pork butt. It’s ridiculously delicious and makes your house smell incredible.

LP: What’s your favorite dish to eat?

KH: My mom Hilda’s country-fried deer steak with gravy and buttermilk biscuits. Sushi and cold sake at Sai Cafe in Chicago. A big glass of red wine and a big bowl of pasta e fagioli at La Scarola in Chicago (this last combo is also best when it’s snowing outside}.

LP: What’s your favorite dog story?

KH: I have tons of stories involving my late, great poodle mix, Augie. She toured with every band I was ever in since she was three months old until she was almost 15. Back in the early ’00s, my solo band was on tour opening for Indigo Girls, with us in our cruddy van, trailing them in their tour bus. On our way to Toronto from Niagara Falls, we all arrived at the Canadian border for a routine crossing in the wee hours of the morning. As our vehicles pulled in we were all immediately surrounded by a big crowd of agitated-looking border patrol agents shining flashlights in our faces. What the hell?!

They gruffly mustered Amy and Emily and their band and crew off their tour bus and us out of our van and had us all stand there on the asphalt. A dozen agents started to search the tour bus, and as another dozen came towards our van to do the same, I blurted out, “Hey! Our dog is in there!” The group of agents all immediately froze in place and their hands went to their holstered guns. A female agent yelled, “Is it aggressive?!” Me, panicking: “No! Not at all!”

They crept to the van en masse in excruciating slow-motion and gingerly slid the side door open to reveal my wiggly little dog sitting there on the bench seat with her tennis ball in her mouth, happy as hell to see so many people. The agents collectively exhaled and relaxed and we all started laughing. After a cursory van search, they finally chilled out enough to tell us they were expecting Eminem’s tour entourage at the border at some point that night, and that Eminem (at the time) was forbidden to come into Canada.

When they saw our bus and van pulling in, they'd thought we were him. Hence, the massive and stiff reception. I always kinda felt sorry for them. They were all bowed up for Slim Shady, but instead just got a bunch of sleepy folk-rockers and a 20-pound mutt hoping for a fetch.

LP: What’s your favorite thing to do when not doing professional music stuff?

KH: Kayaking on the Sugar River near my house in Wisconsin with my dogs. Hands down. It keeps me from killing myself. Or others.

LP: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

KH: My Spotify playlist is extremely not-cool. All my friends know how very square I am. I love harmony, so, yeah, I listen to lots of the Free Design and The Hollies and Andy Bey and the Bey Sisters. But, I also listen to the Osmond Brothers and Jackie and Roy. I’m dirty. I have no shame.

And I live alone, so when I’m home I can do whatever the hell I want most of the time. This Christmas, I gave myself a one-night pass to eat a ton of those little crunchy french-fried onions straight out of the can while binge-watching Glow Up on Netflix. I’m still brushing the grease off my tongue a week later, but at the time it kicked holiday ass. —CL—    Paul Beaty WAS IT ALL SO SIMPLE THEN: Atlanta native Kelly Hogan headlines a concert with dear friends and former collaborators now performing as W8ing4UFOs tonight, Friday, January 17.  0,0,1                                 LISTENING POST: The tribe that won’t shut up! "
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Friday January 17, 2020 08:27 am EST
Kelly Hogan and Bill Taft (W8ing4UFOs) recount misty-colored memories prior to their sold-out show at the Vista Room tonight | more...
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  string(94) "A new monthly concert series at 378 will feature adventurous musicians from Atlanta and beyond"
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  string(10914) "In Greek mythology, the consumption of ambrosia endowed the Olympians with immortality. In real life, ambrosia is another word for a mixture of fermented bee pollen and nectar, called “bee bread,” which is gathered and deposited by honeybees for sustaining the residents of a hive.

Ear Pollen is the title of a monthly concert series at 378 in Candler Park programmed by Atlanta percussionist Klimchak at the behest of gallery manager Tom Zarrilli. While immortality may not be in the offing, starting January 15 and running through the end of 2020, Ear Pollen will sustain experimental music fans in the Lo Gallery (downstairs) on the third Wednesday of each month.

“The idea is to showcase different niches of experimental music including electronic and acoustic styles ranging from jazz to noise,” says Klimchak. Known for constructing one-off instruments for imaginative performances, Klimchak once played instruments derived from kitchen tools while simultaneously cooking a meal for the audience. He says Ear Pollen will feature mostly, but not exclusively, Atlanta-based artists.

“Experimental music in Atlanta and elsewhere is divvied up into small sub-genres,” Klimchak says. “Ear Pollen will provide space where folks can listen to a variety of genres all in one place."

The first Ear Pollen concert features Andrew Levine from Hamburg, Germany, improvising on theremin and synthesizers. Born in New York City, Levine began playing violin at the age of six. He studied voice and earned an M.A. in computational linguistics and cognitive psychology at the University of Trier. Since 2010, while the theremin has been Levine’s primary instrument in solo and group settings, he also plays an 0-Coast (“oh-coast”) analog synthesizer, STEIM Cracklebox, and Haken Continuum (synthesizer).

Sharing the triple-bill with Levine are Helton & Bragg, an Atlanta-based drums/percussion and guitar/fretless bass duo (Blake Helton and Colin Bragg, respectively) who play mostly improvised, jazz-oriented music infused with electronic effects. Rounding out the program is Tim Crump, a local saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer whose music explores the intersection of jazz, post-classical, and free improv. Given that the inaugural Ear Pollen lineup features musicians working in closely related realms along the experimental spectrum, Klimchak says he is “anticipating a collective group piece will close out the evening.”

The 2020 Ear Pollen concert calendar currently includes JayVe Montgomery (from Nashville), Amplituba (Bill Pritchard), Kenito Murray, Hypnagogue (James Rosato from Massachusetts), Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel, and Jeremy Muller with many more musicians TBD. “I’m primarily interested in presenting solo and duet improvisation work,” says Klimchak. “That’s due to the size of the room and because smaller groups tend to create a more conversational atmosphere both between the performers and with the audience.”

With a performance resume that stretches back through the 1970s, Klimchak has witnessed and participated in the trailblazing efforts of Atlanta’s most adventurous music explorers. He sees the contemporary scene as a nurturing environment evolving along a mostly positive trajectory.

“It’s somewhat fragmented, but I’m beginning to see the same cross-pollination that made for a peak in the past,” he observes. “A Bent Frequency concert is attended by jazz buffs. A noise show at The Bakery is attended by classical musicians and rap producers. This situation leads to more experimentation across genres, which is needed to take us to the next level.”

Despite a recent spate of performance space closures (e.g., Eyedrum, Mammal Gallery, Murmur), new venues (e.g., The Bakery, Mother Bar, Mammal Gallery relaunched at Met Atlanta) are sprouting in their place. Says Klimchak, “I’m hoping the Ear Pollen series adds another dimension to a movement, which is carrying us toward another peak of experimental music-making in Atlanta.”

Because of its power to heal wounds and reinvigorate the body, Zeus, Hera, Apollo, and the rest of the Olympians sometimes ate ambrosia as a restorative. The Ear Pollen series comes with restorative powers of its own special kind, fit for gods and mortals alike.

Ear Pollen inaugural concert with Andrew Levine, Helton & Bragg, and Tim Crump. $5 suggested donation. 7 p.m. Wed. Jan. 15. (Gallery) 378, 378 Clifton Road. 404-530-9277. On Facebook: Ear Pollen Experimental Music series.

* * *
Shooter, a new album by Jeff Crompton, is due for release on January 11. The eight-track album, which can be streamed and downloaded from Bandcamp (don’t “forget” to pay for it, Listening Posters), features the accomplished Atlanta musician and composer performing overdubbed multi-horn pieces and unadorned solos on alto and baritone saxes and clarinet.

Shooter is an impassioned response to the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, which left 31 people dead and some 50 wounded during a horrific weekend in August. It expresses with deftly structured imagination and acute sensitivity a range of emotions from anger and despair to unabashed hopefulness.

“I don't know how ‘important’ this album is in the grand scheme of things, but it's very important to me,” Crompton explains in an email exchange. “After the back-to-back mass shootings in August, it became a compulsion to me to record this music. This is an album no one asked for, few people will listen to, and one I absolutely had to do.”

The title song, which was written several years ago, vividly evokes a sinister, foreboding atmosphere. “It has been performed a few times in various guises, but I hope the nine-saxophone version on the album captures the menace and intensity I originally had in mind,” Crompton says.

While the past few years have been frequently disrupted by disconcerting events, including more mass shootings than anyone should have to count, the August massacres, which occurred 13 hours apart, pushed Crompton into an unusually deep state of despair.

“The motivations of the two shooters — white supremacy in one case and apparently just the desire to commit a mass shooting in the other — seemed emblematic of this uniquely American plague,” Crompton reflects. “The fact that we have chosen as a nation, not as individuals, to just let this keep happening is almost literally maddening.”

Other than expressing inner turmoil, Crompton hesitates to ascribe further significance to his work. “Writing music and playing the saxophone are about my only skills, and my only outlet to say something,” he offers, with characteristic self-deprecation. The music tells a different tale, fraught with complex emotions best rendered in the abstract by an artist willing to plumb the seldom-visited, shadowy depths of the soul.

"Slow March (through a dark place)" was written in one day, not long after the acrid smoke in El Paso and Dayton had dissipated. Crompton describes the recorded performance as “a dark, despairing piece of music; if it doesn't strike the listener that way, I haven't done my job.”

As a respite from the wrenching anguish (which nevertheless conjured up some exquisitely beautiful music), Crompton turned to the John Coltrane composition "Peace on Earth" and the African-American spiritual "There is a Balm in Gilead." Both tracks are magnificently affirming, standalone saxophone solos with no overdubbing.

“Despair followed by hope,” Crompton remarks. “I think working on this album has helped me reach a state of hopeful realism.

A house concert celebrating the release of Shooter is scheduled for Saturday, January 11. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/462029214698925/

* * *
On January 3, internationally acclaimed, Atlanta-based vocal artist, jazz performer, and social activist Virginia Schenck (who also goes by the nom de art “VA”) dropped her latest album Battle Cry. Available on all digital platforms and CD, the album, which was recorded in 2018, delivers a topically pertinent message in an assuredly swinging package.

In 2016, sparked by the election of Donald Trump, Schenck felt a renewed commitment to advocating for progressive change and resisting oppression and injustice. “Music is my resistance,” Schenck declares in an interview with Listening Post recorded a few months ago. “I mean that in the best of terms, not to be off-putting, but, rather, to be engaging.”

Schenck earned her activist bona fides almost at birth. Her grandmother was pregnant with Schenck’s mother while campaigning for the right of women to vote in Philadelphia in the 1920s. Almost a century later, this suffragette’s granddaughter co-led a pilgrimage to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture with Rev. Kimberly Jackson, an ordained LGBTQ+ Episcopal priest and candidate for the Georgia Senate in 2020, and Dr. Catherine Meeks, executive director of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing.

“I thought the world was getting better as I aged,” Schenck says. “I thought we were, for the most part, improving every year. Instead, we took one step forward and two back.”

On Battle Cry, her fourth album, Schenck is accompanied by Kevin Bales on piano, Rodney Jordan on bass and Marlon Patton on drums. Bales, a seasoned veteran who can be heard regularly at jazz clubs around Atlanta, has been collaborating with the singer for a decade. While he was living in Atlanta, Jordan taught at Georgia State University when he wasn’t touring or recording with the likes of Marcus Printup, Mulgrew Miller, and Russell Gunn. Most recently, Patton, a Georgia native, along with trombonist Dave Nelson, has been supporting Lonnie Holley in a genre-bending trio.

The music on Battle Cry includes soulfully interpreted renditions of familiar songs, such as Donny Hathaway’s “Sack Full of Dreams,” Dion’s “Abraham, Martin and John,” and “Bali Hai” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific. It also features evocative takes on “America the Beautiful” and “The Pledge of Allegiance.”

Propelled by Jordan’s subterranean bass and Williams’ hair-raising saxophone, Schenck embellishes “Strange Fruit,” the protest song immortalized by Billie Holiday, with harrowingly abstract poignancy. “Hear My Battle Cry,” the album’s one original song, uses a funky, rolling groove to communicate a central directive: “Can we find the path to freedom by the truth in our lives/Find the courage, strength and hope to stand tall/Resurrect ourselves, correct ourselves, and pay our due/Hear my battle cry: I will live in truth or die.”

All in all, the jazz-inflected tidings of Battle Cry are well worth hearing and heeding. -CL-"
  ["tracker_field_contentWikiPage_raw"]=>
  string(11061) "In Greek mythology, the consumption of ambrosia endowed the Olympians with immortality. In real life, ambrosia is another word for a mixture of fermented bee pollen and nectar, called “bee bread,” which is gathered and deposited by honeybees for sustaining the residents of a hive.

Ear Pollen is the title of a monthly concert series at 378 in Candler Park programmed by Atlanta percussionist Klimchak at the behest of gallery manager Tom Zarrilli. While immortality may not be in the offing, starting January 15 and running through the end of 2020, Ear Pollen will sustain experimental music fans in the Lo Gallery (downstairs) on the third Wednesday of each month.

“The idea is to showcase different niches of experimental music including electronic and acoustic styles ranging from jazz to noise,” says Klimchak. Known for constructing one-off instruments for imaginative performances, Klimchak once played instruments derived from kitchen tools while simultaneously cooking a meal for the audience. He says Ear Pollen will feature mostly, but not exclusively, Atlanta-based artists.

“Experimental music in Atlanta and elsewhere is divvied up into small sub-genres,” Klimchak says. “Ear Pollen will provide space where folks can listen to a variety of genres all in one place."

The first Ear Pollen concert features Andrew Levine from Hamburg, Germany, improvising on theremin and synthesizers. Born in New York City, Levine began playing violin at the age of six. He studied voice and earned an M.A. in computational linguistics and cognitive psychology at the University of Trier. Since 2010, while the theremin has been Levine’s primary instrument in solo and group settings, he also plays an 0-Coast (“oh-coast”) analog synthesizer, STEIM Cracklebox, and Haken Continuum (synthesizer).

Sharing the triple-bill with Levine are Helton & Bragg, an Atlanta-based drums/percussion and guitar/fretless bass duo (Blake Helton and Colin Bragg, respectively) who play mostly improvised, jazz-oriented music infused with electronic effects. Rounding out the program is Tim Crump, a local saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer whose music explores the intersection of jazz, post-classical, and free improv. Given that the inaugural Ear Pollen lineup features musicians working in closely related realms along the experimental spectrum, Klimchak says he is “anticipating a collective group piece will close out the evening.”

The 2020 Ear Pollen concert calendar currently includes JayVe Montgomery (from Nashville), Amplituba (Bill Pritchard), Kenito Murray, Hypnagogue (James Rosato from Massachusetts), Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel, and Jeremy Muller with many more musicians TBD. “I’m primarily interested in presenting solo and duet improvisation work,” says Klimchak. “That’s due to the size of the room and because smaller groups tend to create a more conversational atmosphere both between the performers and with the audience.”

With a performance resume that stretches back through the 1970s, Klimchak has witnessed and participated in the trailblazing efforts of Atlanta’s most adventurous music explorers. He sees the contemporary scene as a nurturing environment evolving along a mostly positive trajectory.

“It’s somewhat fragmented, but I’m beginning to see the same cross-pollination that made for a peak in the past,” he observes. “A Bent Frequency concert is attended by jazz buffs. A noise show at The Bakery is attended by classical musicians and rap producers. This situation leads to more experimentation across genres, which is needed to take us to the next level.”

Despite a recent spate of performance space closures (e.g., Eyedrum, Mammal Gallery, Murmur), new venues (e.g., The Bakery, Mother Bar, Mammal Gallery relaunched at Met Atlanta) are sprouting in their place. Says Klimchak, “I’m hoping the Ear Pollen series adds another dimension to a movement, which is carrying us toward another peak of experimental music-making in Atlanta.”

Because of its power to heal wounds and reinvigorate the body, Zeus, Hera, Apollo, and the rest of the Olympians sometimes ate ambrosia as a restorative. The Ear Pollen series comes with restorative powers of its own special kind, fit for gods and mortals alike.

''Ear Pollen inaugural concert with Andrew Levine, Helton & Bragg, and Tim Crump. $5 suggested donation. 7 p.m. Wed. Jan. 15. (Gallery) 378, 378 Clifton Road. 404-530-9277. On Facebook: Ear Pollen Experimental Music series.''

::__* * *__::
''Shooter'', a new album by Jeff Crompton, is due for release on January 11. The eight-track album, which can be streamed and downloaded from [https://jeffcrompton.bandcamp.com/album/shooter-2|Bandcamp] (don’t “forget” to pay for it, Listening Posters), features the accomplished Atlanta musician and composer performing overdubbed multi-horn pieces and unadorned solos on alto and baritone saxes and clarinet.

''Shooter'' is an impassioned response to the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, which left 31 people dead and some 50 wounded during a horrific weekend in August. It expresses with deftly structured imagination and acute sensitivity a range of emotions from anger and despair to unabashed hopefulness.

“I don't know how ‘important’ this album is in the grand scheme of things, but it's very important to me,” Crompton explains in an email exchange. “After the back-to-back mass shootings in August, it became a compulsion to me to record this music. This is an album no one asked for, few people will listen to, and one I absolutely had to do.”

The title song, which was written several years ago, vividly evokes a sinister, foreboding atmosphere. “It has been performed a few times in various guises, but I hope the nine-saxophone version on the album captures the menace and intensity I originally had in mind,” Crompton says.

While the past few years have been frequently disrupted by disconcerting events, including more mass shootings than anyone should have to count, the August massacres, which occurred 13 hours apart, pushed Crompton into an unusually deep state of despair.

“The motivations of the two shooters — white supremacy in one case and apparently just the desire to commit a mass shooting in the other — seemed emblematic of this uniquely American plague,” Crompton reflects. “The fact that we have chosen as a nation, not as individuals, to just let this keep happening is almost literally maddening.”

Other than expressing inner turmoil, Crompton hesitates to ascribe further significance to his work. “Writing music and playing the saxophone are about my only skills, and my only outlet to say something,” he offers, with characteristic self-deprecation. The music tells a different tale, fraught with complex emotions best rendered in the abstract by an artist willing to plumb the seldom-visited, shadowy depths of the soul.

"Slow March (through a dark place)" was written in one day, not long after the acrid smoke in El Paso and Dayton had dissipated. Crompton describes the recorded performance as “a dark, despairing piece of music; if it doesn't strike the listener that way, I haven't done my job.”

As a respite from the wrenching anguish (which nevertheless conjured up some exquisitely beautiful music), Crompton turned to the John Coltrane composition "Peace on Earth" and the African-American spiritual "There is a Balm in Gilead." Both tracks are magnificently affirming, standalone saxophone solos with no overdubbing.

“Despair followed by hope,” Crompton remarks. “I think working on this album has helped me reach a state of hopeful realism.

''A house concert celebrating the release of ''Shooter'' is scheduled for Saturday, January 11. For more information, visit [https://www.facebook.com/events/462029214698925/]''

::__* * *__::
On January 3, internationally acclaimed, Atlanta-based vocal artist, jazz performer, and social activist [http://www.VirginiaSchenck.com|Virginia Schenck] (who also goes by the nom de art “VA”) dropped her latest album ''Battle Cry''. Available on all digital platforms and CD, the album, which was recorded in 2018, delivers a topically pertinent message in an assuredly swinging package.

In 2016, sparked by the election of Donald Trump, Schenck felt a renewed commitment to advocating for progressive change and resisting oppression and injustice. “Music is my resistance,” Schenck declares in an interview with Listening Post recorded a few months ago. “I mean that in the best of terms, not to be off-putting, but, rather, to be engaging.”

Schenck earned her activist bona fides almost at birth. Her grandmother was pregnant with Schenck’s mother while campaigning for the right of women to vote in Philadelphia in the 1920s. Almost a century later, this suffragette’s granddaughter co-led a pilgrimage to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture with Rev. Kimberly Jackson, an ordained LGBTQ+ Episcopal priest and candidate for the Georgia Senate in 2020, and Dr. Catherine Meeks, executive director of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing.

“I thought the world was getting better as I aged,” Schenck says. “I thought we were, for the most part, improving every year. Instead, we took one step forward and two back.”

On ''Battle Cry'', her fourth album, Schenck is accompanied by Kevin Bales on piano, Rodney Jordan on bass and Marlon Patton on drums. Bales, a seasoned veteran who can be heard regularly at jazz clubs around Atlanta, has been collaborating with the singer for a decade. While he was living in Atlanta, Jordan taught at Georgia State University when he wasn’t touring or recording with the likes of Marcus Printup, Mulgrew Miller, and Russell Gunn. Most recently, Patton, a Georgia native, along with trombonist Dave Nelson, has been supporting Lonnie Holley in a genre-bending trio.

The music on ''Battle Cry'' includes soulfully interpreted renditions of familiar songs, such as Donny Hathaway’s “Sack Full of Dreams,” Dion’s “Abraham, Martin and John,” and “Bali Hai” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical ''South Pacific''. It also features evocative takes on “America the Beautiful” and “The Pledge of Allegiance.”

Propelled by Jordan’s subterranean bass and Williams’ hair-raising saxophone, Schenck embellishes “Strange Fruit,” the protest song immortalized by Billie Holiday, with harrowingly abstract poignancy. “Hear My Battle Cry,” the album’s one original song, uses a funky, rolling groove to communicate a central directive: “Can we find the path to freedom by the truth in our lives/Find the courage, strength and hope to stand tall/Resurrect ourselves, correct ourselves, and pay our due/Hear my battle cry: I will live in truth or die.”

All in all, the jazz-inflected tidings of ''Battle Cry'' are well worth hearing and heeding. __-CL-__"
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  string(11536) " LP Andrew Tremolo Resized  2020-01-01T21:17:14+00:00 LP Andrew_Tremolo resized.jpg     A new monthly concert series at 378 will feature adventurous musicians from Atlanta and beyond 27127  2020-01-01T21:07:59+00:00 LISTENING POST: Ear Pollen spawns experimental music tony.paris@creativeloafing.com Tony Paris DOUG DELOACH Doug DeLoach 2020-01-01T21:07:59+00:00  In Greek mythology, the consumption of ambrosia endowed the Olympians with immortality. In real life, ambrosia is another word for a mixture of fermented bee pollen and nectar, called “bee bread,” which is gathered and deposited by honeybees for sustaining the residents of a hive.

Ear Pollen is the title of a monthly concert series at 378 in Candler Park programmed by Atlanta percussionist Klimchak at the behest of gallery manager Tom Zarrilli. While immortality may not be in the offing, starting January 15 and running through the end of 2020, Ear Pollen will sustain experimental music fans in the Lo Gallery (downstairs) on the third Wednesday of each month.

“The idea is to showcase different niches of experimental music including electronic and acoustic styles ranging from jazz to noise,” says Klimchak. Known for constructing one-off instruments for imaginative performances, Klimchak once played instruments derived from kitchen tools while simultaneously cooking a meal for the audience. He says Ear Pollen will feature mostly, but not exclusively, Atlanta-based artists.

“Experimental music in Atlanta and elsewhere is divvied up into small sub-genres,” Klimchak says. “Ear Pollen will provide space where folks can listen to a variety of genres all in one place."

The first Ear Pollen concert features Andrew Levine from Hamburg, Germany, improvising on theremin and synthesizers. Born in New York City, Levine began playing violin at the age of six. He studied voice and earned an M.A. in computational linguistics and cognitive psychology at the University of Trier. Since 2010, while the theremin has been Levine’s primary instrument in solo and group settings, he also plays an 0-Coast (“oh-coast”) analog synthesizer, STEIM Cracklebox, and Haken Continuum (synthesizer).

Sharing the triple-bill with Levine are Helton & Bragg, an Atlanta-based drums/percussion and guitar/fretless bass duo (Blake Helton and Colin Bragg, respectively) who play mostly improvised, jazz-oriented music infused with electronic effects. Rounding out the program is Tim Crump, a local saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer whose music explores the intersection of jazz, post-classical, and free improv. Given that the inaugural Ear Pollen lineup features musicians working in closely related realms along the experimental spectrum, Klimchak says he is “anticipating a collective group piece will close out the evening.”

The 2020 Ear Pollen concert calendar currently includes JayVe Montgomery (from Nashville), Amplituba (Bill Pritchard), Kenito Murray, Hypnagogue (James Rosato from Massachusetts), Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel, and Jeremy Muller with many more musicians TBD. “I’m primarily interested in presenting solo and duet improvisation work,” says Klimchak. “That’s due to the size of the room and because smaller groups tend to create a more conversational atmosphere both between the performers and with the audience.”

With a performance resume that stretches back through the 1970s, Klimchak has witnessed and participated in the trailblazing efforts of Atlanta’s most adventurous music explorers. He sees the contemporary scene as a nurturing environment evolving along a mostly positive trajectory.

“It’s somewhat fragmented, but I’m beginning to see the same cross-pollination that made for a peak in the past,” he observes. “A Bent Frequency concert is attended by jazz buffs. A noise show at The Bakery is attended by classical musicians and rap producers. This situation leads to more experimentation across genres, which is needed to take us to the next level.”

Despite a recent spate of performance space closures (e.g., Eyedrum, Mammal Gallery, Murmur), new venues (e.g., The Bakery, Mother Bar, Mammal Gallery relaunched at Met Atlanta) are sprouting in their place. Says Klimchak, “I’m hoping the Ear Pollen series adds another dimension to a movement, which is carrying us toward another peak of experimental music-making in Atlanta.”

Because of its power to heal wounds and reinvigorate the body, Zeus, Hera, Apollo, and the rest of the Olympians sometimes ate ambrosia as a restorative. The Ear Pollen series comes with restorative powers of its own special kind, fit for gods and mortals alike.

Ear Pollen inaugural concert with Andrew Levine, Helton & Bragg, and Tim Crump. $5 suggested donation. 7 p.m. Wed. Jan. 15. (Gallery) 378, 378 Clifton Road. 404-530-9277. On Facebook: Ear Pollen Experimental Music series.

* * *
Shooter, a new album by Jeff Crompton, is due for release on January 11. The eight-track album, which can be streamed and downloaded from Bandcamp (don’t “forget” to pay for it, Listening Posters), features the accomplished Atlanta musician and composer performing overdubbed multi-horn pieces and unadorned solos on alto and baritone saxes and clarinet.

Shooter is an impassioned response to the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, which left 31 people dead and some 50 wounded during a horrific weekend in August. It expresses with deftly structured imagination and acute sensitivity a range of emotions from anger and despair to unabashed hopefulness.

“I don't know how ‘important’ this album is in the grand scheme of things, but it's very important to me,” Crompton explains in an email exchange. “After the back-to-back mass shootings in August, it became a compulsion to me to record this music. This is an album no one asked for, few people will listen to, and one I absolutely had to do.”

The title song, which was written several years ago, vividly evokes a sinister, foreboding atmosphere. “It has been performed a few times in various guises, but I hope the nine-saxophone version on the album captures the menace and intensity I originally had in mind,” Crompton says.

While the past few years have been frequently disrupted by disconcerting events, including more mass shootings than anyone should have to count, the August massacres, which occurred 13 hours apart, pushed Crompton into an unusually deep state of despair.

“The motivations of the two shooters — white supremacy in one case and apparently just the desire to commit a mass shooting in the other — seemed emblematic of this uniquely American plague,” Crompton reflects. “The fact that we have chosen as a nation, not as individuals, to just let this keep happening is almost literally maddening.”

Other than expressing inner turmoil, Crompton hesitates to ascribe further significance to his work. “Writing music and playing the saxophone are about my only skills, and my only outlet to say something,” he offers, with characteristic self-deprecation. The music tells a different tale, fraught with complex emotions best rendered in the abstract by an artist willing to plumb the seldom-visited, shadowy depths of the soul.

"Slow March (through a dark place)" was written in one day, not long after the acrid smoke in El Paso and Dayton had dissipated. Crompton describes the recorded performance as “a dark, despairing piece of music; if it doesn't strike the listener that way, I haven't done my job.”

As a respite from the wrenching anguish (which nevertheless conjured up some exquisitely beautiful music), Crompton turned to the John Coltrane composition "Peace on Earth" and the African-American spiritual "There is a Balm in Gilead." Both tracks are magnificently affirming, standalone saxophone solos with no overdubbing.

“Despair followed by hope,” Crompton remarks. “I think working on this album has helped me reach a state of hopeful realism.

A house concert celebrating the release of Shooter is scheduled for Saturday, January 11. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/462029214698925/

* * *
On January 3, internationally acclaimed, Atlanta-based vocal artist, jazz performer, and social activist Virginia Schenck (who also goes by the nom de art “VA”) dropped her latest album Battle Cry. Available on all digital platforms and CD, the album, which was recorded in 2018, delivers a topically pertinent message in an assuredly swinging package.

In 2016, sparked by the election of Donald Trump, Schenck felt a renewed commitment to advocating for progressive change and resisting oppression and injustice. “Music is my resistance,” Schenck declares in an interview with Listening Post recorded a few months ago. “I mean that in the best of terms, not to be off-putting, but, rather, to be engaging.”

Schenck earned her activist bona fides almost at birth. Her grandmother was pregnant with Schenck’s mother while campaigning for the right of women to vote in Philadelphia in the 1920s. Almost a century later, this suffragette’s granddaughter co-led a pilgrimage to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture with Rev. Kimberly Jackson, an ordained LGBTQ+ Episcopal priest and candidate for the Georgia Senate in 2020, and Dr. Catherine Meeks, executive director of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing.

“I thought the world was getting better as I aged,” Schenck says. “I thought we were, for the most part, improving every year. Instead, we took one step forward and two back.”

On Battle Cry, her fourth album, Schenck is accompanied by Kevin Bales on piano, Rodney Jordan on bass and Marlon Patton on drums. Bales, a seasoned veteran who can be heard regularly at jazz clubs around Atlanta, has been collaborating with the singer for a decade. While he was living in Atlanta, Jordan taught at Georgia State University when he wasn’t touring or recording with the likes of Marcus Printup, Mulgrew Miller, and Russell Gunn. Most recently, Patton, a Georgia native, along with trombonist Dave Nelson, has been supporting Lonnie Holley in a genre-bending trio.

The music on Battle Cry includes soulfully interpreted renditions of familiar songs, such as Donny Hathaway’s “Sack Full of Dreams,” Dion’s “Abraham, Martin and John,” and “Bali Hai” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific. It also features evocative takes on “America the Beautiful” and “The Pledge of Allegiance.”

Propelled by Jordan’s subterranean bass and Williams’ hair-raising saxophone, Schenck embellishes “Strange Fruit,” the protest song immortalized by Billie Holiday, with harrowingly abstract poignancy. “Hear My Battle Cry,” the album’s one original song, uses a funky, rolling groove to communicate a central directive: “Can we find the path to freedom by the truth in our lives/Find the courage, strength and hope to stand tall/Resurrect ourselves, correct ourselves, and pay our due/Hear my battle cry: I will live in truth or die.”

All in all, the jazz-inflected tidings of Battle Cry are well worth hearing and heeding. -CL-    Jochen Quas MUSIC ETERNAL: The first installment of the Ear Pollen series showcases the music of American-born, Hamburg, Germany-based improviser Andrew Levine.  0,0,10                                 LISTENING POST: Ear Pollen spawns experimental music "
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Wednesday January 1, 2020 04:07 pm EST
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