August 1, 1996 in Features

Variety Tops Playlist For This Year’s Fest

Jim Kershner, William Berry And Don Adair S Staff writer
 

To an entire generation, Lou Rawls, who opens the Festival at Sandpoint mainstage season on Friday, is the voice behind the Budweiser ads and the “Garfield The Cat” animated specials.

But for pop fans of the ‘60s and ‘70s and jazz fans of all generations, Lou Rawls is strictly music. Through a number of hit songs, three Grammys and an extensive jazz career, Rawls has established himself as one of the most stylish and distinctive of vocalists.

This 60-year-old native of the South Side of Chicago certainly learned his craft from the purest of R&B; sources. For one thing, he grew up singing gospel in church. For another, one of his earliest gigs was singing backup for the legendary Sam Cooke (“You Send Me,” “Chain Gang”).

Rawls barely survived that collaboration; he and Cooke were in a terrible car accident in 1958 on the way to a show. Cooke was unharmed, but Rawls was in a coma for five days.

Rawls emerged from that calamity with a renewed focus and a new maturity.

“I began to learn acceptance, direction, understanding and perception - all elements that had been sadly lacking in my life,” Rawls has been quoted as saying.

As a solo artist, he hit the charts in the mid-1960s with a string of hits: “Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing,” “Dead End Street,” “Your Good Thing (Is About to End)” and in 1971, “A Natural Man.”

They might have invented the word “mellow” to describe Rawls’ deep-voiced style. He became a celebrity and even had his own summer-replacement TV series in 1969.

He continued to have hits through the ‘70s, most notably “You’ll Never Find a Love Like Mine” in 1976. However, he began to branch out in other directions, with his voice-over and film work.

He also began to do a lot of charity work, including his “Lou Rawls’ Parade of Stars” telethon, which raises millions for 42 black colleges.

He is also a staple at jazz festivals, where he draws on the influence of the great singers he saw as a youth in Chicago, including Billy Eckstein, Arthur Prysock and Joe Williams. One of his most recent projects is 1993’s “Portrait of the Blues,” which includes Williams and Buddy Guy in guest spots.

Friday’s opening act will be Shirley Nanette. The Memorial Field concert begins at 7:30 p.m.

BRIAN SETZER ORCHESTRA

The Brian Setzer Orchestra may not be a household name - do they do weddings, or what? - but for those in the know, this is the most eagerly anticipated concert of the entire Festival at Sandpoint season,

This show, Sunday at 7 p.m. at Memorial Field, promises to be an exhilarating combination of big-band swing, rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly.

Rockabilly? Absolutely. Brian Setzer just happens to be the same tattooed, pompadoured character last seen slinging a guitar in that early ‘80s phenomenon, The Stray Cats.

In fact, we just might get to hear a big-band version of “Rock This Town” or “Stray Cat Strut” on Sunday night. Setzer says he has written “lots of charts” for Stray Cats tunes.

But we’ll definitely hear some Count Basie numbers, Louis Jordan jump blues, some Bobby Darin-style ‘50s swing and even some straight ahead rock ‘n’ roll.

The idea of the band is simple, but almost startlingly original: Put together a big band with an electric guitarist as leader. It goes far beyond a rock band backed by horns. This 17-piece orchestra is almost entirely made up of jazz players.

In fact, the band was born in 1992 when Setzer’s jazz-playing neighbors were holding a jam session. They invited Setzer over to play. He proved to them that he could play Miles Davis charts; they proved to him that a jazz-rock hybrid could cook.

Setzer put a big band together in 1994, put out two albums and quickly became an L.A. sensation. But the Brian Setzer Orchestra is still relatively unknown outside of L.A. and other jazz centers.

Here’s a chance to discover them in North Idaho. The opening act will be Big Twang.

- Jim Kershner

SPOKANE SYMPHONY

The festival begins its symphonic series Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Field with selections solely for strings. The festival’s artistic director, Gunther Schuller, will conduct the Spokane Symphony in chamber orchestra works by Mozart, Debussy, Dvorak, Stravinsky and Schoenberg.

Soloist for the performance will be the SSO’s harpist, Camille Peterson, who will be performing Claude Debussy’s “Danses sacree et profane.”

The SSO will play other pretty music as well, including Antonin Dvorak’s “Nocturne for Strings.” This is Dvorak’s transcription for string orchestra of the Andante Religioso from his Quartet No. 4. Igor Stravinsky’s Concerto in D will also be featured.

The Adagio and Fugue, K. 546, by Mozart will begin the program.

Arnold Schoenberg’s “Verklarte Nacht” (Transfigured Night) will cap the evening. Originally for string sextet, the composer arranged the work for string orchestra. The work takes lush Romantic harmonies to the breaking point, creating the ultimate love song. Musically, it follows the poem by Richard Dehmel, in which love transforms the unborn child of a previous affair into the child of the new couple.

- William Berry

KEB’ MO’

Guitarist and singer Keb’ Mo’ is a curious phenomenon.

Now regarded as heir apparent to Taj Mahal - as if Mahal needed one - Mo’ didn’t get serious about the blues until late in his Los Angeles-based music career.

Mo’, who appears at the Panida Theater in Sandpoint Thursday at 7 p.m., had run an L.A. recording studio, worked as a staff songwriter and played in funk and pop bands when someone asked him to play the part of a bluesman in a stage show.

“I lied and said I could,” he said.

He took that part and another one, and a bluesman was born.

That’s not to say the talented Mo’ lacked a feel for the blues - the great Mahal himself turned the youngster on to the music when he performed at Mo’s high school - it’s just that Mo’ had a million other things going on.

Even his name implies an arms-length relationship with the blues. Born Kevin Moore, he was given his stage name by a drummer friend who was amused by the guitar player’s inclination to play blues-based solos at jazz jam sessions.

“It’s like if I was playing jazz I could be Kevin Moore,” Mo’ says, “but if I was gonna play the blues, I had to be Keb’ Mo’.”

Mo’ fingerpicks acoustic and steel guitars and gets in some slinky slide licks, too. He mixes original material with classics from the likes of Robert Johnson and sings in an easy baritone that insinuates all the things that the blues are meant to insinuate.

He grew up middle-class in Los Angeles, but Keb’ Mo’ is the real thing. If Taj Mahal ever steps aside, Mo’s ready to step in.

- Don Adair

SCHWEITZER INSTITUTE JAZZ

Each year, a handful of the finest jazz players in the world travel to Sandpoint, Idaho.

They come to teach at the Schweitzer Institute, where they spend three weeks instructing, encouraging and molding a select group of international students.

While they’re here, the students and faculty offer a number of public concerts. By tradition, they’re wild and woolly affairs where the youngsters take their place alongside the pros and blow their hearts out.

This year, there will be two public performances, Monday at 7 p.m. and Aug. 12, at the Panida Theater.

This year’s faculty is led by bassist Ed Schuller, a veteran player who has worked with drummer Paul Motian, tenor sax man Art Pepper and pianist Mal Waldron - but it’s his own work as a band leader that’s beginning to garner a lot of attention.

He is joined again this year by pianist Kenny Werner. When Werner first began teaching at Sandpoint, he and his excellent trio were best known in Europe. But in the past year, he has released two very well received records - one as a soloist, the other with his trio - on the Concord label.

Drummer Billy Hart will once again anchor the group. He’s played from everyone from Paul Bley and Gary Bartz to McCoy Tyner, Stan Getz, Shirley Horn and Dexter Gordon. He’s a co-founder of Colloquium III, a progressive percussion ensemble, and a charter member of the Mingus Dynasty.

Saxophonist Joe Lovano, who has taught at the Schweitzer Institute for the past three years, won’t return this year. He’ll be replaced by George Garzon, a Boston-based player who has played in George Schuller’s Orange Then-Blue big band, and with such players as Mike Maineri and Kenny Werner.

- Don Adair

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

MEMO: Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. CONCERT Sandpoint Festival tickets are available at the Memorial Field box office and at the festival office, 305 N. Second (235-4554 or toll-free at 888-265-4554).

2. SANDPOINT FESTIVAL THIS WEEK This week at the Sandpoint Festival: Keb’ Mo’, tonight, 7 p.m., Panida Theater, $15. Lou Rawls, Friday, 7:30 p.m., Memorial Field, $19 general admission, $26.50 reserved seating. Spokane Symphony, Gunther Schuller conducting, Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Memorial Field, $17 general admission, $24.50 reserved seating. Brian Setzer Orchestra, Sunday, 7 p.m., Memorial Field, $19 general admission, $26.50 reserved seating. Schweitzer Institute Chamber Music, Sunday, 10:30 a.m., Schweitzer Mountain Resort, $7, brunch available after concert. Schweitzer Institute Jazz, Sunday, 2:30 p.m., Schweitzer resort, $7. Schweitzer Institute Jazz Encore, Monday, 7 p.m., Panida Theater, $12, reserved seating only. Schweitzer Institute Chamber Music, Tuesday, Aug. 6, 7 p.m., Schweitzer resort, $7. Family Fun Night, Wednesday, Aug. 7, activities begin at 4 p.m., Farmin Park, free. Paul Taylor demonstration program about didgeridoo at 6 p.m., followed by concert by the Tropical Montana Marimba Ensemble.

Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. CONCERT Sandpoint Festival tickets are available at the Memorial Field box office and at the festival office, 305 N. Second (235-4554 or toll-free at 888-265-4554).

2. SANDPOINT FESTIVAL THIS WEEK This week at the Sandpoint Festival: Keb’ Mo’, tonight, 7 p.m., Panida Theater, $15. Lou Rawls, Friday, 7:30 p.m., Memorial Field, $19 general admission, $26.50 reserved seating. Spokane Symphony, Gunther Schuller conducting, Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Memorial Field, $17 general admission, $24.50 reserved seating. Brian Setzer Orchestra, Sunday, 7 p.m., Memorial Field, $19 general admission, $26.50 reserved seating. Schweitzer Institute Chamber Music, Sunday, 10:30 a.m., Schweitzer Mountain Resort, $7, brunch available after concert. Schweitzer Institute Jazz, Sunday, 2:30 p.m., Schweitzer resort, $7. Schweitzer Institute Jazz Encore, Monday, 7 p.m., Panida Theater, $12, reserved seating only. Schweitzer Institute Chamber Music, Tuesday, Aug. 6, 7 p.m., Schweitzer resort, $7. Family Fun Night, Wednesday, Aug. 7, activities begin at 4 p.m., Farmin Park, free. Paul Taylor demonstration program about didgeridoo at 6 p.m., followed by concert by the Tropical Montana Marimba Ensemble.


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