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Rogovoy Report 8/24/18

The cultural highlights in our region this weekend include modern dance, opera, jazz, roots music, and a whole lot more.

Grammy Award-winning vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth brings its unique sounds to MASS MoCA in North Adams tonight at 8pm. The innovative vocal group, led by Williams College music professor Brad Wells, has been in residence at MASS MoCA this past week, workshopping new and reworked compositions, including those by micro-timing pioneer Richard Beaudoin and Bang on a Can cofounder David Lang. The program by the vocal octet includes David Lang’s Pulitzer Prize-winning piece “Little Match Girl Passion” and Beaudoin’s “Another Woman of Another Kind,” as well as works by members of the American Composers Forum.

New York City dancer-choreographer Gina Bashour returns home to the Berkshires this weekend to premiere Unraveled, a site-specific dance work taking place at TurnPark Art Space in West Stockbridge, on Saturday and Sunday at noon and 3pm. With a strong ensemble of performers, the work weaves together themes and imagery from the fable of Rumpelstiltskin with a current look at the relationships of men and women in the #MeToo era.

Speaking of #MeToo-inspired artworks, Berkshire Opera Festival kicks off its third season on Saturday at 1pm at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield with a #MeToo-inspired version of Verdi’s Rigoletto. The opera, featuring the Berkshire Opera Festival Orchestra and Berkshire Opera Festival Chorus, will be sung in Italian with projected English translations.

Jazz fans can hear the cream of the local crop in the Berkshires at the first annual Berkshire Jazz Showcase, at the Common in Pittsfield, on Saturday from 1 to 6pm. The free festival features a handful of the region’s best jazz performers, including Gruppo Mondo, Andy Kelly Gypsy Jazz, Ben Kohn Trio, Jason Ennis and Friends, and the Lucky 5.

The Bang Group brings the curtain down on the Chatham Dance Festival at PS21 in Chatham, N.Y,, tonight and Saturday night at 8pm, with its “Mouthful of Shoes” program, showcasing the love of rhythmic form. Music for the program will include works by Mozart, Stravinsky, Morton Feldman, and Steve Reich. As I always say, go for the dance, and stay for the music.

Folk and blues singer-guitarist Chris Smither brings his signature sound to the Guthrie Center in Great Barrington, Mass., on Friday and Saturday at 8pm. Smither plays a beat-driven fingerpicking, strongly influenced by the playing of Mississippi John Hurt and Lightin’ Hopkins, layered over the insistent backbeat of his rhythmic, tapping feet. While Smither is rightly known for his stellar performances and recordings, he also garnered fame as the writer of Bonnie Raitt’s 1972 hit single, “Love Me Like a Man,” which has also been recorded by jazz singer Diana Krall and country outfit the Dixie Chicks.

Before there were blues-rock revivalists like White Stripes and Black Keys, there was Tarbox Ramblers, digging deep into the place where Appalachian music, ancient blues, and gospel come together in powerful, unexpected combinations. Their music is evocative of a world gone by and a world gone wrong, but also a world that lingers on well into the 21st century. The group – which performs at Club Helsinki Hudson on Sunday at 8pm -- plays what I like to call “old-soul music,” including both original songs and arrangements of songs dating back to the 19th century or before – numbers like “St. James Infirmary,” “Jack of Diamonds” and “The Cuckoo.” The Ramblers play these songs with a uniquely raw, stark, minimalist take on what we now call Americana, but what used to simply be the sound of rural America. 

Seth Rogovoy is editor of the Rogovoy Report, available online at rogovoyreport.com