The cultural highlights in our region this weekend include the glorious sounds of a brass band, a folk music legend, a cutting-edge jazz bandleader, a classic American play, and a whole lot more.
Cocek! Brass Band, which combines the sounds of New Orleans and the Balkans, making forays into Afrobeat, klezmer, and reggae along the way, will entertain with their lively mix at Dewey Hall in Sheffield, Mass., tonight at 7:30pm. The group will kick off the evening with a concert set, followed by a dance set featuring Balkan dance lessons. A 5-piece ensemble from Boston, Cocek! plays all original compositions, inspired by acts including Fanfare Ciocarlia, Fela Kuti, Miles Davis, Rebirth Brass Band, traditional Balkan songs and chamber-brass repertoire. Contemplative Old World melodies vie with boisterous, funky dance rhythms such that you won’t know whether to laugh or to cry, but you’ll certainly be tapping your toes througout.
Ramblin' Jack Elliott is one of the last living connections to the great folk and country roots-music traditions of mid-century America. He absorbed the music firsthand from the great pioneers including Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, and Mississippi John Hurt, and transmitted it to listeners all over the world on more than 40 albums. He is the link between Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, the latter of whom took Ramblin’ Jack with him on tour as part of the Rolling Thunder Revue in the mid-1970s. He has won Grammys both for traditional folk and traditional blues, as well as the National Medal of the Arts in 1998. Catch Ramblin’ Jack at the Guthrie Center in Great Barrington, Mass., on Saturday at 8pm.
Pianist and composer Carmen Staaf is an active voice on the downtown New York and global music scenes. Her skills and approach have led her to perform in a wide range of settings with some of the most influential and important musicians of our era, including Dee Dee Bridgewater, Wynton Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Kenny Barron, and Fred Hersch. Staaf co-leads the group Science Fair with drummer Allison Miller, and also performs regularly with Miller's outfit Boom Tic Boom, which for my money is one of the most innovative and exciting new jazz ensembles in the world. Staff brings her sextet, featuring an all-star lineup of jazz talent including vocalist Nicole Zuraitis, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, alto saxophonist Kris Allen, bassist Jonathan Michel, and drummer George Schuller, to Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall at Williams College in a free concert tonight at 8 p.m. Yes, that’s free jazz, tonight at 8.
Also this weekend, a new staging of “The Glass Menagerie” opens at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Mass. Running through October 21, Tennessee Williams’ autobiographical memory play centers on frustrated writer Tom; his mother Amanda, who is lost in memories of her Southern belle past; and his painfully shy sister Laura. Reality and illusion collide when a rare visit from a gentleman caller upsets the balance of the Wingfield family in one of the iconic American dramas of the 20th century.
Seth Rogovoy is editor of the Rogovoy Report, available online at rogovoyreport.com