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Rekindling the “Fire”: Ben Sidran, December 9 and 10 in Davenport PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 26 November 2014 09:16

(Editor's note: The venue for Ben Sidran’s December 9 lecture has changed since this article was published, and admission fees for both events have also changed.)

Ben Sidran is best known as a jazz pianist and producer; for his work with the Steve Miller Band (he co-wrote “Space Cowboy”); and as host of public radio’s Jazz Alive and VH-1’s New Visions series. But he also holds a Ph.D. in American studies, and his 2012 book There Was a Fire: Jews, Music, & the American Dream displays not only the storytelling gift and playfulness you might expect from an accomplished songwriter, but also an erudite and thoughtful mind befitting his academic credentials.

It’s the mingling of those different facets, however, that makes the book such a compelling read: a love of tales, a deep curiosity about history, the use of personal narrative to ground points in contemporary and emotional life, the creativity to unearth surprising connections, and the jazz artist’s willingness to follow a muse or idea wherever it might lead.

All those components will be evident when Sidran visits Davenport as part of the Jewish Federation of the the Quad Cities’ “Jews Rock” series: a solo lecture and performance based on his book on December 9 at Temple Emanuel, and a performance by the Ben Sidran Quartet on December 10 at the Redstone Room.

 
The Whole World Opened Up: The Soil & the Sun, December 4 at Rozz-Tox PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Tuesday, 25 November 2014 13:25

The Soil & the Sun. Photo by Rotten Photography.

Given the expansive, spacious, and precise sound that Michigan’s The Soil & the Sun achieves on Meridian – the band’s third record – two things leap out from its history: that what’s now a seven-piece ensemble started as a duo, and that its first two albums were home-recorded by people who didn’t really know what they were doing.

Meridian – released in August – marks the first time the group worked with a producer, and the most obvious difference from its predecessors is in its choir-like group vocals, particularly on “How Long.” The band has retained its orchestral breadth and adventurousness, but with its soaring collective singing the album becomes something more celestial; songs dominated by gloomy clouds have given way to bright stars.

Working in a proper studio “was a little bit overwhelming, actually,” said frontman, primary songwriter, and co-founder Alex McGrath in a recent phone interview, promoting The Soil & the Sun’s December 4 performance at Rozz-Tox. “We had the whole world opened up to us, really for the first time. We had to exercise some restraint and not get too caught up in effects ... .”

 
Season of the "Which?": Three-Dozen-Plus Holiday Concerts and Events in the Quad Cities and Surrounding Areas PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Mike Schulz   
Monday, 24 November 2014 06:00

Christmas at AugustanaThe holidays are a time of giving and receiving. And if you peruse the holiday events listed in this issue’s accompanying Winter Guide, you’ll realize that we’d all better get crackin’ on that “giving” part. Have you checked out just how much receiving we’ll be doing this season?

 
Break-Up Artists: Madi Diaz and Christian Lee Hutson, November 21 at Rozz-Tox PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 13 November 2014 05:16

Madi Diaz

Madi Diaz’s new album Phantom is a break-up record, but you’d never know that from a casual listen – and that’s just what the singer/songwriter was aiming for.

“I’m trying to push past the break-up-record thing,” she said in a recent phone interview in advance of her November 21 record-release show at Rozz-Tox. “I’m hoping the music pulls it past the cold, harsh idea of a break-up record. ... That’s kind of my favorite thing, that juxtaposition: the very dry, grounded, present lyrics with a kind of uplifting, soaring musical bed. That’s what I was striving for with the record.”

Both Diaz and Christian Lee Hutson – who will be returning to the Quad Cities for the Daytrotter.com show with Diaz – are promoting records whose idiosyncratic pop textures mask darker emotional content.

 
A Helping Hand Through Difficult Music: The Quad City Symphony, November 1 at the Adler Theatre PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Frederick Morden   
Friday, 07 November 2014 14:36

With the premiere of a nebulous, esoteric piece and a dark, densely sobering Brahms concerto behind him, Music Director and Conductor Mark Russell Smith picked up the microphone to address the audience before the second half of the Quad City Symphony’s November 1 concert at the Adler.

The audience was likely looking for some emotional relief, but Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique symphony loomed, with its morose “Finale” – creating the potential for a depressing albeit well-performed concert.

Smith set an optimistic tone. He called the Pathetique “Tchaikovsky’s greatest symphony” – pointing out the “life lived” through this music and focusing attention on its innovations.

His words were the right message at the right time. In framing the concert’s centerpiece, Smith helped pull the audience through the performance, allowing it to appreciate the trio of challenging pieces without getting sucked under by bleakness.

 
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