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Guitar master Bombino will be at Mass MoCA on Saturday, June 15. (Photo by Lara Cocciolo)

BBBBBzzz: Bombino, Berkshire Jazz Start the Pop Season with a Bang

By Grace LichtensteinGuest Column
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An American Public Media "Live from Here" broadcast with Chris Thile kicks off the early Tanglewood season on Saturday, June 15.

Summer is almost here, and so is pop, jazz, dance, musical theater and new music throughout the region. As before, I'll preview what's coming up each week to help you kick off your shoes.

Hopefully, I'll encourage you to attend a performance of music you know you love, or even music you don't know but that you might love. A great, varied season awaits from Great Barrington to North Adams.


Tanglewood Music Festival

Let's begin with Tanglewood, in Lenox, with its early season non-classical lineup in the Shed. On Saturday, June 15, at 5:45 p.m. it's an American Public Media "Live from Here" broadcast with Chris Thile. The show features not just Thile, who is a whiz on the mandolin, but singer-songwriter Ben Folds, comedian Tig Notaro, and the female band I'm With Her.

Folds, originally from North Carolina, has excelled in pop and alt-rock music as a soloist and band member. Notaro is a hugely funny stand-up comic who can even make her breast cancer bout darkly funny. I'm With Her is an inventive folkie band featuring  singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalists Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O'Donovan.

I was going to tell you all about the June 16 legends concert - Brian Wilson Presents Pet Sounds. But alas, Wilson last week cancelled the entire tour, citing difficulties recovering from back surgery. "I’m going to rest, recover and work with my doctors on this. I'm looking forward to my recovery and seeing everyone later in the year," Wilson wrote in the announcement.

Details and tickets for all Tanglewood events can be found online.


Berkshire Gateway Jazz Weekend

From Friday, June 14, through Sunday, June 16, there's jazz and more in Lee at the eighth annual Berkshire Gateway Jazz Weekend. The headliners Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at the Congregational Church are versatile vocalists Wanda Houston and Samirah Evans. They team up for what promises to be an evening of duets ranging from straight-ahead jazz to the blues to pop standards.

Saturday begins at 10 a.m. with a jazz brunch.The headliners are Release the Penguins at the Starving Artist Cafe and Creperie on Main Street.  Then comes outdoor jazz in the park with local musicians. Rich Vinette Quintet begins at 11:30 a.m. Mary Ann Palermo and First Take are in charge starting at 1 p.m. and Kyle Murray Group go on at 2:30 p.m.

Love the bossa nova sound?  You can look forward to jazz guitarist Diego Figueiredo and the great Ken Peplowski on tenor saxophonist and clarinetist on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.  They will be joined by Italian singer/songwriter Chiara Izzi,

Finally, there will be another Jazz Brunch with the Rich Vinette Quintet, again st the Starving Artist Cafe and Creperie beginning at 11 a.m.

More info and tickets can be found online.


Mass MoCA

Head to North Adams on Saturday, June 15, for an unusual treat at the always unusual Mass MoCA: Bombino. Omara Moctar, a/k/a Bombino, is a guitar master is from North Africa. He frequently addresses Tuareg geopolitical concerns, singing in the Tuareg language of Tamasheq. His toe-tapping tunes will move you whatever language you speak. By the way, a special low price awaits students who buy tickets in advance.

For more info and tickets, visit the website.


Mac-Haydn Theater

Over in nearby Chatham, N.Y., the season of musical comedy is already under way at the Mac-Haydn Theater. You have until Sunday to catch "Curtains," billed as a "musical comedy whodunit," with music and lyrics by Kander and Ebb. It stars Colin Pritchard and Rachel Pantazis, the director/choreographer is Courtney Laine Self. There's a matinee Wednesday, and performances at various times the rest of the week.

For more info and tickets, visit the website.


Barrington Stage and Jacob's Pillow

I'll have more to say in next week’s column about Into The Woods, the Sondheim musical upcoming at the Boyd-Quinson Mainstage of the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, as well as the cutting-edge moves of Vancouver’s Ballet BC at idyllic Jacob’s Pillow in Becket.

For a peek or to buy advance tickets, go to both the Barrington Stage website and the Jacob's Pillow website.

Check here again a week from now — or anytime during the summer for fabulous non-classical music. Got a show you want to publicize? Contact me by email here.


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Gladys Knight, Roomful of Teeth, Gershwin Highlight Busy Week

By Grace LichtensteinGuest Column

These may be the dog days of August, but pop and new music — and musical theater — abound throughout the Berkshires. Beginning with John Williams' music and Gladys Knight in separate concerts at Tanglewood, it's a full schedule as summer winds down.


Regular concert-goers have a second chance (after "Star Wars”" last week) to enjoy the music of film score legend John Williams. The Shed hosts the Boston Pops at 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24. "John Williams' Film Night" is a treasured evening at Tanglewood every year. The conductor is David Newman, with Williams introducing the evening. No films, just Williams' wonderful Hollywood music.

The Popular Artist Series returns Wednesday, Aug. 28, at 7 p.m. with Gladys Knight as the headliner, and The Spinners as special guests. For those who love the golden age of pop soul, this should be a fabulous singalong —  "Midnight Train to Georgia," "Neither One of Us," from Gladys and "Could It Be I’m Falling in Love" from the Spinners.

Mass MoCA

Lovers of new vocal music should not miss Roomful of Teeth on Friday, Aug. 23, at 8 p.m. This remarkable group is now entering its second decade, and will be presenting new works commissioned as part of the American Composers Forum's "ACF Connect" program, alongside a retrospective of Teeth's first 10 years. 

Then on Saturday, Aug. 24, at 8 p.m. listen and dance to Cha Wa, a funky band with a lead singer, J'Wan Boudreaux, who radiates the energy of the Mardi Gras Indian sound. If the weather cooperates, there will be dancing in Mass MoCA's concert courtyard.

Berkshire Theatre Group

For those who love him, there can never be enough Gershwin. In "George Gershwin Alone," which opens with a Saturday matinee, Aug. 24, at 2 p.m., actor, playwright and pianist Hershey Felder presents his take on the composer.  It runs through Aug. 31. The show is directed by Tony Award-nominee Joel Zwick.

It is not merely a concert. The show is a "play-with-music tribute to the American Songbook and provides an intimate portrait of Gershwin’s early years, his personal life and his artistic genius," according to advance word from the BTG. It not only includes some of his best-known songs but a complete performance of "Rhapsody in Blue."

Barrington Stage Company

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