Festival bound

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Come spring and come April, eyes and ears turn to Georgia. Regardless of where the Final Four is staged, the eyes of the sports world will converge on Augusta for the final-round drama of the Masters, while the ears of music fanciers will have their last loving listen the night before at the Savannah Music Festival. It started yesterday, precisely timed to coincide with the first opening buds of the azaleas outside our home.

Punch Brothers
  • Punch Brothers

Sue and I will be traversing South Carolina on Sunday, crossing the Savannah River, and sojourning at the Festival for five full days of eclectic music programming. No, we won’t see and hear it all in the blossoming port city, but we’ll get a plentiful earful.

We’ll have classical concerts by violinist Catherine Leonard, cellist Eric Kim, and the Ebéne Quartet. Two chamber music concerts brimful of Beethoven violin sonatas – including the glorious “Kreutzer” – plus a potpourri of Brahms, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Mozart, and Joachim by violinist Daniel Hope and friends.

On assignment for JazzTimes, there are plenty of swinging and bopping goodies, too. Delta Guitar Slingers on Sunday. Jason Marsalis and a percussion summit at noon followed by the Bill Charlap-Renee Rosnes piano duo Monday evening. More Charlap-Rosnes duo Tuesday afternoon, followed by bassist Edgar Meyer early that evening, and then Béla Fleck joining the Marcus Roberts Trio later that night.

Charlap teams up with tenor sax ace Houston Person in duo format Wednesday afternoon, followed up by three quartet sets that evening. We’ll be splitting off to follow Meyer and Fleck as they join forces with tabla master Zakir Hussain in a world music concert. Thursday will bring us an afternoon rendezvous with organist Ike Stubblefield’s trio, but we’re likely to hit the road before we can catch the Stubblefield Trio’s summit meeting with The Clayton Brothers, with side helpings of trombonist Wycliffe Gordon and trumpeter Marcus Printup.

In the midst of all this classical and jazz ambrosia, we plan to rock out with the Avett Brothers on Wednesday night.

We will hardly get to experience a third of all the bounty that SMF has planned for 2011. Other jazz highlights include Dianne Reeves, John Pizzarelli, Tiempo Libre, and Maceo Parker. Classical fans can savor soprano Christine Brewer, clarinetist Patrick Messina, pianist Simone Dinnerstein, and the Atlanta Symphony.

Of course, there’s plenty more bluegrass, Afro-pop, folk, world music, and rockabilly with headliners that include the Punch Brothers, Allen Toussaint, Salif Keita, Tim O’Brien, James “Superharp” Cotton, and concerts specifically devoted to Cajun, Cuban, and Indian music.

More than a couple of these musicians return to SMF year after year. A similar habit possesses music lovers who come from near and far to listen.

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