An interview with Paul Spring

Saint Cloud-based, nationally acclaimed singer-songwriter Paul Spring’s recent offering, following 2012’s “Paul Spring,” is “Towards a Center,” released in June. For someone who hasn’t yet signed with a label, Spring isn’t doing half bad for himself. Not at all. For one, the new joint is produced by Homer Steinweiss (Amy Winehouse, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings). For another, his dance card is quite full, thank you through, on last note, mid-September with stops in San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Philly, D.C. and, of course, gigs sprinkled around the Twin Cities metro, including Bedlam Theatre and the vinyl release event for the album at Icehouse in Minneapolis on August 30 with the Chris Thomson Quartet. Continue Reading

Don’t sleep on TruthMaze

If you haven’t caught any new sounds from TruthMaze and are wondering where he’s been, don’t worry. This welcome throwback to original, old-school quality (can you say The Last Poets, Sugar Hill Gang?). Hip-Hop is still around and still in fine effect, as witnessed by a new jam, “In Motion,” thankfully sent to yours truly, courtesy of Syrka Entertainment. To those for whom this actually doesn’t ring a bell, do yourself a favor and go do some recording shopping: The “Expansions + Contractions (Psoems 1:1)” album is a must-listen. He broke ground around these parts in 1983 as beatboxing vocalist-percussionist B-Fresh, helping originate the Twin Cities scene and went national for a while with I.R.M. Crew for which, to this day, he remains renowned. Continue Reading

“Bring the Children Home” presents with authenticity

As tough as it is to get a play produced, Marcie Rendon has turned down name venues for the sake of cultural integrity. “Believe it or not,” she told the Twin Cities Daily Planet several years ago, “some people consider ‘Dances With Wolves’ current events.” This mentality is why she founded Raving Native Productions back in 1996, showcasing uncompromising scripts by Native authors at the Minnesota Fringe Festival. Rendon returns to the Fringe this season, premiering her drama, “Bring the Children Home,” described on the Kickstarter page as being about “people’s search for meaning and identity in a world gone crazy.” As faithfully committed as she is to integrity, when it comes to coping with social ills, she’s just as concerned about accountability, refusing to lay blame for the state of imperiled youth of color completely at the feet of racist cops and calls for communities to shoulder their share. “Bring the Children Home,” Rendon said, “was written during the ‘murderapolis’ years in Minneapolis when so many young folks, Native and black were being shot down in the streets. There was heavy gang warfare going on, open market for drugs on the streets….This play spoke to the need for young people to have family, to have community that protected and cared about them. Continue Reading

Ferguson, USA, a serious issue teamed with excellent talent

Maxwell Collyard, author of “Ferguson, USA” at the MN Fringe Festival, quotes James Baldwin, “Ask any Mexican, any Puerto Rican, any black man, any poor person — ask the wretched how they fare in the halls of justice, and then you will know, not whether or not the country is just, but whether or not it has any love for justice, or any concept of it. It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”

Richard Pryor said the same thing more succinctly, “You come down to the jail looking for justice and that’s what you’ll find. Just us.” Whether you adhere to eloquent articulation or go in for a shoot from the hip quip, there’s no arguing against the significance of Collyard’s voice, a contemporary theater artist dramatizing the tragedy that resonated across the nation. It’s billed as what he calls, “a collage of voices and spoken word inspired by witness interviews, media coverage, and the Department of Justice report [on] Ferguson, Missouri. In this story, a tragedy in the neighborhood incites residents to expose and fight a broken justice system funded by poverty.” Hardly a new story in American society. Continue Reading

FRINGE REVIEW: Rajib Bahar’s “Hey Bangladesh” promises “wild and crazy” evening

You don’t get a great deal of music or theater from South Asia in the Twin Cities. There have, however, been noteworthy productions, among them Zaraawar Mistry performing his original solo piece “Indian Cowboy.” Rajib Bahar makes a promising bid to join said select company, staging “Hey Bangladesh,” a wryly intriguing premise, at the MN Fringe Festival for his fledgling Serendipity Productions. Hey Bangladesh centers on the fairly addlebrained yet happily fortuitous exploits of a fellow named Boltu, who, after accidentally head-butting a cow, comes up with the bright idea of launching his very own music show to go against the hit program “Bangladesh Idol.” It kind of sounds like a dyed-in-the-wool send-up on the order of, oh, Jack and the Beanstalk come “American Idol”. The quality of free-wheeling wild ideas area stages saw with Lonnie Carter’s “The Lost Boyz” and Marcie Rendon’s “Free Fry Bread.” Theater of the absurd isn’t for everyone. Continue Reading

Elvin Bishop is easy as eggs over for the Lowertown Blues Festival

Blues veteran Elvin Bishop truly is an original. Laid back easy as eggs-over. For those who don’t know, Bishop first broke back in the mid-60s with The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, following his debut a few years earlier, playing behind the legendary Junior Wells. He, vocalist/harp man Butterfield, guitarist Mike Bloomfield and keyboardist Mark Naftalin recorded the discs “The Paul Butterfield Blues Band,” landmark release “East-West” and “The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw” with Bishop poking his head in the door to guest on “In My Own Dream” with his terminally irreverent gem “Drunk Again.” Along with Carlos Santana, he was a guest artist on “The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper” (Columbia Records refused to let them title it “Two Jews Blues”). He’s made 25 solo albums, five of them live and hit the charts with “Fooled Around and Fell In Love” off of “Struttin’ My Stuff”

These days he’s on tour promoting his newest album “Can’t Even Do Wrong Right” (Alligator Records), with characteristically down home, shoot-from-the-hip fare. Continue Reading

Mayda stretches her wings for Guthrie debut

Mayda has a brand new bag. The diminutive dynamo, known far and wide as a funk-rock monster, on the bill at “A Tribe Called Queer: Can We Kick It?” (Patrick’s Cabaret) last month, branched out into spoken word, doing a damned good, dry-witted job of it, waxing humorously about childhood. And Mayda was aces on an acoustic guitar, singing a bit Laura Nyro-style sophisticato to a let stride for “All I Have” and getting bluesy with “Little Ginkgo”. If you happen not to know the name (don’t feel bad, no one’s perfect), Mayda is a bonafide funk=rock powerhouse as witnessed by her discography: “Stereotype,” “The Interrogation,” “Eyes On The Water,” “Busy Signals” and “Busy Signals Part 2.” Continue Reading

Javier Trejo: The legend lives on

The amazingly gifted guitarist and singer-songwriter Javier Trejo has knocked around the Twin Cities for ages and continues to blow audiences away. Back in the 1990’s, he broke on the scene with The Beads, playing straight old school San Francisco rock. The Beads released Ordinary Sunday People, front-loaded with high-power guitar accentuated by his screaming and articulate leads. Their jam-band rock was strong as sulfuric acid. That quality gave Trejo a splendid showcase and brought him to the attention of Stan Kipper and Chico Perez of New Primitives, another throwback to earlier eras, specializing in powerhouse Afro-Cuban rock, a component of which was long, drawn-out jams that had dancers bopping, as it’s said, until they damned dropped. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW: La Rondine

Color-blind casting continues to be an issue in American theater.  In opera, one might argue, without it how are artists of color to work?  After all, there isn’t exactly an over-abundance of roles written with characters of color.  And how many opportunities are there to be cast in a revival of, say, Porgy and Bess or Madame Butterfly?  Members of Skylark Opera’s production of Puccini La Rondine – two performers, who are of color, and the director, who is not, commented on the matter by email. Cecelia Violetta Lopez sings the role of Magda, who leaves her setup in the lap of luxury as a banker’s mistress, to go looking for love. Lopez’s solo concert credits include Mahler’s Symphony 4 and selections from Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne with the Henderson Symphony Orchestra, Rutter’s Mass of the Children with the Southern Nevada Musical Arts Society, Bach’s Magnificat with the University of Nevada – Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra and Rachmaninov’s Vocalise with the UNLV Chamber Orchestra. “I’ve never experienced a color and/or race issue in my growing career”, she reflects.  “I have been discriminated against in my lifetime, but those instances have been for being Mexican-American and/or female.  Sad, but true.”

Lopez then states, “I think race and opera are completely unrelated to each other. Continue Reading