The Beat Goes On: A busy couple of weeks at The Drake, a new acoustic music series in Holyoke, and more

Nathan Hobbs Blehar, right, and drummer Tony Falco will be joined by Aryeh Kobrinsky on bass and Jeremy Udden on sax on Jan. 26 at The Drake in Amherst.

Nathan Hobbs Blehar, right, and drummer Tony Falco will be joined by Aryeh Kobrinsky on bass and Jeremy Udden on sax on Jan. 26 at The Drake in Amherst. Image from Bandcamp

The Bones of J.R. Jones, aka Jonathon Linaberry, brings rootsy folk and blues and more to The Drake Jan. 27.

The Bones of J.R. Jones, aka Jonathon Linaberry, brings rootsy folk and blues and more to The Drake Jan. 27. Image from Drake website

Bay Area folk rockers Midnight North play The Drake Jan. 28.

Bay Area folk rockers Midnight North play The Drake Jan. 28. Photo by Sam Watson/Midnight North Facebook site

New York trumpeter and composer Joe Magnarelli joins the Green Street Trio at The Drake on Jan. 31 for a night of jazz, followed by a jam session for area musicians.

New York trumpeter and composer Joe Magnarelli joins the Green Street Trio at The Drake on Jan. 31 for a night of jazz, followed by a jam session for area musicians. Photo courtesy of Joe Magnarelli

Louisiana fiddler and singer Amanada Shaw and her band will bring Canjun good times to Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield on Jan. 26.

Louisiana fiddler and singer Amanada Shaw and her band will bring Canjun good times to Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield on Jan. 26. Photo by Jim Noetzel/Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau/Wikipedia

Veteran singer-songwriter Ellis Paul comes to The Parlor Room in Northampton Feb. 2 in a double bill with Jill Sobule.

Veteran singer-songwriter Ellis Paul comes to The Parlor Room in Northampton Feb. 2 in a double bill with Jill Sobule. Image from Ellis Paul Facebook site

Jill Sobule, who first made a splash in the mid 1990s with her pop hits “I Kissed a Girl” and “Supermodel,” brings her sharp lyrics to The Parlor Room Feb. 2 in a double bill with Ellis Paul.

Jill Sobule, who first made a splash in the mid 1990s with her pop hits “I Kissed a Girl” and “Supermodel,” brings her sharp lyrics to The Parlor Room Feb. 2 in a double bill with Ellis Paul. Image from Jill Sobule website

The Merz Trio, on piano, violin and cello, comes to Sweeney Concert Hall at Smith College Feb. 4 for an eclectic program ranging from the melodies of medieval chants to a classical interpretation of Thelonious Monk’s “Round Midnight.” 

The Merz Trio, on piano, violin and cello, comes to Sweeney Concert Hall at Smith College Feb. 4 for an eclectic program ranging from the melodies of medieval chants to a classical interpretation of Thelonious Monk’s “Round Midnight.”  Photo from Merz Trio website

By STEVE PFARRER

Staff Writer

Published: 01-25-2024 11:08 AM

Modified: 01-25-2024 11:14 AM


In my last column, I mentioned that The Parlor Room in Northampton and the Marigold Theater are maintaining busy schedules right through these early, dead-of-winter days.

Another area venue that keeps pumping up the music is The Drake in Amherst, and in the next 12 days or so the downtown club has quite a variety of sounds on tap, from jazz to blues & roots to classical guitar to funk.

Starting things off tonight (Friday, Jan. 26) at 8 p.m. is saxophonist and composer Nathan Hobbs Blehar and his Valley-based ensemble: Aryeh Kobrinsky on bass, Tony Falco on drums and Jeremy Udden on additional saxophones.

Blehar, who’s played a variety of music over the years, has worked closely with Falco, the drummer, on improvisational jazz. The duo have released a number of albums in the last few years, including the most recent, “Before,” on which they combine on five extended instrumental tunes.

“Saxophone and drum duets often fall into an unbridled expressionism,” writes one reviewer of their music. “Where Blehar and Falco differ is in their willingness to impose self-restraint when subtleties of mood, and the overall development of an improvisation, call for it.”

On Jan. 27 and 28, at 8 p.m. both evenings, blues, roots and melodic rock are on the agenda at The Drake, with The Bones of J.R. Jones — what a great name! — performing on Jan. 27 and Midnight North gigging on the 28th.

The Bones of J.R. Jones is the handle of Jonathon Linaberry, a songwriter, guitarist and banjoist from central New York state who got his start playing punk and hardcore before finding inspiration in old American folk and blues tunes. Those kinds of  sounds infuse his newest album, “Slow Lighting,” which is full of gritty acoustic slide guitar, some grungy electric, and spare but tight percussion.

And Midnight North is a Bay Area group that offers a mix of folk rock, close harmonies, and some basic dynamics that recall elements of the Grateful Dead and The Band; their most recent album, “Diamonds in the Zodiac,” was produced by Amy Helm, daughter of The Band’s Levon Helm.

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On Jan. 31 at 7:30 p.m., The Drake swings back to jazz when veteran trumpeter, composer and educator Joe Magnarelli joins Northampton’s Green Street Trio for a set, followed by an open jam session.

Magnarelli, a longtime figure in New York City’s jazz scene, has led a number of his own ensembles, including the New York Hard Bop Quintet, and in a nearly 40-year career has gigged and toured with a who’s who of big names: Lionel Hampton, Harry Connick Jr., Brother Jack McDuff, Aretha Franklin, Leon Russell, and many more.

 

The New Music Alliance (NMA), the Valley nonprofit group that promotes independent musicians from western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut, has started a new monthly series at Holyoke Media called Open Stage Showcase, and the second night of the series takes place Feb. 1 at 7 p.m.

Mark Sherry, a co-founder of NMA, says the series focuses on acoustic music, with singer-songwriters, duos and trios. It’s designed both to introduce audiences to new artists and give more established ones a new place to play, and provide all of them with professional videos of their performances, made by staff at Holyoke Media.

“It’s a good opportunity for audiences and performers,” says Sherry, who notes that the shows are free (though tips are appreciated).

As in other events NMA has hosted over the years, performers are drawn from a region defined roughly by the Connecticut River Valley from southern Vermont to northern Connecticut, and to central Massachusetts.

Playing at the Holyoke showcase Feb. 1 will be longtime area singer and songwriter Peter J. Newland, who first made his mark in the 1970s with the local rock band FAT, and six other performers, including Lee Totten, Jess Martin, Dave Herrera, and Thankful Soul Revival.

Musicians interested in being part of the series should contact newmusicalliance@gmail.com.

 

In the depths of winter, it’s easy to start imagining warmer days and climes. One way to do that is to head to Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield tonight at 7:30 p.m. to hear Amanda Shaw, a Cajun fiddler and singer whose music draws on her Louisiana heritage.

Shaw’s just 33, but she’s been performing professionally since her teens after first taking up classical violin at age 4. A few years later, she began studying Cajun fiddling, and that’s been her bread and butter ever since.

But though she has plenty of Cajun and country in her singing and fiddling, Shaw has put her stamp on other kinds of music: She’s recorded versions of “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash and “I Want to be Your Boyfriend” (with the lyric changed to “Girlfriend”) by The Ramones.

Offbeat, a monthly New Orleans music magazine, said her 2018 album, “Please, Call Me Miss Shaw,” showed “Miss Shaw rocking out and continuing to evolve into a fiercely independent musician who refuses to be pigeonholed as a ‘Cajun artist.’”

More music on tap

Another upbeat show is set at Hawks & Reed on Jan. 27 when 2 Car Garage, a six-member dance band from Wendell that blends “funk, soul, and groove” on originals and covers, plays at 8 p.m.

Luthiers Co-op in Easthampton offers a double bill of folk on Jan. 27, starting at 7 p.m. with a solo gig by Adam Dunetz, followed at 8 p.m. by the duo FrankenPhil.

The Parlor Room in Northampton also has a double bill of acoustic music on Feb. 2 at 7:30 p.m. with veteran singer-songwriters Ellis Paul and Jill Sobule. Paul, who’s released over 20 albums, first won notice as a key figure in Boston’s pop-folk scene of the 1990s, while Sobule’s 1995 pop hit “I Kissed a Girl” was the first openly queer-themed Billboard Top 20 record.

Last weekend, the Marigold Theater in Easthampton hosted a show featuring multiple local bands to raise money for a relief fund for Palestinian children. On Feb. 2 beginning at 7:30 p.m., Rage is Relentless, a tribute to Rage Against the Machine, will hold a fundraiser at the theater for the Movement Voter Project.

The Merz Trio, a female classical ensemble of piano, violin and cello that covers a range of music — from medieval chants to Henry Purcell to Thelonious Monk — plays Sweeney Concert Hall at Smith College on Feb. 4 at 3 p.m. It’s part of the Valley Classical Concerts series.

And one other double bill: Veteran singer-songwriters Steve Forbert and Freedy Johnston come to The Drake on Feb. 27 at 8 p.m.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.