Spoleto Festival's 2018 Jazz Series Preview

Batiste Credit: Spoleto Festival

The program for the this year's Spoleto Festival USA, taking place May 25th through June 10th, features more than 160 ticketed events spanning numerous categories.

This year's Wells Fargo Jazz includes several of today's finest jazz pianists.

Here's how Spoleto Festival USA describes this year's opera program:

This year’s Wells Fargo Jazz highlights several of the finest jazz pianists working in the field today. Kicking off the series is pianist and vocalist Jon Batiste (right), who has made a name for himself as the bandleader and musical director on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The New Orleans native is also the bandleader of Stay Human, the creative director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, and the newly named musical director of The Atlantic, for which he collaborates with editors on a range of projects, from writing to producing video to recording new work. Batiste performs solo at College of Charleston Cistern Yard on Friday, May 25, then is joined on Saturday, May 26, by funk and soul revivalist band, the Dap-Kings. Based in Brooklyn, New York, the 10-person band is best known for their 20-year partnership with late vocalist Sharon Jones. They released their most recent album, Soul of a Woman, in November 2017.

The Fred Hersch Trio plays at the Cistern Yard on Sunday, May 27. Pianist Fred Hersch, whose most recent album, Open Book, brought his total Grammy nominations to 12, is revered by fellow musicians and critics alike. Hersch, “a pristine pianist with a poet’s soul” (The Boston Globe), first arrived on the New York scene in the 1980s and, more than 30 years later, is considered the standard-bearer of mainstream jazz piano. He is also known as the first openly gay and HIV-positive jazz musician; his 2017 memoir, Good Things Happen Slowly, outlines his experiences. For his return to the Festival, Hersch is accompanied by longtime collaborators, bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson.

When The New York Times Magazine featured pianist Craig Taborn in 2017, journalist Adam Shatz wrote that Taborn is “one of the best jazz pianists alive…his playing inspires something rare in music today, a sense of wonder.” The Brooklyn-based pianist’s experimental concerts are often completely improvised, with Taborn drawing from a vast range of outside musical influences, from classical to heavy metal. He performs solo for two nights (June 6 and 7) before drummer Gerald Cleaver and bassist Chris Lightcap join him for two additional concerts at the Simons Center Recital Hall at College of Charleston.

Pianist, composer, and six-time Grammy Award-winner Chucho Valdés expresses the pinnacle of Afro-Cuban jazz. The son of Cuban music legend Bebo Valdés, Chucho came of age playing in Havana nightclubs and was propelled into the international spotlight in the 1970s at Dizzy Gillespie’s recommendation. During his time leading the groundbreaking band Irakere (established in 1973), Valdés ignited a new revolution: timba—Cuban dance music that fuses folkloric styles with jazz, rock, and funk to create a rich and dynamic sound. Together with his quartet including percussionists Yaroldy Abreu Robles and Rodney Barreto and bassist Yelsy Heredia, this commanding and virtuosic pianist performs on May 31 at the Charleston Gaillard Center.

Eminent improvisers Reggie Workman (bass), Oliver Lake (saxophone), and Andrew Cyrille (drums) have been part of cutting-edge jazz since the 1960s, when they performed alongside such legends as John Coltrane and Cecil Taylor. They formed Trio 3—a “group where music is the leader”—in the 1980s, yet the elder masters continue to stay sharp and at the forefront of the movement. Their recent albums have aligned the group with the next generation of greats, including the widely celebrated pianist Vijay Iyer. Iyer, a 2012 Doris Duke Performing Artist, 2013 MacArthur Fellow, and a Harvard University professor, joins Trio 3 at the Charleston Gaillard Center on June 3.

Nominated for a 2018 Grammy Award in the Best Jazz Vocal Album category, rising star Jazzmeia Horn lights up the Charleston Gaillard Center on Monday, May 28. This Dallas-born, New York-based singer, whose win at the 2015 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition prompted the release of her 2017 debut album, A Social Call, has been compared to Cécile McLorin Salvant along with legends Betty Carter and Sarah Vaughan. Considered one of jazz’s most promising and talented young artists, Horn leads a new septet in this exciting concert.

Groundbreaking jazz trio ArtifactsNicole Mitchell, Tomeka Reid, and Mike Reed—brings some of jazz’s past to the present in six performances (beginning May 26) at the Simons Center Recital Hall. The three Chicago-based musicians are prominent members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), an organization founded on Chicago’s South Side in 1965 that is committed to experimentation and innovative composition. Mitchell, Reid, and Reed joined forces in 2015 for AACM’s 50th anniversary, marking the occasion with Artifacts, an album reinterpreting works from the organization’s history. The group, however, is committed to more than reflection: as leaders and composers in their individual fields, they also perform original music that speaks to current times. Before the trio’s concert on May 29 at 7:00pm, members of Artifacts speak with music critic Larry Blumenfeld for the Jazz Talk: Creative and Collective Spirit (see Artist Talks).

The full 2018 program and an event calendar can be found here.

Tickets can be purchased by phone at 843-579-3100 and online at spoletousa.org. Tickets can also be purchased in person through the Spoleto Festival USA Box Office at the Gaillard Center (95 Calhoun Street) beginning on Monday, May 1st.

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