Arts Briefs: New jazz host at NEPM, abstract art in Amherst, dance concert at Smith Colle

Image courtsy NEPM

Image courtsy NEPM

Rachel Rushing is the new director of the Taber Art Gallery at Holyoke Community College.

Rachel Rushing is the new director of the Taber Art Gallery at Holyoke Community College. Image courtesy Holyoke Community College

“Reaching for Home,” oil on panel, is one of the works by Janet W. Winston now on view at Galley A3 in Amherst.

“Reaching for Home,” oil on panel, is one of the works by Janet W. Winston now on view at Galley A3 in Amherst. Image courtesy Gallery A3

“Untitled #2” is one of the works now on view at Hope & Feathers Gallery in Amherst by painter Ali Moshiri.

“Untitled #2” is one of the works now on view at Hope & Feathers Gallery in Amherst by painter Ali Moshiri. Image courtesy Hope & Feathers Gallery

Smith College’s Fall Faculty Dance Concert takes place at the college’s Mendenhall Center Nov. 16-18.

Smith College’s Fall Faculty Dance Concert takes place at the college’s Mendenhall Center Nov. 16-18.

The Borromeo String Quartet performs Nov. 12 at Sweeney Concert Hall at Smith College.

The Borromeo String Quartet performs Nov. 12 at Sweeney Concert Hall at Smith College. Photo by Jürgen Frank

Published: 11-10-2023 10:50 AM

New voice on ‘Jazz à la Mode’

SPRINGFIELD/AMHERST — If you’ve tuned into New England Public Media’s “Jazz à la Mode” this past week, you may have heard a new guy introducing the music on the Monday-to-Friday evening show. And if you’re a jazz fan, you know that he knows his stuff.

Avery Sharpe, the acclaimed bassist and composer who got his start at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is now on “Jazz à la Mode” as a program host alongside longtime host Tom Reney and two newer hosts, Peter Sokolowksi and Bex Taylor.

Sharpe’s jazz credentials are extensive to say the least. Since winning attention alongside other “Young Lions” of jazz in the 1980s such as Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Sharpe has worked and recorded with players such as McCoy Tyner, Dizzy Gillespie, Archie Shepp, Wynton Marsalis and many others.

Sharpe, who grew up in Springfield, also has a deep resume as a jazz educator, leading workshops and classes at UMass, Williams College, Berklee College of Music, and Bates College, and in schools in Peru, Brazil and Australia. As a composer, his most recent album, “400,” released in 2019, offered a musical synthesis of 400 years of African-American history in the U.S.

“I’ve known Avery Sharpe since we met as students at UMass in 1976,” says Reney, who encouraged him to join NEPM. “It’s great to have the voice and perspective of a major jazz artist who has substantial ties to Springfield and western Mass. added to the team, and I know listeners will agree.”

“When I first heard his records with McCoy Tyner, I knew (Sharpe) was just a monster musician,” adds NEPM President Matt Abramovitz. “Little did I know he’d also be a gifted storyteller and curator.”

Sharpe, who also hosts a radio jazz show called “The Sharpe Side” in South Bend, Indiana, says he’s happy to be part of NEPM, too, playing his favorite music for a new audience: “Stay tuned, keep open ears and let the music soothe and enrapture you.”

HCC welcomes new director for the Taber Art Gallery

HOLYOKE — The Taber Art Gallery at Holyoke Community College has appointed just its second director ever: Rachel Rushing, an interdisciplinary artist who comes to HCC by way of her native Louisiana and, more recently, Dallas, Texas.

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Rushing succeeds Amy Johnquest, the Taber Gallery’s founding director, who retired last spring after 25 years at HCC.

Rushing, who has a particular interest in photography, previously worked with the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, where among varied tasks she managed special projects, such as the 2022 show “CARNE y ARENA,” a virtual reality exhibit that examined the true accounts of refugees in their journey across the southern U.S. border.

Now living in Holyoke, Rushing also founded and co-directed Sunset Art Studios, a social practice art gallery, residency, and studio in Dallas.

She says she’s passionate about working with artists, especially at a campus art gallery; “I think galleries on college campuses are really important ways to connect students with the bigger art world.”

Rushing has already overseen one exhibit at the Taber, “The City on Paper: Representations of HolyoRícan Life” by photographer John Leni Marcy, curated and captioned by HCC students enrolled in Latinx Studies classes. The gallery has just opened a new exhibit, “Things Aren’t What They Seem,” paintings and drawings by Holyoke artist Ryan Patience Rushing.

Abstract landscapes in Amherst

AMHERST — From the Middle East to the American Southwest to New England, painter Janet W. Wilson has been inspired by landscapes — especially by the play of light, shadow, and space in these diverse locales.

Winston, of Amherst, has a new exhibit at Galley A3, “Expressions from Nature — Past and Present,” in which she uses a mix of abstraction and and what she calls “harmonious colors, shapes, and gestural strokes,” which together help express her emotions.

Winston, who first visited the Middle East at age 19, says the region’s “scorching sunlight, contrasting dark shadows, and bleached colors” were so distinct from New England landscapes as to offer new artistic inspiration. So, too, has the area around Santa Fe, New Mexico offered other contrast.

Her exhibit runs through Dec. 2. An online forum Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m. will provide more details about the show; you can register at gallerya3.com.

Meantime, Hope & Feathers Gallery this month is featuring work by another Amherst artist, Ali Moshiri, whose abstract paintings are also inspired by nature.

Moshiri, a native of Iran, says his observations of landscapes have informed much of his work, and though his paintings might appear abstract, they have an identity of their own.

“The ultimate result is that of the paint and the painted surface, in an attempt to capture its own nature with only minor hints or references to anything external to the painting,” he says.

His exhibit runs through Dec. 1.

Music and dance at Smith College

NORTHAMPTON — The Borromeo String Quartet, a long-running ensemble that has close ties to the New England Conservatory in Boston, comes to Sweeney Concert Hall at Smith on Nov. 12 at 3 p.m. as part of the Valley Classical Concert series.

The Borromeo quartet — two violins, viola and cello — has been together for over 25 years, winning numerous awards and plenty of critical praise, such as from The Chicago Tribune, which called the ensemble “remarkably accomplished ... not simply for its high technical polish and refined tone, but more importantly for the searching musical insights it brings.”

Advance tickets are available at valleyclassicalconcerts.org.

And on Nov. 16-18, the Smith College Department of Dance will present its fall Faculty Dance Concert, featuring the Five College Dance repertory project “Dance 1” by Lucinda Childs.

Childs, a key figure in the modern dance world, choreographed “Dance” in 1979 to music by Philip Glass. The opening section of this iconic work is being restaged by Five College Dance students directed by Smith alum Caitlin Scranton ’05.

Also on the program is “Oh Ordinary,” a new contemporary dance by guest artist and Smith alum Sarah Konner; “Sad to know of the wind tonight,” a contemporary ballet for 11 dancers choreographed by Smith professor of dance Rodger Blum; and “Nourishment,” a piece for eight performers crafted by Duane Lee Holland, Jr, a hip hop artist and professor of dance at UMass Amherst.

The performances take place each night at 8 p.m. in Theatre 14 at the Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are reserved seating, $5 for students and 65+ and $10 for adults, and can be purchased online at smitharts.booktix.com or by emailing BoxOffice@smith.edu.

— compiled by Steve Pfarrer