The Beat Goes On: Chamber music at The Drake, a Saint Patrick’s weekend musical smorgasbord, and more

Champlain Trio brings a somewhat unusual sound to The Drake in Amherst — chamber music — on March 10.

Champlain Trio brings a somewhat unusual sound to The Drake in Amherst — chamber music — on March 10. Image from Champlain Trio website

Afro-Cuban percussionist, singer, and bandleader Pedrito Martínez — in center of photo — brings his high-energy Latin jazz sound to the Bombyx Center March 9.

Afro-Cuban percussionist, singer, and bandleader Pedrito Martínez — in center of photo — brings his high-energy Latin jazz sound to the Bombyx Center March 9. Photo by Pedrito Martínez

Veteran Valley Celtic rockers Big Bad Bollocks will help celebrate St. Patrick’s Day weekend at The Drake on March 15.

Veteran Valley Celtic rockers Big Bad Bollocks will help celebrate St. Patrick’s Day weekend at The Drake on March 15. Image from The Drake website

More St. Patrick’s Day cheer: JigJam, Irish laddies who merge Celtic sounds with American bluegrass, come to the Bombyx Center March 17.

More St. Patrick’s Day cheer: JigJam, Irish laddies who merge Celtic sounds with American bluegrass, come to the Bombyx Center March 17. Image from JigJam website

Guest pianist Quynh Nguyen joins guest conductor Adam Kerry Boyles at the Springfield Symphony March 9.

Guest pianist Quynh Nguyen joins guest conductor Adam Kerry Boyles at the Springfield Symphony March 9. Image from Springfield Symphony website

Star bluegrass bassist Missy Raines and her band Allegheny will play The Parlor Room in Northampton March 10.

Star bluegrass bassist Missy Raines and her band Allegheny will play The Parlor Room in Northampton March 10. Image from Missy Raines website

The Adam Ezra Group will be at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls March 15.

The Adam Ezra Group will be at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls March 15. Photo by Lee Hetherington

The Celtic trio Kalos will get you ready for St. Patrick’s Day weekend when they play Whately Town Hall March 13. Part of the Watermelon Wednesday music series.

The Celtic trio Kalos will get you ready for St. Patrick’s Day weekend when they play Whately Town Hall March 13. Part of the Watermelon Wednesday music series. Image from Kalos website

By STEVE PFARRER

Staff Writer

Published: 03-07-2024 1:09 PM

Since opening in the spring of 2022, The Drake has featured a wide range of music, from blues to rock to folk (and various combinations thereof), to jazz and more.

“More” includes the Amherst club’s periodic forays into classical music, with concerts featuring duets and small ensembles, sometimes made up of talented musicians from here in the Valley or from other parts of New England.

That’s the case this Sunday, March 10, when the members of Champlain Trio take the stage at 4 p.m. to perform works by Mel Bonis, Walter Rabl, Hélène Liebmann and Claude Debussy. The show is part of a series of chamber music concerts at The Drake that began last fall and will conclude in May.

Remarkably, if it hadn’t been for the pandemic, Champlain Trio might not have formed.

Like millions of other musicians, violinist Letitia Quante, cellist Emily Taubl, and pianist Hiromi Fukuda, all of whom are based in southern Vermont, found themselves stranded in March 2020 when COVID-19 rolled in.

Yet the three musicians, who graduated from the Julliard School of Music, ended up coming together and creating a documentary film, “Empty Stages,” that highlighted unique venues in Vermont and COVID’s impact on the arts (the women were filmed performing in them without audiences). The documentary aired on Vermont PBS in June 2021.

When the worst of the pandemic passed, they began touring together, and they received grant funding to record an album of music by Croatian composer Dora Pejačević. The members also perform separately with numerous other groups.

Fukuda and Taubl have local connections, too: Fukuda is a piano instructor at Amherst College, and Taubl is the principal cellist of the Springfield Symphony.

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But their work as a trio has become a huge part of the musicians’ lives and identity. “We still religiously rehearse each week — twice, sometimes more,” Taubl told The Barre Montpelier Times Argus newspaper last November.

Tickets for the March 10 show are $15 in advance, $20 at the door, and $5 for students. Audience members are invited to stay after the show for “cocktails and conversation.”

 

For some more driving music this weekend, consider heading to the Bombyx Center for Arts & Equity in Florence on March 9 at 7 p.m. to hear Pedrito Martínez, a celebrated Afro-Cuban percussionist, singer, songwriter and bandleader who Wynton Marsalis calls “a genius.”

Martínez, a native of Havana, Cuba who moved to New York City in 1998, has made his mark as a performer and interpreter of Afro-Cuban folkloric music. He’s known especially for his work on the batá drum, the double-headed hourglass drum, with one end larger than the other, that’s a key component of West African music.

In the 1990s, Martínez was a founding member of the popular Afro-Cuban/Afro-Beat band Yerba Buena, recording two albums with the group and touring the world in the latter part of the decade.

But he’s now spent close to 20 years as a bandleader, including with the five-member Pedrito Martínez Group, while also working with other musicians and recording four solo albums. His first album as leader of the Pedrito Martínez Group, in 2013, was nominated for a Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album.

When it comes to gigging and recording with other players, Martínez’s resume boasts a long list of names: Wynton Marsalis, Paquito D’Rivera, Eddie Palmieri and other jazz greats, as well as rock and pop music figures such as Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews, Paul Simon, Elton John, Eric Clapton and Sting. He’s played on more than 100 albums, all told.

In a 2018 interview with the radio and multimedia program “Afropop Worldwide,” Martínez said his love of different kinds of music began when he was growing up in Havana, near a park where “all the best bands in Cuba made a tour of the neighborhoods; they’d call it like that, la gira por los barrios ... I just soaked it all up.”

Today, that’s made him what The New York Times calls “a traditional Afro-Cuban music superstar” who’s “a source of rhythmic delight and inspiration.”

 

St. Patrick’s Day and weekend are almost upon us, and there are a number of bands and acts you can catch to help celebrate the Irish in you (or just to have a good time).

The first option is to head to Whately Town Hall on March 13 at 7 p.m. to hear the Celtic trio Kalos (guitarist Eric McDonald, fiddler Ryan McKasson, and accordionist Jeremiah McLane). Natalie Padilla and Yann Falquet, on fiddle and guitar, respectively, open the show.

And on March 15 at 7 p.m., Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield will feature Rosemary Caine and The Wilde Irish Shenanigans, who offer eclectic Celtic folk on a range of instruments: harp, guitar, fiddle, bodhrán, cello, mandolin and more. Caine, who handles the harp, is the real McCoy in this music: She’s a native of Ireland.

The same night, another option is to hit The Drake at 8 p.m. to catch Big Bad Bollocks, the venerable Valley pub rockers who sing about the glories of Guinness and encourage their audiences to imbibe as well.

And back at Hawks & Reed March 16 at 7:30 p.m., Jimmy Just Quit will play your favorite rock covers, and since they’ll be shooting a video as part of their St. Patrick’s bash, they’re encouraging audience members to dress in green to be part of it.

Another possibility: JigJam, which comes to the Bombyx Center on St. Paddy’s Day itself (March 17) at 3 p.m., has been hailed as “The best Irish band in bluegrass,” four Irish lads who have melded traditional Celtic sounds and rhythms with bluegrass and American folk.

More music on tap

The Springfield Symphony will be at the city’s Symphony Hall on March 9 at 2:30 p.m. with guest pianist Quynh Nguyen to perform a range of material including Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on ‘Greensleeves.’” The Springfield Symphony Chorus and the UMass Amherst Chorale are also part of the concert.

Grammy-nominated bluegrass bassist Missy Raines, who’s also been named Bluegrass Music Association Bass Player of the Year 10 times, comes with her new group, Allegheny, to The Parlor Room in Northampton March 10 at 7:30 p.m.

Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares brings experimental saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and her ensemble to Hawks & Reed March 14 at 7:30 p.m., while Shimmer Wince, an ensemble led by flutist, saxophonist, and composer Anna Webber, comes to the Shea Theater in Turners Falls March 17 at 7:30 p.m.

More at the Shea: The Adam Ezra Group brings its mix of folk intimacy and rock energy to Turners Falls March 15 at 8 p.m. The Mallett Brothers Band, an indie rock/Americana band from Maine, opens the show.

Don’t forget: The Back Porch Festival comes to downtown Northampton March 15-17, with some 60 artists and bands playing in multiple venues.

Easthampton’s Marigold Theater will host a one-day festival of its own on March 16 with Mud Season, a noon to 11 p.m. showcase of jam bands and good-time music including Woody and the Rebel Alliance, The Dave Bulley Band, SpaceBar and a number of other groups.

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