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Music: It’s On
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Last Friday at 10 a.m., a revamped Savannah Music Festival website began online ticket sales for the March 15-April 1, 2007, event.

Without getting into particulars, let’s just say the box office was boffo. As your friendly neighborhood music journalism professionals, we encourage you to secure your tickets as early as you can, while you can.

The evening prior to ticket sales going live on the internet, the Jepson Center hosted a gala unveiling of the festival’s schedule.While word had leaked out of several of the performers of note, the grand announcement event at the Jepson did throw the assembled crowd a few curveballs.

“I do have one surprise to announce tonight,” said Executive Director Rob Gibson. “The great Al Jarreau will be performing at the Festival.”

After the oohs and aahs subsided, Gibson laughed and said, “I just confirmed it thirty minutes before I got here tonight.”

The Jarreau concert will be Thursday, March 15, in the Trustees Theatre.

Introducing Gibson at the event was Hart Williford, chairman of the Festival board of directors.

“One of my greatest journeys in life has been to be a part of this Festival,” Williford said. “We’ve gone from being a good organization to a great one. But there’s still a lot of work still.”

The gregarious and engaging Williford admitted that “One of the hardest things is the fact that I know what’s coming -- but I have to be quiet about it.”

Performing at the Jepson gala was Marcus Printup, a Georgia native and featured trumpeter with the Jazz Center at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

“Since we first talked to him he’s actually moved back to Georgia -- so we’ve got a new Georgia musician,” Gibson said in introducing the 38-year-old musician.

Accompanied by an ensemble that included Ben Tucker on bass, Printup then worked his signature magic -- bending notes on his horn like it was a guitar, and closing with a soulful “Georgia On My Mind” that went off, as great jazz does, in some unexpected musical directions.

Rumor has it that there are still a few shows left to be announced for whom contracts, scheduling and other assorted details simply could not be worked out in time to make it into the festival’s initial 28-page, full-color brochure that many of you have likely already spied around town.

Those few bookings will likely be announced in the coming days and weeks, but as for the rest of the festival, it’s pretty much cast in stone at this point.

So, of the 99 percent worth of the 2007 Savannah Music Festival which has not only been announced, but for which tickets are already on sale as of now, what exactly is worth seeing?

The simplest answer is also the most honest: all of it.

Musical taste is one of the most subjective components of an individual’s personality, and it goes without saying that what floats one’s boat can usually be counted on to sink another’s, when you’re talking about the artists who make up this festival, you’re talking about creative talents that have reached a certain level of critical acclaim. At that level, taste and preference aside, it’s all damn good and worthy of the public’s support.

Let’s be honest here. Even when it comes to the younger featured acts who are perceived as being on their way up (rather than perched comfortably upon a career peak), it’s a pretty easy sell. You’ll not find a single clunker in this event’s lineup.

As was the case last year, ticket prices for most major events are now —thankfully—tiered (meaning they’re staggered according to the ticket holder’s proximity to the stage). That development, perhaps more than anything, seemed to contribute to the growth of last year’s festival. It brought attendance at some of the biggest and most desirable shows offered within reach of most anyone with a strong will to catch a particular performance.

Furthermore, in addition to the ability for financially secure concertgoers to purchase a special $1,300 pass that gets them one ticket to every single show in the entire festival, those of us with average (or below average) incomes can still benefit from several different discounts. Students under 25, senior citizens over 65, and employees of corporate sponsors of the festival are all eligible for reduced rates.

Better still, anyone buying tickets to four or more events at the same time receives a 10 percent discount.

The brochure kicks off with a bang, opening with Jazz Now & Forever. This trio of theatre shows includes guitarist, vocalist and band leader John Pizzarelli with the New York All-Star Big Band, a fifteen-piece group offering standards and sultry ballads a la Sinatra or Nat King Cole. Opening act for this gig will be the Savannah Music Festival’s High School Honor Jazz band, made up of some of the city’s most promising young musicians.

Also in this series, the first-ever pairing of famed jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves and fiery blues guitarist and singer Susan Tedeschi, and —in a show that’ll likely be the first to sell out— The Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra under the direction of the Grammy-winning trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.

Now, it’s all well and good to see live jazz in a 1,000-seat-plus theatre setting, but some of the finest jazz moments in past Music Fests have taken place in the intimate, cabaret-style confines of SCAD’s approximately 300-seat Orleans Hall. The Savannah Jazz Party consists of three nights of up-close and personal shows: Piano Showdown, which brings together keyboardists Bob Seely, Marcus Roberts and Terry Waldo for an evening of boogie-woogie, stride, barrelhouse and blues styles; Le Jazz Hot, a revue of the masterful John Jorgenson Quintet (who recently enjoyed a rapturous reception at Randy Wood’s Concert Hall in Bloomingdale), clarinet great Kenny Davern, and guitar legends Bucky Pizzarelli, Howard Alden and James Chirillo; and Swing Time, a summit meeting between trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, The Marcus Roberts Trio and Davern, Pizzarelli and Alden.

Memorial Health’s Feel Better Series features sitar player Anoushka Shankar (daughter of the great Ravi) and her octet, Celtic music and dance troupe Leahy, the BBC Folk Award-winning Irish ensemble Flook, and one of the world’s most notable flamenco companies, Noche Flamenco with Soledad Barrio.

What else to name a classical music series that features L.A.’s choral ensemble Musica Angelica and Vienna’s Wiener Akademie Baroque Orchestra collaborating on Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, the Boston Camerata (the USA’s pre-eminent early music ensemble, and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Robert Spano? With Passion and Spirit.

The festival’s Associate Artistic Director, violinist Daniel Hope curates another series of one-time-only chamber music programs to be held in the Telfair Museum and Jepson Center for The Arts. Entitled sensations, it encompasses works by Beethoven, Dohnanyi, Profkofiev, Schubert, Bach and Vaughan Williams.

Fans of solo vocalists would be wise to take note of the Singular Voices program, featuring acclaimed English tenor Mark Padmore (a favorite of European opera audiences), bassist Morris Robinson (who specializes in spirituals as well as opera), and Isabel Bayrakdarian, an Armenian-Canadian who’s given recitals at Carnegie Hall, and was featured on the Grammy-winning score to Peter Jackson’s epic film The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers.

It may seem redundant to brand only one series of this festival Great Performers, but this run of shows at the Telfair certainly earns that distinction. It features five separate events, featuring everyone from pianist Ivan Moravec (considered one of the greatest of this century) to The Borodin Quartet (together for more than sixty years), and from pianists Philippe Entremont and Sebastian Knauer to cellist David Finckel and his wife, pianist Wu Han (who serve as co-artistic directors of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln center). This series is capped with an appearance by the phenomenal Beaux Arts Trio.

As we previewed in last week’s issue, some of the participating artists in the Connect Americana series include country and bluegrass stars Marty Stuart and Jerry Douglas — each leading their own bands.

Those who like to cut a rug can do so with ease at the dance-friendly Groove Masters series, featuring club-style shows from Porter-Batistse-Stoltz (the core trio from New Orleans’ famed Funky Meters), Puerto Rico’s top folk-music group Plena Libre, and a Cajun Zydeco Dance Party with accordionist Geno Delafose and band.

The Georgia Music Hall of Fame co-sponsors Georgia On My Mind. Highlights of this series include a documentary film on the Sacred Harp Singers, and an Orleans Hall show pairing Grammy-nominated folk-pop songwriter Shawn Mullins and The Randall Bramlett Band.

The Gospel Truth sees a return engagement from the Savannah Music Festival Mass Choir led by iconic recording artist James Bignon (a high point of the 2006 festival), and The American Traditions Competition —from which the entire Savannah Music Festival sprung— remains a riveting centerpiece of the event.

Closing out this massive list of amazing performances is the ever-popular Music At Midday series of free, lunchtime shows (in a wide variety of genres from Celtic to classical to jazz to gospel) held at houses of worship and school buildings scattered throughout downtown, and The High School Jazz Band Showcase, featuring the cream of the crop of the area’s young musicians playing for free in Historic City Market.

For ticket sales go to