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Savannah Music Festival Picks
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Here’s our take on some of the most noteworthy Savannah Music Festival events taking place over the next 7 days. For a complete schedule of the 2007 SMF, see their official site at Tickets to all SMF events can be purchased online, at the SCAD Box Office, or by calling 525-5050.

Atlanta Symphony Orch.

People still talk about last year’s ASO performance, and this year, the increasingly daring 95-person symphony (once again led by Maestro Robert Spano) —which just took home a Grammy for their latest operatic release— turn their sights to the late-1800s. They’ll perform Brahms’ Concerto in D Major for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 77 and Sheherazade, Op. 35 by Rimsky-Korsakov. $25 to $65. Sun., 3 pm, Lucas Theatre. 

Beaux Arts Trio

Founding member and pianist Menahem Pressler recently marked a half-century of leading this world-famous group that has essentially set the standard for music of this nature. Along with current members Daniel Hope (violin) and Antonio Meneses  (cello), they’ll tackle demanding works spanning from 1827 (Schubert) to 1944 (Shostakovich) and on through to 2005 (Turnage). $50. Sat., 6 pm, Telfair Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Guster (with The Format)

Added as a last-minute substitution for jazz vocalist extraordinaire Al Jarreau, this double-bill of critically-acclaimed and inventive alt.pop bands provide a nice counterpoint to the classical, jazz, world and roots music that makes up the majority of this year’s event. Northeastern stalwarts Guster evolved from a self-consciously quirky acoustic college-rock trio into a fully fleshed and adventuresome quartet whose current sound lies somewhere between Wilco and Lambchop. Arizona upstarts The Format are riding a wave of good vibes provided by their chiming new synth-drenched single and video “She Doesn’t Get It.” Both groups are part of the Campus Consciousness Tour, an eco-friendly outing that promotes alternative energy sources and other pro-environment causes. $20 - $25. Thurs., 7 pm, Trustees Theater.

Le Jazz Hot

Despite its title, this should prove to be one of the coolest shows of this year’s festival. A two-part event, the first half finds internationally-famed guitarists Howard Alden and Bucky Pizzarelli joined by SMF fave (and repeat performer) trombonist Wycliffe Gordon (Wynton Marsalis’ Septet), clarinetist and tenor saxman Ken Peplowski (Leon Redbone, Hank Jones, etc...), guitarist James Chirillo (Tiny Grimes, Benny Goodman), bassist Greg Cohen (David Byrne, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, John Zorn, Bob Dylan, etc...)  and drummer Chuck Riggs (Charlie Byrd, Duke Robillard, etc...). The second half duties will be handled by The John Jorgenson Quintet, one of the finest exponents of Django Reinhardt-style (guitar, viola, bass, percussion, clarinet) Gypsy Jazz on the planet. Their recent sold-out local appearance at Randy Wood’s Concert Hall was simply one of the most incredible displays of string-band virtuosity I have ever been privy to. Tickets are only $30. Thurs., 5:30 pm, 7:30 pm & 9:30 pm, Orleans Hall (201 Barnard St.).

Piano Showdown 2007

The past few years, some of the absolute finest live music I’ve been lucky enough to witness firsthand has been courtesy of jazz pianists playing the SMF, and all of those gigs have taken place at this former hotel laundry that SCAD converted first into graduate students’ studio space, and more recently into a 280-person rental facility for openings, receptions and concerts. This “summit meeting” of some of the finest ivory ticklers in the game today looks poised to be another must-see display of chops, brains, taste and nerve. Between the relentless boogie of Bob Baldori (whose Otis Spann and Johnnie Johnson-inspired licks have found him backing Chuck Berry, John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters), Eubie Blake protegé and ragtime authority Terry Waldo, the 77-year-old stride legend Bob Seely, and the varied approaches of iconic, blind bandleader Marcus Roberts, this is one showdown I wouldn’t miss for the world. Plus, it’s one of the last events to be held in this building before SCAD foolishly turns it into a student fitness center. $30. Wed., 6 pm & 8 pm, Orleans Hall (201 Barnard St.).