The Big Ears Festival takes place at venues throughout downtown Knoxville, including concerts, conversations, and film screenings with Devendra Banhart, The Blue Hour, David Byrne, Sam Gendel, Mary Halvorson, Makaya McCraven, and Cécile McLorin Salvant. John Adams's Nixon in China is at Opéra national de Paris. Laurie Anderson is in Stockholm. Julia Bullock joins Bavarian Radio Symphony in Munich. Jeremy Denk plays solo in Connecticut. Kronos Quartet and Wu Man perform at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley. The Magnetic Fields have two sold-out shows at City Winery in Pittsburgh. Brad Mehldau plays solo in France and Denmark. Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway return to her home state of California for WinterWonderGrass and two nights in Menlo Park. Vagabon concludes her tour with Weyes Blood in Austin, Dallas, and Tulsa.
The Big Ears Festival, which celebrates its tenth year, kicked off in Knoxville, Tennessee, last night and continues through the weekend at venues throughout downtown Knoxville, including concerts, conversations, and film screenings featuring several artists and projects familiar to readers of the Nonesuch Journal: Devendra Banhart, The Blue Hour, David Byrne, Sam Gendel, Mary Halvorson, Makaya McCraven, and Cécile McLorin Salvant.
Devendra Banhart performs at the Bijou Theatre on Saturday at 5:30pm. It’s a return to Big Ears after his 2019 performance featuring songs from his album Ma. This is "sublimely understated, border-blurring folk rock," the Los Angeles Times said of the album. "Banhart's singular world remains as intoxicating as ever," says Q. "It feels as if all of human life is here."
The Blue Hour, a song cycle composed by Rachel Grimes, Angélica Negrón, Shara Nova, Caroline Shaw, and Sarah Kirkland Snider, is performed by Nova and the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra at the Bijou Theatre on Sunday at 8pm. Set to excerpts from Carolyn Forché’s epic poem On Earth, the music follows one woman’s journey through the liminal space between life and death via thousands of hallucinatory and non-linear images. Nova performs on the premiere recording of the piece with the commissioning chamber orchestra A Far Cry, released on New Amsterdam / Nonesuch Records this past October.
David Byrne is featured in a number of events taking place this weekend, including a conversation at the Tennessee Theatre at 11:30am this morning around Reasons to Be Cheerful, his non-profit site that looks at solutions to the world’s most pressing problems with a sense of healthy optimism, journalistic rigor, and hope. Big Ears also presents screenings of a number of Byrne-related films at Regal Riviera Cinema 3, including two films for which Nonesuch released recordings: True Stories, his sole foray into feature-film directing, from 1986, at 5pm tonight, and the Spike Lee–directed film David Byrne’s American Utopia, documenting that critically acclaimed Broadway production, Saturday at 2:15pm.
Sam Gendel, who performed with Sam Wilkes last night, joins Pino Palladino and Blake Mills at the Tennessee Theatre tonight at 7:45pm and leads the Sam Gendel Concert Group with Gabe Noel and Phil Melanson at The Standard Saturday at 2:15pm. Gendel and his trio released their third Nonesuch album, COOKUP—interpretations of R&B and soul hits originally released between 1992 and 2004—last month, following the 2020 albums DRM and Satin Doll.
Composer/guitarist Mary Halvorson performs her two Nonesuch debut album, Amaryllis and Belladonna, back to back at the Bijou Theatre today at 3pm and 4:15pm, respectively. She’s joined by the musicians who perform the pieces on the albums: trumpeter Adam O’Farrill, drummer Tomas Fujiwara, bassist Nick Dunston, trombonist Jacob Garchik, and vibraphonist Patricia Brennan for Amaryllis, with the Mivos Quartet joining for three songs, and the Mivos for Belladonna. Halvorson joins Nate Chinen and composer/pianist Vijay Iyer in conversation at the East Tennessee History Center on Saturday at 10am. Twelve hours later, she and her quartet—fellow guitarist Miles Okazaki, bassist Jorge Roeder, and drummer Tomas Fujiwara—join Trigger for a performance of John Zorn’s Bagatelles, Part 2, at the Tennessee Theatre. And twenty-four hours after that, Halvorson returns to the Tennessee Theatre for more Zorn, joining several performers for his Cobra Sunday night.
Makaya McCraven begins his day today in conversation with fellow drummers Antonio Sanchez and Nate Smith, led by Nate Chinen, at the East Tennessee History Center at 10am. He heads to the Tennessee Theatre tonight to perform his new album, In These Times, released late last year on International Anthem / Nonesuch / XL Recordings.
Cécile McLorin Salvant has two events on Saturday: a conversation with NPR Music’s Ann Powers at the East Tennessee History Center at noon and a concert at the Bijou Theatre at 10:45pm. Her latest album, Mélusine—a mix of originals and interpretations of songs dating as far back as the 12th century, mostly sung in French along with Occitan, English, and Haitian Kreyòl—was released on Nonesuch last week.
In addition to all that’s going on at Big Ears, there’s lots of great live music being made around the world this weekend.
The Opéra National de Paris production of John Adams' groundbreaking opera Nixon in China opened at Opéra Bastille in Paris earlier this week and continues this weekend, with a performance on Saturday, and through April 16. Gustavo Dudamel conducts the Orchestre et Chœurs de l’Opéra national de Paris with Thomas Hampson as Richard Nixon and Renée Fleming as Pat Nixon. The original cast recording of Nixon in China was released on Nonesuch in 1988 and went on to win the Grammy Award. It is included in the forty-disc John Adams box set Collected Works, along with a Blu-ray of the Metropolitan Opera's production.
Laurie Anderson brings the multimedia presentation of her book All the Things I Lost in the Flood to Cirkus in Stockholm, Sweden, on Saturday, as part of her exhibition at Moderna Museet, Looking into a Mirror Sideways, which opens then.
Julia Bullock joins the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Radio Choir, conducted by Manfred Honeck, at Isarphilharmonie in Munich tonight, for a performance of Julian Anderson’s Exiles – Remembrances. Also on the program is Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 in D minor. “The soprano Julia Bullock is on the verge of an unconventional career,” says the
Pianist Jeremy Denk gives a solo recital at William Stanton Andrews Town Hall in Clinton, Connecticut, on Sunday afternoon. The sold-out program includes works by Bach, Schubert, Beethoven, Joplin, Rzewski, “Blind” Tom Wiggins, and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.
Kronos Quartet and special guest pipa virtuoso Wu Man perform at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley, California, on Saturday. The program includes Wu Man’s Two Chinese Painting and her arrangement of the traditional Glimpses of Muqam Chebiyat; Steve Reich’s Different Trains; and two pieces for which Wu Man joined Kronos on their Nonesuch recordings: Tan Dun’s Ghost Opera and Terry Riley’s The Cusp of Magic.
The Magnetic Fields continue their US tour with two sold-out shows at City Winery in Pittsburgh tonight and tomorrow. The tour, which concludes in upstate New York on Monday, includes songs from throughout their career, from 69 Love Songs to the autobiographical 50 Song Memoir and their most recent album, Quickies.
Brad Mehldau gives solo piano concerts at Espace Carpeaux in Courbevoie, France, on Saturday and the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Frederiksberg, Denmark, on Sunday. His new live solo album, Your Mother Should Know: Brad Mehldau Plays The Beatles, was released on Nonesuch last month. Mojo gives the record four stars, calling it “an inspired set that reveals new ways of hearing pop classics."
Palo Alto–raised Molly Tuttle and her band Golden Highway are in California this weekend, playing Palisades Tahoe in Olympic Valley tonight as part of WinterWonderGrass Music & Brew Festival, and two nights in her native Bay Area, at The Guild Theatre in Menlo Park, on Saturday and Sunday. Both Guild Theatre shows have sold out but can be streamed live; tickets for the livestream can be found here.
Vagabon concludes her tour as special guest of Weyes Blood with shows in Texas and Oklahoma this weekend, playing Stubb's Waller Creek Amphitheater in Austin tonight, The Studio at the Factory in Dallas on Saturday, and Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa on Sunday.