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Eclectic concert series combines art, music

Col. MaCaw’s Magical Cure-All, the itinerant, eclectic concert series produced by local musician Randy McKean, returns with a bang Saturday night at the Unitarian Universalist Community in the Mountains in Grass Valley. The autumnal extravaganza features a baker’s dozen of musicians and performers in a double-header that features elements of fine art and the theater.

When McKean’s frequent collaborator, Ross Hammond, told him about a new piece Hammond was writing for a sextet, “The Humanity Suite,” based on the work of artist Kara Walker and commissioned by Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum, McKean said he was determined to find a way to bring a performance to Grass Valley.

Walker, an African-American woman born in Stockton and raised in the South, has been named one of Time magazine’s most influential people. As the Crocker notes, using the art of the silhouette, “[Walker] has made slavery and its ongoing impact the primary subject of her critique of power, freely mingling romance for the antebellum era with slavery’s bitter realities.”



Hammond’s musical response to Walker’s work is a jazz suite, a long-form composition with six connected themes and room for group improvisations. The band that Hammond assembled for the project features powerhouse saxophonists Vinny Golia from Los Angeles and New York-based Catherine Sikora, recent L.A.-transplant Cliff Childers on trombone, Sacramento heavyweights Kerry Kashiwagi on bass and Dax Compise on drums, and Hammond himself on guitar.

“Kara’s work is very powerful. It deals with themes of slavery, racism, sexism, and history, and conjures up a lot of emotions. I’m trying to convey those emotions with this music,” said Hammond. “The suite was written with these particular players in mind and I have no doubt that my band will take it to the stratosphere.”




Considering Hammond’s focus on art and African-American creativity, McKean saw it as an opportunity to revive a work of his own that features paintings and elements of theater connected to his fictional creation and alter ego of sorts, the jazz maverick Lemuel Crook.

Originally staged as part of the Nevada County Composers Cooperative’s Meet the Composer series, “The Dreams of Lemuel Crook” is a whimsical chronicle of Crook’s expatriate years delivered in a mock-lecture format. McKean’s wife, Lindsay Dunckel, portrays Frenchwoman Bridgette Pakeet, an expert on the music and art of Crook’s down and out years in 1960s Paris.

McKean will accompany these fevered visions with his new group Their Majesty, featuring McKean and Dunckel’s children Sophia and Callum on clarinet and trombone, Murray Campbell on oboes and violin, plus special guests Wes Steed on electronics and Kevin Corcoran on percussion.

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and music begins at 8 p.m.. Tickets are $10 for adults in advance, $15 at the door, and $5 for students. They can be purchased at http://colmacaw.brownpapertickets.com or at door

The Unitarian Universalist Community of the Mountains is located at 246 S. Church St. in Grass Valley. For more, call 530-575-8218.


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