SFJazz Collective

Thursday, March 1, 7:30pm, Concert Hall

Given the extraordinary talent assembled in the SFJAZZ Collective, it is tempting to think of this ensemble as an “all-star band,” pure and simple. But these exceptional artists have come together in pursuit of a larger purpose—namely, the celebration of jazz not only as a great art form, but as a constantly evolving, ever-relevant, quintessentially modern art form. In The New York Times’ emphatic words: “Modernity is the mantra of the SFJAZZ Collective.” This program features arrangements of Stevie Wonder tunes, as well as original compositions inspired by him.

Reserved Seating: $35, $30, $15; FC, GCC, STCC and 17 & under $10

SFJAZZ Collective is an all-star jazz ensemble comprising eight of the finest performers and composers at work in jazz today. Launched in 2004 by SFJAZZ, the SFJAZZ Collective has quickly become one of the most exciting and acclaimed groups on the American and international jazz scenes.

The Collective’s 2011 personnel features MacArthur “Genius Grant” winner, three-time DownBeat “#1 Rising Star Alto Saxophonist” and founding member Miguel Zenón; trombonist Robin Eubanks, a two-time DownBeat “Trombonist of the Year,” trumpeter Avishai Cohen, Grammy-nominated vibraphonist Stefon Harris and the incendiary rhythm section boasts 2010 Guggenheim Fellow Edward Simon on piano along with two of the most in-demand sidemen on the international scene – bassist Matt Penman and Eric Harland, winner of DownBeat #1 Rising Star drummer for the last three years.

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Suzanne Farrell Ballet

Wednesday, February 22, 7:30pm, Concert Hall

One of George Balanchine’s most celebrated muses, Suzanne Farrell remains a legendary figure in the ballet world. She joined Balanchine’s New York City Ballet in 1961, and by the mid-1960s had become not only one of Balanchine’s most renowned ballerinas but also a symbol of the era. She founded the Suzanne Farrell Ballet in 2000 as a way of preserving Balanchine’s legacy. The company has been described by The New York Times as “one of the most courageous projects in ballet today.” The Suzanne Farrell Ballet brings the full range of Balanchine’s choreography to the Fine Arts Center.

Reserved Seating: $40, 30, 15; FC, GCC, STCC and 17 & under $10

In just over a decade, The Suzanne Farrell Ballet has evolved from an educational program of the Kennedy Center to a highly lauded ballet company, hailed by the New York Times’ Chief Dance Critic in 2007 as “one of the most courageous projects in ballet today.”

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Ana Moura

Sunday, February 5, 7pm, Concert Hall

Portuguese vocalist Ana Moura, whose soulful and riveting interpretation of her land’s captivating fado style has made her a star in Europe, brings her gentle, persuasive magic to North American audiences through her albums on World Village. The 25-year-old singer has become a leading exponent of this poetic, deeply expressive idiom which personifies the Portuguese psyche as it explores such universal themes as lost love, separation, and longing. As Ana explains, “It’s very special because it’s all about emotions and feelings. It needs no translation.”

Reserved Seating: $30, $25, $15; FC, GCC, STCC and 17 & under $10

Ana Moura was born in Santarem, the bustling capital of the Ribatejo province in the center of Portugal’s heartland on the Tejo River northeast of Lisbon. The city of half a million souls is also one of Portugal’s most historic cities-an ideal place to develop an appreciation for fado. “I’ve been singing fado since I was little, because grew up listening to it at home,” she recalls of her early home life.

“My parents sang well, and at family gatherings we all would sing.” Like young people everywhere, she soon developed an appreciation for other styles of music. The lure of singing fado, however, never waned. In her late teens, while sing pop and rock music with a local band. Ana always included at least one fado in each performance. Then, one night on a whim, about the year 2000, she and some friends went to one of Lisbon’s storied fado houses-small performance venues where singers, guitarists and aficionados gather to worship the affecting style that’s become Portugal’s most important music export. At the urging of her companions, she sang.

“People liked me,” she recalls of her first foray into a venerated bastion of the fado culture. Later that year, at a Christmas party that was attended by a lot of fadistas (fado singers) and guitarists, she sang again and, as fate would have it, noted fado vocalist Maria de Fe was in the audience and was duly impressed. “She asked me to sing at her fado house,” Ana recalls of the fortuitous moment that launched her career. “My life changed when I began going to the fado houses,” Ana states today. “There’s no microphone-it’s very intimate. New singers learn through a kind of apprenticeship, learning the intricacies of the style from the older, more established singers.” Before long, word of Ana’s rich contralto, stunning looks and innate affinity for the demanding style spread, winning airtime on local television programs devoted to fado and rave reviews in Lisbon newspapers.

Music critic Miguel Esteves Cardoso captured her essence when he wrote of her “rare and primitive quality” and her “natural truth, without effort or premeditation.” Ana has emerged as a leading voice of traditional fado just as the venerable idiom is enjoying a renaissance of popularity.

The singer’s association with composer, producer, arranger and guitarist Jorge Fernando, the former guitar player of Amalia Rodrigues (the undisputed queen of fado, who died at the age of 79 in 1999) has helped stimulate her artistic development and has provided her with an alluring repertoire. “Today,” she explains, “there’s a new generation that sings lyrics related to our time. There are some older fado songs that we, the younger singers, cannot perform, because the lyrics are about a time and themes we don’t identify with. We don’t feel it, and fado is all about feelings. We must feel what we sing, and there are many older fados that don’t belong to our generation. Younger singers use lyrics that speak of today, so young people have begun to get more interested in the music again.”

As with jazz and country music in the U.S., tango in Argentina, samba in Brazil, fado sprang from the culture of working class people. And, as with the aforementioned examples, over the years the style evolved from humble origins to win broad appeal. Today, as Ana proudly proclaims, “In Portugal, fado is for everyone.” Like virtually every aspiring fadista, Ana drew early inspiration from the example of Amalia Rodrigues, the revered singer who most personified the style. “It was her soul and her voice,” she comments of the late vocalist’s singular imprint on the music. “She had everything in her. Some singers have a great voice by no soul, no intensity. Others have feeling but not a suitable voice. She had it all, and, she was a very good improviser.”

Improvising is an under-appreciated part of the fado tradition. One technique, which Ana uses to great effect on the song “Lavava no rio lavava” (I Went to the River to Wash), is what the Portuguese term vocalizes-the expression of words and effects through use of vocal trills. The practice is believed to have been absorbed over centuries of exposure to Spanish flamenco and Moorish styles.

A key track from her debut album exquisitely sums up the magnetic pull fado has exerted on Ana. “Sou do fado, sou fadista” (I Belong to Fado, I Am a Fadista) by her mentor and primary collaborator, guitarist Jorge Femando, eloquently explains Ana’s total surrender to the style: “I know my soul has surrendered, taken my voice in hand, twisted in my chest and shown it to the world. And I have closed my eyes in a wistful longing to sing, to sing. And a voice sings to me softly, and a voice enchants me softly, I belong to fado, I belong to fado, I am a fadista.”

In June of 2008, Ana Moura made her triumphant debut at two of Portugal’s legendary venues – the Coliseu do Porto and Lisbon’s Coliseu dos Recreios. Her performances were termed unforgettable by the audience and the press. Special guests included two leading figures in the history of fado – Beatriz da Conceição and Maria da Fé – as well as Moura’s music producer and collaborator, Jorge Fernando. World Village released an album with material from those two live performances in 2011, titled Coliseu.

To hear samples or purchase music check out her itunes store.

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