Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer, and the calendar is crammed with theater, music, dance and art shows. The Gazette’s arts writers have pored over the calendar, and chosen a few highlights. Here’s what they say you shouldn’t miss.
Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams at Caffe Lena on June 26. Longtime Woodstock stalwarts of Levon Helm’s bands and recordings, these partners in marriage and music recently released a duo debut album of folkie sincerity and rock and roll impact and joy.
All the events, all the fun
Looking for some summer fun? Download the entire summer arts calendar.
Alejandro Escovedo & the Sensitive Boys at Club Helsinki on July 10. The tremendous Texas rock troubadour — one of our greats — brought a new drummer and guitarist to New Orleans in May, and was outstanding as usual, for soulful strength and complete investment in his music.
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue at Upstate Concert Hall on July 15. The trombonist (duh), trumpeter, singer and bandleader is a party wherever he plays. New Orleans funk, jazz and rock through kaleidoscopic lenses of tradition, youthful energy and pure fun.
Shuggie Otis at The Egg on July 26. Almost as elusive/mysterious as Sugarman, he’s the son of Los Angeles R&B bandleader Johnny Otis and an amazing guitarist and composer. He went silent for years after a prodigious career launch but recently launched a comeback that’s wowing fans all over again.
The Tedeschi-Trucks Band, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings and Doyle Bramhall II at Saratoga Performing Arts Center on July 29. One of the biggest/best rock bands on the road, a powerful neo-soul combo with a great singer and an old-school Texas guitar slinger who’s toured with Eric Clapton. Big riffs and a big feel.
— Gazette music writer Michael Hochanadel
Colleen Pratt & Friends will kick off the free Jazz on Jay concert series in Schenectady on June 4. This year’s series also includes rising young saxophonist Joshua Nelson, veteran pianist Nat Phipps, pianist Peg Delaney’s trio and drummer Mike Benedict’s Bopitude.
Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs will present the John Pizzarelli Quartet on June 13. Later in June, the college’s Summer Jazz Institute will offer concerts by the faculty and student groups as well as the Gary Bartz Quartet and the Ben Williams Quintet.
On June 27 and 28, the Freihofer Jazz Festival at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center will have Cassandra Wilson, Monty Alexander, the Christian McBride Big Band and the Benny Green Trio, among many others.
On Aug. 16, on the eastern shore of the Hudson in Poughkeepsie, the one-day event Jazz in the Valley will present Arturo O’Farrill, Tia Fuller, Billy Drummond, Javon Jackson, Bill Charlap, Steve Kroon, Ron Carter, Kenny Washington and Peter Washington.
The Belleayre Music Festival in Highmount (Ulster County) will start its jazz performances on Aug. 1 with the Django Reinhardt Festival All Stars. They will be followed on Aug. 2 by The Cookers, on Aug. 8 by the Pedrito Martinez Group and Aug. 9 by Romero Lubambo featuring Anat Cohen.
— Gazette jazz writer Tim Coakley
At Albany Center Gallery, a dozen artists break through boundaries or make “outsider art.” The show's name, “Edge,” says it all. The exhibit runs through July 24.
Maya Linn, Cindy Sherman and Chuck Close are just a few of the artists in “River Crossings: Contemporary Art Comes Home,” a groundbreaking exhibit through Nov. 1 at Olana State Historic Site and Thomas Cole National Historic Site.
In Troy, it’s the 50th anniversary of the popular Fence Show. The salon of 500 or more works opened Friday at the Arts Center of the Capital Region and will be up through June 27. Fence Select is scheduled July 18 to Aug. 29.
On June 14, “Van Gogh and Nature” opens at the Clark Art Institute. Exploring the Dutch artist’s fascination with his surroundings, the exhibit features 40 oil paintings and 10 drawings. “Whistler’s Mother,” the renowned 1871 painting by James McNeill Whistler, is the centerpiece of the other big show at the Clark. That exhibit begins on July 4.
At The Hyde Collection, travel back to the 1970s on June 21 with “The Late Drawings of Andy Warhol” from The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, and in the museum’s foyer, “Can You Dig It?,” a collection of 1970s album covers donated by local music lovers.
The New York State Museum turns back the clock to the Rockefeller days and the governor’s controversial urban renewal project. “The Empire State Plaza at 50” opens on June 21.
You’ve seen Charles Burchfield’s fantastic watercolor landscapes, but did you know the Buffalo artist designed wallpaper in the 1920s? “Surrounded: Sampling Burchfield’s Wallpaper” is scheduled June 26 to Sept. 20 at the Arkell Museum of Canajoharie.
The University Art Museum at SUNY Albany is this year’s host of the Artists of the Mohawk Hudson Region, opening July 9. Rachel Uffner is the juror.
Saratoga Arts joins in the centennial celebration of Saratoga Springs with “10 by 10 = 100.” Beginning on Aug. 1, more than 100 area artists will show works no bigger than 10 inches by 10 inches in their gallery on Broadway.
— Gazette Life & Arts reporter Karen Bjornland
Lar Lubovitch Dance Company at Saratoga Performing Arts Center and Kaatsbaan International Dance Center. Since 1968, the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company has beguiled audiences with its refined and dramatically expressive choreography.
Area dance lovers will have plenty of chances to experience this fine troupe of classically trained dancers as it will perform twice at different venues and spend three weeks at Skidmore College. Called a “national treasure” by Variety, the company will offer programs that include “The Black Rose,” a dark fable inspired by ancient folk tales that dives deep with a commissioned score by Scott Marshall. June 17 and 20, respectively.
New York City Ballet at SPAC. New York City Ballet will celebrate its 50th anniversary season at its summer home with a two-week stay and new ballets from Justin Peck and Alexei Ratmansky and the restaging of the Danish classic “La Sylphide.”
As usual, the new ballets will make a yeasty mix, with staples like George Balanchine’s “Symphony in C” and “The Four Temperaments” and Jerome Robbins’ “Goldberg Variations” and “New York Export: Opus Jazz.” As one of the greatest and most versatile ballet companies in the world, this is an easy sell for fans and newcomers alike. July 7 to 18.
Paul Taylor Dance Company at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center. When it comes to modern/contemporary dance, no one eclipses Paul Taylor, who unflinchingly reveals the dark and light of humanity. Consequently, Taylor is considered the greatest living modern dance choreographer. His fine company will return to the Mahaiwe in a best-of program including “Company B,” “Esplanade,” “Promethean Fire” and “Diggity.” July 9 to 12.
Daniil Simkin’s Intensio at Jacob’s Pillow. It’s no surprise that American Ballet Theater’s Daniil Simkin has been compared to Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov. When he’s on stage, all eyes focus on his explosive energy. He will appear at the Pillow with other ABT dancers and Celine Cassone from Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal in a multi-media production by four of today’s hottest choreographers, including Jorma Elo and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. July 22 to 26.
Gallim Dance at PS/21. This wired ensemble is one to watch. Artistic Director Andrea Miller creates eye-popping works jammed with activity that leave audiences stunned and breathless. At PS/21, the company will perform excerpts from her most ambitious work, “Fold Here” as well as “Pupil Suite,” which Dance Magazine dubbed electric and exhilarating.
Aug. 14 and 15.
L.A. Dance Project at Jacob’s Pillow. Founded as a collective of multi-disciplined artists by former New York City Ballet principal and choreographer Benjamin Millepied, this is a daring and fresh ensemble. While often performing in non-traditional venues, the company will have its debut on the venerable Pillow stage in a lively program including Justin Peck’s “Murder Ballads” and Roy Assaf’s “II Acts for the Blind.” Aug. 19 to 22.
— Gazette dance writer Wendy Liberatore
On Tuesday, “Pippin” begins its eight-performance run at Proctors, but this is not the only show that composer Steven Schwartz has in town this month.
Over in Chatham, Mac-Haydn is staging the rarely performed “The Baker’s Wife” through May 31. Based on Jean Giono’s “Jean le Bleu” and the better-known 1938 Marcel Pagnol film adaptation, “La Femme du Boulanger,” this wistful musical of love vs. passion in a French country village offers a wonderful score — perhaps Schwartz’s best.
And speaking of great scores, the annual arts festival at Bard College, SummerScape, touts a production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic American musical “Oklahoma!,” June 25 to July 19. Promising a “darker” and “revelatory chamber production where actors and audience come together as one community, sharing food, music, and song,” this production intrigues. It will take place in the Fisher Center’s LUMA Theater, not a cornfield, so insect repellent and overalls are not necessary.
Playwright William Inge passed away in 1973, but the Williamstown Theater Festival is presenting a new work by the author, “Off the Main Road,” June 30-July 19, that was unearthed by the Inge estate in 2008. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of such classic dramas as “Picnic” and “Come Back Little Sheba” proved a master of mining the human truths and loneliness of small-town life. It will be interesting to see how this recently discovered work lines up with the rest of his canon. Kyra Sedgwick and Estelle Parsons star in this world premiere.
Star power is not just limited to this production. Most of the shows this season have big names attached to them. But the most sought-after ticket will be the revival of O’Neill’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten,” Aug. 5-23, starring Will Swenson and Audra MacDonald.
Barrington Stage celebrates the 50th anniversary of the premiere of the musical “Man of LaMancha” on the mainstage from June 10-July 11. Berkshire Theater Festival dusts off the even more mature Comden and Green, Jule Styne musical “Bells Are Ringing” on July 9.
If musical nostalgia doesn’t appeal, how about a good scare? Both Berkshire playhouses are bringing Halloween in early, BTF with the Ira Levin mystery “Deathtrap,” July 1-25, and Barrington with an area premiere of “Shining City,” opening June 18. Few plays have chilled me quite like Connor McPhearson’s ghost story.
— Gazette theater critic Matthew G. Moross
Boston Early Music Festival: Monteverdi’s “Orfeo.” Considered the first great opera (1607), it will come to life with exquisite sets, costumes, a period orchestra and extraordinary singers for a magical afternoon. At Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington. June 21.
Opera Saratoga: Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas.” Baroque opera in an inspired, bold setting outdoors at the National Museum of Dance. With a production that also includes dancers from the ArmitageGone! Dance Company and Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano as Dido, the evening becomes a rare happening not to be missed. July 6, 12, 19, 21.
Bass-baritone Bryn Terfel in recital. To celebrate his 50th birthday, this much-awarded singer, who can do everything from Mozart to Wagner to musical theater to Welsh sea chanties and has appeared in every major opera house in the world, can be heard going it alone in an entire evening of song. Sure to be a thrilling concert. At Tanglewood in Lenox, Massachusetts. July 9.
Philadelphia Orchestra at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. There will be a lot of great concerts, including cellist Yo-Yo Ma (Aug. 7), pianist Emanuel Ax (Aug. 12) and violinist Joshua Bell (Aug. 21), but one of the more interesting ones will be with popular conductor Bramwell Tovey and fabulous cellist Johannes Moser. Besides the gorgeous Elgar cello concerto, Tovey will conduct a rare but beautiful Delius piece and Holst’s “The Planets,” (Aug. 15) which shows off the orchestra in a sensational way.
Pianist Jeremy Denk in recital at Tannery Pond Concerts, New Lebanon. Always brilliant, always inspired, Denk, who received the MacArthur Fellowship “genius” grant in 2013 and is a local favorite, will play works by Bartok, Scriabin and Beethoven. Aug. 15.
— Gazette classical music writer Geraldine Freedman