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Strunz & Farah
Sunday 08/16
Strunz & Farah @ The Howard Theatre
$25 / $30
Strunz & Farah, performing together since 1980, have created an entirely new expression for the acoustic guitar. From Costa Rica and Iran respectively, Jorge Strunz and Ardeshir Farah have brought the cultural riches of their native lands to their highly virtuosic, rhythmic, and improvisation-rich original instrumental compositions, profoundly influencing guitarists everywhere. The duo's music is perhaps best described as original international acoustic improvisational guitar music, world guitar, or ethnojazz. Their style is saturated with their cultural roots, which include Afro-Caribbean, Latin American folk, flamenco, and Middle Eastern music, and it draws heavily from the jazz concept of improvisation. The first meeting between these two musicians in 1979 marked the first time that Latin American and Middle Eastern music came together on the guitar. The travels of his diplomat father brought Strunz to the United States, while Farah arrived as a student of architecture. Farah came to see Strunz perform with his Latin jazz group Caldera and decided to meet him. Upon meeting, it was instantly obvious that the two were brothers of the guitar from opposite ends of the earth. They quickly prepared a repertoire, began performing, and recorded their first project, Mosaico, in 1980. Although record companies at that time were not ready for this exotic new music, jazz radio embraced it, and world/jazz industry pioneer Richard Bock got the duo signed to the prestigious jazz label Milestone, on which Strunz & Farah cut the records Frontera (1983) and Guitarras (1984). These records defined world music on guitar years before the world music category even existed. Since their genre-defining beginning, the duo has continued releasing complex and beautiful albums, most of which have been on Selva, the duo's own artist-friendly label. Notable efforts included Primal Magic (1990), which won Billboard's World Music Album of the Year award, and Americas (1992), which won a Grammy nomination. Both albums spent months on the top of Billboard's World Music chart. In addition to their own recordings, Struntz & Farah have collaborated with dozens of renowned world, jazz, and classical musicians, including Dr. L. Subramaniam, Ashish Khan, Heyadeh, Manoochehr Sadeghi, Bijan Mortazavi, Jihad Racy, Edwin Colon Zayas, Stanley Clarke, Hubert Laws, Liona Boyd, Joan Baez, and Jackson Browne. Their latest album, Journey Around the Sun, came out in 2011.
Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds
Wednesday 07/22
Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds @ The Howard Theatre
$75 / $85
If you were to closely examine the annals of modern pop music history, few creative forces have been more seminal or impacted the contemporary pop/urban genres as much as Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds. In a relatively short time, he has reached icon status as a poignant tune smith, prolific hit maker/producer, superstar recording artist, and revolutionary label owner. He is a statistical juggernaut, who keeps adding milestone after milestone to a legacy that seems to have no threshold or peak in sight. A 11-time Grammy winner with 11 solo albums of his own, Edmonds’ impeccably crafted explorations of love, romance and relationships and has made an indelible imprint on the evolution of contemporary pop music throughout the world: more than 125 Top-10 R&B and Pop hits, 42 #1 R&B hits, and 51 Top-10 Pop hits (including 16 #1’s), which have produced single and album sales in excess of 500 million units worldwide. Just a few of the vocalists from which his music can be heard: Whitey Houston, Boyz II Men, Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Madonna, Eric Clapton, Mary J. Blige, Michael Jackson, TLC, Toni Braxton, Celine Dion, John Mellencamp, Anthony Hamilton, Brandy, Aretha Franklin, Fall Out Boy, Pink, Charlie Wilson, and Chrisette Michele. Edmonds is the recipient of numerous awards, including Soul Train Music Awards, BMI Awards, NAACP Image Awards and American Music Awards. He was also the recipient of the third BET Walk of Fame Award (previous honors were Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston), and was named BET’s “Entertainer of the Year” at the First Annual BET Awards Ceremony. Edmonds most recent production with other artists includes Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Keri Hilson, Ledisi, Colbie Caillat, Jennifer Hudson, Ariana Grande and Aretha Franklin. His 2014 duets album with Toni Braxton titled Love, Marriage & Divorce won a Grammy for Best R&B Album. Edmonds is currently working on a new solo album that will be released late 2015. Edmonds’ charitable work is as impressive as his professional accomplishments. His caring and generosity has earned him several accolades, including the Essence Award for Excellence, The City of Hope Award and Variety Magazine’s “Top of the Town” Honored Award. He was the National Spokesman for Boarder Babies, and personally helped raise more than $500,000 for a transitional home, The Little Blue House, located in Washington, D.C. He has also personally donated more than $100,000 to the VH-1 Save the Music program and he continues to contribute to a host of other worthwhile organizations, including the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). In 2008, Edmonds combined his musical prowess with his charitable efforts, co writing and producing the song “Just Stand Up” with longtime partner Antonio “L.A.” Reid, which served as the backbone of a multi-purpose breast cancer awareness special. The song featured such current heavyweights as Beyonce, Rihanna, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Leona Lewis, Ciara, Carrie Underwood, Sheryl Crow, and Miley Cyrus, to name a few. Edmonds and Reid were honored by the Noble Awards for their contribution to Stand Up To Cancer. Recently Edmonds his has been very active in supporting Carousel of Hope, which benefits the Children's Diabetes Foundation and Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes, as well as Larry Ruvo's "Keep Memory Alive," who are committed to improving the lives of patients and their families as they navigate the extraordinary challenges of brain disorders. In Las Vegas, the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health treats patients with Alzheimer's, Huntington's and Parkinson's disease, as well as frontotemporal dementia and multiple sclerosis. Among other expressions of Kenny’s generosity are his charitable performances at several fund-raising events for FasterCures, the center for accelerating medical solutions of the non-profit Milken Institute. During an extended 2012 performance at FasterCures’ Celebration of Science at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., he not only enthralled the audience with his songs, but also moved them by recounting the health challenges of his parents including the lung cancer that took the life of his father, a decorated soldier who succumbed when Kenny was in the eighth grade.
Tuesday 07/28
Beres Hammond @ The Howard Theatre
$39.50 / $45
He is considered Jamaica’s greatest practicing singer/songwriter and anyone who has listened to his CDs or experienced the fervor elicited by his live performances would undoubtedly agree with that top-ranking assessment. His recent appearance at Jamaica’s premier music festival, Reggae Sumfest, was unanimously hailed as the finest of the three-night event as he tore through hit after hit, some dating back to the mid 70s, consistently captivating an audience of nearly 20,000 who sang along so loudly to his beloved songs, they sometimes threatened to drown him out. That Sumfest 2008 performance was but another special moment in time within this adored artist’s enduring and truly exceptional career. For the past thirty-five years, despite inevitable career trials and tribulations, the music of Hugh Beresford Hammond has yet to be wrong. The ninth of ten children born in Jamaica’s garden parish St. Mary, on August 28, 1955, Beres, as a precocious child, made regular trips to Kingston to mingle with the singers who frequented the downtown record shops. After graduating from high school, Beres entered several local talent shows including the Merritone Amateur Talent Contest, where several reggae stars including vocal trio The Mighty Diamonds, Sugar Minott and the late Jacob 'Killer' Miller also got their starts. He joined the fusion band Zap Pow as lead singer in 1975 and remained with them for four years recording the albums Zap Pow (Mango, 1978), and Reggae Rules (Rhino Records, 1980) while simultaneously pursuing solo projects. But Beres quickly realized he “ couldn't serve two masters” and decided to concentrate on his individual efforts. Beres’ 1976 solo album Soul Reggae (Aquarius Records) produced by his friend Willie Lindo sold more than 2,000 copies in Jamaica during the first week of its release. His subsequent single “One Step Ahead”, still a favorite among Beres’ fans because of his signature impassioned vocals, held the number one spot on the Jamaican charts for three and a half months. Despite the popularity of his music, Beres failed to reap any financial rewards. Frustrated, he dropped out of the music business, then regrouped and formed his own record label/production company, Harmony House, in the early 80s. Beres’ Harmony House debut single “Groovy Little Thing” marked the first time he reaped financial rewards from his music; a succession of hit singles recorded for various Jamaican producers followed including 1987’s “What One Dance Can Do” which entered the national charts in England and elicited a spate of answer records including Beres’ own “She Loves Me Now”. Further acclaim arrived in 1990 when Beres joined forces with his good friend Donovan Germain whose Penthouse Records dominated the Jamaican charts in the early 90s with hits by Buju Banton, Wayne Wonder and others. Donovan asked Beres to record vocals over a rhythm track he had; Beres barely remembered recording “Tempted to Touch” but the song shot to the top of reggae charts around the world, as did the ensuing hits “Is This A Sign”, “Respect To You Baby” and “Feeling Lonely”, all featured on his Penthouse album “A Love Affair”. Beres maintained his presence on the reggae charts as the 90s progressed so it was inevitable he would attract major label interest. He signed to Elektra Records for whom he released the outstanding CD “In Control” in 1994. The CD’s spectacular R&B flavored single “No Disturb Sign”, still one Beres’ most popular songs, did not yield the desired international breakthrough although Beres would have easily captured the same fan base as Teddy Pendergrass or any other sophisticated soulful crooner, had “In Control” been given proper support by Elektra’s publicity/marketing machinery. “I never liked how I was treated; it was my first album on a major label, I think they should have paid more attention to it,” Beres declares. “There was a changing of the guard at the label which made things worse. But still, there are many artists who have been on the Billboard charts and don’t have the kind of fan base I have now so I am alright!” Undeterred, Beres continued to release music on his Harmony House label with distribution through VP Records. He has maintained his hit-making streak well into the 21st century while his incomparable, riveting live performances recruit legions of new fans from 9 to 90 years old. Beres’ heartfelt delivery reinforces his unique perspective on romance, detailing everything from the sly antics of the philandering male on “Double Trouble” to championing the overlooked female on “Show It Off” to celebrating an inevitable relationship in “They Gonna Talk”, from his 2001 Grammy nominated album “Music Is Life”. But Beres’ catalogue is also rife with uplifting anthems for the downtrodden including the 1978 hit “Last War” (heavily sampled in Collie Buddz’ 2007 breakthrough hit “Come Around”), the timeless “Putting Up Resistance”, the most popular reggae song of 1990/91 and the viscerally empowering “Not Over Until Its Done” from his 2004 release “Love Has No Boundaries”. In this inspirational vein “A Moment in Time” offers “Picking Up The Pieces”, its shimmering, R&B inflected rhythm underscoring a clarion call for peace, as Beres sings: “Pull ourselves together, try to sort it out, gather all peace makers, scattered all about/find a new direction this one ain’t working out/ talking to all of those with the clout.” The song was inspired by various global maladies from Jamaica’s escalating crime rate to the never-ending war in Iraq, as well as the role Beres ideally sees music playing in redirecting our individual actions towards making the world a better place. “When I see so much bad news I say Beres why do you keep singing so much love songs, are they listening or what?” he wondered aloud. “That’s what that song is about; every time I try, something else happens. Nevertheless I am still going to try because when I see the smiles on peoples faces as I perform, that gives me strength to keep going” Those smiles reflect the many special moments in time that Beres Hammond has brought to his fans, moments that have changed their lives, and perhaps their perception of contemporary Jamaican music, forever. Beres isn’t sure how he has maintained his lyrical freshness, vocal excellence and sonic inspiration over the past thirty-five years, but he is not questioning it, either. “I just see myself as one of the instruments who come to do what they do. I don’t know what it is but it’s working and if its not broken, you don’t mend it.”