Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned
'JAZZ: EVOLUTION OF AN ART FORM'
6 p.m. Mosaic Templars Cultural Center.
The Oxford American is partnering with the Clinton School for Public Service and the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center on Thursday to present the symposium "Jazz: Evolution of an American Art Form and Its Place on 9th Street," which — unwieldly title aside — looks like a fascinating tribute to one of Little Rock's most vital cultural moments. The event begins with a free panel discussion moderated by local pianist Chris Parker and featuring singer and pianist Amina Claudine Myers (born in Blackwell, now based in New York), John Cain (program manager at KABF-FM, 88.3, and unofficial Little Rock jazz historian) and Nathan Hood (saxophonist based in Hot Springs). This will be followed by a concert at 7:30 p.m. ($10 admission) from Parker, Hood, Yvette "Babygirl" Preyer and the great Little Rock jazz bassist Bill Huntington.
9 p.m. Power Ultra Lounge.
My favorite YFN Lucci song is "Piped Dreams." He raps about his family and going broke and loving his girlfriend and Christmas, and how he wants his music to feel like getting hit by a car. (Sometimes it does, in a good way.) He double-tracks his vocals — so you hear him rapping but also singing distantly in the background, the same words delivered more desperately. He calls himself a "blessing in disguise," which sounds self-aggrandizing at first but really isn't, when you think about it. Lucci's from Atlanta and emerged last year with a mixtape called "Wish You Well." He was recently signed to the same imprint that launched Rich Homie Quan and Trinidad James, which is good news for him. He had the best verse on Jose Guapo's odd, dreamy hit "Run It Up," the video for which has been viewed over 1.5 million times since its release last September. Whether you've heard of him or not, in other words, he probably has more high-octane cultural momentum than anybody else playing in town this weekend.
8 p.m. Walton Arts Center, Fayetteville. $18-$48.
Ira Glass is the son of a psychologist and an accountant, and the first cousin of minimalist composer Philip Glass. He started his career at NPR as a 19-year-old intern in the late '70s, and spent years working as a reporter and host on other people's shows before starting his own hour-long program, "This American Life," on Chicago public radio in 1995. Over the course of a decade, the show became remarkably well known and well liked by public radio standards, launching the careers of essayists like David Sedaris, David Rakoff and Sarah Vowell, and becoming synonymous with a certain brand of nonfiction storytelling — personal but understated, wide-eyed and deadpan, curious, self-effacing. As a 2007 headline in The Onion put it, "This American Life Completes Documentation of Liberal, Upper-Middle-Class Existence." Except this isn't really fair. At its best, the show has been incredibly successful at making immersive, important journalism compelling — the best episodes are about car dealerships, prison theater, the housing crisis, New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, public schools. And until last year, when its podcast spin-off "Serial" became a huge hit, the show was a shockingly small-time operation — according to a recent profile, episodes were typically edited at Glass' desk with the other producers sitting on the floor. This weekend Glass will come to Fayetteville to explain how he was able to accomplish this, in a talk called "Reinventing Radio."
LEGENDARY SHACK SHAKERS
9:30 p.m. White Water Tavern. $12.
Bred in rural Kentucky, championed by Stephen King and Robert Plant, the only band ever to open for both Travis Tritt and Rancid, the Legendary Shack Shakers are like the sonic embodiment of the White Water Tavern: rustic and unhealthy, traditional but ambivalent about it, friendly but vaguely sinister. They make a sort of wild, raucous psychobilly that combines a reverence for roots music with irreverence for just about everything else. Their new album is called "The Southern Surreal," and it's full of aggressive, tent-revival blues-rock, plus ambient snippets of CB radio and a gothic spoken word interlude from Billy Bob Thornton (who calls Shakers front man J.D. Wilkes "one of those genius guys who has only been discovered by a smaller audience").
MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY OF SERVICE
7 a.m.-3 p.m. Jack Stephens Center, UALR.
Here's a sentence I've always wanted to write: What do Marlon Wayans and Gandhi's grandson have in common? Turns out they're the two featured guests at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Day event. Wayans — brother of Shawn, Damon and Keenan Ivory; co-creator of "Scary Movie" and "White Chicks"; star of the forthcoming parody "Fifty Shades of Black" — will perform a free, family-friendly comedy set. Arun Gandhi — activist and grandson of Mahatma, in whose remote South African ashram he was raised — will give a keynote speech. There will also be a free interfaith prayer breakfast, with a talk by Gov. Asa Hutchinson and a performance by gospel artist Melvin Williams, at 7 a.m.; a nonviolence youth summit; and an appearance by Eric Braeden, best known for his role as Victor Newman on "The Young and the Restless." Most importantly, there is the service component: health screenings, job counseling, etc. The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center will also be hosting a day of service, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
THE WIZ REVISED
6 p.m., 8:30 p.m. Revolution. $5-$20.
Like a blues song or a Shakespeare play, "The Wizard of Oz" has long been one of those formational texts that artists feel free to adapt and manipulate and rip off. The first musical version was produced in 1902, featuring presumably hilarious references to John D. Rockefeller and Theodore Roosevelt. Since then, there have been computer games and anime series and sci-fi books and Australian rock musicals, Elton John albums and the 1929 film, debuting Judy Garland. Shirley Temple tried making a version, as did Ashanti. Very few of these, though, have approached anything like the cultural impact of "The Wiz," originally produced in Baltimore in 1974 and billed as "The Super Soul Musical 'Wizard of Oz.' " How often does an adaptation itself merit further adaptations, as "The Wiz" has over the years? Most notably the 1978 film directed by Sidney Lumet — a visceral, masculine filmmaker then riding high off "Serpico" and "Dog Day Afternoon" and "Network." At the time, there were serious reservations about this film. The substitution of Diana Ross for Stephanie Mills, who had originated the role of Dorothy on Broadway, was seen as a fatal misjudgment by some. On the other hand, in hindsight, who cares? Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor, "Ease on Down the Road": This is an American classic, full-stop. Its flaws only make it more endearing, and so aren't even flaws. The musical was resurrected again last month as a live NBC special, with a cast that included Queen Latifah, Common, Mary J. Blige and Camden native Ne-Yo. For those of us who missed it, Revolution and Drummerboyinfinity are presenting two performances of "The Wiz Revised" Sunday night, starring locals Bijoux Pighee, Crissy Pullom, Keith Savage and Michael Dwayne.
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