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Beats, brass and blues: 2017 Fall Arts music preview 

A preview of music in Central Arkansas this fall.

click to enlarge ARKANSAS CONNECTIONS: Songwriter Lucinda Williams and saxophonist Pharoah Sanders (below, right) are among the artists performing in Central Arkansas this fall. - DAVID MCCLISTER
  • David McClister
  • ARKANSAS CONNECTIONS: Songwriter Lucinda Williams and saxophonist Pharoah Sanders (below, right) are among the artists performing in Central Arkansas this fall.

Thanks to a thoughtful group of musicians and venue owners, the Central Arkansas music scene continues to prove that it is as vibrant and many-faceted as scenes with far more acclaim, such as Athens, Ga.; Asheville, N.C.; and Portland, Ore. If that seems like hyperbole, consider the range of performances from Arkansas musicians lined up for this fall: jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, a city orchestra performance of the music from "Harry Potter," the St. Mark Sanctuary Choir, "girl gang" Dazz & Brie & The Emotionalz, a performance of William Grant Still's opera "Troubled Island," piano performances in the middle of local libraries. Pair that lineup with some stellar musicmakers lured in from elsewhere, and you've got a few hundred good reasons to get out and do some listening this fall. Here are a few highlights:

For starters, the performance space at UA Pulaski Technical College (CHARTS, the Center for the Humanities and Arts), which is fewer than 10 minutes away from the River Market district, is home to a Sept. 21 performance from Jimmy "Duck" Holmes — cited as the last of the Bentonia bluesmen — for "Blues Trifecta," a concert featuring a talk from blues archivist Dick Waterman and a screening of Samuel D. Pollard's "Two Trains Runnin'." Or, go catch acoustic guitarist Andrew York at The Joint, who's here that same night as part of the Argenta Arts Acoustic Music Series, or the harmonizing duo The Secret Sisters at South on Main. On Sept. 22, pianist Tatiana Roitman Mann joins colleagues Kiril Laskarov and Andrey Dyachenko for "To Life," the next in Roitman Mann's "New Deal Salon" series at New Deal Gallery at 2003 S. Louisiana St. Also that evening, Opera in the Rock presents its rendition of William Grant Still and Langston Hughes' "Troubled Island" at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band performs at Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub for the 2017 ACANSA Arts Festival and none other than Raekwon the Chef of the Wu-Tang Clan drops into Revolution.

The commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Central High School continues Sept. 23, with a concert from Mavis Staples at Robinson Center Music Hall and the "No Tears Suite," an original jazz piece from Chris Parker inspired by Melba Patillo Beals' memoir, at Central. ACANSA continues with a gospel brunch featuring the St. Mark Sanctuary Choir at Wildwood Park for the Arts Sept. 24. Dazz & Brie and their dynamic vocalist Hope Dixon share a bill at South on Main on Sept. 27 as part of the venue's "Sessions" series; and catch guitarist John Burnette's dulcet, clever tunes from his debut album the next night at South on Main. Also Sept. 28: If you're in Spa City soaking up the last bits of autumn, don't miss Bruiser Queen, a knockout punk rock duo from St. Louis that's performing a free show at Maxine's that night. Nashville rockers Benchmarks return to the White Water Tavern (and unlike their Holiday Hangout appearance, you'll have a chance at a ticket!) with Colour Design Sept. 28, too. The Butler Center's Arkansas Sounds series is bringing Hot Club of Cowtown to town Sept. 29. Rapper-turned-YouTube-sensation Froggy Fresh (formerly Krispy Kreme) lands at Low Key Arts in Hot Springs Sept. 29, and it's early enough that you can catch Ronnie Heart channeling the late Prince at Maxine's later that evening. From Sept. 30-Oct.1, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra opens its season with "Go Brahms," featuring guest violinist Jennifer Frautschi. Band of Horses lands at the Clear Channel Metroplex Oct. 4, followed the next night by a Contemporary Christian lineup at Verizon Arena (Skillet, Colton Dixon) and some honky-tonk at Revolution courtesy of the Randy Rogers Band.

click to enlarge Pharoah Sanders
  • Pharoah Sanders

On Oct. 6-7, the Hot Water Hills Festival springs up on Bathhouse Row's Hill Wheatley Plaza in Hot Springs, featuring sets from Itchy-O, Claire Morales, Vodi and more. Jason Aldean brings "Big Green Tractor" to Verizon Arena Oct. 13. The Akeem Kemp Band takes its rock-solid blues set to Kings Live Music in Conway on Oct. 14. Italian guitarist Beppe Gambetta gives a concert at The Joint Oct. 19; if the punk-blues of Fantastic Negrito's more your thing, catch him at South on Main that same night. Adam Faucett brings his ethereal howl to Kings Live Music on Oct. 20. Bruno Mars devotees gather en masse at Verizon Arena for the crooner's show Oct. 22. Fleetwood Mac fans: Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie are sharing a bill at Robinson Center Music Hall on Oct. 25, and on Oct. 28, Robinson hosts the 25th anniversary celebration of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, featuring performances from Little Rock native Pharoah Sanders, comedian Luenell and poet Haki Madhubuti. In Conway, Mountain Sprout takes the stage at Kings Live Music, also on Oct. 28. Lucinda Williams graces the stage at Pulaski Tech's CHARTs for Oxford American's "Books, Bourbon and Boogie" Nov. 2. The ASO's River Rhapsody Chamber Series turns its attention to "Spanish Dance" with works from Saint-Saens and Sarasate at the Clinton Presidential Center Nov. 7. Jeff Coleman tickles the ivories on a piano set up at the Sanders Library Nov. 16 in Sherwood as part of Central Arkansas Library System's "Sounds in the Stacks" series, and later that night, the "All-American Road Show" breezes through Verizon Arena, with Chris Stapleton, Marty Stuart and Brent Cobb. On Dec. 6, Bully, the ensemble project from producer/engineer Alicia Bognanno, lands at Stickyz. The piano-centric Bob Boyd Sounds gives a concert at the Ron Robinson Theater on Dec. 8.

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