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Marilynne Robinson at Trinity Cathedral 

Also, MVP Jazz Quartet, Selwyn Birchwood, Parker Quartet, Arkansas Flower & Garden Show, Circular Calls/Resonant Shadows, Spooky Talk Show Benefit, Marcella and Her Lovers

click to enlarge CAPRICCIO: The Grammy Award-winning Parker Quartet (from left, Kee-Hyun Kim, Ying Xue, Daniel Chong and Jessica Bodner) gives an intimate concert at UA Little Rock's Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23. - JAMIE JUNG
  • Jamie Jung
  • CAPRICCIO: The Grammy Award-winning Parker Quartet (from left, Kee-Hyun Kim, Ying Xue, Daniel Chong and Jessica Bodner) gives an intimate concert at UA Little Rock's Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23.

THURSDAY 2/23

PARKER QUARTET
7:30 p.m. Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall, UA Little Rock. $5-$15.

Kim Kardashian may get more facetime with the public, but Kim Kashkashian is where it's at. The Armenian-American violist has been touring Europe with the Parker Quartet, a group she mentored closely in her faculty position at the New England Conservatory. The four string players — Daniel Chong and Ying Xue on violin, Jessica Bodner on viola and Kee-Hyun Kim on cello — have been making music together since 2002, and their chemistry is unreal. In a performance of Schulhoff's "String Quartet No. 1" from a 2014 appearance on American Public Media's "Performance Today," they played in a semi-circle, signaling each other when a shift is about to happen, then barreling forward aggressively, four heads of black hair thrown sideways in unison. Their entire bodies are part of their musical phrasing, and because they're so preternaturally in tune with one another, they can allow for dramatic space in between phrases without losing steam. While there's no doubt they'd be perfectly audible in a larger setting, Stella Boyle Smith Hall's intimacy and dry acoustic setting make it an optimum hall for music like this; the sound doesn't bounce around and get all muddled with reverb, so you'll be able to bear full witness to the quartet's ferocious attacks and rhythmic delicacy. This concert marks the beginning of the spring portion of UA Little Rock's Artspree Concert Series, directed by Naoki Hakutani and funded in part by the college's Chancellor's Circle and KLRE-FM, 90.5. Admission for UALR students and employees is free, and tickets for students from other institutions are $5. If you can't make it Thursday evening, drop by Stella Boyle Smith on your lunch break; the Parker Quartet has opened its master class with UALR and local high school students to the public, 12:15 p.m., free admission. SS

click to enlarge Bobby Watson, Ray Drummond and Marvin "Smitty" Smith of the MVP Jazz Quartet
  • Bobby Watson, Ray Drummond and Marvin "Smitty" Smith of the MVP Jazz Quartet

THURSDAY 2/23

MVP JAZZ QUARTET
8 p.m. South on Main. $25-$42.

Whatever you do, don't overlook this concert merely because the group's newly minted name isn't familiar. You might better recognize the names of its members: Bobby Watson, saxophonist and music director for Art Blakey's pioneering Jazz Messengers from 1977-81; Donald Brown, pianist for the Messengers a couple years later alongside Wynton and Branford Marsalis; bassist Ray Drummond, who currently teaches bass at the Juilliard School in New York; and Marvin "Smitty" Smith, the former house drummer for "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" under the direction of Kevin Eubanks. These guys are some of the modern greats, and we get to hear the quartet before they play a multiday stint at Lincoln Center (complete with an Amsterdam Avenue ticket price). The MVP Quartet, as they're calling themselves, pay homage to two influential bandleaders and jazz piano greats, each who played piano in the Jazz Messengers' later period: James Williams, who died in 2004, and Mulgrew Miller, who died in 2013. SS

click to enlarge DON'T CALL NO AMBULANCE: Florida-born blues guitarist Selwyn Birchwood returns to Hot Springs' The Big Chill 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, $20.
  • DON'T CALL NO AMBULANCE: Florida-born blues guitarist Selwyn Birchwood returns to Hot Springs' The Big Chill 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, $20.

THURSDAY 2/23

SELWYN BIRCHWOOD
8 p.m. The Big Chill, Hot Springs. $20.

International Blues Challenge winner for 2013 Selwyn Birchwood is coming to the Spa City. He and his band (saxophonist Regi Oliver, bassist Donald "Huff" Wright and drummer Courtney Girlie) have enjoyed critical acclaim for their 2014 record, "Don't Call No Ambulance" (best album title ever), which peaked at No. 6 on Billboard's Top Blues Albums charts and won the "New Recordings/Best Debut" honor at the 2015 Living Blues Awards. During the same time, Birchwood and his band won "Best New Artist Debut" at the Blues Music Awards, and Birchwood himself won Albert King Guitarist of the Year in 2013. Talk about a streak. But then again, all those awards weren't simply handed to the band. The Selwyn Birchwood band earned them by stupefying audiences with good performances and by being badasses. If you are a fan of the blues, and you like to see it played with a dedication and proficiency that mirrors the greats such as Buddy Guy, Louis Walker and Robert Cray — all of whom shared stages with Selwyn Birchwood — you would be hard pressed to find a better show to attend. The evening is sponsored by the Spa City Blues Society. AS

click to enlarge Bonnie Montgomery, Amy Garland and Mandy McBryde of the Wildflower Revue. - STEVEN VEACH
  • Steven Veach
  • Bonnie Montgomery, Amy Garland and Mandy McBryde of the Wildflower Revue.

FRIDAY 2/24-SUNDAY 2/26

ARKANSAS FLOWER AND GARDEN SHOW
10 a.m. Statehouse Convention Center. $10-$15.

There are people — maybe even some of your friends and neighbors — who are kept up at night with lingering doubts about soil pH and the general tenability of broccoli in Arkansas. Once a year, Those People slink off to the Statehouse Convention Center and abandon their weekend duties to stare at pristine specimens of daffodils and tea roses in vases necklaced by blue ribbons. Or to take a seminar on the finer points of maintaining succulents past that first blissful honeymoon period. (That one's in the Pope Room Saturday, 11:45 a.m.) If you're one of these people, or even if you're just paranoid enough about the current presidential administration to have pondered plans for a tuber stockpile and a sustainable bunker in the backyard, head over to this convention for an hour or two. Sure, you may have to make your way through some booths in the vendor hall dedicated to unremarkable home decor or high-level discussions of irrigation systems, but there's a ton to see for the casual gardener or the garden-curious. Last year, there was a live, buzzing beehive shown in profile through glass panels; shelves of seeds from Botanical Interests and from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. of Mansfield, Mo.; tons of gardening and landscaping tips from Heights/Hillcrest mainstays Botanica Gardens and Hocott's Garden Center and from West Little Rock's Good Earth Garden Center; and some giant "display gardens" featuring plants that do well in Arkansas. On Friday at 5 p.m., food trucks will move in for a dinner hour event, "Rock in the Garden," appropriately accompanied by live music from The Wildflower Revue. For the full weekend schedule, visit argardenshow.org. SS

click to enlarge "Wall, East of Nogales, Arizona." - RICHARD MISRACH
  • Richard Misrach
  • "Wall, East of Nogales, Arizona."
A teclata keyboard made of cans, bottles and Border Patrol ammunition boxes. - GUILLERMO GALINDO
  • Guillermo Galindo
  • A teclata keyboard made of cans, bottles and Border Patrol ammunition boxes.

FRIDAY 2/24

CIRCULAR CALLS/RESONANT SHADOWS
7 p.m. Great Hall, Crystal Bridges Museum. $10.

Composer Guillermo Galindo has fashioned a collection of instruments made from objects collected along the border between the U.S. and Mexico: shotgun shells, empty cans and bottles, a Border Patrol flashlight and even part of an electrical box used in surveillance as part of the defunct Secure Border Initiative. He obtained those objects from photographer Richard Misrach, whose camera lens has been devoted to immigrant narratives since 2009, when he began documenting lives and artifacts along the 2,000-mile wall. Misrach's photographs of Nogales, Ariz., and the so-called Friendship Park at the San Diego-Tijuana border are on display at Crystal Bridges through April 24 as part of a collaboration with Galindo called "Border Cantos: Sight & Sound Explorations from the Mexican-American Border." In this concert — the kickoff to Crystal Bridges Museum's 2017 Performance Lab series — Galindo performs his composition "Circular Calls/Resonant Shadows," a quartet using these found-object instruments: Galindo on string, percussion and wind instruments, Paula Cekola and Tom Dambly on wind and percussion and Joel Davel on additional percussion. It's part of what Misrach and Galindo call an "effort to correct the gaping omissions they see in mainstream discussions and media coverage of border issues," and though it's been on the museum's calendar for months, it comes at a moment when an empathetic look at the lives of undocumented and migrating people couldn't be more relevant. SS

click to enlarge 'WHEN I WAS A CHILD I READ BOOKS:' Pulitzer Prize winner Marilynne Robinson was named as one of Time Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential People in 2016, and she visits Arkansas for a talk at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, where she says she'll speak on "issues in contemporary life, among them our problems in dealing with the concept of truth," 6:30 p.m., $25.
  • 'WHEN I WAS A CHILD I READ BOOKS:' Pulitzer Prize winner Marilynne Robinson was named as one of Time Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential People in 2016, and she visits Arkansas for a talk at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, where she says she'll speak on "issues in contemporary life, among them our problems in dealing with the concept of truth," 6:30 p.m., $25.

SATURDAY 2/25

MARILYNNE ROBINSON
6:30 p.m. Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. $25-$100.

In a conversation at the Iowa State Library on Sept. 14, 2015, Pulitzer Prize winner Marilynne Robinson was asked by friend and superfan Barack Obama why she decided to write a collection of essays called "The Givenness of Things." She replied, "Well, the essays are actually lectures. I give lectures at a fair rate, and then when I've given enough of them to make a book, I make a book." The former president goes on — gushing in his own fashion, which is to say, reticently — and teasing out theological and ethical points of concern from Robinson's works of fiction and nonfiction: America's mantra of competition as "a language of coercion that implies to people that their lives are fragile ... meant to make people feel that they can't get their feet on the ground"; whether or not the novel itself is a dying medium; how to square cutthroat politics with "goodness and decency and common sense" in regular peoples' lives; democracy as an extension of Robinson's belief that "people are images of God." Robinson's list of awards and professorships is extensive, symptomatic of what's so striking about the author: her moral intelligence and the way she uses it to earnestly inquire how we might all live with others in a way that's commensurate to the best bits of our humanity. SS

click to enlarge m0evwpbc.jpg
SATURDAY 2/25

SPOOKY TALK SHOW: LIVE BENEFIT
7 p.m. Vino's.

If you're a fan of the devil (and who among us isn't — the dude invented chocolate and internet porn), you have somewhere to be on Saturday because the devil will be at Vino's. Josh the Devil, to be specific. That's right: The Devil is named Josh (Smith), and he has a YouTube show, "Spooky Talk Show," that airs live Sunday nights. Season one of "Spooky Talk Show" has wrapped (the final guests were sludge rock masters Iron Tongue) and now "Spooky Talk Show" is holding a benefit to help fund a second, glorious season. And, what an event Josh the Devil has in store for us. Comedians Jay Jackson, Jared Lowry, Kit Haraughty, Kayla Esmond, Devincey Moore and Paul Hodge will be there, as well as musicians Jeremiah James Baker, William Blackart, Daniel Renfro, Chris Long and Justin McGoldrick of the P-47's. The night's featured guests are "The Colonel," and Velvetine Tombstone: R&B Psychic. According to Smith, "There will also be surprise guests and prizes!" Emphasis his, but who doesn't enjoy prizes? All of this entertainment is being brought to you in the format of a "Conan [O'Brien] on-the-road special." Smith says, "I will have the desk on stage and everything. We will be taping it to broadcast later." Read that last part? They're taping the festivities. So bring your hollering voice. As if all of the aforementioned glee wasn't enough, the event will be hosted by multitalented local superstar Michael Brown ("Brain Trust with Michael Brown"). Your $7 will get you this great night of entertainment (at a legendary venue with scrumptious pizza and even better beer), and also awholenother season of Spooky Talk Show. Best deal of the week! AS

click to enlarge THE BRONZE AGE: Marcella and Her Lovers, the zydeco vehicle for accordionist and vocalist Marcella Simien, returns to the White Water Tavern just in time for some Fat Tuesday revelry, 9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28. - LISA MAC
  • Lisa Mac
  • THE BRONZE AGE: Marcella and Her Lovers, the zydeco vehicle for accordionist and vocalist Marcella Simien, returns to the White Water Tavern just in time for some Fat Tuesday revelry, 9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28.

TUESDAY 2/28

MARCELLA AND HER LOVERS
9 p.m. White Water Tavern.

"What does a smile sound like?" asks the bio section of Marcella René Simien's website. I had an answer: zydeco. Turns out I was right! Well, partially right. Marcella Simien, and her band, Her Lovers, perform a fascinating, spirit-filled fusion of Creole roots music and Memphis soul. Songs tempered in zydeco accordion and Creole French buoy Simien's fierce singing voice like trade winds carrying a fine blend of aromas from uncharted regions of the imagination. Hers is not the work of a shoe-gazing novice, supplanting prefab guitar effects in place of songcraft. Marcella Simien hails from music royalty, namely her father, Terrance Simien, who dutifully featured Marcella on his most recent album, "Dockside Sessions," winning the pair the Grammy Award in 2014 for Best Regional Roots Album of the Year. To recount the highlights of Marcella and Her Lovers' career is to weave a tapestry of successes that wind through Sub Pop Records, The Oblivians, The Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Boo Mitchell and Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream. But, simply reading about a band without taking its music into your soul for judgment is like reading a menu to learn about the genius of a great chef. So, while a smile might sound like Cajun-spiced pidgin belted drunkenly over the wheeze and whinny of a Grammy-worthy band, Marcella and Her Lovers sound like something slightly different. And it's much better than just a smile. AS


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    • Ah, I have heard similar before, 6 times in 25 years.

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