In Ouray: Max Wagner Trio
The first season of the Wrighteous Jazz Fest swings to a close this Saturday evening at the Wright Opera House, with an appearance by saxophonist-cum-vocalist Max Wagner and his trio. Wagner lives on the Front Range. He describes himself as an “unrepentant” Estes Park resident (he grew up there), and is the founder of the Estes Park Jazz Festival, now in its 23rd year. At the Festival, he has hosted, and jammed with, some of the greats. Among them: pianist Les McCann, saxophonist Don Braden, and jazz vocalists Marlena Shaw and Roberta Gambarini. “It’s a party,” Wagner said.
He’s also appeared on more than 50 albums, including his own most recent, This Can’t Be Love, where he pays musical tribute to both Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, in “Isfahan,” and Dizzy Gillespie (“Night in Tunisia”). To Ouray, a place he has visited but never played before, Wagner will bring bassist Mark Simon and pianist Eric Gunnison. If Gunnison’s name rings a bell with aficionados, it’s because he was the great jazz singer Carmen McRae’s musical director and accompanist for years (he played with her on the inspired “McRae Sings Monk”). Wagner’s new album is due out soon, and on it is one of McRae’s standards, a poignant rumination based on, of all things, the famous first line, “April is the cruelest month,” from T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland.”
…All alone, the party is over
Old Man Winter was a gracious host
But when you keep praying
For snow to hide the clover
Spring can really hang you up the most.
The title of the song is also its last line, and Carmen McRae’s delivery makes every word emotional and memorable. Her birthday would have been just last week. You have to wonder: what does her former accompanist think about when he plays it, particularly this time of year? The concert is at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15, available online at thewrightoperahouse.org.
Student Art Show in Montrose
The Montrose County School District hosts its annual Art Show beginning next Monday, April 22. The show runs for two weeks. It’s a huge exhibit: over 1,000 pieces of art, in everything from painting and drawing to photography, ceramics and mixed media, will be on display. Every school from the county will be represented, and every grade. This year, for the first time, prizes will be given for two and three-dimensional works, as well as a People’s Choice Award.
The Student Art Show used to be a longstanding Montrose County tradition, but the tradition died. Five years ago, a group of art teachers decided to revive it. “We were kind of nomads in the beginning, looking for space” to hold the event in, said Montrose High School teacher Ann-Marie Fleming. The exhibitors settled on a spot on Main Street, next to Around the Corner Gallery. “That first night, there was not a parking spot to be found downtown,” Fleming said – the show was that popular. The next year, the exhibit was held at the Ute Indian Museum, where the museum director waived the entrance fee for the two weeks the show was up, so patrons could see the rest of the museum for free. “Many people told me they’d never been to the Ute Museum before,” Fleming said. “That was exactly what I was hoping for, and why I’m glad we had the show out in the community, instead of in a school building.” Today, the show seems to have found a permanent perch at the Region 10 Enterprise Center (the executive who recruited them is a painter and an arts lover). Each school gets a wing of the Center in which to display their works on paper, and ceramics (the way they often seem to be at art exhibits) are grouped in the middle. The show is such a success, and the place so bustling, “people end up having to walk through single file” down the Center’s corridors, Fleming said. “We’re very lucky,” she went on. “A lot of schools in larger cities have had their art programs compromised as a result of the poor economy, but not here. We’ve had no cutbacks.” She calls the creative cross-pollination between school and community “a wonderful collaboration.” The art show is open Monday-Friday each week, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
In Grand Junction: The Glass Menagerie
The Colorado Mesa University theatre department ends it season this weekend with Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, considered by many to be Wililams’ best play. It is also almost certainly at least partially autobiographical, and concerns a young man, Tom (Williams’ real first name), and his search for identity. It was “a nice luxury” to be able to cast the play, said its director, Mo LaMee, who recently arrived at CMU from his tenure as artistic director at a theatre in Creede. “I could have cast this a couple times over,” given the depth of talent at CMU, he added. “It has worked out quite beautifully.”
In the play, Tom and his sister, Laura, both feel stifled. She retreats into a world of her glass figurines (the “menagerie” of the title), and he has to leave home to get free. “The play is about what’s required for autonomy,” LaMee reflected. “I think this happens for every artist.” In order to come into your own, you need to break out of something, he said. “It’s very painful, but necessary.” The Glass Menagerie runs from April 18-20. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.