Lexington, MA – Spectacle Management is proud to announce four new shows to the Cary Hall Performing Arts Series in downtown Lexington, MA. One of the most distinctive voices in pop music, 5-time Grammy Award winner Michael McDonald performs on Sunday, November 20 at 7pm. For the first show of 2017, Comedian Lenny Clarke returns for a night of standup on Saturday, January 28 at 8pm. On Saturday, April 8 at 3pm, don’t miss the amazing Golden Dragon Acrobats. Finally, on Friday, April 28 at 8pm, an evening of jazz with the Branford Maraslis Quartet with special guest Kurt Elling. Tickets for all shows go on sale Friday, July 29 at 10am at www.CaryHallLexington.com or by calling 617-531-1257.
Two notes. That’s all it takes to recognize the voice of Michael McDonald. Distinctive and soulful, it is one of the most yearningly emotive instruments of our times. To this add formidable songwriting and keyboard skills, and you have an artist who has been a singular musical presence for four decades. From ‘70s-era Doobie Brothers classics such as “What A Fool Believes” and solo hits like “I Keep Forgettin’” through two highly-acclaimed Motown albums, genre-busting guest spots and innovative concept shows, the five-time Grammy Award winning McDonald is both timeless and ever-evolving.
Beyond his music, McDonald has long been an active humanitarian. He has lent his talents and energies to many causes and benefits, including MusiCares, the National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, the 7UP Grammy Signature Schools Program and was part of a star-studded lineup at Kokua For Japan, a concert that raised $1.6 million for tsunami relief.
After moving from his hometown of St. Louis to Los Angeles in the early ‘70s, McDonald honed his talent as a session musician and singer before being invited to join Steely Dan. Over the course of four classic albums, from Katy Lied to Gaucho, McDonald became an integral part of the group’s sound, singing background vocals on FM staples like “Black Friday” and “Peg.”
In the mid-‘70s, McDonald joined The Doobie Brothers, helping the band redefine their funky R & B sound as a singer, keyboardist and songwriter on such Top 40 singles as “Takin’ It To The Streets,” “It Keeps You Runnin’,” “Minute By Minute” and “What A Fool Believes.”
His distinct vocal style also made him one of the world’s most sought-after session singers. Beyond his hits with The Doobies, McDonald has lent his voice to records by an A-Z of artists, including Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Vince Gill and Grizzly Bear. During the ‘80s and ‘90s, his solo career zoomed from success to success on the wings of evergreen hits like “Sweet Freedom,” “On My Own” (a duet with Patti LaBelle) and the Grammy-winning duet with James Ingram “Yah Mo B There.”
Continuing to explore new vistas, McDonald released his Grammy-nominated, platinum-selling pair of Motown albums in 2003. Then in 2005, he partnered with Hallmark for a special Christmas album, Through The Many Winters, which sold 500,000 copies in its first two weeks.
In 2008 McDonald released the acclaimed crossover album Soul Speak (which hit three different charts simultaneously), and in 2011 received an honary doctorate from Berklee School of Music. Recently he and co-horts Donald Fagen and Boz Scaggs an 11-piece soul supergroup who tour as The Dukes Of September, released their first live DVD. McDonald continues to tour extensively as a solo artist, with symphonies, altruistic events and plans to tour this summer with Toto.
With a career that encompasses five Grammys, numerous chart successes, personal and professional accolades, as well as collaborations with some of the world’s most prominent artists, Michael McDonald remains an enduring force in popular music.
LENNY CLARKE & FRIENDS
Boston comedian Lenny Clarke has been performing since the 1980s as part of the great local comedy scene that included Denis Leary, Steven Wright, and many more. Since then he has gone on to numerous film and television roles, mostly notably portraying Uncle Teddy in the FX hit series “Rescue Me.” His other credits include “Ted 2,” “Fever Pitch,” “Rounders,” “The Job,” “The John Larroquette Show,” “There’s Something About Mary” and “Sirens.” He was featured in the documentary “When Stand Up Stood Out” about the Boston comedy scene, and also narrated ESPN’s 30 for 30 – “4 Days in October” about the 2004 ALCS comeback of the Boston Red Sox against the New York Yankees
GOLDEN DRAGONS ACROBATS
The Golden Dragon Acrobats represent the best of a time honored tradition that began more than twenty-five centuries ago. World-renowned impresario, Danny Chang, and choreographer, Angela Chang, combine award-winning acrobatics, traditional dance, spectacular costumes, ancient and contemporary music, and theatrical techniques to present a show of breathtaking skill and spellbinding beauty. The troupe returned to Broadway’s New Victory Theater in 2014; the ONLY acrobatic troupe from China chosen to perform twice at this prestigious venue!
“Powerful music, simple themes, and explosive choreography that transcends culture — an absolute joy in exploring the full potential of the human body.” — NYTheatre.com
“The Cat in the Hat, with his cake on a rake, has nothing on the Golden Dragon Acrobats.” — Newsday
“This unique spectacular showcases traditional Chinese acrobats who dazzle with amazing feats of athleticism, daring heart-stopping stunts and the grace of their centuries-old art form.” — Broadway World
BRANFORD MARSALIS QUARTET
It is no secret that the Branford Marsalis Quartet can be as freewheeling off the bandstand as in performance. Saxophonist Marsalis, pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner are each bold personalities with strong opinions, equally intense in both musical and verbal exchanges. “The band talks about all kinds of things, many of which are unprintable,” Marsalis admits. “But we have serious musical debates as well.” One of these conversations led to Upward Spiral, the new album with special guest Kurt Elling that Marsalis Music is releasing via OKeh Records on June 10, 2016.
“One topic we got into was picking the best singer to work with our band,” Marsalis recalls. “My candidate was Kurt Elling, because he has the most flexible voice around, is always in tune and is a true jazz musician. When I met Kurt two years ago at a Thelonious Monk Institute competition, we had a conversation at the bar about doing a record together.”
“I had bumped into Branford on the road a handful of times, and we always had significant conversations,” Elling adds. “So when he mentioned making a record, I said ‘any time.’” What has emerged, after an intense week of performance and recording in New Orleans, is a collection that blends Songbook staples, jazz standards, and standards-to-be from a diverse array of composers.
The goal from the outset was to create a true partnership. “I usually reject the word `collaboration,’” Marsalis admits, “because it implies a third thing from that which each collaborator does well. I don’t need a collaborator to do what I normally do, and Kurt doesn’t, either. But this time, none of us were going to do what we normally do. The goal here, even though he sings lyrics, was to highlight Kurt’s voice as an instrument.”
Elling was more than prepared for the challenge. “I love singing with a hardhitting band,” he confirms, “and I’ve spent so much time trying to be with excellent tenor players. From when I started in Chicago, working with Von Freeman, Eddie Johnson and Ed Petersen up to more recent gigs with Ernie Watts, Joel Frahm and Houston Person, I’ve made it a point to be comfortable around a great tenor sound. I didn’t want Branford’s band to feel that it had to hold back because a singer was there. To be welcomed into the Quartet’s circle, which is all about new challenges and hard blowing, was very important to me. When I asked Branford what to bring about a week before the date, he said ‘Don’t worry, you’ve got the thing.’ So I brought ‘the thing.’”
Choosing songs, which were tested over a weekend’s engagement at New Orleans’ Snug Harbor before three days in the studios of the Ellis Marsalis Center 2 for Music, became a process in which all five musicians had input. “Everyone in the band is always listening to all kinds of music,” Marsalis emphasizes, “so it’s not as if we had to go out and do research on vocal records.
“For example, I had been listening to the Oscar Brown song `Long as You’re Living’ for two years before the date. The first time I heard Sting’s `Practical Arrangement,’ I called him and asked for a lead sheet, because I wanted to play that song with the quartet even before the idea of recording with Kurt came up. I also chose ` Só Tinha de Ser Com Você,’ a Jobim song that has not
been done to death. I told everyone to study Elis Regina’s version, because I wanted us to sound authentic rather than generic. Doing `Blue Gardenia’ was my idea, while Eric originally suggested Chris Whitley’s `From One Island’ when we were talking about more recent songs.
“At one point Kurt said that there was too much melancholy, so I came up with `There’s a Boat Dat’s Leavin’ Soon’ because I love Shirley Horn’s version. But so much of the beauty is in the melancholic material, and I’m confident that my audience is ready for real life.”
Elling also brought ideas and several songs to the partnership. “I had been working on some difficult classical music at the time and was content not to have one of my songs on the record,” Marsalis admits, “but Joey showed Kurt `Cassandra’ at Snug Harbor and Kurt wanted to write a lyric and record it.”
Calderazzo wrote the music for “The Return (Upward Spiral)” and sent it to Elling, who added a lyric prior to the session. The singer also suggested “Doxy,” the Sonny Rollins classic with lyrics that Mark Murphy introduced; “West Virginia Rose,” with music and lyrics by pianist Fred Hersch; and “Momma Said,” with the quartet responding spontaneously in the studio to the Calvin Forbes poem.
Two classic ballad performances complete the collection. “Kurt had wanted to do `Blue Velvet,’ using Bobby Vinton’s hit version as a starting point,” Marsalis recalls. “I said that I’d write it out, but Kurt said, `No, I want us to sound like ghosts, with just enough technique to get the message across.’ He also wanted to do a voice/tenor duet, which I was originally against, but we tried `I’m a Fool to Want You’ and he was right. When you have a singer who can inhabit the emotional space, it works.”
Every track on Upward Spiral confirms the beyond-category strengths of both the Quartet and Elling. “No one in the band had to make adjustments, because good musicians can play many styles of music,” Marsalis notes. “We’re fully engaged with one another when we’re playing, so it was easy to engage with Kurt. The only adjustment was not to play long solos, but if making the music sound good means playing less, you play less.”
Elling adds that “My thing is always about tailoring what I do to the vision and personality of the band, and Branford’s quartet is a real working band, which is both an incredible luxury and incredibly important for the music. They provided everything on a silver platter.”
For Marsalis, Upward Spiral is consistent with all of his previous music. “My philosophy of jazz is that it should be about strong melodies and a great beat, and every song here has a melody that you can hold in your mind, that you can sing. This is not jazz as a personal think tank, where people are only concerned with impressing everyone already inside of the tank with deconstruction and reharmonization. This is the kind of music that should expand our base to include people who would like jazz if it were friendlier. From the minute Kurt started performing with us, it was all good.
Tickets for Michael McDonald at Cary Memorial Hall in Lexington on Sunday, November 20 at 7pm are $99-$69 and go on sale Friday, July 29 at 10am at www.caryhalllexington.com or by calling 617-531-1257.
Tickets for Lenny Clarke & Friends at Cary Memorial Hall in Lexington on Saturday, January 28 at 8pm are $36 and go on sale Friday, July 29 at 10am at www.caryhalllexington.com or by calling 617-531-1257.
Tickets for The Golden Dragon Acrobats at Cary Memorial Hall in Lexington on Saturday, April 8 at 3pm are $49-$39 and go on sale Friday, July 29 at 10am at www.caryhalllexington.com or by calling 617-531-1257.
Tickets for The Branford Marsalis Quartet with special guest Kurt Elling at Cary Memorial Hall in Lexington on Friday, April 28 at 8pm are $79-$59 and go on sale Friday, July 29 at 10am at www.caryhalllexington.com or by calling 617-531-1257.
CARY MEMORIAL HALL
The Cary Memorial Building is a historic structure located in Lexington Center at 1605 Massachusetts Avenue. The Cary Memorial Building, named for Isaac Harris Cary, was built in 1928 with a donation from his two daughters. The Colonial styled building, with its grand auditorium, has provided the community with a year-round site for musical programming and popular events for eighty years and is home to the Lexington Symphony. The building is handicapped accessible, and is fully air-conditioned. www.caryhalllexington.com
Spectacle Management is a full-service booking, marketing and promotion company with offices in Boston and Lexington. For more information, please contact Pete Lally, firstname.lastname@example.org and 617-531-1257. www.spectacleshows.com