FAT FACE BAND
The Fat Facers feature three of the city’s better musical minds in a super-group of sorts. Trumpeter Matt Postle, tuba sensation Molly Jay and axe-slinger Troy Conn all exhibit the requisite chops on their respective instruments, and the unlikely instrumentation typically draws an initial “Hey, look at that crazy combo” reaction. But without the ability to mesh all that together into a cogent and compelling whole, none of that would matter a whit. Thankfully, the trio is fluent in the language of improv, turning simple onion skins into coherent musical conversations with each other. Unlike many current free-formers, though, the trio tethers their improv flights to melody and rhythm, relying on the contrast to provide the goods — which it does.
Since their founding in 2004, members of HRVRD — originally spelled Harvard — have been setting a standard in the local scene for musicianship and songwriting. In an environment that often seems more defined by short runs and relocations than staying power, HRVRD has lasted, stayed local and at the same time broken out into the wider world. This year, the members released the album From the Bird’s Cage on Albany, N.Y.,-based label Equal Vision Records. It continues the band’s tight, yet atmospheric sonic experimentations, but this time with an even more focused edge. HRVRD hasn’t entirely abandoned its progressive roots, but they are certainly less pronounced in the band’s latest effort. The songs are more driving and intense, but one imagines them loosening and flexing a bit in live versions. However they’re presented, you will be seeing one of the finer outfits our local music scene has created during this past decade.
Year three of Clara’s Trip is rolling into Booth Playhouse for a three-performance engagement, beginning this Friday. It delivers Yuletide dancing, flying and a hip-hopping work-in-progress in every good sense of the phrase. The frame for this updated Nutcracker, created and presented by Caroline Calouche & Co., remains the same: Clara LeBlanc will have a nasty mishap at a holiday party that lands her in a hospital. Ah, but as Clara dozes off, her dreams become a fantasia of good friends and get-well gifts with the folks at Calouche & Co. inserting fresh twists. Very much like the early years of North Carolina Dance Theatre’s Nutcracker, design elements are evolving in successive productions of Clara’s Trip. Expect new snow, flower, candy-cane and fish costumes by Kriss Yavelak and Marie Calouche, along with new backdrops by Jennifer O’Kelly that coordinate with her lighting design. Of course, the folks at Calouche & Co. are best known for their aerial feats, so trapeze, aerial silks, stilt walking and more are also in the holiday package. (Perry Tannenbaum) $35-$45
My pick for this week is Colors Of Christmas at Knight Theater, happening this weekend. This amazing production features four superstar performers for one incredible show of chart-topping songs as well as some holiday favorites: Peabo Bryson, CeCe Winans, Ruben Studdard and Melissa Manchester. Each artist represents well in his or her musical category: Bryson is known for his classic love songs. Winans is an award-winning gospel singer many will recognize for her time performing with brother BeBe. R&B singer Studdard, the 2003 winner of American Idol, topped the gospel charts with his 2004 album I Need An Angel. And Manchester shares her powerful voice in the adult contemporary genre. If you want something that will put you in the holiday spirit, this will do it. Not to mention, Knight Theater is an intimate venue for a show like this. (Mike Kitchen) $54.50 and up