Таrell Alvin McCraney’s ninety-minute drama (a Manhattan Theatre Club production, directed by Trip Cullman) is set in a prep school attended by boys of color. The headmaster (Chuck Cooper) demands that Pham’s identify the culprit, but Pharus won’t betray him. More soap Opera and the only thing that brings all the boys together is song: the prefab drama of gospel music. McCraney, who is thirty-two, is still building his career, but it is being built, increasingly, on his weakest work, which capitalizes on his apparent difference (McCraney is black and gay) but doesn’t anything of his soul as an artist.
It’s been ten years since Elliott Smith’s death, but his body of work (five completed studio records and a handful of posthumous releases) still has the ability to stop time. «No Name #1: A Celebration of the Life and Music of Elliott Smith» is a humble and welcome survey. It is appearing in four cities, to honor Smith on the occasion of what would have been his forty-fourth birthday, with proceeds benefitting local charities. The New York event will be hosted by Rhett Miller, of the Old 97’s, and it features Mary Lou Lord (who toured with Smith, and collaborated with him on the stunning 1997 composition «I Figured You Out»), Chris Thile, and other friends and associates of the late artist.
The musical landscape of the surfer turned folk artist Donavon Frankenreiter is like that of his longtime friend Jack Johnson—sundrenched and serene. The Hawaii-based singer-songwriter’s fifth album, «Start Livin» is a laid-back trove of hand-clapping odes to going with the flow.
The singer, songwriter, and guitarist Valerie June, out of Humboldt, Tennessee, is a powerful young exponent of authentic blues and roots music. She can take it down to an intimate whisper and pump it up to an electric swamp-pop boil. This show is part of an album-release tour for her new CD, «Pushin Againsr a Stone»
Albert Lee grew up in the Black-heath area of London and was a fan of American rockabilly and the finger-picking guitar style. He fronts his own band here for four consecutive nights, two shows a night
The young Broadway performer Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote and starred in «In the Heights», which melded waggish hip-hop with old-school musical comedy. More recently, he wrote Neil Patrick Harris’s winning songs for the 2013 Tony Awards. Miranda returns with his group Freestyle Love Supreme, which performs improvised rap numbers based on audience suggestions.
LINCOLN CENTER OUT OF DOORS
The salsa singer Ruben Blades. Aug. 8: The No BS! Brass Band, an eleven-piece ensemble out of Richmond, Virginia, takes the New Orleans street-band tradirion and applies it to pop, jazz, dance, and funk. Their latest record is «Fight Song: A Tribute to Charles Mingus». Aug. 8: Raymond Scott, best known as an important musical contributor to the Looney Tunes cartoon catalogue, was a composer and arranger of rigorous, challenging jazz-pop amalgamations. Dance Heginbotham will premiere «Manhattan Research», accompanied by the Raymond Scott Orchestrette, who are brilliant purveyors of Scott’s twisty, exhilarating musical ccontraptions. (See Dance.) Aug. 9: The Hungry March Band and the classically trained dancers, acrobats, aerial artists, and contortionists of Vau de Vire Society kick off the tenth anniversary of the local underground party presenters Gemini & Scorpio. The celebration continues later that night, with Rosin Coven, the self-described «World’s Premiere Pagan Lounge Ensemble», followed by Amanda Palmer and Grand Theft Orchestra. The two-day, thirtieth annual “Roots of American Music” celebration brings this season’s free festival to a close. Performers include Martha Redbone, Nick Lowe, and Bobby Rush, along with the dean of New Orleans composers and arrangers, Allen Toussaint, and a rock-abilly revue featuring James Burton and Sleepy LaBeef.
Little Comets, an act from a part of Northern England referred to as the Geordie region, turn out spunky guitar pop that features Afro-beats, complex percussive rhythms, and catchy hooks. The trio describes its sound as «kitchen sink indie».