- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 16, 2000


One of the best things about the new Washington — where people are moving in as well as moving out — is the number and variety of places to hear music, from the cavernous MCI Center to idiosyncratic small stages such as the 9:30 Club in Northwest and Birchmere Music Hall in Alexandria.
Teen singing sensation Christina Aguilera performs tonight at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Also at Merriweather Post is Phish, the band that manages to experiment with new styles while retaining its distinctive sound. Phish appears tomorrow, Def Leppard Friday and Kiss Oct. 4.
For pure, unadulterated pop, supergroup 'N Sync strolls into the MCI Center Nov. 11. Then there's BBMak, a new favorite of the pre-pubescent set. Already a sensation in Europe, the British trio trundle their way into town Nov. 1 at the 9:30 Club. Although they claim not to be just another boy band, BBMak's members are young, good-looking and full of pitch-perfect harmonies.
But BBMak also exhibits a couple of significant differences from the prepackaged groups: Mark Barry, Christian Burns and Ste McNally met while playing with different bands. They write their own music, and their sound is a distinctive blend of rock, pop and soul influences.
D.C. audiences have proved consistently that an entertainer doesn't have to be as young as Miss Aguilera to pack the house. Gladys Knight performs tomorrow at DAR Constitution Hall, where she will share the stage with Jeffrey Osborne. Tina Turner, who appeared here in June in what was billed as her farewell tour, heats up the MCI Center Oct. 7. Joe Cocker opens.
Crenshaw, a local group, appears tonight at American University. The group's distinctive mixture of roots music, jazz and countrified funk has earned it a strong following and comparisons to Elvis Costello and Ben Folds Five. MTV Online called Crenshaw a band "on the fast track to national recognition."
Looking for some jazz influence in your pop? Check out the Afro-Cuban sounds of conga player Poncho Sanchez, who performs tonight at the Warner Theatre. This onetime sideman for Cal Tjader easily demonstrates that the Latin explosion has been percolating for a very long time.
Vocalist Dianne Reeves shares the Warner stage with Mr. Sanchez in a benefit for Mary's Center for Maternal and Child Care. Fresh from the Newport Jazz Festival, Miss Reeves is scheduled to record a tribute to Sarah Vaughan for Blue Note this fall. Although the singer never has experienced the commercial success of some of her counterparts, her performances of everything from Cat Stevens numbers to scat have earned her critical acclaim.
Longtime area favorite Sweet Honey in the Rock brings its distinctive blend of jazz, blues and gospel harmonies to the Warner Theatre on Oct. 20. Twenty-two women have sung with the Washington-based a cappella group since its inception in 1973. This year's tour has the group bound for Carnegie Hall, with additional engagements up and down the East and West coasts.
Also at the Warner, country-pop singer Emmylou Harris croons her way through an engagement that also features Patty Griffin on Oct. 14. On Oct. 21, the Warner plays host to the Latin-tinged sounds of Buena Vista Social Club members Omara Portuondo and Barbarito Torres, under the auspices of the Washington Performing Arts Society.
Especially since its reincarnation on V Street NW, the 9:30 Club continues to be one of the best places to hear up-and-coming pop stars along with hard rock and hip-hop. Emergent pop-rock band Wheatus appears Tuesday at the 9:30. A suburban New York group that bills itself as possessing "punk/street credibility," Wheatus has been igniting audiences in its recent Washington appearances with songs such as "Teenage Dirtbag" and "Wannabe Gangsta."
Wheatus appears on the same bill as Eve 6. After appearing on television in an advertisement for long-distance telephone service, Eve 6 now appeals to a wider audience. That's not to say the band's neo-punk pop isn't any good. It is. Formed when the members were in high school in Los Angeles, Eve 6 went platinum with its debut album in 1998. The most recent album, "Horrorscope," removes the band a bit from its pop-punk roots to a new preoccupation with electronic music and rap. But the pop hooks still are there.
Pop music appeals to such a wide audience because its roots run in so many directions. There's pop with a blues tinge, pop with a jazz element and pop with a Latin beat — and that's not to mention soul, folk or rock tendencies.
Interested in world beat? Zap Mama appears at the 9:30 Club Sept. 24. Originally an a cappella group founded by the child of a Belgian father and a Zairian mother, Zap Mama at first was as likely to perform Moroccan music as it was the Delta blues. Soon, however, founder Marie Daulne added instruments and male vocalists. Somewhere during that process, the music was transformed. Zap Mama's latest offerings owe as much to American hip-hop as to anything else, a prime example of the ubiquity of American pop. The marriage is a happy one. Zap Mama's music proves itself accessible, danceable and full of energy.
Sax player Maceo Parker brings his signature style to 9:30 Sept. 28. A longtime member of James Brown's ensemble, Mr. Parker made his hard-driving sound emblematic of the band's brand of pop funk. His "2 percent jazz, 98 percent funky" style has made him a favorite with both college audiences and longtime funkadelics.
Billy Bragg brings his combination of pop and politics to the 9:30 Club Oct. 15. The British singer has earned much acclaim for recordings of Woody Guthrie and labor songs, but he also works squarely within the pop tradition.
Remember the Tom Tom Club? Fans of David Byrne and Talking Heads know the Tom Tom Club was founded by Headers Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth way back in 1981. They have been going more or less ever since, both live and in samplings from everyone from GrandMaster Flash to Tupac Shakur. In the past few years, Tom Tom Club has returned with new intensity, joined by soul singer Charles Pettigrew and percussionist Steve Scales. A new album, "The Good, the Bad, and the Funky," is expected to appear in stores this month.
Tom Tom Club appears at Taste of DC on Oct. 9. Taste of DC also features a couple of other blasts from the '80s — the Average White Band and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts perform on Oct. 7.
Over at the Barns of Wolf Trap in Vienna, fiddler Eileen Ivers returns with her band Nov. 18. You may remember her as the "blue fiddler" in the original cast of Riverdance, but Miss Ivers, who also is one of the founding members of the popular Irish-American group Cherish the Ladies, is more than just an Irish musician. Look for a distinctive blend of folk, rock and just plain virtuosity.
On Nov. 29, world music superstar Oumou Sangara appears at the Barns along with Habib Koite and his band, Bamada. Explore the roots of the blues with these artists from Mali, some of whom are featured on the Putumayo collection of blues, "From Mali to Memphis."
Meanwhile, two-time Grammy winner Diane Schuur performs at Blues Alley through tomorrow. The piano-playing singer continues to mature as a vocalist, bringing new levels of introspection to her interpretations of standards. Her latest album, scheduled for release late this month, features duets with Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and Stan Getz.
Branford Marsalis returns to Blues Alley Thursday through Sept. 24. Undoubtedly, he'll be playing tracks off his latest CD, "Contemporary Jazz," released last month.
Husband and wife Tuck Andress and Patti Cathcart perform at Blues Alley Nov. 19. As Tuck and Patti, the duo have covered popular tunes, from music by the Beatles to Cyndi Lauper, all ornamented with Patti's distinctive scat singing and Tuck's layered guitar arrangements.
If you like your pop tinged with blues, check out Shemekia Copeland at Birchmere Music Hall Oct. 3. If it's true that blues are in the genes, the 19-year-old singer should be able to get down with the best of them: Her father was the late Texas blues guitar legend Johnny "Clyde" Copeland.
Miss Copeland is not content simply to re-create the past, although her big, bluesy voice has been compared to the sounds of Etta James and Aretha Franklin. Her blues are the blues of the modern city, and her treatments reveal funk and hip-hop influences along with her roots.
The Birchmere, long one of this area's more popular smaller venues, offers a mix of traditional and contemporary music this fall. The British folk-rock group Steeleye Span appears Wednesday, but without veteran guitarist Bob Johnson. Mr. Johnson is departing after nearly 30 years for a less grueling schedule.
Steeleye Span is more popular than ever, however, with a new album, "Bedlam Born," to be released Sept. 25. Also at the Birchmere, John Starling appears as part of the Byrds Tribute Concert Sept. 23 along with Bill Lloyd, David Newton and Last Train Home. On Nov. 5, the current incarnation of Fairport Convention brings its trademark blend of folk rock to the stage, while singer-songwriter Patty Loveless appears Nov. 10.
Bluesman Keb' Mo' performs at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium Nov. 8. The winner of the 1999 Grammy Award for best contemporary blues album, "Slow Down," Keb' Mo' is renowned for lyrical melodies and accessible, infectious arrangements. This promises to be one of the highlights of the fall season.
Finally, lovers of bubble-gum pop can rejoice. Yes, it's true. Donny Osmond appears at DAR Constitution Hall Dec. 14.

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