Musical Genre-Jumpers Come to Mount Baker Theatre

Mount Baker Theatre
Today area residents enjoy great performances at Mount Baker Theatre. Photo courtesy: Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism.

A favorite answer to the question, “What kind of music do you listen to?” that we’ve heard is, “Good. Oh, and live.” This person didn’t care what sort of music it was as long as the musical prowess was evident.

There are also musicians who echo this “genius across genres” sentiment in their capabilities: Wynton Marsalis holds Grammy Awards in both jazz and classical categories — no small achievement. Ben Folds roves like a bee picking up pollen from pop, punk, a capella — and classical chamber music. And like bees, the thread across all excellent cross-genre musicians seems to be that they explore, and they work.

Mount Baker Theatre
Mount Baker Theatre hosts a variety of renowned acts to its stage throughout the year. For a look at this season’s upcoming shows visit Mount Baker Theatre online. Photo courtesy: Mount Baker Theatre.

“There are three musical and guitar traditions in my background,” says flamenco guitarist Jesse Cook. “I was a classical guitarist as a kid, and I studied flamenco, and then I studied jazz. One of the forms I use, rumba flamenco, is itself a hybrid created in the 1800s when sailors were coming back to Spain from Cuba having heard these Cuban rhythms. And here I am, 150 years later, taking it and mixing it back with modern music and seeing where it takes me. Music is a constantly evolving thing.”

So instead of exploring cul de sacs of music — flamenco, classical, rumba, world beat, pop, blues or jazz — Jesse Cook unites them. Cook is coming back to Mount Baker Theatre by popular demand from patrons thrilled with his previous local live performance.

Internationally acclaimed jazz musician Wynton Marsalis is a composer, bandleader, and educator — and the world’s first jazz artist to perform and compose across the full jazz spectrum. From its New Orleans roots to bebop to modern stylings, jazz is the mission of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Marsalis is a dynamic leader, raising the artform and the people it touches simultaneously through the outreach and institutions he’s had a hand in.

Primarily known for his contributions to jazz, Marsalis’ love for Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart led to him to pursue a career in classical music, recording trumpet concertos at the age of 20. Over the years, his recordings consistently incorporate blues, jazz, swing as the primary rhythm, American popular song, individual and collective improvisation, and a panoramic vision of compositional styles from ditties to dynamic call and response patterns.

Collaborating with artists such as Regina Spektor, Weird Al Yankovic, Sara Bareilles, and William Shatner, as well as some of the world’s foremost symphony orchestras, Ben Folds is endlessly curious. While planning a rock tour, he also played two sold-out shows this month at the Sydney Opera house with a Brooklyn-based classical sextet.

We Banjo 3
There’s something for everyone at Mount Baker Theatre this season. Photo credit: Yvonne Vaughan Photography.

For five seasons he was a judge on NBC’s hit “The Sing Off,” a show that put a capella in the national spotlight, and before that was the front man of the Ben Folds Five (described in jest as “punk rock for sissies”). Folds has created an enormous body of genre-bending musical art that includes pop albums, multiple solo rock albums, classical or “chamber rock,” and other collaborative records. Mount Baker Theatre presents Ben Folds this fall alone with a grand piano and his off-beat wit.

Put musical mastery on your calendars now with these upcoming live performances by multi-talented artists: Silent Films with Live Scores featuring the 1920s film “Peter Pan” and cross-over film historian and organ aficionado Dennis James (October 9), Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis (October 14), Ben Folds (October 28), the Time Jumpers with ten Nashville greats and multi-Grammy winner Vince Gill (January 15), Jesse Cook (January 26), and the guitar as used by four different musical cultures in International Guitar Night (February 24).


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