Renowned classical cellist Yo Yo Ma’s upcoming appearance with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra no doubt received some grease from Ma’s soon-to-be-released trio recording with two Nashvillians, double bassist Edgar Meyer and fiddler Mark O’Connor. Scheduled for a Sept. 17 release on Sony Classical, Appalachian Spring features the three musicians performing an album-length piece composed by Meyer and O’Connor. Ma, in a release sent out by the record company, says of the collaboration, “I keep thinking of the word ‘band.’ I love being in this band.”
The recording also led to O’Connor’s signing with Sony Classical, where he joins Ma and Meyer on the label’s prestigious artist roster. Peter Gelb, president of Sony Classical, called O’Connor after he heard the results of the trio’s studio collaboration. “He called to ask what else I was doing and what other compositions I had,” O’Connor says. The fiddler mentioned his Fiddle Concerto No. 2, which was co-premiered by the Nashville Symphony earlier this year, and a series of solo fiddle caprices that he’d written.
Gelb asked for a tape of the compositions. O’Connor hadn’t recorded the pieces, so he suggested two alternatives: Gelb could hear them done in concert, or O’Connor could play them for him. Gelb decided to make the trip from New York to the musician’s Nashville home. “He sat in my living room,” O’Connor recalls. “I played for him for two hours straight.” Gelb signed O’Connor to a three-album deal that day.
It wasn’t until later that O’Connor discovered that Gelb is the nephew of Jascha Heifetz, one of the most renowned classical violinists of all time. “That really got to me,” O’Connor says. “Heifetz’s nephew sat in my living room listening to me play my fiddle. Can you believe that?”
Gelb will attend Ma’s symphony performance this week and host a private party for the famed cellist after the symphony performance. Meyer and O’Connor plan to perform during the party. Ma’s handlers aren’t saying ahead of time whether the ebullient artist, known for his enthusiasm for performing, will join his two recording partners at the reception.
Six years ago, when Timothy Craig left Ft. Myers, Fla., for Nashville with a Ford van and $500, his friends told him he’d be back in a year. Instead, he holed up in a cheap hotel off Murfreesboro Road, got a steady gig as a bartender, and started writing songs. The would-be rocker painted a studio in exchange for session time, and he used the time to record his first EP, Steps Toward the Door, in 1993. “That got me taken more seriously than anything else I’d done,” Craig recalls. He assembled a band, including guitarist Donny “the Twangler” Roberts, and began gigging in earnest.
Craig has just released his first full-length album, a self-produced CD entitled Rip, Roll & Ride. He and his band will perform selections from the new record Thursday night at Blockbuster Music on West End, where they’ll play a live in-store show at 7 p.m. “I’ve been thinking about how far I’ve come since I got here,” says Craig, who decided to come to Nashville in 1990 after seeing some Steve Earle videos. The only gig he could get was at Mainstreet in Murfreesboro, and he spent more time tending bar than performing. But Craig says he bugged everyone he encountered in the music industry for advice, and he dutifully wrote down everything they said. (“Jonell Mosser told me I had more gall than anyone she’d ever met,” Craig says proudly.) He became his own booking agent, publicist, and manager (and now label chief).
As for Craig’s music, it’s straight-ahead, mainstream rock ’n’ roll from the Bryan Adams/John Cougar school. If you periodically dust off your Danny Tate or Billy Chinnock LPs with fondness, you’ll probably want to head over to Blockbuster Thursday night and pick up a copy of Rip, Roll & Ride. Craig will also perform Sept. 21 at the Fall Fest at Belle Meade Mansion.
We celebrated the Fourth of July this year by sitting dumbfounded in an East Nashville backyard while a guy stuck an 8-inch screwdriver up his nose, swung a steam iron from a chain attached to his nipples, and ripped off a bowling ball Superglued to his hand. Of course, that magical evening can’t be duplicatedalthough we suspect you could find stranger things in East Nashville backyards. But you can find the amazing Sideshow Bennie’s Carnival of Wonders Friday night at Victor/Victoria’s, where they’ll open for Nine Parts Devil.
The illustrious Sideshow Bennie and his barely human sidekick, Prince Zontar, will chow down on light bulbs, pose as flesh dartboards, and lie across a bed of nails while audience members stand on their backs. At least one of these things doesn’t happen every night at Victor V’s, so plan accordingly. Showtime is 9 p.m., and it’s strictly a 21-and-over show. If you miss them Friday night, they’ll perform at the Absolut Artopia party Sept. 28 at Marathon Village.
Igmo is a mutant creation stitched together by Mark Pfaff, Brad Jones, and Willis Bailey, three musicians whose individual histories suggest this beast will make an aberrant, entertaining sound. When last seen in these parts, Pfaff was bassist for Will & the Bushmen. Brad Jones has played with Marshall Crenshaw and helped produce songs by Jill Sobule, Steve Forbert, and Imperial Drag, and drummer Willis Bailey has helped put some funk into the roots rhythms of The Sluggers, Mark Germino, and Marshall Crenshaw.
Each has a mad streak that, judging from a studio tape, is now emerging more than ever before. With Pfaff as frontman and primary songwriter, Igmo resembles, in the band’s own words, “Ween filtered through Captain Beefheart.” It may be just the scare the city’s club scene needs. The band is playing Mondays at 12th & Porter through September. Expect guests like guitarist Mike Grimes and keyboardist Michael Webb to help out.
Kami Lyle has signed with MCA Records in New York. The young singer, who started appearing locally two years ago, plays trumpet and keyboards and performs pop music that blends confessional folk lyrics with sophisticated cocktail-jazz arrangements. She’s currently working with the record company to find a suitable producer for her first album. She plays this Thursday at the Bluebird.
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