Trail blazers

Juneau Jazz & Classics festival showcases innovative artists steeped in tradition
Anton Schwartz

Over the next two weeks, Juneau audiences will have direct access to some of the most interesting and innovative musicians in the country, thanks to Linda Rosenthal and the festival she founded and leads, Juneau Jazz & Classics. Rosenthal has built up a reputation for selecting not only high-caliber musicians, but artists who push the limits of their craft, moving beyond the restrictions of tradition and genre (see Dave Bromberg album review in this week's Arts).


This year’s trailblazers include three ensembles whose names might make them easy to confuse in print: The Attacca Quartet, The Akropolis Reed Quintet and the The Anton Schwartz Quartet. All three will be performing multiple times in the next 17 days, setting up in Juneau’s office buildings and bars, churches and malls, providing ample opportunity for anyone and everyone to check them out. Here’s a closer look.

The internationally acclaimed young musicians of the Attacca Quartet are violinists Amy Schroeder and Keiko Tokunaga, violist Luke Fleming and cellist Andrew Yee. They got together at the Juilliard School in 2003 and made their professional debut in 2007 at the Artists International Winners Series in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall.

Since then, they’ve garnered numerous awards, including first prize at the seventh Osaka International Chamber Music Competition in 2011, and the Listeners’ Choice Award at the 2011 Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition.

Earlier this week, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City announced that The Attacca Quartet has been named the Museum’s Quartet in Residence — a prestigious honor. They will be taking over for the Guarneri String Quartet, which held the residency at the Met for 43 years. Attacca was described in a release as “distinguish(ing) itself with both a devotion to the roots of string quartet repertoire and an intense interest in contemporary music.”

The Attacca Quartet previously performed at the Sitka Summer Music Festival but this is their first time at Juneau Jazz & Classics.

In Juneau this week you can catch them at a free open rehearsal at Heritage Café with Paul Rosenthal at noon Saturday; in Strings at the Shrine at the The Shrine of St. Therese at 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday; at a free Brown Bag Concert at the State Office Building at noon Monday; at the Alaska Brewing Company’s Downtown Depot at 5:30 p.m. Monday; and as part of “Chocolate, Cheese & Tchaikovsky” at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church at 7 p.m. May 8.

The quartet also will be leading string workshops (violin, viola and cello) from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday in the UAS Egan Classroom Annex.

The Akropolis Reed Quintet, founded in 2009, features five reed musicians: Tim Gocklin (oboe), Kari Dion (clarinet), Matt Landry (saxophone), Andrew Koeppe (bass clarinet) and Ryan Reynolds (bassoon). They have the distinction of releasing the first-ever album of entirely original reed quintet music, and last year organized the first-ever Reed Quintet Consortium, bringing together 12 ensembles from 3 continents. In performance they are known for modern compositions — some of which they’ve commissioned from composers around the world — as well as for arrangements of classical works.

The Akropolis Reed Quintet will be accompanying a “Not-so-silent” film at the Gold Town Nickelodeon on May 12; performing a free Brown Bag Concert at the State Office Building at noon May 13; in concert at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church at 7 p.m. May 14; and at a free Brown Bag Lunch Concert at The Nugget Mall at noon May 16.

The quintet will also lead a reed instrument workshop (oboe, clarinet, saxophones, bassoon) 7-9 p.m. May 13 in the UAS Egan Library Classroom Wing.

The Anton Schwartz Quartet is led by jazz saxophonist Schwartz, a Harvard graduate who at 27 veered away from his doctoral research in artificial intelligence at Stanford to devote himself to music. In the years since, he’s played in venues from the Blue Note in New York City to Jazz Alley in Seattle, and released five acclaimed albums. SF Jazz described him as “a guiding light of both the Bay Area and national jazz scenes.”

“What I require for music to really captivate me,” Schwartz said in a release, “is groove and intellect working in tandem.”

The Anton Schwartz Quartet will be performing at the Family Concert, All About Jazz, at UAS at 3 p.m. May 11; at the Puttin’ On The Ritz concert at 6:30 p.m. May 11 at the UAS Egan Library; at a free Brown Bag Lunch Concert at the State Office Building at noon May 12; at the free Jazz Jam at the Lucky Lady, at 7:30 p.m. May 12; and at the Evening of Jazz concert at 7:30 p.m. May 16 at Centennial Hall.

The quartet will also be leading jazz workshops (all instrumentalists and vocalists) on Tuesday, May 13, from 7-9 p.m. in UAS Egan Library Classroom Wing.

Also in the lineup for this year's festival are large-scale concerts by one-time acts Bromberg (May 2), Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns (May 3), and The Manhattan Transfer (May 17); performances by cellist Andrey Tchekmazov, violinist Paul Rosenthal, pianist Arnulf von Arnim, guitarist Dimitris Kotronakis; and the ever-popular Blues Cruises (May 10), featuring The Nikki Hill Band, who will also play a blues dance at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall (May 9).

Juneau Jazz & Classics was founded in 1986 by violinist Rosenthal. Since the first festival was held in May 1987, the event has expanded to span more than two weeks, and includes concerts, dances, workshops and free performances.

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