- 'ESCAPE VELOCITY': Trumpeter and bandleader Theo Croker opens Oxford American's Jazz Series with a concert at South on Main on Thursday night.
THEO CROKER QUINTET
8 p.m. South on Main. $30-$44.
There are some people that are skilled at playing jazz and some people that can speak eloquently about jazz, and they are not always the same people. Theo Croker can do both. In an essay introducing a 100-track, three-volume guest playlist the trumpeter did for Tidal, he sheds light on some of gems he curated from living (and all under 40) artists like jazz harpist Brandee Younger and pianist Sullivan Fortner: "The neoclassical, hardcore, traditionalist movement, spearheaded by Wynton Marsalis in the early '90s, put the focus on the early innovators of jazz, bringing those (mostly dead) artists much overdue recognition for their incomparable contributions to the music, but it clouded the main spirit of innovation that they represented, which was almost always to move forward and stay relevant with the times. To tie in society and social situations that directly involved the people." Croker is the grandson of trumpeter Doc Cheatham (Adolphis Anthony Cheatham, whose nickname "Doc" is all that's left of his family's hopes that he'd become a pharmacist), and the son of a farmer and civil rights activist, William Henry Croker, and I spoke with him ahead of his appearance at South on Main, the opening concert for this year's Oxford American's Jazz Series. He and his quintet — Michael King on keys, Eric Wheeler on bass, Anthony Ware on tenor saxophone and Kush Abadey on drums — will likely draw heavily from Croker's third and latest album, "Escape Velocity." The 2016 release is 15 tracks of seamless, swimming sound with Croker's trumpet at the center, accented with spoken mantras ("Raise Your Vibration"), instrumental social commentary ("We Can't Breathe") and a reinvented rendition of "Love from the Sun" from jazz icon and longtime mentor to Croker, Dee Dee Bridgewater. SS
- Lily Darragh
- Mitchell Crisp of Riverbottom Debutante
RIVERBOTTOM DEBUTANTE, WAY AWAY, SPERO
9 p.m. White Water Tavern.
Riverbottom Debutante sounds pretty much like its name. It's rock for the bar, with the gruff singing of Mitchell Crisp and a sprinkle of slow rock-a-billy. It's the beauty of Southern music (debutante) floated down to the grimy bed of the Arkansas River (riverbottom). Like Southern Culture on the Skids before it, the band toes the line between goofy and earnest while doing a pastiche of the Southern female singer, lamenting in verse. The band can play real fast and you can move around. It will be joined by Way Away, the new project headed by Thom Asewicz, formerly of the delightfully dreampop band Sea Nanners. Does Way Away also bring the hazy, floating feeling evoked by the best of Sea Nanners? Well, we're going to have to find out together. There will also be Spero, the solo act of Correne Spero, who plays in the bands DOT (Daughters of Triton) and SPERO and was once a member of the Beastie Boys-like all-girl New York band Northern State. Of Little Rock, she told the Arkansas Times in July, "I just felt so welcomed here. I felt like the town really reached its arms around me and kind of gave me a big hug." Thus, I deem this an official Little Rock show, full of Little Rock bands, at Little Rock's classic bar. Should be one of those great three-band White Water nights. JR
'SURFACE OF THE SKY' BY BLAKE TYSON
6 p.m. Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, 100 S. Rock St. Free.
Marimbas are the most underrated instrument. If you've never seen one played, it involves between two to four mallets — often four with two held per hand, the first between the thumb and the index finger, and the second couched between the ring finger and the pinky — which hit a piano-like layout of wooden keys attached to pipes, gliding in a hypnotizing see-saw motion. The sound has depth and nostalgia; the marimba is wistful. But most likely you've only seen a nervous middle school percussion student sweat over one during a recital. That's a mistake! You can remedy it, though. Marimbas, and the wider array of percussive idiophones (things you hit and they vibrate to make music) including vibraphones and a glockenspiel, will be on display during "Surface of the Sky" by Blake Tyson. A professor of percussion at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Tyson's musical piece will be accompanied by a video component. It is "inspired by the actions and achievements of the Little Rock Nine" and precedes the majority of programming that will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Central High. Keep an eye out for next week's To D0 list for more about the events commemorating the anniversary. JR
- ARKANSAS SOUNDS: Members of Arkansas sludge rockers band Rwake reunite to perform as part of a double feature of concert films at the Ron Robinson Theater on Friday evening.
RWAKE AND NEUROSIS CONCERT FILM DOUBLE FEATURE
7 p.m. Ron Robinson Theater. Free.
In November 1930, Thomas Wolfe wrote a letter to a man named Alfred S. Dashiell. He wrote lovingly and bombastically of "the whole intolerable memory of America," saying he'd rather live "ten years more of life there ... than a hundred years of shitty ex-patriotism," wracked by the recollection of his home country's "violence, savagery, immensity, beauty, ugliness and glory." Wolfe wasn't exactly much for literary reticence. And, if you find yourself a Rwake fan (and in these parts, they are many), you'll probably hear some of that same nostalgic fervor, maybe even a couple of those same words. The nascent Rwake made big music, music that lent itself to grandeur, like Wolfe's writing. Maybe that's why the band borrowed a fragment from Wolfe's first novel for the title of its live album, "A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door." After a relentless wash of guitars and demonspeak that opens the record ("It Was Beautiful, But Now It's Sour"), vocalist Christopher (C.T.) Terry announces the next number, saying, "This is off our second album," and it comes seemingly from nowhere, inexplicably human and conversational in the context of the prior 11 minutes of sound. So continues the remainder, four total tracks recorded at the Maryland Deathfest in 2012 by Noah Gary, Surachai Sutthisasanakul and Brad Boatright with a clarity rarely afforded to live metal shows. So says David Hall, the guy who created the trippy, modified film version of the concert, and who partnered with Terry on the Wolfe-inspired title, as Hall told metal blog Invisible Oranges in 2013: "Both Rwake and Wolfe use imagery from the Southern American landscape to create lush vistas of art. I have a real affinity for Southern writers and often read Faulkner, Steinberg, Wolfe and Cormac McCarthy while listening to Rwake, and the band just seems to be the perfect soundtrack for Southern writing ... almost a frontier, "Pilgrim's Progress" kind of vibe, and not just because the authors and the band are from the South, but because they all take inspiration from the physical, spiritual and metaphorical landscape they come from." A screening of "A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door" precedes "A Sun That Never Sets," a concert film that blends live footage and harrowing imagery with the seventh studio album from Neurosis, a California band that has earned godlike status among fans of sludge and doom with its surgical precision and unapologetic middle finger to the idea of genre. ("A Sun That Never Sets," by all measures a metal record, is often described by noting its stripped-down folk and classic country influence, for example). SS
- Neal Harrington's "In the Pines," part of "Modern Ink" at the Butler Center.
2ND FRIDAY ART NIGHT
5-8 p.m., downtown Little Rock galleries.
The September harvest season ushers in a bounty of art forms — including circus acts, 19th century portraiture and artworks by LGBTQ artists — for downtown's monthly after-hours gallery walk. This month there's something new: Watch for pop-up shops and performances along the President Clinton Avenue, Second Street and Main Street. At the Old State House Museum (300 W. Markham), Arkansas Circus Arts will hoop it up; the Historic Arkansas Museum (200 E. Third) reveals its "Hidden Treasures," works purchased with funds raised at its annual gala, and throws in live music from Michael Carenbauer and Bill Huntington as well as Flyway Brewing suds for good measure; and the Butler Center Galleries (401 President Clinton Ave.) opens "Modern Ink," a group show by artists who use ink to draw, paint and printmake. The Cox Creative Center will feature a show of work by local artists hosted by the organizers of the ACANSA Contemporary Arts Festival, coming Sept. 20-24 to schools and arts venues in Little Rock and North Little Rock. On the south side of 2nd Friday Art Night, find McLeod Gallery (108 W. Sixth St.), which is showing geometric prints and drawings by Marianne Fairbanks, and Bella Vita (523 S. Louisiana St.), which is featuring cocktail recipes and bouquets by Kim Doughty. Club Sway (412 S. Louisiana) goes guerilla with its pop-up Antigallery, a multidisciplinary art event that runs to 9 p.m. River Market eateries Nexus Coffee, which has art on the walls, and the Copper Grill are also 2nd Friday participants. LNP
- IN THE NORTHWEST CORNER: The ninth year of the Fayetteville Film Festival includes screenings of Amman Abbasi's "Dayveon" (pictured) and a selection of over 40 narrative, animated and documentary short films.
TUESDAY 9/12-SATURDAY 9/16
FAYETTEVILLE FILM FESTIVAL
Various times. Downtown Fayetteville. Free-$40.
Though Arkansas's greatest and best-known contributions to world cinema may well remain "The Legend of Boggy Creek" (bad), "Mud" (better) and "Sling Blade" (better still) for the foreseeable future, the state's cup of opportunities to enjoy cinema has truly runneth over in recent years, from the revitalized Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival to director Jeff Nichols' Arkansas Cinema Society to the women-focused offerings of the Bentonville Film Festival. Included on the state's list of great film fests must be the Fayetteville Film Festival, now in its ninth year. While this year's festival will feature four feature-length narrative films ("American Folk," "Dayveon," "All the Birds Have Flown South," "Door in the Woods"), where the offerings really shine is in the area of short films, with 40 narrative and documentary shorts on deck from filmmakers around the world. Highlights from the schedule include a Q&A with Ted Chalmers, who was involved in the sales and distribution of a laundry list of horror and sci-fi features, including "Escape from New York," "Evil Dead 2," "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Hellraiser"; a High School filmmakers' workshop and film showcase; a block of solid documentary features; a screening of international animated shorts; and a group of shorts focused on the LGBTQ experience. Tickets range from $15 for a day pass, to $40 for VIP all-access. For more information and a full schedule, visit the festival website at fayettevillefilmfest.org. DK
- Barb Kampbell
- Katherine West and Bettina Brownstein of Progressive Arkansas Women PAC
DAME$, DEM$ & DRINK$: RUN, SISTER, RUN!
5:30 p.m. Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub. $75.
In the Arkansas Times' June interview with Lizz Winstead, the co-creator of The Daily Show (and then on tour with her reproductive rights comedy show "The Vagical Mystery Tour"), Winstead remarked how difficult it could be to convince women to run for office. "Honestly, men just do it. They don't ask if they're good enough, or if they have all the skills. It's like anything else. You can't have all the skills to govern. You can have some skills, and you can have a passion, but to learn how to govern, you have to get to know the people you're gonna govern. You can be no better advocate than if you literally start listening and talking to people and sharing what their needs are." Joyce Elliott does it. Susan Inman does it. Maureen Skinner does it, and Tippi McCullough. Still, only around 20 percent of Arkansas representatives are women, which means that roughly 80 percent of the people making decisions about abortion procedures will never have one, and that's to say nothing of the ways in which women as legislators could inform and steer parliamentary conversations about a myriad of other issues: gun laws, education, criminal justice. In the spirit of encouraging women to run for office — and funding those who have already decided to — the Progressive Arkansas Women PAC is celebrating the 97th anniversary of women winning the right to vote with the fundraiser, its second annual. If your pockets are deep enough to throw some money toward dethroning a Jason Rapert or a Bart Hester in favor of a progressive woman candidate, this one's for you. SS
JAZZ IN THE PARK: DIZZY 7
6 p.m. History Pavilion, Riverfront Park. Free.
Dizzy 7, a big band-inspired project fronted by a polished crooner, Craig Wilson, is next on the lineup of free jazz concerts in the History Pavilion, a structure tucked away in Riverfront Park just west of the First Security Amphitheater. The lawn in front of the pavilion's dotted with huge boulders, perfect for perching on, which might prove a tad unnecessary, as perching is not the first activity that comes to mind with the septet's renditions of Benny Goodman's "Jersey Bounce" or "Copacabana." Swinging? Jitterbugging? Lindy hopping? Much more likely, even when Dizzy takes on a staunchly un-Big Band number like Steely Dan's "Josie" or Van Morrison's "Domino." SS
- 'SPARROW FALLS': The dark, desert-bound music that David Eugene Edwards (top) creates with Wovenhand fills the White Water Tavern on Wednesday, with performances from Salt Lake City's Subrosa (bottom) and locals Colour Design.
WOVENHAND, SUBROSA, COLOUR DESIGN
8 p.m. White Water Tavern. $12.
Wovenhand's now-hallowed 2004 release "Consider the Birds" sounds less like it emerged, as it did, from postcard-perfect Denver and more like it sprung from a darker corner of the state, maybe the dry, endless plains of the San Luis Valley, far south of all those lovely snowcaps. Its sinister opener, "Sparrow Falls," belongs on a mixtape next to Bonnie Montgomery's "Take Me Or Leave Me"; either track could be a slice of the mental soundtrack cycling through the mind of a cash-laden fugitive with dried blood under his fingernails, winding through the desert in a stolen car. It sits on a weird, wobbly line that connects Steve Roach's tumbleweed landscapes with the S&M-tinged drama of Christian Death or "Boys for Pele"-era Tori Amos. Fans need not to expect that sound from the Wovenhand that put out last year's "Star Treatment," though — David Eugene Edwards is still dark, manic, unhinged, but there's less Spaghetti Western/Sergio Leone and more "Mad Max: Fury Road." The band is joined by Salt Lake City's SubRosa, which is every bit a match for Wovenhand's creepy factor but with all the dreaminess that electric violins and ethereal vocals from Rebecca Vernon, Sarah Pendleton and Kim Pack afford. And, just as this bill was looking like it couldn't be any more boss, Colour Design was announced as a local opener. SS