“Like many of old-school R&B’s soul tenor voices, Holley is really a preacher. Like any modern shaman worth his salt, he also has his own gospel to spread.”—The Wire
“Many people would have been knocked sideways in any attempt to contextualize or extend the messages of Sun Ra’s music—his rep is just too heavy to handle…. Harnetty was able to approach the archive with ears wide open, looking for sounds and words that he knew would work. And they do.”—The Wire
Visual artist Lonnie Holley, a renowned self-taught artist who lives and works in Birmingham, Alabama, has branched out into the world of music. His captivating debut album, Just Before Music for the Dust-to-Digital label, demonstrates his bluesy, testifying, stream-of-consciousness vocals, which build in trance-like intensity. His “celestial roadhouse keyboard work” also invokes the legendary Afro-futurist jazz force Sun Ra (according to vanguard music mag The Wire), for an overall effect that transports listeners to other worlds deeply rooted in the southern blues experience.
As it happens, Birmingham is the birthplace of Sun Ra (although he claimed he was from Saturn), who is the inspiration for Columbus electronic composer Brian Harnetty’s new musical project The Star-Faced One, released by the Atavistic label. After acclaimed projects based on the Berea College archives of old-time Appalachian music and folk tales, Harnetty was invited to delve into the Sun Ra/El Saturn Archives at the Creative Audio Archive of Chicago’s Experimental Sound Studio, which actively commissions artists, composers, and writers to respond to this treasure trove of rare source material. Harnetty’s The Star-Faced One is not a re-creation of Sun Ra’s musical output but rather a thoughtful, meditative, and impressionistic evocation of Sun Ra’s spirit in sound. In concert, Harnetty performs on a Fender Rhodes piano, turntables, and electronics featuring audio samples from the Sun Ra archives, all accompanied by a terrific ensemble featuring Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello, Jeff Kimmel on bass clarinet, Jeremy Woodruff on flute and saxophone, and Aaron Michael Butler on vibes.
The show will be presented cabaret-style with wine and beer service in our intimate Performance Space.
See Holley’s striking visual art at the Short North’s Lindsay Gallery (the exhibition opens October 19), and experience the full range of his singular talent this fall.
Programmed in conjunction with the exhibition Blues for Smoke.