Urban Bush Women Coming to Providence

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


Urban Bush WomenView Larger +

Urban Bush Women Bring "Walking With Trane" to The Vets February 27. (photo: Julieta Cervantes)

Urban Bush Women, an all-female African American Dance Company, is coming to Providence for a special show later this month. Presented by FirstWorks RI, “Walking With 'Trane” is a live music and dance tribute to jazz legend John Coltrane, and will be performed at The Vets on February 27th.

Urban Bush Women was founded by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar in 1984 as the first major all-female African American dance company. Hailed as an “unstoppable force in American dance,” Urban Bush Women “showcase the energy, vitality and boldness of the African American community.”

The Coltrane-inspired performance premiered in December at the prestigious Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival, where it was considered one of the most important works of the season.

The state’s pre-eminent arts organization, FirstWorks, is bringing a full week of programming to the Ocean State, with activities including dance, lectures and a jazz brunch. A number of top national and local artists are schedule to appear - check the complete schedule of events below.

Pianist George Caldwell

GoLocal spoke with Grammy winning jazz pianist George Caldwell, who will be sharing the stage along with the dance company. Caldwell is a faculty member at the University of Buffalo as well as a touring jazz musician.

A native of Clarksdale, MS, Caldwell actually began his career as a classical artist. “My Dad was my teacher and instilled a love of music in me. I went to Oberlin College on a full scholarship and focused on classical composition. I wasn’t that into jazz yet, as I never could figure out how to solo.”

Under the guidance of talented faculty like Wendall Logan, Caldwell later began a serious study of jazz. That led to gigs with the Mercer Ellington Orchestra and the Count Basie Band. He was introduced to Urban Bush Women founder Zollar through a mutual friend. “Her brother was a trumpeter in the Basie Band,” noted Caldwell.

A Love Supreme

Merging the improvisational technique inherent in jazz music and modern dance has its challenges. Caldwell describe the task as “trying to capture the spirit of the music,” rather than a note by note retelling. The dancers do have set pieces, but there is space for improvisation within their performance.

The music in “Walking With 'Trane,” is based mainly on the sax player’s classic, “A Love Supreme,” considered by many to be the greatest jazz album ever recorded. It’s an intensely spiritual performance and Caldwell believes its power “came from a profound spiritual awakening Coltrane experienced. He was fortunate to be able to find the right medium, to be there at the right time.”

Caldwell noted that improvisation was the key to the power of Coltrane. “There’s quite a bit of it in the performance,” from the dancers and the musician.

The Providence show is only New England performance scheduled. Fans of modern dance and classic jazz, as well as those who want to experience a unique opportunity, won't want to miss it!

Full schedule of Urban Bush Women in RI

February 24, 6PM-9PM - Community Renewal Event at Southside Cultural Center featuring a performance of Zimbabwean-born choreographer Nora Chipaumire’s “Dark Swan.” Tickets $10 in advance, $15 at the door; $20 tickets including dinner ($25 at the door). Details here.

February 27, 4PM-5:30PM  at RISD Auditorium– “Talking the Walk: Black Dance and Social Justice,” a conversation with Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Professor Thomas DeFrantz about “Walking With Trane,” and the long history of dance in African American social justice advocacy. Admission is Free.

February 27, 8PM – “Walking With Trane” at The Vets. The New England Premiere of Urban Bush Women’s tribute to John Coltrane, featuring pianist George Caldwell. Doors open at 7PM for two “Jump Start” performances featuring Edgar Viloria's Thr3e Live Dance Company and two time Duke Ellington Award winning Jazz saxophonist, Leland Baker with his 4tet.

February 28, 10:30AM – Jazz Brunch with Urban Bush Women, at the Dorrance, with live music from RI’s own Travis Colby Band. Tickets are $25.

Check out the slide show below for future FirstWorks events this season. For tickets, go HERE.

Ken Abrams reviews roots, rock, jazz and blues for GoLocal. E-mail comments here.


Related Slideshow: FirstWorks 2015-16 Performance Schedule

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November 21

FirstWorks Frontier Series

The FirstWorks Frontier Series will combine interactive media and live performances, featuring "Cloud Eye Control's Half Life" at 8 p.m. at the Columbus Theatre.

Tickets range from $10-$30.

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Photo courtesy of Eugene Ahn

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December 4

Lincoln Center Orchestra

Head over to The Vets and check out the Lincoln Center Orchestera led by Pullitzer Prize winning composer Wynton Marsalis, featuring vocals by Denzal Sinclaire. The performance begins at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets range from $28-$100, including $3 restoration fee.

Click here for more information.

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January 31

London's Balletboyz

London's Balletboyz will make their Rhode Island debut at The Vets at 6:30 p.m.

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Tickets for the show range from $18-$75, including a three dollar restoration fee.

Click here for more information.

Photo courtesy Christopher Wheeldon

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February 27

Urban Bush Women

Urban Bush Women will bring s John Coltrane's A Love Supreme to life with stunning choreography and live music in their world premiere tour.

The show begins at 8 p.m. and tickets range from $18-$75, including a three dollar restoration fee.

Click here for more information

Photo Credit Rick McCullough

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March 12 & 13

Aurea Ensemble

Rhode Island's own string quartet ensemble will take the stage to debut their new musical creation called " The World of Čiurlionis.” The shows will take place at 8 p.m. and 3 p.m. respectively.

Ticket prices and a venue have yet to be determined.

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April 10

Rosanne Cash

Rosanne Cash, daughter of the legendary Johnny Cash, comes ot The Vets for a 6:30 p.m. show with a full band and multi media experience. Cash will play songs off her Grammy Award winning album The River & The Thread.

Tickets range from $28-$75, including a $3 restoration fee.

Click here for more information.

Photo credit Clay Patrick McBride


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