2019-2020 OXFORD AMERICAN music series at South on Main

One of the best music series in the South takes place in Little Rock as the Oxford American brings musicians to South on Main. It is actually three different music series: Americana, Jazz, and Archetypes & Troubadours. Tickets are already on sale, and many of the concerts will sell out. So do not delay!

Up first is Amy Helm in the Americana Series. She will perform on Thursday, August 22 at 8:00pm. “One of Americana’s most impassioned, soul-stirring singers.” —Rolling Stone Country

First in the Jazz Series is Peter Martin & Romero Lubambo featuring Erin Bode. They’ll be in Little Rock on Thursday, September 5 at 8:00pm. “One of the most underrated pianists in jazz today … Martin plays with the kind of daring and excitement that marks a distinctive personality on the keyboard.” — Washington Post

The first in the Archetypes & Troubadours Series is Rev. Sekou on Thursday, September 26 at 8:00pm. “Rev. Sekou delivers the spiritual performance we need now.”—Paste

Next in Americana is Chatham County Line on Thursday, October 17 at 8:00pm. “What initially drew me to this Raleigh, North Carolina-based quartet is that in addition to the unique mix of bluegrass, folk and Americana tunes they harmonize so beautifully on is the fact that they typically crowd around a single, large, silver radio microphone. And that’s not the band’s only nod to the past.” — Huffington Post

Marsalis is a name synonymous with jazz. The Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet is next in the Jazz Series on Thursday, November 14. “[Marsalis’s] playing is eccentric within graceful boundaries, concerned with polyrhythm as science, history and gamesmanship, full of technique used to non-slick ends … Discipline and strategy are written deeply into the band.” — New York Times

Next in the Archetypes & Troubadours Series is Catherine Russell on Thursday, December 5, at 8:00pm. “A wonderfully charismatic performer with a show­stopping voice and an unabashedly old-fashioned repertoire.” — The Washington Post

The Fred Hersch Trio takes the Oxford American stage for the Jazz Series on Thursday, January 30 at 8:00pm. “An elegant force of musical invention, Fred Hersch cannot be discounted in any discussion of the top contemporary jazz pianists.” —LA Times

Jon Cleary is next in the Americana Series.  He’ll be on stage on Thursday, February 20 at 8:00pm. “Cleary embodies the heart and soul of the Crescent City, keeping the sound and the fury of its legendary piano pounders alive and kicking.”— No Depression

John Fullbright will be next in the Archetypes & Troubadours Series on Thursday, March 12 at 8:00pm. “In a short-­attention-­span world overloaded with sensory stimulation, there aren’t many artists who can stop you in your tracks with a single song.” —American Songwriter

The final 2019-2020 Americana Series entry is Mary Gauthier on Thursday, March 26 at 8:00pm.  “…[Mary Gauthier’s] Rifles and Rosary Beads, is not only one of the most arresting American singer-songwriter records in recent years, but one of the most vital pieces of art to come out of those two wars.” — Rolling Stone Country

Ranky Tanky closes out the 2019-2020 Archetypes & Troubadours Series on Thursday, April 16 at 8:00pm. “Ranky Tanky proved that exotic music can be both unfamiliar enough to be surprising, and yet familiar enough to provoke swinging hips and nodding heads. When it works, it’s the best of both worlds.” —Paste

The final Jazz Series concert is on Thursday, April 23 at 8:00pm. It features the Miguel Zenón Quartet. “This young musician and composer is at once reestablishing the artistic, cultural, and social tradition of jazz while creating an entirely new jazz language for the 21st century.” —MacArthur Foundation

National Balloon Race starts in Little Rock on April 29, 1926

On April 29, 1926, nine hot air balloons took off from Little Rock’s airport (which was actually just an airfield at the time) in a national race to win the Litchfield Trophy.  In addition to the trophy, the winner would be on the American team in an international balloon race in Belgium.

The New York Times coverage noted that the weather conditions were ideal as the balloons took off in five minute intervals between 5:00pm and 5:30pm.  The test balloon (akin to a pace car in a car race) was the Arkansas Gazette‘s Skylark.  It took off at 4:25 and headed in the direction of the northeast, which was the desired direction.

The nine balloons, in order of liftoff were: the US Army from Phillips Field in Maryland; the US Army from McCook Field in Ohio; the Goodyear Southern California; the Detroit; the Goodyear IV (whose pilot Ward T. Van Orman had won the 1924 and 1925 contests); US Army from Scott Field; a balloon piloted by a Danish pilot Svend A. U. Rasmussen; US Army balloon from Langley Field in Virginia; and the Akron National Aeronautic Association balloon.

The pilots carried provisions for 48 hours and were equipped for sea flying.  Each had a radio and loud speaker.  KTHS radio of Hot Springs (a forerunner to today’s KTHV TV station) was broadcasting the location of each balloon.  As they left the Arkansas radio station’s range, there was a network of other stations which would do the same.

It was expected that the race would last between eighteen and thirty-six hours.  The last balloon aloft was Van Orman for the third year.  He lasted approximately 31 hours and landed near Chesapeake Bay.

Though no headcount was given, the New York Times called the viewing audience “the largest crowd ever assembled in Little Rock.”

Many thanks to Brian Lang of the Arkansas Arts Center for giving me the tip on this.

Little Rock Look Back: Gov. Baxter returns after end of Brooks-Baxter War

On the morning of May 19, 1874, Joseph Brooks cleaned out his belongings from the gubernatorial office in the 1842 Arkansas State Capitol (now the Old State House) and disappeared to points unknown.

The beginning of the end of his stint claiming to be Arkansas Governor came on May 15 when President US Grant accepted the recommendation of his Attorney General that found Elisha Baxter was the duly elected Governor of Arkansas.

Following Brooks’s departure, the grounds and building were in shambles.  A Gazette reporter noted that barricades had been built on the lawn of the building.  The front and back doors remained, but their facings had been removed to make it easier to roll big weapons and equipment in and out of the building.

Inside, furniture was in disarray and broken.  The bookcases in the state library had been turned on their sides to serve as tables.  The reporter described the smell as composed of “a mixed perfume of sour bacon and human beings.”

In preparation for the return of Gov. Baxter, crews were busy trying to restore order in the building. The Senate Chambers were nearly put back in order that day, but the House Chambers needed more attention.

As another illustration of the disarray in state government between April 15 and May 19, the state treasurer, Henry Page, told the newspaper that he had not cut a single check at the request of the Brooks administration.  He stated that he had not denied the request, he just delayed responding to it.

Finally that day, Governor Baxter arrived at the head of a ceremonial parade of carriages.  Among those who accompanied the governor was Arkansas Gazette founder William Woodruff.  In the next carriage, future US Senator and Attorney General Augustus Garland sat with reporters from the New York Times and Arkansas Gazette.

Upon arriving at the Capitol grounds, Baxter delivered a speech.  101 guns were fired in salute to him.  The cannon on the capitol grounds (nicknamed Old Lady Baxter) was shot off several times.  A retinue of Little Rock’s ladies pulled the lanyard to detonate the cannon.

As part of President Grant’s order to end the Brooks-Baxter War, the ground was laid for a new Arkansas Constitution, the end of Reconstruction, and the re-enfranchisement of Democratic voters.  In short order, the 1874 constitution, under which Arkansas still operates, was adopted.  Many of the Republicans and African American office holders soon found themselves out of power. And African Americans were completely disenfranchised.

It would be 92 years before Arkansas would again elect a Republican to be Governor.  The adoption of the new constitution took the term of governor and other constitutional officers from four years to two years.  In 1874, he retired to Batesville and lived there until his death in 1899.  Brooks remained in Little Rock until his death in 1877.

Little Rock Look Back: National Balloon Race starts in Little Rock

On April 29, 1926, nine hot air balloons took off from Little Rock’s airport (which was actually just an airfield at the time) in a national race to win the Litchfield Trophy.  In addition to the trophy, the winner would be on the American team in an international balloon race in Belgium.

The New York Times coverage noted that the weather conditions were ideal as the balloons took off in five minute intervals between 5:00pm and 5:30pm.  The test balloon (akin to a pace car in a car race) was the Arkansas Gazette‘s Skylark.  It took off at 4:25 and headed in the direction of the northeast, which was the desired direction.

The nine balloons, in order of liftoff were: the US Army from Phillips Field in Maryland; the US Army from McCook Field in Ohio; the Goodyear Southern California; the Detroit; the Goodyear IV (whose pilot Ward T. Van Orman had won the 1924 and 1925 contests); US Army from Scott Field; a balloon piloted by a Danish pilot Svend A. U. Rasmussen; US Army balloon from Langley Field in Virginia; and the Akron National Aeronautic Association balloon.

The pilots carried provisions for 48 hours and were equipped for sea flying.  Each had a radio and loud speaker.  KTHS radio of Hot Springs (a forerunner to today’s KTHV TV station) was broadcasting the location of each balloon.  As they left the Arkansas radio station’s range, there was a network of other stations which would do the same.

It was expected that the race would last between eighteen and thirty-six hours.  The last balloon aloft was Van Orman for the third year.  He lasted approximately 31 hours and landed near Chesapeake Bay.

Though no headcount was given, the New York Times called the viewing audience “the largest crowd ever assembled in Little Rock.”

Many thanks to Brian Lang of the Arkansas Arts Center for giving me the tip on this.

Arkansas Heritage Month – The Architecture of Little Rock Central High School

centralentranceArchitecture is often overlooked when considering the arts, but it is definitely an art form.

Built in 1927 as Little Rock Senior High School, Central was named “America’s Most Beautiful High School” by the American Institute of Architects. The New York Times called it the most expensive high school built at the time.

Designed as a mix of Art Deco and Collegiate Gothic architectural styles, the building is two city blocks long and includes 150,000 square feet of floor space. The project involved most of Little Rock’s leading architects who were still practicing at the time: John Parks Almand, George H. Wittenberg and Lawson L. Delony, Eugene John Stern, and George R. Mann.  Over the years, different architects would take credit for various facets of the building.  Given the size of the project, there was plenty of work for each architect to do.

More than 36 million pounds of concrete and 370 tons of steel went into the building’s construction. The building contained 150,000 square feet of floor space, upon its completion. It cost $1.5 million to construct in 1927. The school received extensive publicity upon its opening. An article in the Arkansas Gazette said, “we have hundreds of journalists in our fair city for the dedication” of the new high school.

At its construction, the auditorium seated 2,000 people between a main level and a balcony.  The stage was sixty feet deep and 160 feet long so that it could be used gymnasium. From 1927 until the opening of Robinson Auditorium in 1940, the auditorium would be Little Rock’s main site for hosting performances by musical and theatrical groups.

Subsequent additions would include a separate gymnasium, a library, and a football stadium. In 1953 the school’s name was changed to Little Rock Central High School, in anticipation of construction of a new high school for students, Hall High School.

In 1977, the school was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1982. These were in recognition of desegregation events which took place in the school in 1957.

In 1998, President William Jefferson Clinton signed legislation designating the school and visitor center across the street as a National Historic Site to “preserve, protect, and interpret for the benefit, education, and inspiration of present and future generations…its role in the integration of public schools and the development of the Civil Rights movement in the United States.”

Architecture critic Mark Lamster featured tonight at Architecture & Design Network

Smark-lamster-presented-dallas-archit-66IZING UP ARCHITECTURE: A Critic’s View

Mark Lamster
Architecture Critic | Dallas Morning News 
Assistant Professor and Dillon Center Fellow | School of Architecture University of Texas Arlington

DATE: Tuesday, March 18, 2014
TIME: 6:00 pm, preceded by a reception at 5:30
PLACE: Arkansas Arts Center lecture hall

Architecture critics are a rare breed in this part of the country. Mark Lamster, a recent arrival at the Dallas Morning News, offers a perspective on the built environment that enables others to see and talk about their surroundings in new and different ways. Lamster, who also teaches a graduate seminar on criticism and critical writing at the University, has, according to the newspaper’s editor, Bob Mong, a “range of interests that rivals those of any architecture critic in the country.” His background in art as well as architecture informs his writing. A contributing editor to Architectural Review and Design Observer, his work has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal and many other national publications. Lamster is currently at work on a definitive new biography of the late architect Philip Johnson who, among his many accomplishments, established the architecture department at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The book is to be published by Little Brown.

For more than a decade, Lamster served as editor of the Princeton Architecture Press. He is the author of several books including Master of Shadows (2009) a political biography of the painter Peter Paul Rubens. Baseball fans may be familiar with his first book, Spalding’s World Tour, the story of a group of all-star baseball players who circled the globe in the 19th Century. That work was a New York Times Editor’s selection. Lamster, a native of New York City, has a B.A. from Johns Hopkins University and an M.A. from Tufts.

Supporters of the Architecture and Design Network lecture series include the Arkansas Arts Center, the Central Arkansas Chapter of the American Institute of Architecture and the University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture. All Network lectures are free and open to the public. For further information, contact ardenetwork@icloud.com.

Hayes Carll at the Rev Room Tonight – with Bonnie Montgomery opening

181891_C18_044_004Hendrix College alum Hayes Carll returns to Little Rock for a concert tonight at the Rev Room.  Doors open at 7pm and the concert starts at 9pm.   Bonnie Montgomery, a renowned singer-songwriter in her own right, will open for him.

“Another Like You,” Carll’s stereotype’s attract duet of polar opposites, was American Songwriter’s #1 Song of 2011 – and KMAG YOYO was the Americana Music Association’s #1 Album, as well as making Best of Lists for Rolling Stone, SPIN and a New York Times Critics Choice.

Playing rock clubs and honkytonks, Bonnaroo, Stones Fest, SXSW and NXNE, he and his band the Gulf Coast Orchestra merge a truculent singer/songwriter take that combines Ray Wylie Hubband’s lean freewheeling squalor with Todd Snider’s brazen Gen Y reality and a healthy dose of love amongst unhealthy people.

Born in Houston, he went to college at Hendrix College in Conway – getting a degree in History, then heading back to Crystal Beach to play for a wild assortment of people either hiding out, hanging on or getting lost in the bars along Texas’ Gulf coast.

After releasing Flowers & Liquor in 2002, Carll was voted the Best New Artist of 2002 by The Houston Post. He would go on to release Little Rock, on his own Highway 87 label, which became the first self-owned project to the top the Americana charts.  His third album was 2008’s Trouble in Mind.

For those who live in and/or love Little Rock, Carll’s paean to the Capital City of Arkansas contains probably one of the best descriptions ever:  “A piece of this Earth for my peace of mind.”