For art’s sake

The Asheville Area Arts Council seems to be reaching out to a new audience. Shedding any pretense of a stuffed shirt, the AAAC — as part of its annual six-week fund drive — is holding a benefit concert at the Asheville Music Zone, with the help of some of the area’s top musical talent.

Reviewing the lineup he helped put together for the Homegrown Concert, singer/songwriter and event coordinator Joe’tse Adams says, “It’s eclectic, just like the music I like. There’s everything from bluegrass to hip-hop.”

The Council raises funds for such worthy organizations as the Asheville Art Museum, Asheville Community Theatre, Asheville Symphony Orchestra, the Colburn Gem & Mineral Museum, the Diana Wortham Theatre, Asheville Bravo Concerts, and the YMI Cultural Center. Part of the proceeds from this year’s fund drive will support the AAAC’s new Arts-in-Education plan, which will become part of the curriculum of all Buncombe County public schools.

“That $10 [ticket price] is going directly back into the community,” Adams points out. “And there’s no better way to do it than through a celebration.”

Accordingly, some of the area’s finest talent in bluegrass, rock, jazz and funk will be shuffling in for the occasion. A.L. Wood and the Sufi Brothers will offer their old-style bluegrass. The legendary Wood has played his banjo at the Grand Ole Opry, in Japan and for the U.S. Senate, and the Sufi Brothers features his son, guitarist “Woody” Wood, along with mandolinist Jason Krekel (of A.V.A.S. and the Larry Keel Experience) and bassist Bill Reynolds of the Blue Rags.

The Tyler Ramsey Trio performs exciting original music in the jazz/groove vein, with Ramsey on keyboards, Grant Cuthbertson on bass and Jay Hoots on drums. It’s a serious outfit, together for five years now — and they’re beginning to get some serious respect out of town, as well: The group opens for guitarist John Scofield at Ziggy’s in Winston-Salem in a couple of weeks.

“We’ve been lucky to stay together,” Ramsey says. “It’s worked out to where we know each other’s vocabulary, and we can play off each other real well.” Ramsey grew up outside Chicago, listening to his older brother’s Led Zeppelin records, and the Weather Report and funky Herbie Hancock he was turned onto in high school. “That was a big influence, although I never really try to imitate any players, like sit down and intentionally learn Herbie licks,” he explains. Moving to Nashville for his last year of high school, Ramsey founded a jazz-based jam-band that played every day, for hours, allowing him to develop chops and a love of improvisation-based music that’s flowering today.

The high-energy rock quintet MiniVoid (formerly Zen Mafia) — featuring guitarists Andrew Shearer and John O’Connel, bassist Thomas McCoy, drummer Ian Cunningham and vocalist Grant Henry — will also perform, along with percussion innovators Lube Royale (featured in the Feb. 14 Xpress). Granola Funk Express will take over at midnight with a late-night buffet of hip-hop, rock, soul, blues, reggae and punk. This 10-piece party band has toured extensively, sharing the stage with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Snake Oil Medicine Show and RUN DMC.

Making it a uniquely Asheville experience, the show will also feature ethnic dance, provided by Katuah Capoeira Angola — a group that showcases a Brazilian art form interweaving music, dance, oral history and martial arts — and Common Ground, founded in 1998 at Warren Wilson College to promote a cultural dialogue between West Africa and the U.S. through drumming and dancing. Also scheduled to appear are Evan Garner’s advanced breakdancing students, Hu Knab Crew.

The Asheville Music Zone and its parent company, Asheville Music Matters, donated the venue and sound system for the event, and Sono Press in Weaverville donated 1,000 copies of a compilation CD featuring Buncombe County artists, titled Asheville Homegrown.

“You’re going to love the CD,” Adams swears. “Eighteen bands, and it was mastered by Jay Martin of Lube Royale at Onion Music in Asheville.” The CD — available for the first time at the show — costs $10 and benefits the AAAC. And Adams hopes a sometimes-overlooked faction of Asheville artists will benefit too.

“The Arts Council does great things, and we’ll always support all the cultural arts,” he says. “My hope is that their funds will start reaching more local musicians that are deserving, as well.”

Dollars for artists

The Homegrown Concert, benefiting the Asheville Area Arts Council, happens Saturday, March 3 at the Asheville Music Zone (81 Broadway). Music begins at 6 p.m. and goes till 2 a.m. Tickets are $8 in advance — available at the Asheville Area Arts Council (258-0710), Almost Blue, Sounds Familiar and the Asheville Music Zone — and $10 at the door. For more information call 258-0710 or 255-8811.

The concert is part of the AAAC’s six-week annual fund-raiser, which also includes the following events:

Thursday, March 1: Kick-off party at Pack Place, 5-7 p.m. “A Toast to the Arts” includes performances by One Youth at a Time, the Asheville Ballet Guild, A.L. Wood and the Sufi Brothers, and the Asheville Puppetry Alliance. Tickets are $15.

Friday, March 2: AAAC’s Front Gallery debuts a new exhibit featuring artists Vadim Bora, Eva Allawos and Rush Way. Free reception from 6-8 p.m.

Saturday, April 14: An “Awesome Art of the ’80s” party rocks at the Broadway Arts Building starting at 8 p.m. Enjoy breakdancing performances, a live Dallas re-creation, Madonna impersonators, and much more. Members Only jackets, acid-washed jeans and big hair welcome! $12 admission.

Call 258-0710 for more info about these events.

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