Best Bets: April

From Quincy Jones to Wild Space Dance.

The Hit Maker

Selecting the renowned producer and jazz musician Quincy Jones for Alverno Presents’ Uncovered series almost feels like cheating. The 81-year-old had his hand in crafting some of the greatest pop albums over the last 60 years, including those of Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson. His efforts did not go unnoticed – Jones stands at No. 1 overall in Grammy nominations (79) and second in Grammy wins (27). It’s safe to say that curator and 88Nine Radio Milwaukee disc jockey Jordan Lee, who first noticed the producer when his work was sampled by ’90s hip hop artists, will descend into Jones’ deeper cuts with the help of Klassik and members of the Rusty Ps and De La Buena. (Kevin Mueller)
➞ Jones Uncovered (April 11). Pitman Theatre. Alverno College. 3431 S. 39th St., 414-382-6044, alvernopresents.alverno.edu.

Untitled by Alexandria Block.
Untitled by Alexandria Block.

Art Springs Eternal

Gallery night presents a conundrum for art lovers. Namely, how can one possibly narrow down a list of exhibitions and parties so long it would take a week to see it all? Use this as a starting point: a show of abstract works about the natural world at Gallery 218, located in the Third Ward’s Marshall Building. Rande Barke’s collages are the showstoppers, but the rest of the work by local artists, including fresh-out-of-MIAD Alexandria Block, will be worth investigating. And once you’re in the building, there are handfuls of galleries just floors away where corks will pop and new art will be discovered. (Claire Hanan)
➞ An Abstract Nature (April 17-May 31). 207 E. Buffalo St., 414-643-1732, gallery218.com.

Herd Humor

Despite its ability to create seriously beautiful contemporary music, Kevin Stalheim’s Present Music ensemble isn’t without a sense of humor. And the group’s playful way of turning concerts into “happenings” has been a major source of its enduring appeal. This month, in a concert simply called Hilarious, PM gets serious about its humor, staging Richard Ayres’ In the Alps, a “mountain melodrama” (or “animated concert” if you prefer) about a girl who combats her loneliness by singing to goats. Jennifer Goltz-Taylor will don a couple of braids as the soloist and Milwaukee Opera Theatre’s Jill Anna Ponasik will add a special theatrical flourish. It’s a little bit Heidi, and a little bit Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler. And a lot of fun. (Paul Kosidowski)
➞ Hilarious (April 24). Present Music. Turner Hall Ballroom. 1040 N. Fourth St., 414-271-0711, presentmusic.org.

Rhiannon Giddens by Dan Winters.
Rhiannon Giddens by Dan Winters.

Soulful Reimagining

While gaining fame playing in the pre-war music revivalist string trio Carolina Chocolate Drops, Rhiannon Giddens has continued to embody a music historian on her solo debut full-length, the T Bone Burnett-produced Tomorrow is My Turn. The lively folk record features covers of legendary singers like Patsy Cline and lesser-known figures like blues singer Geeshie Wiley, who originally recorded “Last Kind Word Blues” at Paramount Records in Grafton, Wis., 85 years ago. Giddens’ soulful reinterpretations put a fresh coat on songs tied to an earlier era. A peaceful waltz called “Angel City,” Giddens’ only original contribution to the album, makes a strong claim that she belongs in the company the record keeps. (Kevin Mueller)
➞ Rhiannon Giddens (April 26). Turner Hall Ballroom. 1040 N. Fourth St., 414-286-3663, turnerhallballroom.org.

Storied Stage

Debra Loewen loves the long form. As a dancemaker, she often brings disparate styles and elements together in a particular space or under the umbrella of a single theme. For its annual show in the Stiemke Studio, Wild Space Dance Company has explored ideas such as happiness, geography and food. For this year’s concert, Reckless Wonders, Loewen pays tribute to some former Wild Space dancers in a class reunion of sorts. Members of the Ex Fabula storytelling collective will spin some stories as accompaniment to the company’s pirouettes. (Paul Kosidowski)
➞ Reckless Wonders (April 30-May 2). Stiemke Studio. Milwaukee Repertory Theater. 108 E. Wells St., 414-271-0307, wildspacedance.org.

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