Gainesville gets it groove on

Published: Thursday, January 19, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 18, 2006 at 11:43 p.m.
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Alison Krauss, pictured, and Union Station play Sunday at the Phillips Center. The concert set a record for the University of Florida Performing Arts program by selling out in six hours.

Courtesy of Alison Krauss
Consider the week at hand in Gainesville: The Funk Brothers - the best studio band in the universe - will get groove things a-shakin' at a fund-raiser, the Gainesville Chamber Orchestra may move a few more fannies in a dance-themed family concert and opera empress Renee Fleming will perform a Baroque program at the Phillips Center.
And don't forget about local faves the Chris McCarty Band, jazz vibraphone whiz Christian Tamburr and alternative darlings The Living Blue.
Man, Gainesville's like Branson City for cool people. So this week, Scene attempts to tackle the biggest - and most diverse - concert week Gainesville has enjoyed in years. Columnist David Grundy chats with Fleming, Conor Mitchell takes on The Funk Brothers and June Cappiello spends some quality time with GCO conductor Evans Haile and McCarty.
Other heavy hitters are left for me.
  • Alison Krauss and Union Station set a record for University of Florida Performing Arts. This band sold out in six hours - the fastest seller in UFPA history by far.
    "We expected a sell-out, but never the first day," said Deborah Rossi, director of marketing for UFPA, which manages the University Auditorium and Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, where Krauss will perform Sunday night.
    The six-hour sell-out is very significant, not only for UFPA, but also for music in general. You see, Krauss is not butting heads with Kanye West at the top of Billboard's pop charts. She does not slither around in Daisy Dukes for MTV. There are no bawdy cowboy puns in her country hits.
    Krauss is a bluegrass artist whose fiddle and angelic voice continue to seduce fans in pick-up trucks, BMWs, Volkswagen buses and dorm-bound Honda Civics.
    The band's last disc, 2004's "Lonely Runs Both Ways," was a chart topper that has been nominated for three Grammy Awards: Best Country Album, Best Country Performance by a Group or Duo ("Restless"); and Best Country Instrumental Performance ("Unionhouse Branch"). If the band wins all three, that will make 20 Grammy Awards for AKUS (as cyber-fans call them).
    At 34, Krauss already has won more Grammy Awards than any other female artist. She has sold more than 7 million albums on Rounder Records alone.
    Not bad for a bluegrass act, eh? Well, the AKUS circle is massive for a reason. This bluegrass is driven by a substantial dose of contemporary country and pop.
    Quite simply, Krauss owns the art of the ballad. Her voice can make cowboys weep; add the bittersweet acoustic embrace of five-time Grammy winner Jerry Douglas on dobro and the rest of the Union Station and, well, you sell out a college town in six hours.
    You likely will hear "Restless" and "When You Say Nothing at All."
    Music starts at 8 p.m. - for those who have tickets, of course.
  • The ball dropped in Times Square weeks ago, and the masses swayed to "Auld Lang Syne," perhaps muddling the words but, to be sure, toasting a new year against that schmaltzy, sincerely sentimental melody of renewal.
    Guy Lombardo started that tradition in 1929, leading his orchestra - the Royal Canadians - in midnight performances every year in New York City until Lombardo's death in 1977.
    But even without Lombardo playing the Roosevelt Hotel, the song still echoes through every corner in the opening seconds of every year. And, even without Lombardo, the Royal Canadians are keeping the big band leader's legacy alive.
    Director Al Pierson will lead Guy Lombardo's Royal Canadians in concert at the Performing Arts Center at P.K. Yonge Sunday. Music starts at 2 p.m. - and make no mistake, there will be a LOT of music. After all, the orchestra has had more than 500 hits since 1919.
    They band played at the last three presidential inaugurations, Pierson said. Fans in their 60s make up most of their audience these days, he said, but the range for the band's recent show in Las Vegas was 15 to 95.
    You will hear "classics of the Big Band era," including Lombardo standards "Boo Hoo" and "Seems Like Old Times."
  • OK, let's get this out of the way right now. Yes, Ross Tompkins looks like George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States of America. Yes, he's probably heard it before, and, I'm sure, it gets funnier every time.
    But get it out of your system, because the minute Tompkins pulls up to a piano, the Dan Quayle jokes fade. Tompkins is a jazz pianist with a deft touch and a resume of references from Benny Goodman to Wes Montgomery to the king of Thailand.
    He also calls Doc Severinson a reference, as Ross pounded the piano near Johnny Carson for more than 25 years as part of the "Tonight Show" band.
    On Tuesday, the Ross Tompkins Trio performs at the Savannah Grande as part of the Gainesville Friends of Jazz and Blues concert series, performing with bassist Charlie Silva and drummer Ed Metz.
    Tompkins studied at the New England Conservatory of Music and sharpened his chops in New York City jazz clubs such as the Half Note.
    Music starts at 8 p.m.
  • ALSO OF NOTE: There are two other biggies worth a most humble nod here - both Broadway stars. On Wednesday night, UF's Accent Speakers Bureau presents an evening with Anthony Rapp, the man who played money-challenged filmmaker Mark Cohen in "Rent," originally on Broadway and then in the recent film version. This is a HUGE deal, as "Rent" - despite the movie's dismal box office receipts - remains a powerful cultural icon still filling seats at the Nederlander Theater.
    Rapp also will be signing his new book, "Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and the Musical 'Rent.'" The free speech starts at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Phillips Center.
    Meanwhile, singer Susan Egan will perform at the Lake City Community College at 7:30 p.m. Friday. On Broadway, Egan starred in the title role of "Thoroughly Modern Millie" and won critical nods as Sally Bowles in "Cabaret." She also was in "Triumph of Love," "State Fair" and - as Belle - Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," earning Tony and Drama Desk nominations.
    She is touring behind her recent CD, "Coffee House," which features music from Broadway shows and movies.
    Dave Schlenker can be reached at 374-5045 or
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