Jazzy nights: Starrlight Jazz Club concerts offer standards, reinterpretation and history

Jazzy nights: Starrlight Jazz Club concerts offer standards, reinterpretation and history

A “jazz lovers paradise” awaits music fans this season.

The Walton Arts Center just announced the Starrlight Jazz Club series, featuring a broad range of styles including Caribbean-inspired grooves, Broadway show tunes, standards from the Great American Songbook and beyond.

The concert series, set in the Starr Theater, offers cabaret tables and tiered seating for the 7:30 p.m. performances. The series kicks off Sept. 7 with Alexa Tarantino and her quartet.

“She’s what I call ‘right in the pocket,’” says Robert Ginsburg, founder of the Northwest Arkansas Jazz Society and host of “Shades of Jazz” on KUAF. He describes the young saxophonist who has performed in the Jazz at the Lincoln Center Orchestra as a straight ahead player from the beebop tradition.

“She’s not avant garde. She’s not mainstream jazz. Just very listenable,” he says.

Following Tarantino and friends, Israeli clarinetist Anat Cohen returns to the Walton Arts Center, this time with jazz pianist Peter Martin and Brazilian jazz guitarist Romero Lubambo for “Rio Meets New Orleans” on Oct. 18. The evening — which will not include a bassist or drummer — will explore the styles that inspired the birth of jazz music in New Orleans.

“There’s really deep musical connections between the Afro-Cuban and the Afro-Brazilian traditions of music,” Ginsburg explains. “It’ll really put in people’s ears the connection between the Caribbean and New Orleans when it comes to jazz.”

Then the Starrlight Jazz Club will veer toward “cutting edge, modern jazz” that’s “still accessible with incredible guitar virtuosity,” with Johnathan Kreisberg’s concert on Dec. 6. The performance will include mostly original repertoire and reinterpretations of jazz standards.

“His career stands on his own shoulders as a leader,” Ginsburg says, but Kreisberg was also a noteworthy side man to legendary jazz organist Dr. Lonnie Smith. Jazz fans may remember Kreisberg from Smith’s concert at the Walton Arts Center in February of 2014.

Rene Marie will heat up Starr Theater on Jan. 31, 2025.

“Renee Marie is an incredible jazz vocalist who’s totally unique in her style. She’s one of these people that you hear one note out of her mouth, and you know who it is,” says Ginsburg. She’s a jazz stylist, he says, not unlike Eartha Kitt, to whom she dedicated an album in 2013.

“Then we’re taking a trip to Broadway,” says Ginsburg. Billy Stritch, a longtime collaborator of Liza Minelli, will perform a classic piano bar-style show with singer Gabrielle Stravelli. The concert will include show tunes and jazz interpretations of Broadway themes, jazz standards and songs from the Great American Songbook.

The Starrlight Jazz Club concert series concludes on a historic note with Matt Wilson’s Good Trouble Quintet.

“He has a modern approach to the music, but he’s played with many of the greats, and he’s led many great groups,” explains Ginsburg. “He does these jazz groups that have literary and political messages attached to them.”

The March 8, 2025, show is a tribute to late civil rights activist John Lewis and his directive: “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.”

Wilson’s album of the same name features Beyonce’s alto saxophonist Tia Fuller, tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Jeff Lederer, pianist/vocalist Dawn Clements and bassist Ben Allison. Ginsburg says the evening promises to be both educational and entertaining.

“There’s something for everyone here and there might be something that people have not discovered, but if they tap into the entire series, they’re probably going to be introduced to something that they’ll fall in love with,” Ginsburg says.

“There’s plenty of straight-ahead playing, there’s plenty of virtuosity, but there are also connections to social consciousness and the tradition of this music, and the role of African Americans in American popular music as exemplified through jazz. And then you throw in Hollywood and the Great American Songbook, you cover all the bases.”

Keep up with the latest jazz happenings in the Northwest Arkansas corridor on the Northwest Arkansas Jazz Society’s website, digjazz.com, where you can sign up for their weekly newsletter.



Starrlight Jazz Club

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. with Alexa Tarantino Quartet on Sept. 7; “Rio Meets New Orleans” with Peter Martin, Romero Lubambo and Anat Cohen, Oct. 18; Jonathan Kreisberg, Dec. 6; René Marie, Jan. 31, 2025; Billy Stritch, Feb. 15, 2025; and Matt Wilson’s Good Trouble Quintet, March 8, 2025.

WHERE — Starr Theater at Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

INFO — waltonartscenter.org

BONUS — Receive 10% off tiered seating, when you purchase a five-show package for the Starrlight Jazz Club.



Create Your Own Subscription

The more shows you see, the more money you save with the Create Your Own Subscription options at the Walton Arts Center. The popular option includes three-show packages for $2 off each ticket, five-show packages with $3 off each ticket and seven-show packages with $5 off each ticket price for applicable shows in the PG Broadway Series, Coca-Cola Night Out Series, Pringles Kids Series, Family Fun Series, 10×10 Arts Series, LOL@WAC as well as the Voice Jam Competition and the Broadway Bonus show, “Hamilton,” coming Aug. 16-25 to the Walton Arts Center.

Categories: Music