There are some familiar - and welcome - names among the just-announced performers at the 2011 Savannah Music Festival, and several will be making music together as part of all-new collaborations.
As always the SMF has a few nice-looking newbies on the marquee.
Tickets for the multi-genre, multi-venue festival (March 24-April 9) are available now at savannahmusivfestival.org, or by calling (912) 525-5050.
Several pop shows (among others) won't be announced until January, as the contractual T's and I's are yet to be crossed and dotted.
The 2011 festival will mark the first time, since executive director Rob Gibson took the reigns in 2003, that the event isn't divided into specific, titled series (i.e. classical, jazz, Americana et cetera). It's all just music.
That being said, here are selected highlights of the 2011 schedule.
Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer and Zakir Hussain. All three of these world-class genre-jumping musicians will perform in concerts of their own - Fleck even has a jazz date with the Marcus Roberts Trio - but this one features the three of them together. Fleck (banjo), Meyer (double-bass) and Hussain (tabla) are master innovators who blend diverse world musics with jazz, classical, bluegrass and everything else you can think of. March 30, Lucas Theatre.
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. Jones is one of America's best-kept secrets - a rhythm ‘n' blues belter of the highest order, she's backed by a smoking-hot, nine-piece soul ‘n' funk band that rivals James Brown's infamous Famous Flames. March 24, Trustees Theater.
The Flatlanders with Junior Brown. Flatlanders Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely and Butch Hancock are, hands down, three of the greatest old-school Texas songwriters of the past 30 years (Eli's a hell of a guitar player, too). (Hey slackers - didja know that was Jimmie Dale in The Big Lebowski, getting threatened by John Goodman's gun in the bowling alley?) Add white-hot picker Junior Brown to the equation, and this will be the dusty trail-concert to beat. March 26, Lucas Theatre.
Allen Toussaint Band. The undisputed master musician of New Orleans makes his Savannah debut. Toussaint is a songwriter, pianist, record producer and R&B creator without peer. British guitarist James Hunter, a Toussaint protégé, shares the bill. April 7, Trustees Theater.
John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey. A five-performance run of this top-flight cabaret show, imported from New York City, featuring the exemplary jazz guitarist and his singing/acting spouse. The Heart of a Saturday Night paints a cutting-edge musical picture with songs from all the greats - from George Gershwin and Cole Porter to Tom Waits and Joni Mitchell. April 4-6, Charles H. Morris Center.
Dianne Reeves. One of America's most beloved jazz vocalists returns (she was last here in 2009) for a special performance of Brazilian music, with a band thsat includes guitarist Chico Pinheiro. April 2, Lucas Theatre.
Punch Brothers Featuring Chris Thile. Folks are still talking about this incredible all-acoustic band's 2009 SMF performance. Thile is, of course, a brilliant and versatile mandolin player and composer. April 2, Trustees Theater.
Maceo Parker. The funkiest saxman in history, Parker - a veteran of James Brown's band - closes out the festival with his "funk orchestra." April 9, Charles H. Morris Center.
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Roberto Abbado conducts, with the renowned soloist Daniel Hope on violin, a program of Brahms, several violin-centric classics: Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26; Haydn's Symphony No. 89 in F Major; and Brahms' Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68. April 3, Lucas Theatre.
And there's more to get excited about, including African vocalist Salif Keita, Nashville wunderkind Tim O'Brien and an all-star band, soprano Christine Brewer, blues guitarists Lucky Peterson , Sherman Robinson and Michael Burks (all together), blues harmonica masters Jerry Portnoy and James Cotton (again, playing together), African music master Ballake Sissoco with French cellist Vincent Segal and the great African jazz/rhythm bandleader Lionel Louke, an all-Indian program blending the arts of the aforementioned Zakir Hussain with Amjad Ali Khan (sarod) and the dancer Vijayalakshmi.
The great bluegrass band Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver will be back in 2011, as will associate musical director Daniel Hope with his five-concert chamber music series, featuring some familiar musicians and some who've never before performed in Savannah.
Things kick off a bit early with the Nov. 17 concert appearance (in the Lucas Theatre) from violin maestro Robert McDuffie and the Venice Baroque Orchestra, performing a new Philip Glass piece, The American Four Seasons.