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Bowfire

What’s the difference between a fiddler and a violinist? In Lenny Solomon’s high-energy, big Riverdance-style show Bowfire, there isn’t any. Jazz violinist Solomon has put together a lineup of string virtuosos who can (and will) play “classical, rock, bluegrass, jazz, gypsy, Texas-style, country, Celtic and electric” in solo and group settings. They dance, too, much to the delight of numerous audiences, in an elaborate presentation that does not lack for dramatic—or romantic—settings.

And the critics, such as this scribe for Michigan’s Saginaw News, agree: “The Heritage Theater was a-smokin’ in one of the most interesting and innovative programs it has ever seen.”

Bowfire will perform Sunday (April 10) at 7 PM at Proctor’s Theatre (432 State St., Schenectady). Tickets are $32.50-$19.50. For reservations and information, call the box office at 346-6204.

James Hughes

If you think the political squabbling about stem-cell research and right-to-die issues is ugly, wait until the pols get hip to our cyborg future. Unfamiliar? Attend the Wednesday-afternoon lecture with idea man James Hughes at UAlbany, titled Cyborg Democracy: Why Democracies Must Respond to the Redesigned Human of the Future.

Hughes, who teaches at Trinity College, is the author of Citizen Cyborg. Briefly: He is interested in the challenges society will face in the next 50 years, when “artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, genetic engineering and other technologies will allow human beings to transcend the limitations of the body.” Humans, he writes, will be living and working alongside “transhumans”—and we’ll be faced to ponder what it really means to be human.

Hughes is an optimist. He appears to think that science is a good thing, with many benefits: “We will have greater control over our emotions and memory.” (That would be a change.) This, also, is where “democracy” comes in; he feels that only by returning to the “root principles of democracy” can individual freedom be protected. (We don’t want to sound like naysaying fearmongers, but did you see Ghost in the Shell 2? Or Cherry 2000?)

James Hughes will speak on Wednesday (April 13) at 4 PM in the New Science Library’s Standish Room at the University at Albany (1400 Washington Ave., Albany). Admission is free.

B.B. King

This is a milestone year for B.B. King: In September, he will mark his 80th year, having been born on a plantation near Indianola, Miss., in 1925. Speaking from his hotel-room phone in Atlantic City (he’s playing the Palace Theatre in Albany tonight), his voice has all the accumulated gravel and leathery benevolence one would expect from all those years.

It’s a hypnotic, rhythmic instrument, even in speech. King slowly and languorously traces his ideas, his tone occasionally hurdling an octave and landing flat on a word for emphasis. At other times, he can be bluntly matter-of-fact. (“I like music. I like some of all of it. I don’t have no problem finding things I like. Rock & roll, country, gospel, blues . . . you name it, I like some of it.”)

That voice and his distinctively bold and resonant guitar leads have kept him atop the blues throne for decades, and there are few other artists who so embody their genre. But it’s a hard-earned position: He has been incessantly on the road for well over 50 years. “I used to average around 240 to 250 concerts a year,” he claims. “Now it’s been up around close to 200.”

One impetus, he says, is “that it’s the only way I can get, shall we say, exposure.” This may seem a strange concern for someone as universally well-known as King, but it all comes back to radio. “There’s only one station in the United States that I know that plays blues every day, and that’s a satellite station out of Washington. . . . It’s the one way I try to substitute for not getting records played.”

King does agree, however, that the blues currently enjoys a healthy appeal among all ages and walks of life. He attributes that popularity to younger musicians picking up the mantle and playing the blues well. “That has opened a lot of doors for us that wasn’t open.”

Prior to that, King says, “We fought pretty hard. Quite often I hear people sayin’, ‘He played in places where we could always lean over and give them a kiss or something.’ But it’s different today. We play larger places.”

One successor who has kept the form alive is longtime friend Eric Clapton. “We’ve known each other since the ’60s,” says King, who collaborated with Clapton on the 2000 album Riding With the King. “Eric is a remarkable man and a fantastic guitarist. In my opinion, he’s number one in the rock & roll field. And he can play the blues better than most of us. He’s a real gentleman.”

King’s own roots, long before he became the “Beale Street Blues Boy” (shortened to B.B.), lie in spiritual music. “I started off wanting to be a gospel singer, and there was a preacher [who influenced me]. . . . I sang in a quartet for a long time.” Since then, King has never doubted his vocation. “Ever since I got started into what I’m doing, I never wanted to do anything else.”

Over the years, a constant trademark has been his black Gibson, Lucille. Asked how many Lucilles there have been over the years, he hardly hesitates: “16.”

One of the rigors of the road in recent years has been his fight with diabetes. But he claims that watching his diet on tour is not difficult “because now that I realize what diabetes can do to you, I want to stay alive. . . . I do what my doctor tells me to do.”

A few years back, King also claimed to have become a vegetarian. Was diabetes the reason? “Well, I’m a semi-vegetarian now. At one time I was [vegetarian] . . . but, no, that wasn’t the reason. I just got it in my mind that that’s the way I wanted to live.”

And then, after a thoughtful pause, B.B. King says one of those classic B.B. King things in that distinctive B.B. King manner: “I have, at times, had a very strong mind.”

B.B. King will perform tonight (April 7) at 7:30 PM at the Palace Theatre (19 Clinton Ave., Albany). Ernie Williams will open. Tickets are $49.50 and $39.50. For more info, call 465-3334.

—Erik Hage


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