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In the News > Rising Stars in jazz, tap dance highlight SPAC's 2010 extended season

11 Feb 2010

'Rising stars' in jazz, tap dance highlight SPAC's 2010 extended season Published: Thursday, February 11, 2010 SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Saratoga Performing Arts Center has announced the lineup for the 2010 Extended Season, an emerging artist showcase presented at the Spa Little Theatre in late spring. This year’s program will offer performances by acclaimed jazz bassist and 2009 Thelonious Monk Award winner, Ben Williams on May 22; tap sensation Jason Samuels Smith and his dance troupe A.C.G.I. (Anybody Can Get It) on May 28; and jazz vocalist Sachal Vasandani on June 3. “One of the best kept secrets of the SPAC classical season is the Extended Season at the Spa Little Theatre. This dynamic series of world-class artists offers performances by ‘rising stars,’ whose extraordinary talents have excited critics and audiences alike, and whose artistic styles have tremendous crossover appeal,” said Marcia J. White, SPAC’s president and executive director. “Our 2010 artists are poised to take this series to a new level.” • Saturday, May 22 —Jazz bassist Ben Williams has attracted international attention since his first-place win in October of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, the most prestigious jazz competition in the world. In describing Williams performance, NPR’s Mike Katzif noted that “Williams wowed the audience with his nimble fingering, melodic soloing and creative rhythmic approach…” The Washington Post’s Michael West said: “Williams followed her (Dee Dee Bridgewater) every melodramatic move with ease, practically daring her to turn up the intensity with his fierce rhythm and legato phrasing. Halfway through the second song, his victory was already obvious.” A native of Washington, D.C., William’s musical influence is rooted in jazz, hip-hop, R&B, gospel and classical. He has shared the stage with such artists as Wynton Marsalis, Roy Hargrove, Cyrus Chestnut, Ron Blake, Bobby Watson and Wycliffe Gordon, among others. He has also performed with opening acts for artists such as John Legend, Kirk Franklin, and Eric Roberson. Williams is a sought-after bassist in New York, playing in the bands of Stefon Harris and Marcus Strickland, and on an upcoming Jacky Terrasson record. • Friday, May 28 — Tap sensation Jason Samuels Smith and his super-troupe A.C.G.I. (Anybody Can Get It) will electrify the Little Theatre with a brilliant, high-energy performance that the Chicago Tribune has called “an all-out sensation…” and “intoxicating.” Led by Samuels Smith, a tap prodigy who was cast in Savion Glover’s Broadway hit “Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk” at age 15, Smith went on to become an Emmy Award-winner, television and feature film star, director and choreographer. He was also a featured guest performer on the hit television show “So You Think You Can Dance.” Claudia La Rocco of The New York Times says that “even when his shoes seem barely to be touching the stage, he exudes a powerful sense of weighty rootedness that makes his virtuosic explosions all the more dazzling.” Samual Smith’s personal tap style has been most influenced by the late great Gregory Hines, and he has also been compared to Savion Glover. But Samuels Smith’s style and rhythmic choices are truly his own, with an intense connection to his interest in jazz music. The SPAC program will feature original choreography by Samuels Smith as well as improvography by each of the solo artists. • Friday, June 3 — Jazz vocalist Sachal Vasandani has been hailed as one of the rising stars of the jazz world and praised for a “golden voice,” enhanced by “emotion and intellect.” The Chicago-born artist first began attracting attention as a University of Michigan music major when he was named DownBeat magazine’s Collegiate Jazz Vocalist of the Year in 1999. After moving to New York and working for a time as a Wall Street investment banker, Vasandani quickly became a part of the jazz scene, and made a musical home in storied clubs like the Zinc Bar. He was taped for a number of guest performances and recordings, notably by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. After Vasandani’s break-through debut recording, “Eyes Wide Open” he began touring extensively. He has opened for such diverse artists as jazz trumpeter Chris Botti and pop singer Joan Osborne, garnering respect from a diverse spectrum of audiences. Vasandani’s second album, “We Move,” was released in September 2009 to excellent reviews and was chosen in November as a New York Times Critic’s Pick. Tickets for SPAC’s Extended Season performances are $25 each. Order forms are available on SPAC’s Web site at www.spac.org or by calling SPAC at 584-9330.