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On the other end of the experience spectrum lies the London-based duo Floetry, which has yet to release an album. However, that doesn't mean that members Marsha Ambrosius and Natalie Stewart are new to the game. The pair has written lyrics for everyone from Bilal to Brandy to Michael Jackson, and some heavyweight producers, including Jazzy Jeff's Touch of Jazz ensemble, will be putting the beats down for its April debut.
Art and Soul hasn't always attracted such top-notch national talent; last year's big-name artist, veteran crooner Howard Hewett, was the Gala's first out-of-town guest. But the organization has never failed to provide top-quality music. Ida McBeth, saxophonist Gerald Dunn and reggae group Az One are among the local standouts that have taken the stage at past Galas. This year, in addition to the touring draws, jazz vocalist Angela Hagenbach, singing tappers the McFadden Brothers, blues crews Sugga Badd & Jhamm Band and the gospel choir St. James Voices of Praise will all be on hand to service the 21-and-over audience at this upscale expo. (Art & Soul's Ken Lumpkins suggests "after-five or Afrocentric" attire would be most appropriate.)
Like the Gala, the Writers Place's upcoming songwriting workshop welcomes an established artist with a link to Mariah Carey -- in this case, Anika Paris, a Kansas City native with a song slated to appear on the soundtrack to the Glitter girl's upcoming flick Wise Girls. However, Paris won't be strumming stripped-down acoustic versions of the warmly produced adult-contemporary numbers on her debut disc, On Gardner Street -- her objective is to educate rather than to entertain. Paris and Don Grierson, former head vice president of A&R at Epic/Sony and Capitol Records, will advise the local singer-songwriters who offer up their compositions at the Writers Place (3607 Pennsylvania) at noon on Saturday, February 23.
In addition to tapping Paris' obvious expertise in the field of song structure, savvy musical opportunists might wish to grill her on the lucrative art of musical product placement. (Her tunes have appeared in the Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow vehicle Bounce, in MTV's reality brouhaha Road Rules Meets the Real World, on the In the Company of Friends soundtrack and in numerous animated films and documentaries.) And female artists might be particularly interested in Grierson's advice on successful career paths, given that he's dealt with luminaries such as Celine Dion, Cyndi Lauper, Gloria Estefan, Tina Turner and Heart. Up-and-comers interested in securing a three-song slot at the seminar can contact Lesa Blalock at 816-753-1090.
Last but Not Least
Perhaps the surest sign that local entertainment presenters are already springing ahead is the year's first substantial overflow. There are far too many high-quality events to hype in the Pitch music section's available slots, but here's passing mention of a few can't-miss shows that provide unorthodox marriages between performer and venue: Jay Farrar supports his solo debut, Sebastopol, on Tuesday, February 26, with a gig at the Granada, where the former Son Volt and Uncle Tupelo member's melancholy voice should haunt the cavernous confines like a poltergeist; on the same night, Her Space Holiday performs its artful, dread-heavy symphonies at the decidedly indelicate Replay Lounge; and on Friday, February 22, power-pop pussycats Jade Raven and shock-punk hellspawn the Death Ray Angels take the hard-boiled middle-of-the-road rock crowd at Nieners to opposite extremes.