Despite an abundance of local festivals with four-letter acronyms—the SCMF, SIMF, and SMGF come to mind—the SLAM festival is a welcome addition. Organized by the pianist Cristina Valdés, the Seattle Latin-American Music Festival serves up a feast of chamber music from Argentina, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.
For the first night of the festival, Valdés has corralled five pianists to survey a remarkable range of solo piano pieces. Although I'm not interested in Ástor Piazzolla's Three Preludes—I'm baffled by the appeal of his tango-scented oeuvre—the inclusion of Alberto Ginastera (the "Danzas Argentinas"), perhaps the first Argentine composer to find lasting fame, along with witty modernist icon Mauricio Kagel attests to the festival's ambitious scope. Valdés has also programmed lesser-known makers such as Roberto Sierra and Orlando Jacinto Garcia, a student of Morton Feldman.
The Seattle Chamber Players anchor the Friday night performance: I'm pleased that most of the slated composers, including Eddie Mora Bermúdez and Jorge E. Campos, are new to me.
I'm chiefly interested in the festival's final concert, and not just because I'm moderating the preconcert discussion at 7:30 p.m. (My counterpart at the Seattle Weekly, Gavin Borchert, leads the Friday night talk.) Unlike most classical festivals, SLAM acknowledges electroacoustic music. In addition to Mexican electronicists Dúo Juum and UW composer Juan Pampin's Nada for viola and live electronics, I'm eager to hear Synchronisms No. 9 by one of the pioneers of electronic music, Mario Davidovsky. Scored for violin and tape, the mournful opening notes belie Synchronisms' subsequent maze of buzzes, chalky pops, and other old-school analog sounds inspired by the RCA Mark II Synthesizer.
The SLAM Festival runs Thurs Sept 27–Sat Sept 29 (Fourth-floor Chapel Performance Space, Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Ave N), 8 pm, $5–$15 sliding-scale donation.
Gerry Schwarz and the band back soloist Cecile Licad in Rachmaninov's swooning Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, a work that exemplifies the term warhorse, i.e., music programmed by just about every symphony orchestra on the planet. An essential component of the concert pianist's repertory, the Concerto has so many bravura rapid passages that pianists call it the "Rach 2." Also on the program: Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 and the premiere of Tibetan Love Songs by Bright Sheng, who has an astute ear for exotic instrumental textures. Also Fri Sept 28 at 1 pm, Sat Sept 29 at 8 pm, and Sun Sept 30 at 2 pm. Benaroya Hall, 200 University St, 215-4747, 7:30 pm, $17—$92.
THE MANHATTAN TRANSFER
Where did jazz hands—the gesture of open palms, spread-out fingers, and a grimacing grin mocked so trenchantly on Will & Grace—originate? Vaudeville? Early-20th-century collegiate glee clubs? Broadway? I suspect this vocal quartet did more to disseminate jazz hands in the 1970s and '80s than anyone else, especially after their take on Weather Report's "Birdland" hit big. Through Sun Sept 30. Jazz Alley, 2033 Sixth Ave, 441-9729, sets at 7:30 and 9:30 pm, $45.
MUSIC OF REMEMBRANCE
MoR not only preserves music composed by Holocaust victims and survivors but also champions and commissions contemporary composers. Their inaugural concert of the season is free, something more ensembles should try. MoR presents works by Erwin Schulhoff and Hans Krása as well as Israeli composer Aharon Harlap's Letters Weeping in Fire, described as a rumination on "the fires of hatred, fanned by Nazi book bans and burnings" sung by baritone Morgan Smith. Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park, 1400 E Prospect St, 365-7770, 2:30 pm, free.
Explaining his preference for short sets, the violinist Joe Venuti once declared, "No man has more than 20 minutes of good music inside him." Apostrophe's hour-long fusion of poetry, dance, and sound is comparatively brief, which impels the performers to make a taut, compact piece. Here, one of our burg's finest clarinetists, Jesse Canterbury, collaborates with dancer Jody Kuehner and poet Deborah Woodard. Gallery 1412, 1412 18th Ave, 322-1533, 8 pm, $5—$15 sliding-scale donation.
SEATTLE WOMEN'S JAZZ ORCHESTRA
Pianist and arranger Nelda Swiggett teams up with SWOJO to present two renditions of the same set of tunes, one played by the big band, the other by Swiggett's small group. If there's a better way to get inside a tune, I can't think of it. Tula's, 2214 Second Ave, 443-4221, 4—7 pm, $8.
By deploying familiar sounds, field recordings offer the easiest entryway into "difficult" (i.e., beatless and timbrally vaporous) abstract music. This dozen-strong ensemble of sound artists, which includes Doug Haire, Perri Lynch, Katie Gately, Steve Barsotti, and yours truly, improvises collectively with field recordings inside an echoing aircraft hangar. Building 27 at Sand Point Magnuson Park, 7400 Sand Point Way, 781-3824, 8 pm, $5 suggested donation.