Chris Isaak, k.d. lang to headline Robert Mondavi Summer Music Festival

Notes of wine, song
2011-03-11T00:00:00Z 2011-03-17T23:49:17Z Chris Isaak, k.d. lang to headline Robert Mondavi Summer Music FestivalL. PIERCE CARSON Napa Valley Register
March 11, 2011 12:00 am  • 

The 42nd edition of the Robert Mondavi Summer Festival will feature Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter k.d. lang, Bay Area balladeer/rocker and actor Chris Isaak, plus Canadian record producer, composer, singer, songwriter and arranger David Foster with the Canadian Tenors as headliners for three of its five alfresco concerts in July.

Two additional performance headliners will be announced within a few weeks, winery officials said Monday. 

Acts to be announced will perform on July 2 and 9, with lang booked for her first wine country performance on July 30 and Isaak appearing a week earlier, on July 23. Foster and Friends, which includes the first appearance of the Canadian Tenors in the Napa Valley, will perform on the winery stage on July 16, an event produced in association with the sixth annual Festival del Sole.

Conspicuously absent from the announcement made earlier this week was the winery’s entertainment plans for the traditional Independence Day celebration. 

For the first time since 1977, the traveling New Orleans ensemble, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, will not be part of the festival lineup. Preservation Hall Jazz Band, led by the late Billie and De De Pierce, first appeared on the bill when the festival was in its infancy — the second year, in 1970. Festival founder Margrit Biever Mondavi invited a trio of renowned jazz musicians — pianist Oscar Peterson, bassist Ray Brown and drummer Louis Bellson — to perform for Independence Day 1977 rather than book the New Orleans ensemble that summer.

“Our decision to not bring back Preservation Hall this season signals our desire to look to the future,” said Carl R. Jaeger, estate director of the Mondavi winery in Oakville.

Responding to a question about the reasons for not including the legendary New Orleans group this year, Jaeger declared: “We are a winery that works hard to always make excellent wines from To Kalon and our other Napa Valley vineyards, and we want the world to know that we do not rest on our laurels. Pres Hall are great musicians, and I can see a time when we have them here again.

“This year we want our concertgoers to know that we are striving to always have wine country experiences that interest and excite them. Sometimes it takes a break with tradition to wake new things up inside of us.”

Jaeger said that he and the staff at the renowned Oakville winery “promise a Fourth of July weekend concert that will start the series in a new and exciting way. Stay tuned.”

This summer, winery officials are establishing themes for each of the festival concerts. The first two events — with artists to be announced soon — are titled Celebrating American Independence (July 2) and The Fumé Blanc Concert (July 9).

The winery will team up once again with Festival del Sole, which is set to announce the lineup for its sixth season soon, for one of the summer festival shows. Headlining this event is noted producer/arranger/songwriter/perform David Foster, along with Friends, which, according to Mondavi staffers, includes the acclaimed Canadian Tenors — Remigio Pereira, Victor Micallef, Fraser Walters and Clifton Murray — who perform a mixture of classical and pop.

Producer, songwriter, TV host, discoverer of talent, noted author, hit maker and record company executive, Foster is an artist whose influence in some of the biggest names in the music business is without precedent. He’s been an integral part of the biggest and best talents in the music industry including Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, Andrea Bocelli, Chicago, Michael Bublé, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Josh Groban, Earth Wind & Fire, N’Sync, The Corrs, Natalie Cole, Kenny Loggins, Kenny Rogers, Chaka Khan, The Tubes, All 4 One, Michael Bolton and Brandy.

In between writing and producing a number of hits throughout the last four decades, the 15-time Grammy winner and three-time Oscar nominee is serving as maestro of ceremonies for the now legendary Foster & Friends franchise — concerts, DVDs, CDs and Great Performances Specials.

With a lifetime of writing, producing, and sometimes performing hit music, the 12-time Grammy-winning Foster summed up the purpose and theory of his career in one sentence of his biography: “I gravitate toward tugging at heartstrings — and I treat every day in the studio as life or death.”

Headlining Spotlight on To Kalon will be rock ‘n’ roll singer/songwriter Chris Isaak, who launched his career in the mid-1980s with his brand of Southwestern retro-pop. Although he has touched on many styles over his career, he is best known for his rich vocal style and movie star good looks. 

From the earliest days of his career playing Bay Area club dates, the Stockton native has consistently delivered  a series of accomplished albums from “Silvertone” (1985), “Chris Isaak” (1986), “Heart Shaped World” (1989), “San Francisco Day” (1993), “Forever Blue” (1995), the largely acoustic “Baja Sessions” (1996), “Speak of the Devil” (1998), “Always Got Tonight” (2002), and most recently 2009’s “Mr. Lucky.”

In between recording and tours, Isaak has also used his famously sly, self-deprecating wit to enjoy a whole second life onscreen. He has appeared in numerous films including Jonathan Demme’s “Married To The Mob” (1988), David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” (1988), Bernado Bertolucci’s “Little Buddha,” Jonathan Demme’s Academy Award-winning “Silence Of The Lambs” (1991), Tom Hanks’ rock ‘n’ roll movie “That Thing You Do!” (1996) and John Waters’ “A Dirty Shame” (2004). And in addition to high profile guest parts on a special Super Bowl episode of “Friends” and the Emmy-winning HBO miniseries. “From The Earth To The Moon,” Isaak starred in his own acclaimed Showtime musical comedy series, “The Chris Isaak Show,” from 2001-2004 — an inspired vehicle that showcased many of his talents as a comedian and musician. 

Making her Napa Valley debut, k.d. lang will headline the Winemaker of the Year concert that wraps up the festival season on July 30. The performance will cap the winery’s tribute to winemaker Genevieve Janssens who has been an integral part of the Mondavi winemaking team for more than three decades and was named Winemaker of the Year by Wine Enthusiast magazine.

The renowned singer/songwriter is touring the country this spring, summer and fall in support of a new recording. “Sing It Loud,” scheduled for release by Nonesuch Records in mid-April, is lang's first record made entirely with a band of her own since the pair of albums with the Reclines that launched her career more than two decades ago. It follows “Watershed,”  in 2008, which at the time represented the first set of original songs from lang in around eight years.

The Grammy Award-winning performer has embraced everything from county to pop, even saluting the great American songbook by recording and touring with Tony Bennett a few years ago.

Come June, lang and the Siss Boom Bang — composed of Joe Pisapia (a multi-instrumentalist who co-produced the album with lang and serves as musical director), Daniel Clarke (keyboards), Fred Eltringham (drums/percussion), Joshua Grange (baritone guitar, dobro) and Lex Price (bass) — will launch their first tour together.

They will be performing material from “Sing it Loud” as well as material from throughout lang’s career on the North American run that will keep them on the road into the fall. 

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