Here we go — not just with the much anticipated opening of Napa’s newest venue, but with a stacked and eclectic weekend that signals the arrival of a bustling musical spring and summer.
Canadian folk icon Bruce Cockburn
Thursday at City Winery Napa
Michael Dorf, the man behind the expanding City Winery empire, said last month that the entertainment sweet spot of his venues is the music of the accomplished acoustic singer/ songwriter. It comes as no surprise, then, that veteran folk artist Bruce Cockburn is headlining Thursday night at the grand opening of City Winery Napa at the Napa Valley Opera House.
Cockburn is one of the most prolific and celebrated folk musicians of his era, with 31 studio recordings and five live albums released over 44 years. His most recent studio effort is “Small Source of Comfort” in 2011. A 2013 DVD, “Bruce Cockburn Pacing the Cage,” documents a recent solo acoustic concert tour.
A Canadian, Cockburn has won 13 Juno Awards (the Canadian Grammy), has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and has received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canada’s highest honor in the performing arts.
Cockburn vividly recalls the initial inspiration for his career. “The very first thing was Elvis’ band, Scotty Moore, who played guitar with him,” he said. “I didn’t know his name at the time, when those records were new, but I was completely captivated by that guitar playing, and by the rock ‘n’ roll of that era. Buddy Holly and the Crickets and Richie Valens, Duane Eddy. That was the music that made me want to be a guitar player.
“When I started taking lessons I got introduced to a broader range of music than I’d listened to before, including jazz. Before I was out of high school I was introduced to folk music, country blues and ragtime, this whole world of stuff that kind of all melded together. And the same time that I was listening to what was considered to be the cutting edge of jazz in the early ’60s, I was also listening to Mississippi John Hurt and Mance Lipscomb, Bill Broonzy, Brownie McGee and Sonny Terry.
“The most succinct way I can describe what I do,” he said, “is it’s kind of an amalgam of that early acoustic blues with a lot of elements of jazz and reggae and rock ‘n’ roll.”
Lyrically, Cockburn returns repeatedly to themes of spirituality, relationships and world affairs. He is an outspoken advocate for progressive causes and those priorities are woven into many of his songs.
Though a “road warrior” for decades, doing thousands of shows in every imaginable setting, he is still enthusiastic about live performance. “I’m basically very happy to be able to do what I do for a living,” he said.
“No matter how dragged out I might be, which I occasionally am getting to a gig, once I get on the stage and it’s just between me and the people that are there, that all goes away and it’s replaced by what I perceive as a collective energy that happens with all of us in the room together. And that gives it life.”
Thursday, April 10, 8 p.m. Sold out; wait-list; $35, $40, $45. City Winery Napa. 1030 Main St., Napa. 707-260-1600. CityWinery.com/Napa.
Paraguayan harp/violin master Carlos Reyes
Friday at Silo’s
Carlos Reyes plays everything from rock to jazz to blues to classical on the violin and the Paraguayan harp, the national instrument of his birthplace. Migrating with his family to the Bay Area as a boy, he was 10 years old when he debuted on harp with the Oakland Symphony, and subsequently on violin with the Oakland Youth Symphony.
As a solo artist, Reyes has toured extensively both in the U.S. and internationally, sharing the stage with Willie Nelson, Steve Miller, Clint Black, slide guitarist Roy Rogers and many others. His most recent CD is “Harp, Love and Passion.”
Singer/songwriter Mikel Paul will open the show.
Friday, April 11, 8 p.m.; $22, $27. Silo’s, 530 Main St., Napa. 707-251-5833. SilosNapa.com.
The Midtown Men
Saturday at the Uptown
Four Broadway stars of “Jersey Boys” have transformed into the Midtown Men. Tony winner Christian Huff, Tony nominee J. Robert Spencer, Daniel Reichard and Michael Longoria are on their fourth national tour, performing the pop and rock hits of the 1960s.
If you love this music, you will experience it in a five-star professional production — first-rate vocalists, costumed and choreographed, with full orchestra.
Saturday, April 12, 8 p.m.; $50, $65, $85. Uptown Theatre, 1350 Third St., Napa. 707-259-0123. UptownTheatreNapa.com.
A Day of Bluegrass
Saturday in St. Helena
There’s not nearly enough bluegrass music in the Napa Valley for a former banjo picker like yours truly. Here comes the Northern California Bluegrass Society with a full day of jamming, open mikes and performances.
Headliners include Ed Neff & Friends, and David Thom & Vintage Grass with Don Rigby.
Saturday, April 12, 10 a.m.–8 p.m.; $22. Native Sons of the Golden West Hall, 1313 Spring Street, St. Helena. ncbs.org.
Melissa Morgan and the Duke
Sunday at Silo’s
The Napa Valley Jazz Society is presenting its fifth tribute to Duke Ellington, this time starring Los Angeles vocalist Melissa Morgan backed by Napa Valley favorite Larry Vuckovich on piano, Noel Jewkes on tenor sax, Doug Miller on bass and Lorca Hart on drums.
Jazz Society producer Bruce Hopwell says Morgan “has national critics raving about her talents … the audience will be entranced.”
Downbeat magazine writes, “Given the spicy edge in her sexy voice, her dry allure and the way she pops her words like a whip in a gospel choir, Morgan’s time has come.”
Sunday, April 13, 4 p.m.; $40, $20 (NVJS members). Silo’s, 530 Main St., Napa. 707-251-5833. nvjs.org.