Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 8, 2017

Jerry Noble and Friends

Sevenars Music Festival, The Academy, Worthington, MA
July 9-August 13, 2017
by Michael J. Moran

Even for this notably eclectic festival, the penultimate concert of its 49th season must have pushed the musical boundaries about as far as any other program in its first half-century.

Known as Clifton J. Noble in his day job as classical music critic for the Springfield Republican newspaper, Jerry Noble is also a skilled classical and jazz pianist and composer. In keeping with the family roots of Sevenars (it was founded by Robert and Rolande Schrade and named after the first letter of their names and those of their five children), Noble was joined on stage by his wife, Kara Noble, on bass guitar, and by members of the Biswas family from India.

But the concert opened with Noble accompanying Schrade family cellist Christopher James (his late mother was Robelyn Schrade-James) in Elgar’s own arrangement for cello and piano of his concerto for cello and orchestra. Written just after World War I, its four movements have varied tempos but reflect a predominantly elegiac mood. James gave a tight and focused performance, with Noble’s eloquent keyboard enhancing the music’s poignancy and power.

Noble then introduced Indian-born cellist, composer, and educator Anup Biswas, who was joined by his son Satyajit on mridangam, an Indian drum, and his daughter Geetanjali on vocals, in a mesmerizing rendition of Indian writer and composer Rabindranath Tagore’s song “Anondo Loke” (Abode of Joy). Along with Satyajit, Jerry, and Kara (everyone is on a first-name basis at Sevenars), Anup followed that with a joyful account of his own “Celebration,” from a longer ballet score.

Jerry Noble & Bob Sparkman
In yet another total change of musical focus, Noble was joined after intermission not only by Kara but by clarinetist Bob Sparkman in a series of “duo and jazz trio improvisations.” The Jerry-Bob duo swung mightily through a Fats Waller set, featuring a vivid “Jitterbug Waltz.” The trio romped through five more selections, including a Latin-style version of Ellington’s “Perdido,” before Anup and James, now on guitar, joined them for a rollicking take on “Sweet Georgia Brown” to end this all-embracing show on a high note.