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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

Ken Waldman preaches the truth at 8th annual 'From Manhattan to Moose Pass' APAP showcases

Ken Waldman

Ken Waldman at his APAP booth

Poet/folk musician Ken Waldman was basking in the praise of well-wishers and attendees of his annual two-night From Manhattan to Moose Pass mostly acoustic artist showcase Saturday afternoon at his booth at the Hilton, an hour or so after the Association of Preforming Arts Presenters (APAP) Exhibition Halls opened.

But the part-time Alaska resident, in addition to displaying his many books and CDs and talking up the artists who performed with him Thursday night at Jalopy in Brooklyn and Friday night at Manhattan cabaret Don't Tell Mama, was announcing his forthcoming poetry collection for Ridgeway Press, Trump Sonnets, Vol. 1: The First 50 Days.

The book contains 71 sonnets, "some in the voice of Trump," said Waldman, with others addressed to him, like "To Donald Trump, From Baltimore," which has a line, "You make George Bush seem like a statesman," that pretty much characterizes its entire tone.

"It's dark going darker," said Waldman. "There are parodies and satires and hard news, all responding to current events, sort of a sequel to [his 2007 poetry book] As the World Burns: The Sonnets of George W. Bush and Other Poems of the 43rd Presidency. Most were written between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it is dark--a reflection of Donald Trump."

As for his showcases, this year's roster was made up of Nic Gareiss & Maeve Gilchrist (percussive dance meets Scottish harp), Kaia Kater (African-Canadian banjo sensation, accompanied by bassist and dancer), American traditional music trio Wild Hog, Brian & Claire (fiddlers, guitarist, singers, banjo), Americana trio Jefferson Hamer Band, rocking acoustic string/vocal quartet Laura Cortese & the Dance Cards, and Miller, Knuth, Kilianski, consisting of Revelers' saxophonist Chris Miller, Gaslight Tinkers fiddler Audrey Knuth and Hoot & Holler guitarist Mark Kilianski.

Waldman began his 2017 From Manhattan to Moose Pass show with his traditional Ken's Class Party, "essentially a showcase within a showcase where I introduce everyone together before bringing them back one at a time for brief individual sets." It featured seven fiddlers (including Waldman), cello and upright bass on "Greasy Coat," a traditional tune that Wild Hog has recorded.

"I curate," said Waldman. "I'd never met Laura Cortese before but she was a friend of friends, and I saw that she plays 'Greasy Coat' and knew everyone could play it--and had the idea to do it at the beginning."

While Laura Cortese & the Dance Cards may have been the hit of the show, what with their especially hot acoustic presentation of originals and covers and dynamic arrangements for instruments and vocals, Gareiss and Gilchrist also stood out, as did Miller, Knuth, Kilianski, largely due to Kilianski's compelling antiwar song "The Blue Sky Ain't No Friend of Mine," from Hoot & Holler's forthcoming album. But really, everyone was excellent—and supportive of each other: When Jefferson Hamer sang "One for the Busker," all the Dance Cards sang backup from the back by the bar.

Waldman also performed a few of his poems set to music. For "Charlene," from his 2006 book And Shadow Remained and about a somewhat mysterious gal who "blew alto for the local blues band," Chris Miller answered each verse with his own freeform jazz phrase, with Kaia Kater's dancer doing her thing while Waldman fiddled. Likewise, Gareiss came out to tap when Wildman played "Burnt Down House," the titletrack of his second CD.

"You can tell how much fun I'm having when my glasses start sliding down my nose!" said Kater, aptly summing it all up. It was Waldman's eighth year of presenting his APAP showcases, and the next day he said that buyers were already lining up for next year.

"Someone from the University of Arkansas was interested in a potential residency perhaps with one of the groups and a presenter from Maryville College near Knoxville was interested in maybe having me put on a weekend festival," he said.

Just then a talent buyer strolled by and proclaimed, directly at Waldman, "We need John the Baptist preaching the truth!"

"From Manhattan to Moose Pass," APAP 2016



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