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Arts BLAST: Global 'Lights' shine on Salt River Brass in Mesa this weekend

This Sunday afternoon at the Mesa Arts Center the Salt River Brass offers a program that traverses the globe, lingering in some major American cities. Musical globe-trotting powerhouses, conductor Patrick Sheridan and guest virtuoso trombonist Harry Watters shared earlier this week a peek into the upcoming "Bright Lights, Big City!" brass extravaganza and why the music is so special.

Harry Watters shares a few personal and promotional photos
Harry Frank Watters
Harry Watters and Patrick Sheridan at play
Harry Frank Watters

"The Salt River Brass is the best brass band I've ever heard," began Watters. Pretty high praise for a guy whose day job is trombonist for the US Army Ceremonial Band in Washington, D.C. For a guy who honeymoons in Ukraine, making music with his bride (violist and keyboardist Holly Watters) from Kiev to the conservatory in Lviv at the request of the US State Department. For a guy who records albums and plays duo gigs from Israeli symphony halls to San Diego national jazz conventions as one way to hang with his brother (trumpeter Ken Watters).

"We wanted to symbolize in a Family Drive Across America [by featuring well known numbers that are associated by title and fame with United States cities] during the time of rides in the station wagon's backseat, of listening to songs off the eight track tape players," said Watters of the collaborative arrangement he'll play that Sheridan adapted for the Salt River Brass.

Knowing music creates a sense of place, that it opens memory portals for each of us, it seems Sheridan has planned a program that will transport us across the map and through time.... from Suppe's Vienna to Kander & Ebb's Chicago.
"Philip Sparke's second movement of his Portrait of a City, 'In Autumn,' perfectly recreates the chilly fog of London," said Sheridan of a musical moment he's looking forward to on Sunday.

"And the way Harry plays 'Flight of the Bumble Bee' on his trombone [which Sheridan himself rocks on his rainbow-hued self-designed tuba] is a felony in 15 states," he chuckled about the dizzying speed with a salsa flare that characterizes Watters' version of the well-known solo that's included in the set list.

"Harry is world-class music maker and an extraordinary virtuoso." Sheridan continued. Everyone who writes about him or hears him, quickly knows that. What sets him apart from other amazing musical pros?

"His humanity," said Sheridan in a heartbeat. "As a music maker, he's fussing over details, everything is organized, he makes time for what's important, he's on time. The thing is, he treats his friends the same way."

As a fellow music maker (most often billed as "world renowned"), Sheridan, playing sousaphone, will join Watters on a piece in the second half of the concert."My great fortune with Salt River Brass is that I get to do what I love in my own community." As one lucky enough to travel the world making music, he said, "It's gratifying for a gypsy like me to cultivate culture right here at home."

"These first class musicians are all volunteers doing what they educators, music grad students...," Sheridan added about the band.

"For me, I want to pay it forward," agreed Watters about working with the group of "dedicated musicians with a common purpose. We're energized by electricity from an audience... rhythmic clapping, call and response. Collaboration with an audience, makes us part of something special."

The living color time and space travel concert is slated for 3pm at Mesa Arts Center, with a personalized musical travel talk by Watters that begins at 2:40.

because art IS a BLAST
because sometimes a quick heads up makes you want to head out
BLAST off!

-Jennifer Haaland

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