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VOL. 125 | NO. 110 | Tuesday, June 8, 2010

LaVere Adds Playhouse Series to Busy Summer

By Andy Meek

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Musician Amy LaVere, shown with Playhouse on the Square executive director Jackie Nichols, is planning a performance titled "Amy LaVere and Friends" at Playhouse on June 30.  Photo: Lance Murphey

Amy LaVere is sandwiching a special gift for her Memphis fans into a jam-packed fall schedule that includes a movie role, touring and recording a new album.

Resource Entertainment Group and Playhouse on the Square have teamed up with the bass-slapping chanteuse to produce Amy LaVere & Friends, a concert series that kicks off June 30 on the Midtown theater’s main stage.

On the heels of what’s already been a whirlwind first half of 2010, LaVere has finally put together a gig she’s been itching to play for a long time. A show at an intimate Memphis performance hall played with her friends, for her friends.

The concert, which starts at 7:30 p.m., will feature a lineup that includes Joe Restivo and George Sluppick, part of The City Champs and comprising LaVere’s newly formed backup band.

Also part of the eclectic grab bag of talent supporting LaVere will be saxophonist Jim Spake, guitarist John Whittemore, Memphis Symphony Orchestra cellist Jonathan Kirkscey, horn player Nahshon Benford and violinist Krista Wroten.

“I have been dreaming of pulling together some of my favorite musicians for a ‘big band’ show for a long time, and the Playhouse is the perfect venue to showcase this great collection of talent,” LaVere said. “The sound will be pristine and this room is so comfortable and intimate. It also gives me an opportunity to perform live some of the new material for my record to be made in July.”

Jackie Nichols, executive producer at Playhouse on the Square, said LaVere’s show fits in with the theater’s extra mission of serving as a crowd-pleasing performance space for Memphis and especially Midtown.

“Music concerts are something that bring whole new audiences into the space,” he said. “We’re glad this is Amy, because she’s one of the most talented, exciting young artists to come up in the city.”

REG founding partner Paul Chandler, Nichols and LaVere toured Playhouse’s main stage together and all came to the same conclusion: LaVere, whom REG booked to play a grand opening party for the theater, was a perfect act to showcase in the new facility at 66 S. Cooper St.

“Like Playhouse on the Square, Amy LaVere is a unique, approachable, talented and attractive Memphis brand,” Chandler said. “I am confident Playhouse and Amy will be friends for a long time.”

Based on the schedule and creative resurgence she’s displayed already this year, LaVere will no doubt be on top form.

So far in 2010, she has assembled a new backup band to replace the one she lost when drummer Paul Taylor left and guitarist Steve Selvidge was invited to join Brooklyn-based rock band The Hold Steady.

That deep-sixed the plan to record in April her third full-length set of tunes, not counting 2009’s five-song set “Died of Love.”

She tapped producer Craig Silvey to oversee the album she’s recording in Memphis at Archer Records’ Music + Arts Studio.

Several weeks ago, she took an Amtrak train to New Orleans to play the city’s Jazz & Heritage Festival. She also performed with the indie rock band My Morning Jacket at New Orleans’ legendary jazz club Preservation Hall.

It was a follow-up to LaVere’s contribution of a song – “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home” – to the star-studded CD released in February to benefit the historic performance venue.

LaVere and her bass were guests on “Memphis Blues,” the album Cyndi Lauper recorded in Memphis and is releasing at the end of the month.

A budding actress when she’s not behind a microphone, LaVere also will star in “The Romance of Loneliness,” a film set to begin shooting in Memphis in a few weeks.

Asked to sum up her recent work, and she does it short and sweet.

“I’m maddeningly busy.”

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