by Mike Corrigan

Free live music? Good gooey gravy. How can we resist? The folks at independent recording label Mot & eacute;ma Music are throwing a free artist showcase at the Met Theater Thursday night (that's tonight if you're reading this on the day the paper hits the stands) and you are invited. Label reps and artists from Mot & eacute;ma are flying into Spokane from NYC this week for something called the Western Arts Alliance Annual Arts Bookers Conference. Joining the hundreds of delegates from the entertainment world will be over 70 arts groups who will be presenting their wares at various showcases around town. The Met gig is one such showcase. For jazz and world music lovers -- or for anyone with an itch to beef up their musical lexicon -- it represents a rare opportunity to experience expansive popular music on the edge. For free.

Mot & eacute;ma is a small recording label specializing in jazz, world music, and R & amp;B. Since launching last year, it has earned a name for itself in the music industry on the strength of its acclaimed artist roster and modest but ever-expanding catalog. Two initial releases from drummer/band leader Babatunde Lea and his namesake quartet -- Soul Pools and Level of Intent -- made fine showings on the Jazzweek radio chart at #22 and #9, respectively. Even more impressive, Arise by the Lynne Arriale Trio made it into the Billboard jazz chart at #17 and spent seven weeks in the Jazzweek radio chart at numero uno. In the music biz, that's more than just making waves, that's bordering on phenomenal.

Tenor saxman Don Braden and his jazz trio (with organist Kyle Koehler and drummer Cecil Brooks III) jumpstart the showcase. Pianist Lynne Arriale follows with a solo performance featuring a selection of haunting jazz compositions from her soon-to-be-released album, Come Together (advance copies -- along with CDs from other Mot & eacute;ma artists -- will be available for purchase in the Met lobby). Join percussionist Babatunde Lea and his snappy quartet (Latin jazz pianist Hilton Ruiz, saxophonist Richard Howell and bassist John Brennan) for an otherworldly trip through Afro-Cuban, jazz and funk. Mot & eacute;ma Music founder, Jana Herzen, will then team up with Lea and Ruiz -- along with percussionist Kevin Jones and bassist Joshua David -- for a set of jazz, world, rock and blues tunes. Soul singer/songwriter Rob Nerro is also slated to perform.

The organizers of this live music giveaway hope to make this the first of many such productions at the Met. And since this is the kind of thing we'd like to see a lot more of out here in the wilds of Spokane, those with even a passing interest should shake a leg -- and a tail feather -- and get on down there and see what these musical ambassadors have to offer. The tunes are on them.

Fair Pursuits -- Howdy y'all. The first break in the heat of summer '04 is upon us and that can only mean one thing. That's right, the Spokane Interstate Fair is upon us. As in recent year's past, this insanely popular countywide event will once again feature a heck of a lot of live music -- representing just about every genre you can imagine. Some of it will cost you, but most of it can be sucked up for free with your fair admission. In either case, we're talking about variety here. Good tunes. Great tunes. Maybe some not-so-good tunes. Let's call them Fair tunes. (Hey, if Fair organizers can get away with "Flock to the Fair, We'll See EWE There!" as a slogan, I should be able to have some stupid pun fun of my own.)

To keep things lively and interesting, the fair people of the Fair are introducing something new this year. It's called Spokane Idol. Now unless you've been out mining the asteroid belt for the past couple of years, you've probably heard of a little something on Fox TV called American Idol. Well it seems it has come to pass that fair organizers have teamed up with WILD 103.9 and Fox's local affiliate, KAYU, to bring you something they like to call "Spokane Idol." All kidding aside, Spokane Idol is designed to be the start of something big for some lucky vocalist in our region. On Monday, Sept. 13, beginning at 6:30 pm in the fairgrounds Grandstand Arena, eighteen finalists (selected from contests that have already been held around Spokane) will compete for a guaranteed interview in next season's American Idol tryouts to be held in Seattle. The competition will be fierce. The stakes are high. And you and your friends can sit back and cheer or jeer each contestant for free. What a hoot!

A couple of big-ticket concerts -- by performers who have presumably advanced beyond the Spokane Idol talent level -- are part of the equation, too. Both take place in the Grandstand Arena and will cost you $18 (for golden circle seating) or $16 (for lower concourse seating) and both have free seats available to fans who don't mind parking it in the nosebleed-inducing seats of the upper concourse. The first will be given by '80s mainstream hard rock outfit Night Ranger (Tuesday, Sept. 14, at 6:45 pm; tickets: $16-$18). Night Ranger did pretty well for itself in the mid-'80s with a big, slick, blustery sound and very little in the charisma department. The band's first big hit, "(You Can Still) Rock in America" always puzzled me, though. I mean, who ever said you couldn't rock in America? The second concert will be performed the following day by country boy Gary Allan (Wednesday, Sept. 15, at 6:45 pm).

All flash aside, there will also be buttloads of local and regional performers -- including Vertigo Bliss, the Whiskey Creek Band, Joel Brantley, Accordion Joe, Grand Old Gospel Opry, Troy "T-Bone" Lucas, the Bliss Band, Ben Preslee Klein & amp; the Rockabillies and George Bruner & amp; the Burning Gods of Love -- all strutting their stuff for free on various fairground stages, all for nothing more than your approval. Check the Fair's Web site for a full schedule.

Publication date: 09/09/04

One Street Over @ Pend d'Oreille Winery

Fri., Feb. 3, 5-8 p.m.
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