Santa Fe Performance Exchange
Bringing local and national musicians to Santa Fe venues
Mariel Vandersteel, Laura Cortesi, Valerie Thompson

Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012, 7:30 pm Laura Cortese’s Acoustic Project Admission: $15 | $18 at the door

Welding the propulsive grace of ancient fiddle styles to disarmingly open-hearted original pop songs, Laura Cortese has emerged among the most intriguing and versatile musicians in the bountiful New England post-folk scene. At home in any number of traditional styles, her highly-visible work as a supporting musician (on fiddle, vocals, and bass) includes appearances with Uncle Earl, Tao Seeger, Band of Horses, and – as part of Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden – Patterson Hood and Michael Franti. The past two years have found Cortese in creative overdrive, balancing sideman duties, solo tours, and recording sessions with an increased devotion to her own music: a kaleidoscopic hybrid that is enriched by roots music undertones and yet remains defiantly contemporary. In 2010 Cortese released an EP trilogy including her all female Acoustic Project.

At the outset of the EP series, the outgoing Cortese reached out to her community of friends and fellow musicians to create 3 unique ensembles for each recording. Two Amps, One Microphone came first, a duet between Cortese and Jefferson Hamer. After spending a year performing as a duo they recorded a string of celtic-influenced American rock songs in one night. The two singers shared a mic and the set came together with nary an overdub. With more than enough material mounting from solo tours and disciplined writing sessions (along with a few of her favorite songs by others), Cortese approached three women Natalie Haas, Brittany Haas (Crooked Still), and Hanneke Cassel to record her Acoustic Project. The EP features five songs and two instrumentals played by Laura and company on fiddles and cello. From the driving, Cajun- influenced “Perfect Tuesdays” to the sparse plucked “Women of The Ages” the arrangements of Cortese’s Acoustic Project explore the potential of a fiddle-based string quartet.

Laura and her Acoustic Project band have been enjoying glowing reviews playing festivals and concerts in 2011. The variety of textures, styles, and approaches reflect Cortese’s own rich musical background. Raised in the traditional hotbed of the San Francisco Bay area, Cortese was introduced to music early on, via school orchestras and musicals. That interest was subsequently expanded at the fiddle camps and festivals she attended as a teenager, where she developed a keen understanding of and aptitude for various traditional fiddle strains. She attended the Berklee College of Music – where her classmates included Carrie Rodriguez, Casey Driessen, and April Verch – which further fueled her collaborative instincts and modern sensibilities.

Joining Laura for this show are Mariel Vandersteel (Fiddle) and Valerie Thompson (Cello).

Mariel Vandersteel grew up in the rich musical scene in the San Francisco Bay Area. She spent high school playing for local contra dances, as well as performing and touring with Alasdair Fraser and the San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers and the Black Brothers (the brothers of Frances and Mary Black), while she immersed herself in the traditional music of Ireland, Scotland. She received a cultural grant from the Milwaukee Irish Festival in high school and spent several summers studying traditional Irish music at Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy in Co. Clare and at the Irish Traditional Music Archives in Dublin, Ireland. In 2005, Mariel moved to Boston to attend Berklee College of Music as a scholarship student and has now received a Bachelor’s in Violin Performance. At Berklee, she studied with cellists, Eugene Friesen and Natalie Haas, violist Melissa Howe, violinist Mimi Rabson and mandolinist John McGann. While at Berklee, she was asked to be the fiddle player on the 2008 Three Irish Tenors North American Tour.

Valerie Thompson is a native of Kansas City, MO. She began classical cello studies at the age of ten, and is a graduate of Berklee College of Music with a B.M. in music performance (2002). She is the cellist for the Boston based thinkrock quintet Fluttr Effect, the 2004 Emergenza Festival North American Finalists. She has also had the great pleasure of performing with the Jake Leg Jug Luggers (old time,) the Yurodivy Quintet (klezmer/grass/jazz/avant garde ensemble) and the very talented fiddlers Emerald Rae and Laura Cortese. Recently, Valerie scored the soundtrack to Zea Barker’s short film Bonylil’s Creation. An avid educator, she has been on the faculty of the Illinois Wesleyan Cello Camp and the Joe Val Bluegrass Festival Kids Academy.