G.E. Smith Portraits Series Rocks Bay Street

G.E. Smith presents Portraits at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor.
G.E. Smith presents Portraits at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor. Photo credit: Jennifer Meihofer

Sag Harbor’s Bay Street Theater has always featured music, but in recent years they’ve really brought in innovations in how they present it. Think of Nancy Atlas’s midwinter Fireside Sessions, where she brings in fabulous musicians from all over to join with her and with her band to present evenings of tremendous range and variety. It’s been a great model for mixing diversity with familiarity, and it’s developed a loyal following from all over the island—the Fireside Sessions are always packed.

Following the model now is G.E. Smith, who is bringing his “Portraits” series to Bay Street starting Saturday, October 17. The first show will feature film composer and pianist Carter Burwell along with visual artist Dan Rizzie and photographer Ralph Gibson. The second show, an evening with Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters on October 30, is already sold out. The “Portraits” series will conclude with a November 7 concert featuring Hollywood actor Ethan Hawke. All of the performances start at 8 p.m.

G.E. Smith, and other musicians to be announced, will join in the performances. A legendary guitar virtuoso, Amagansett’s Smith is probably best known for the 10 years he spent as the bandleader on Saturday Night Live. Smith is a master of R&B, which should mesh well with the stylings of the featured artists. East End insiders wonder if SNL alumnus Jimmy Fallon might show for a surprise performance.

Local composer Carter Burwell is looking forward to being a part of the series. “I’ve never performed out here,” Burwell says. “G.E. invited me, and we’re getting together to work out what we’ll be doing. I’m really excited about the challenge of arranging my music for the event.” Burwell is best known for his work scoring films—he wrote the scores to all but one of the Coen brothers’ films (think films like Fargo, True Grit and The Big Lebowski) and countless others as well. Among the selections Burwell is planning on are music from No Country for Old Men—”there was no music in the body of the film, but if you stayed for the end credits you would have heard this”—and music from the new film Carol, which was screened last week during the Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF).

“Everything I’m playing has appeared in a film at some point, and the music is spanning pretty much my whole career.” Burwell notes that playing the music by itself—without the accompanying film images—casts it in a different light.

Of course, Roger Waters may be one of the most visual songwriters around—he of Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall, with their elaborate sonic palette of screaming teachers and laughing madmen. Presumably, Water’s music will be treated in a similarly stripped-down manner. So if you don’t have a ticket, take comfort in knowing that they’re probably not going to build “The Wall” at Bay Street.

Ethan Hawke appears at Bay Street on November 7. The prolific actor recently appeared in the critically-acclaimed Boyhood, was featured in the filmic triptych Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight, and starred in the classic  Dead Poet’s Society. He’s been known to sing as  well, so be prepared to hear another
fruitful collaboration with Smith.

G.E. Smith presents Portraits with Dan Rizzie, Ralph Gibson and Carter Burwell is Saturday, October 17, at 8 p.m. Check out G.E. Smith presents with Ethan Hawke on Saturday, November 7 at 8 p.m. Visit baystreet.org or call 631-725-9500 for tickets and additional information.

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