And now for something just a little different for George Winston: "The Velveteen Rabbit" (Dancing Cat 3007). No, Winston hasn't given up his pastoral new age/folk piano (it can be heard at Constitution Hall on Friday), but on this lovely album he collaborates with actress Meryl Streep in a sensitive reading of Margery Williams' classic story (it was done for a PBS animated special). Mostly Winston plays subtly under Streep's intimate reading, but contributes three entrancing solo pieces.
* Jazz trombonist Craig Harris (at D.C. Space Saturday) coaxes slurs, moans, growls, groans and sighs from his instrument. And several times on "Black Bone" (Soul Note 1055), he sounds like a Formula Four car at Daytona Beach. But Harris is also one of the finest ensemble writers in the idiom, creating complex, swinging pieces like "Blackwell," a pulsating polyrhythmic tribute to drummer Ed Blackwell, the multi-transitioned "Homeland" and a blues-drenched "Conjure Man." His ballad side is also represented in "September 10, 1953," a rich languid duet with pianist Donald Smith. Harris leaves plenty of room for solos, his own and saxophonist George Adams' being consistently provocative.
* Portland's Schooner Fare cuts its own swath somewhere between the Clancy Brothers and the Limeliters. Blustery sing-along choruses, sentimental ballads about being away from lovers and homes and folk poems about friendship are its staples, and "We the People" (Outer Green 8885) offers 10 sterling examples. The title cut is a call for affirmative political action, and "Leviathan" is a lovely homage to whales, but the best tunes are the openly sentimental "My Heart's in Cape Breton Tonight," "Portland Town" and "Calgary, My Home Away From Home." The group is at Lisner Auditorium Saturday night.
* Accordionist Joe Burke, the Irish Paganini, returns to the Dubliner this weekend in the company of the Irish Tradition's fiddler, Brendan Mulvihill, and guitarist/singer Meg Davis. "Traditional Music of Ireland" (Green Linnet 1048) is a reissue of Burke's out-of-print classic, containing his trademarks: exquisite phrasing, mind-boggling dexterity, choice selection of tunes, and a bright and lively approach that pulls all the nuances out of the Celtic tradition. That Burke appears to do all this with effortless inspiration only adds to the joyous spirit of the music. -- Richard Harrington. GOLD IS UP
Saturday's nostalgia rock concert at Constitution Hall is but the tip of a small iceberg about to hit Washington. It features Rick (not Ricky) Nelson, Lesley ("It's My Comeback and I'll Try If I Want To") Gore, the Marvellettes, Coasters and Regents and special guest Frankie Avalon.
On June 7, the Jive Five, Heptones, Sparrows and Baby Washington share the stage at the Warner. On July 10, Avalon joins his fellow Philadelphia teen idols Fabian and Bobby Rydell at Wolf Trap, the first time those three have worked together. And another big blast is scheduled for Bull Run Regional Park on July 20. That one features Bo Diddley, Little Anthony, Freddy Cannon, Lou Christie, Danny and the Juniors, the Coasters, Angels and Crystals and emcee Wolfman Jack.
The sad note's that most of these rock'n'roll acts can't get work by themselves and need to finagle a package; their audience is simply not a pop-concert-going crowd. -- R.H. IN FROM FRANCE
American saxophonist Joe McPhee, who has been living in France for the last decade, and French guitarist Raymond Boni, will perform Friday at 8 at the French Embassy (4101 Reservoir Road NW). McPhee's an improviser and composer who has worked in both the acoustic and electronic modes; he's also a director of Hat Hut Records, a company devoted to experimental works. He has been working with Boni since 1976. Tickets are $5 at the door. BACK TO BASIE
Recent Grammy-winner Joe Williams will pay tribute to his old boss, Count Basie, in a Sunday concert at 7:30 in Baird Auditorium in the Museum of Natural History. Williams, one of the consummate blues singers of the last 30 years, joined Basie in 1954; their first record produced the classics "Every Day I Have the Blues," "Alright, OK, You Win" and "Teach Me Tonight."