CURRENTS

UGLY, CROOKED SPOONS

Todd Crandall’s special line of beautiful, handcrafted wooden spoons happened by accident. According to Crandall, he and his wife, Michele, once lived in Mobile, Alabama, where Michele purchased handmade spoons at a local fair. But after the couple moved to Walterboro, South Carolina, she couldn’t find any she liked.

Taking matters into his own hands, Crandall decided to try his hand at making spoons. He would surprise her with his own designs for Christmas. The result? His spoons were a huge success—not only with his wife but with family and friends. Today, he continues to carve spoons using nothing more than a hatchet and a couple of knives.

Crandall never buys the wood for his spoons, which are made of maple or wax myrtle. Instead, he culls it from trees that have fallen or had to be cut down. That the wood is far from perfect is the point. It’s what gives his spoons their unique “ugly, crooked” look.

Figuring out how to carve a spoon from a random piece of wood can be a real challenge, says Crandall. ”But sometimes the worst-looking pieces make the most beautiful spoons.” His customers agree.

Today, Ugly, Crooked Spoons can be found at Henry & Eva in Mount Pleasant. They are also available to view and purchase on Crandall’s Facebook page, where you can message him. Spoons range in price from $15 – $30. facebook.com /uglycrookedspoons

THE CHARLESTON JAZZ FESTIVAL

The Fifth Annual Charleston Jazz Festival opens January 24, bringing four days of thrilling music to the Holy City. On Saturday, music legend and 10-time Grammy award winner Bobby McFerrin will perform at the Gaillard Center with Charleston’s own Ranky Tanky, a quintet that has received national acclaim.

McFerrin, billed as a “musical explorer,” is known for his ecumenical approach to music. Born in New York City to musical parents (his father was a soloist at the Metropolitan Opera; his mother, a voice teacher), he grew up listening to many types of music—classical, pop, jazz, spirituals and R&B. McFerrin’s song “Don’t Worry Be Happy”—with its Jamaican rhythms and vocal layering (overdubbing)—became a global hit in 1988. Since then, he has collaborated with Yo-Yo Ma and Chick Corea, conducted orchestras around the world, and inserted his freewheeling vocal style into everything from Mozart concertos to Negro Spirituals.

Ranky Tanky is a gifted quintet from the South Carolina Lowcountry. Most of the musicians trace their roots to a unique African-American culture called Gullah. Ranky Tanky’s debut album, released in October of 2017, reached #1 on the Billboard, Amazon and iTunes jazz charts. The group pays tribute to the Gullah community by updating game songs, work songs and spirituals collected from early field recordings taken along the Carolina coast.

Given these artists’ interest in musical history, Saturday night’s performance promises to be a match made in heaven. Other artists performing at the festival include Latin Grammy Award-winner Nestor Torres, Steve Simon and the Kings of Jazz, the Robert Lewis Quartet, Robbie Madison and Kanika Moore, and the Simon Harding Sextet.

The Charleston Jazz Festival falls under the aegis of Charleston Jazz, an organization established in 2008 by a group of professional musicians committed to preserving the area’s rich tradition of jazz. In addition to the festival, the organization manages the 18-person Charleston Jazz Orchestra (CJO) and the Jazz Academy, which offers classes and community outreach programs to young artists and their families. Learn more at charlestonjazz.com or call 843- 641-0011.

CAPTAINS OF INDUSTRY

If you’re planning a trip to Florida’s southwest coast this winter, don’t miss the Edison and Ford Winter Estates in downtown Fort Myers.

Yes, we’re talking about the winter homes of Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, and Thomas Edison, the driving force behind the light bulb, the motion picture camera and the phonograph, to name a few of his inventions. Both spent their winters in Fort Myers, where they were next-door neighbors and friends. Today, Photographs by Olivia Rae James their wonderful homes, which border the Caloosahatchee River, are part of a complex that also includes a 20-acre garden full of exotic plants and a museum.

Did you know that before he founded his automobile company Ford once worked for Edison? That Edison, Ford, naturalist John Burroughs and tire entrepreneur Harvey Firestone loved to go camping together in Florida’s Everglades? Or that Edison, Ford and Firestone established a rubber research laboratory on the estate property in 1928 to look for ways to reduce America’s dependency on foreign rubber? The innovators’ homes are now open to tour as well as the museum that explains their life and work. Next to the museum, the laboratory looks just as it did in 1936, a forest of test tubes, beakers and burners. The Edison and Ford Winter Estates are open 9:00 am to 5:30 pm. 239-334-7419, edisonfordwinterestates.org

WHERE TO STAY: A 15-minute drive from Fort Myers, where the Caloosahatchee River meets the bay, is the luxurious Westin Hotel at Cape Coral (westin capecoral.com). Here, at the respected Tarpon Point Marina, guests can charter a boat for a day of fishing or embark on a dolphin or sunset cruise. The Westin’s Marker 92 Waterfront Bar & Bistro, next to the marina, is a fine choice for dinner. In downtown Fort Myers, try The Veranda (verandarestaurant .com) or The Twisted Vine Bistro (twistedvinebistro.com).