By J. R. Carroll.
Is it winter? You wouldn’t know it by the weather or by the rich array of jazz performances coming up between now and the end of March.
The signature jazz event of the season will almost certainly be pianist Jason Moran‘s multimedia exploration of the music of Thelonious Monk, In My Mind, on Thursday, February 2, at 8 p.m. in NEC’s Jordan Hall.
Two other great composer/pianists will also get their due this winter. On Thursday, February 23, at 7 p.m. at the Lily Pad, saxophonist Paul Combs and his Quintet perform music familiar and unfamiliar by Tadd Dameron. (Combs’s eagerly awaited biography of Dameron is scheduled to be published next summer by the University of Michigan Press.)
There’s more large-ensemble music.
Either/ Orchestra presents the New England premieres of The Collected Unconscious, a new suite inspired by the band’s most recent tour of Ethiopia and composed by founder Russ Gershon. The evening also includes a revival of music written by Nerses Nalbandian, an Armenian expatriate who shaped modern, Ethiopian music from his position as music director of the Haile Selassie National Theater during the 1950s and ’60s. The first performance will be in Providence on Friday, February 3, at 8 p.m. at Fête, followed by a concert on Friday, February 24, at 7:30 p.m. at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA).
The Fifth Annual Herb Pomeroy Memorial Concert takes place on Friday, March 2, at 8 p.m. at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium; Frederick Harris Jr. leads the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble, with special guest pianist Ray Santisi.
The New World Jazz Composers Octet isn’t strictly speaking a large ensemble, but they take full advantage of every one of their eight instruments in their programs of original works by Boston-area composers. They’ll be at the Amazing Things Arts Center at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 18.
Three exemplary vocalists come to Scullers this winter. On Thursday, January 19, at 8 and 10 p.m., Tierney Sutton returns with her longtime band of pianist Christian Jacob, bassists Kevin Axt and Trey Henry (trading off on acoustic and electric), and drummer Ray Brinker.
Catherine Russell may be our most definitive interpreter of the Great African-American Songbook. With her veteran trio of guitarist/banjoist/arranger Matt Munisteri, pianist Mark Shane, and bassist Lee Hudson, she returns to Scullers at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 1, for the release of her new CD, Strictly Romancin’ (watch for an upcoming review).
There’s also a fine double bill at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center on Thursday, March 22, 7:30 p.m., featuring vocalist Lisa Thorson with pianist Doug Johnson and vocalist Mili Bermejo with bassist Dan Greenspan, a musican who actually makes good bread (seriously—I’ve tasted it).
Several unusual trios will make appearances this winter.
Last year’s performance at Outpost 186 by New Orleans trombonist Mark McGrain’s ‘bone-sax-bass project Plunge (with saxophonist Tom Hall and bassist Marty Ballou) was among the most memorable of 2011. On Wednesday, January 25, at 9:30 p.m., the group will be back in Inman Square at the Lily Pad, joined by guest drummer Rakalam Bob Moses.
The trio Tre Corda, with trumpeter Greg Hopkins, cellist Eugene Friesen, and pianist Tim Ray, will bring a quieter set of sonorities to Berklee’s David Friend Recital Hall, on Monday, January 30, at 7:30 p.m.
The instrumentation of New Orleans’s Wee Trio isn’t especially unusual (vibraphonist James Westfall, bassist Dan Loomis, and drummer Jared Schonig), but their repertoire certainly is. Catch their program of songs by David Bowie at the Lily Pad on Saturday, February 11, at 10 p.m.
And, on Thursday, February 23 at 8 p.m., the Fine Arts Center at UMass-Amherst will present not one but two trombone trios, led respectively by the inventive and highly original Frank Lacy and Ray Anderson.
Speaking of UMass-Amherst, they’ll be hosting two other noteworthy events this winter.
The schedule for this year’s Boston Jewish Music Festival has just been released, and we’ll have more information on that in the coming weeks. In the meantime, as a warm-up, head over to Johnny D’s on Tuesday, January 24, at 8 p.m. for a double bill of Naftule’s Dream and Rob Rudin’s Half-Jewish.
On Tuesday, January 31, at 7:30 p.m. at the Regattabar, pianist Danilo Pérez, director of the Berkelee Global Jazz Institute, has arranged for his colleague in the Wayne Shorter Quartet, bassist John Patitucci, to be the special guest in this BGJI Jazz Masters concert. And on Wednesday, February 15, a different group from the BGJI welcomes another Jazz Master, drummer Teri Lynne Carrington, to the Regattabar. (Danilo himself will be at the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport at 8 p.m. on Friday, February 10, playing a benefit concert for the North Shore Jazz Project.)
Gigs by two terrific, drummer-led, Latin jazz groups are also on the horizon in this leap year. On Wednesday, February 29, at 8 p.m, Scullers hosts drummer Dafnis Prieto. Then on Monday, March 12, at 8:15 p.m., drummer Mark Walker and Rhythm of the Americas play at the Berklee Performance Center.
International Guitar Night at the Regattabar on January 11 was sold out, but there’s plenty more this winter for guitar buffs.
Stephane Wrembel may not be a familiar name, but you may well have heard his music—he’s prominently featured on the soundtracks to Woody Allen’s Vicki Cristina Barcelona and Midnight in Paris. At 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 25, he’ll be at the Regattabar with his Django a GO-GO project, a boatload of fellow guitarists and violinists as well as David Langlois playing—I’m not making this up—washboard, fondue pot, and musical saw!
Bill Frisell and his Beautiful Dreamers band make a swing through New England with gigs in New Haven at Firehouse 12 at 8:30 and 10 p.m. on Wednesday, January 26, the following evening in northwest Connecticut at 8 p.m. at Infinity Hall in Norfolk and then settling in at Scullers in Boston for two nights, Saturday and Sunday, January 27–28, with shows at 8 and 10 p.m.
Also on Sunday, January 28, Bern Nix, who played with Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time from 1975 to 1987, teams up with a fellow Coleman alum, pianist Dave Bryant, for a quartet date at Outpost 186 at 8 p.m.
Adam Rogers has had a remarkably diverse portfolio of musical experiences; he’ll be at Scullers with his quartet (keyboardist Craig Taborn, bassist Ben Williams, and drummer Clarence Penn) on Wednesday, February 1 at 8 p.m.
Mike Stern brings saxophonist Bob Franceschini, bassist Richard Bona, and drummer Dave Weckl to the Regattabar on Tuesday and Wednesday, February 28–29, at 7:30 and 10 p.m. And back at the Regattabar on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 13–14, at 7:30 and 10 p.m., Kurt Rosenwinkel makes an appearance with his New Quartet (pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Eric Revis, and drummer Justin Faulkner).
Even in winter, it’s good to step outside every now and then.
Saxophonist Tim Berne gave his Los Totopos project a new name last year, but what is now Snakeoil is still composed of clarinetist Oscar Noriega, pianist Matt Mitchell, and drummer Ches Smith. They’ll be at the Regattabar on Thursday, February 16, at 7:30 p.m.
Bassist Aaron Darrell combines members of two of his trio projects, Matador and Sons of Daughters, into what he’s calling his Full Installation; catch them at Outpost 186 on Saturday, February 25, at 8 p.m.
Finally, a couple of old masters will be playing in town. On Friday and Saturday, February 10–11, the Regattabar hosts pianist McCoy Tyner with bassist Gerald Cannon and drummer Francisco Mela; shows are at 7:30 and 10 p.m.
Of course, little is immutable in the world of jazz, so check in with the Arts Fuse Posterous Space for news and updates on winter performances in Boston and around New England.