Apr 272012

Jazz songs by composer John Harbison? An ensemble devoted to the music of Björk? A quartet taking over a theater and breaking the “fourth wall”? Jazz Week 2012 stakes out territory on the permeable boundary where jazz encounters other genres and even other art forms.

By J. R. Carroll.

[Note: Jazz Week is something of a moving target, so check back here regularly for updates.]

Friday, April 27, kicks off Jazz Week 2012, and it’s a full evening; here are just a few highlights.

This is one for the whole family, and, appropriately enough, it’s taking place at the Cambridge Family YMCA Theatre, near Central Square, at 7 p.m. Quartet of Happiness consists of saxophonists Kelly Roberge and Rick Stone, bassist Kendall Eddy, and drummer Austin McMahon, musicians more often found poking music’s outside corners at Outpost 186 or the Lily Pad. Here, though, the goal is to use visual metaphor, participative theater, and just plain goofiness to seduce unsuspecting audiences into enjoying jazz before someone tells them they shouldn’t. (Note to the camera-shy: this performance will be captured on video, so you might find yourself part of the Quartet’s next DVD.)

Bassist Jim Guttmann isn’t trying to get anyone’s payos in a twist—he’s just serving up a little klezmer cubano at the Acton Jazz Cafe. Join Guttmann, violinist Mimi Rabson, trumpeters Mark Berney and Gary Bohan, trombonist Dave Harris, reedmen Ted Casher and Tom Hall, keyboardist Art Bailey, guitarist Jon Damian, drummer Grant Smith, and percussionist Ernesto Diaz at 7 p.m. for a Bessarabian Breakdown.

John Harbison's Gatsby Songs

Harbison Jazz

Composer John Harbison writes jazz songs? Who knew? Well, if you saw or heard his adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby for the New York Metropolitan Opera, you might have gotten an inkling. Harbison’s long tenure with MIT bears surprising fruit when the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble, directed by Frederick Harris, Jr., premieres five of Harbison’s songs (and performs a few older ones as well, along with music of Mingus, Monk, and Frank Foster) at 8 p.m in MIT’s Kresge Auditorium.

Dave Douglas digs Björk; Alex Ross digs Björk; I dig Björk; but no one digs Björk like alto saxophonist and arranger Travis Sullivan. He’s assembled an entire big band devoted to the compositions of Iceland’s most celebrated dóttir, and he’ll bring a mini-version of his New York-based Björkestra (vocalist Shayna Steele, laptop programmer Dave Cook, tenor saxophonist Sean Nowell, bassist Yoshi Waki, and drummer Joe Abbatantuono, joined by Boston pianist Mark Shilansky) to the Beehive at 10 p.m.

Saturday, April 28, jazz week takes many of its performances to less familiar venues.

Starting at 2 p.m., the Brighton Branch of the Boston Public Library offers a free afternoon of jazz standards and original compositions by the NEC Jazz Trio (pianist Luke Marantz, bassist Ehud Ettun, and drummer Zach Para), a Fellowship Ensemble in the Community Performances and Partnerships Program.

At 6 p.m. the Gallery at the Piano Factory welcomes guitarist Pat Loomis and WeJazzUp (with Frank Wilkins, Tim Ingles, Sergio Bellotti, and special guest Antonio Shiell).

At 7 p.m. the The West End Museum features trombonist John Licata and the Guitar Titans (Garrison Fewell and Mark Michaels) with bassist Dave Gold and drummer Isaac Lit.

Down in Hyde Park at 7:30 p.m., the Menino Arts Center presents a concert performance by the J.P. Jazz Collective and presentation of “The Blue Note Story,” a film history of Blue Note records.

Also at 7:30 p.m., the Lily Pad in Inman Square hosts a CD release event for the Phil Grenadier-Bruno Raberg Duo (trumpet and bass, respectively), followed at 10 p.m. by Peruvian drummer/percussionist Jorge Perez-Albela’s Quartet with saxophonist George Garzone, pianist Kevin Harris, and bassist Ehud Ettun.

[More to come later!]


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