By J. R. Carroll
Music with African roots warms the January chill, percussionists raise the roof, vocalist/pianist/songwriter Patricia Barber makes a welcome return, and a sextet of touring all-stars from the Monterey Jazz Festival swings through town.
2012 came to a superb conclusion with the auspicious launch of what we hope will be an ongoing series of live broadcasts from Scullers, hosted by Eric Jackson on WGBH. The featured artist, violinist Regina Carter, returned with her Reverse Thread project bridging the string musics of Africa and the Americas, a phenomenal performance that looked forward to some outstanding evenings in January 2013 with deep African roots, including appearances by Oliver Mtukudzi, Timbila, Femi Kuti, and the Leni Stern African Trio, as well as the percussive power of Yoron Israel, Sammy Figueroa, Billy Cobham and Jimmy Cobb (teamed with Joey DeFrancesco and Larry Coryell for a Jimmy and Wes tribute).
The Acton Jazz Cafe, celebrating the New Year in its new location across from Nagog Pond, hosts the collective ensemble Clear Audience (saxophonist Andy Voelker, guitarist Steve Fell, bassist Jef Charland, and drummer Luther Gray) at 9 p.m. on Friday, January 4. Pianist Alan Rowe and his trio open the evening at 7 p.m..
Drummer Yoron Israel has High Standards–that’s his quartet with saxophonist Lance Bryant, pianist Laszlo Gardony, and bassist John Lockwood. They’ll be in Framingham at the Amazing Things Arts Center at 8 p.m. on Saturday, January 5.
Miami-based percussionist Sammy Figueroa has played and recorded with an amazing list of musicians, including Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, the Brecker Brothers, and the pioneering Brazilian/Latin fusion band Raices. He brings his Latin Jazz Explosion to Scullers on Thursday, January 10, at 8 and 10 p.m.
The same evening, trumpeter Jerry Sabatini and his Sonic Explorers find their way to the Acton Jazz Cafe for a 9 p.m. gig, with pianist John Funkhouser opening at 7 p.m. Meanwhile, pianist Bill Charlap swings through Massachusetts for a 7 p.m. concert at Northampton’s Iron Horse Music Hall, following it up with two nights at the Regattabar on Friday and Saturday, January 11-12, at 7:30 and 10 p.m.
Zimbabwean vocalist/guitarist/composer Oliver Mtukudzi, a powerful voice in the battle against AIDS in Africa, makes two stops in Massachusetts. On Tuesday, January 15, he and his band, the Black Spirits, come to Johnny D’s at 7:30 p.m. The following evening they’ll travel to Northampton’s Iron Horse Music Hall for a 7 p.m. performance.
Drummer Billy Cobham hasn’t lost one whit of his power since he recorded his Spectrum album in 1973. His 7:30 and 10 p.m. performances at the Regattabar on Thursday, January 17, will mark not only the 40th anniversary of that album but also a reunion with his old compadre in the Mahavishnu Orchestra, violinist Jerry Goodman.
The Regattabar offers an outstanding evening of African-rooted music on Saturday, January 19. At 7:30 p.m. you can catch the Maghrebian funk of Atlas Soul, with special guest vocalist and qanun player Ali Amr. The emphasis shifts south to Mali and Zimbabwe—and to the East Village—at 10 p.m. with Timbila. A special price for tickets to both Atlas Soul and Timbila makes the double bill even more enticing.
One of the biggest names in African music, Nigeria’s Femi Kuti, arrives at the Paradise Rock Club with his band Positive Force on Wednesday, January 23, with Boston’s Uhuru Afrika opening the proceedings at 8 p.m.
Vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Leni Stern has been involved with African music—especially that of Mali—since 2005, leading her to take up the traditional n’goni and to sing in the Bambara language. Her current African Trio includes bassist Mamadou Ba and percussionist Alioune Faye, and they’ll be at the Regattabar at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 24.
The music of Sicilian vocalist and songwriter Sissy Castrogiovanni reflects her origins at the crossroads of Mediterranean music. She’ll be at the Acton Jazz Cafe at 7 p.m. on Friday, January 25, followed at 9 p.m. by Finnish guitarist Jussi Reijonen.
Monday, January 28, offers a final taste of Africa at 8:15 p.m. as the Berklee Performance Center presents “Homeland Security: Celebrating Contemporary and Traditional African Music and Dance at Berklee.”
Hurricane Sandy blew away the planned Hallowe’en presentation of Ran Blake’s “Brando Noir” project. Barring further meteorological mayhem, NEC will host the rescheduled performance at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, January 29, at Jordan Hall.
Also on Tuesday, UMass-Amherst’s Bezanson Recital Hall hosts Earl MacDonald and the Hartford Jazz Society’s New Directions Ensemble at 8 p.m.
It’s been a while since Chicago-based vocalist/pianist/songwriter Patricia Barber last came this way, so it’s a pleasure to note that she and her quartet will be at the Regattabar at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 30, for the release of her new Concord Jazz CD, Smash. (Here’s a review of her 2008 CD, The Cole Porter Mix.)
As the thermometer plummets, a visit to Monterey sounds pretty tempting; for the next best thing, head to the Berklee Performance Center on Thursday, January 31, at 8 p.m. for a visit by an all-star touring sextet from the Monterey Jazz Festival: vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, saxophonist Chris Potter, pianist Benny Green, bassist Christian McBride, and drummer Lewis Nash.