Coming Attractions in Jazz: Late September 2010

By J. R. Carroll

What makes a festival a festival? And what makes a musician a Beantown artist? We’ll ponder those questions for a moment before moving on to the very full schedule of jazz performances in the second half of September.

The Beantown Jazz Festival defines itself as running from September 15–25, but, in reality, it is two different events: A one-day, open-air festival (more on this in our forthcoming jazz festival update), and, like Boston Jazz Week, an umbrella stretched over a variety of performances around the Boston area, including some that happen on a weekly basis and others that probably would have taken place anyway. Boston Jazz Week, however, embraced almost every jazz event going on, from jazz brunches to formal concerts, and, in comparison, this earlier portion of the Beantown Jazz Festival seems rather arbitrary in what it chooses to include.

For example, there are a string of performances at Scullers that are listed as part of the festival, but, inexplicably, saxophonist Dave Liebman is not among them despite his substantial tenures with Elvin Jones and Miles Davis. OK, Liebman is not based in Boston (though many of the Beantown performers aren’t either), but how, then, to explain the omission of New England Conservatory’s (NEC’s) 75th birthday tribute to pianist Ran Blake, who has been an anchor of the Boston jazz scene for almost 40 years? An oversight? A missed deadline for inclusion? An institutional turf squabble? Who knows?

Given the preceding, it seems more appropriate to include in these Coming Attractions some of the Beantown events as well as those that, for whatever reason, didn’t make the cut. And, given that the performance density in the second half of this month is enough to make you beat your head against the wall in despair over the seeming inability or unwillingness of our local venues to engage in even a semblance of coordination in their scheduling, we’re going to have to be just as arbitrary as the Beantown powers-that-be (and apologies to all the fine musicians who would have made the list in a less overstuffed month).

The first major event to fall under the Beantown umbrella is a unique one. On Wednesday, September 15, at 7:30 p.m. at the Berklee Performance Center, guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel collaborates with Portugal’s Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos (OJM) in a program of Rosenwinkel’s compositions, arranged by members of the OJM, that appear on their new CD, Our Secret World.

Also launching a CD the same evening, Danish vibraphonist Winnie Dahlgren brings her quintet (plus guest saxophonist Daniel Ian Smith) to Ryles at 9 p.m.

Melaku Selmanesh Zinash

Ethiopia's Fendika meets Boston's Debo Band

The focus shifts to Ethiopia on Thursday, September 16, at 7:30 p.m., when Johnny D’s hosts the kickoff of a tour uniting Boston’s Debo Band with musicians and dancers from Addis Adaba’s Fendika.

Over at Scullers at 8 p.m., saxophonist Dave Liebman, a deep student of Coltrane’s music who launched his career with extended stints with Elvin Jones and Miles Davis, appears with his longstanding quartet (guitarist Vic Juris, bassist Tony Marino, and drummer Marko Marcinko).

On Friday, September 17, at 7:30 p.m., the Berklee Performance Center presents The Bad Plus, celebrating their tenth year together and touring in support of their new live CD, Never Stop.

Also on Friday, at 8:30 and 10 p.m., trumpeter, composer, and longtime member of the AACM, Wadada Leo Smith, now based at CalArts, pays a visit to New Haven’s Firehouse 12 with his Golden Quartet.

A major event every year, the 33rd John Coltrane Memorial Concert takes place on Saturday, September 18, at 7:30 p.m. in Northeastern’s Blackman Theatre. This year’s performance features Anthony Brown’s Asian American Orchestra in a program based on their forthcoming CD, India & Africa: A Tribute to John Coltrane. (Brown also contributed an essay on Coltrane’s late style to the recently published compilation, John Coltrane & Black America’s Quest for Freedom: Spirituality and the Music.

World Music brings Bahia’s famed bloco afro Olodum to the Somerville Theatre at 8 p.m. on Sunday, September 19.

Pianist and composer Ran Blake has been based at the New England Conservatory ever since 1973, when Gunther Schuller invited him to inaugurate NEC’s Third Stream (now Contemporary Improvisation) department. On Monday, September 20, at 8 p.m., NEC celebrates Blake’s 75th birthday with a free musical tribute by fellow faculty members and former students; Blake will participate in a tribute of his own to the late Abbey Lincoln.

More of Beantown on Tuesday, September 21, at 8:15 p.m., as the Berklee Performance Center presents a double bill of Spajazzy: Al Dente and amusingly titled collaboration “How to Hunt a Lehmann.”

Meanwhile, over at Ryles at 8:30 p.m., the distinctive vocalist and composer Rebecca Shrimpton, who has enjoyed a long partnership with the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra, performs with her quintet.

Composer, bandleader, and multi-instrumentalist Gonzalo Grau (with drummer Pablo Bencid) brings the American edition of his Plural project to the Beehive on Wednesday, September 22, at 8 p.m..

In the run-up to the Beantown Jazz Festival’s main event, two major keyboard artists will be coming to town. On Thursday, September 23, at 7:30 and 10 p.m., the Regattabar hosts Robert Glasper and his Experiment Quartet. (They’ll also be at the Vermont Jazz Center in Brattleboro, VT, at 8 p.m. on Saturday, September 25.)

And on both Thursday and Friday, September 23–24, at 8 and 10 p.m., Scullers will welcome Berklee Global Jazz Institute director Danilo Perez and his trio, plus some special guests, in celebration of the release of his latest CD, Providencia.

Also on Friday, September 24 at 8:30 and 10 p.m., back at Firehouse 12 you can catch the somewhat ironically named New Mellow Edwards (trombonist Curtis Hasselbring, reedman Chris Speed, bassist Trevor Dunn, and drummer John Hollenbeck).

Tying in with the New Orleans theme of the outdoor Beantown Jazz Festival on Saturday, September 25, Scullers welcomes trumpeter Terence Blanchard at 8 and 10 p.m.

On a rare visit from Los Angeles, innovative trombonist Michael Vlatkovich and his quartet will perform at the Lily Pad on Sunday, September 26, at 7 p.m.

Israeli trumpeter Avishai Cohen (not to be confused with the bassist of the same name) comes to the Regattabar on Tuesday, September 28, at 7:30 p.m. with his trio Triveni.

Drummer Francisco Mela and his trio (featuring pianist Vijay Ayer and bassist Peter Slavov), will appear at the Regattabar at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 29.

The same evening, at 8 p.m., Ryles World Wednesdays hosts Korean pianist Mina Cho and her quintet for the release of her new CD, Originality.

Also on Wednesday, at 8 and 10 p.m., the youngest member of the New Orleans musical dynasty, Jason Marsalis, shifts instruments (not that he’s given up drumming) when he comes to Scullers with his Vibes Quartet.

Finally, on Thursday, September 30, at 9:30 p.m., head over to the Fireplace in Brookline for an evening with Argentinian drummer Guillermo Nojechowicz and his band, El Eco.

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