Coming Attractions in Jazz: October 2009

For a genre that supposedly expired in the 1950’s, the big band’s vital signs seem remarkably robust here in Boston.

By J. R. Carroll

A welcome recent addition has been the compositions and arrangements of tenor saxophonist Florencia Gonzalez, which layer vivid sonorities and intricate counterpoint atop Afro-Uruguayan candombe and Argentinian tango. She brings her 21-piece band to the Lily Pad on Oct. 1, Ryles on Oct. 14, and the Beehive on Oct. 29. (And check out Jon Garelick’s recent profile in the Boston Phoenix).

Florenzia Gonzales

Tenor Saxophonist Florencia Gonzalez

Gonzalez’s mentor, trumpeter Greg Hopkins, pairs his own big band with vocalist Dominique Eade at one of the season’s last outdoor jazz festivals in New England, JazzFest Falmouth, Oct. 2-3. The Saturday program also features two scions of jazz, pianists Jonathan Batiste and Arturo O’Farrill, and is headlined by master guitarist Pat Martino, whose remarkable comeback from a deadly brain aneurysm is documented in the film Martino Unstrung, which will be screened the previous evening at the Falmouth Public Library.

Guitarist Pat Martino

Guitarist Pat Martino

Photo by Tom Beetz, available under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

Closer to home, also on Oct. 2, the New England Conservatory honors the bandleader and theorist George Russell, who passed away in July, in a program of his groundbreaking compositions by the NEC Jazz Orchestra and a host of his former colleagues and students.

A week later, an intriguing triple bill of Musaner (Armenia and the Balkans), Natraj (India and West Africa), and Grand Fatilla (every continent but Antarctica–maybe) brings a world of jazz fusion to the Arsenal Center for the Arts in Watertown.

As part of a decade-long celebration (and the first event in Boston) leading up to the 2017 centennial of Thelonious Monk’s birth, the Pennsylvania-based World Piano Summit presents the monumental Randy Weston in solo performance at the Somerville Theatre. Expect plenty of Monk, Weston’s own distinctive compositions (many informed by African rhythms), and perhaps even a taste of African-American musical pioneer James Reese Europe, a recent focus of Weston’s research.

Jazz Master Randy Weston

Jazz Master Randy Weston

In 1969 the New England Conservatory’s new president, Gunther Schuller, created the first fully accredited jazz program at a music conservatory. To honor the 40th anniversary of this event, the week of Oct. 18-24 will be packed with performances around town by New England Conservatory faculty members. On Friday evening, Oct. 23, many of these performers will be joined by distinguished NEC alumni in a Jazz Summit in Jordan Hall.

The evening concert on Oct. 24 caps the week’s festivities with a not-to-be-missed collaboration between saxophonist/composer Wayne Shorter’s quartet and the NEC Sinfonia, again at Jordan Hall.

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