There may not be any Lester Young tributes scheduled for Presidents’ Day, but the entire month of February is nothing less than a valentine to jazz piano.
By J. R. Carroll
Pianist Jason Moran hasn’t yet encountered a piece of music (or even raw sound) that he couldn’t transform into a jaw-dropping improvisation. Johannes Brahms, James P. Johnson, Afrika Bambaataa, even a Turkish telephone conversation have all found a place in his repertoire. Moran brings his voracious curiosity to a week-long residency at the New England Conservatory (NEC), with two 1 p.m. master classes (trios on Feb. 1, small ensembles on Feb. 2) and a final concert of his music with NEC students at 8 p.m. on Feb. 4, all free and open to the public.
In 2006 guitarist Allan Holdsworth reunited with fellow emeritus of the mid-70s Tony Williams Lifetime group, keyboard player Alan Pasqua, along with Yellowjackets bassist Jimmy Haslip and Holdsworth’s frequent collaborator, drummer Chad Wackerman, for a series of tribute concerts that yielded last year’s live CD, Blues for Tony. This New Tony Williams Lifetime project comes to Scullers on Feb. 2 at 10 p.m. (the early show is already sold out) and Northampton’s Iron Horse at 7 p.m. on Feb. 3.
There’s more keyboard wizardry in store when the Beehive hosts the Nando Michelin Trio at 8 p.m. on Feb. 2 (check out Jon Garelick’s profile in The Boston Phoenix) and Brad Mehldau offers a solo concert at Sanders Theatre on Feb. 5 at 8 p.m.
On the same evening, the eclectic and delightfully unpredictable Jazz Marauders come to the Acton Jazz Cafe at 9:30 p.m., and saxophonist Dan Moretti brings his Tres Muse project to New London’s Jazz Underground at 8 p.m.
On Feb. 9 at 7:30 p.m., Berklee presents Benin-born guitarist/vocalist Lionel Loueke in its David Friend Recital Hall as part of Berklee’s month-long Roots and Reason series. The same night, Berklee continues its Artist Series at Scullers at 8 p.m. with Marc Rossi and guests, vocalist Sidhart Sriram and saxophonist Stan Strickland.
On Feb. 11 at 8 p.m., expect fireworks when what is billed as the Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour brings together an amazing quartet (vocalist Kurt Elling, violinist Regina Carter, guitarist Russell Malone and pianist Kenny Barron) at the Berklee Performance Center.
A tough choice for keyboard mavens on Feb. 17: Ramona Borthwick launches her long-awaited second CD, One of Us (featuring special guest trumpeter Ingrid Jensen), at 9 p.m. as part of Ryles World Wednesdays series. Meanwhile, over at NEC’s Jordan Hall pianist Fred Hersch offers a solo concert (something he does exceedingly well) at 8 p.m., and at the Beehive Venezuelan pianist Leo Blanco leads the trio edition (with bassist Fernando Huergo and drummer Jamey Haddad) of his World Jazz Ensemble at 8 p.m.
Vocal music gets a turn next: The Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center presents Colombia’s Marta Gomez at 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Feb. 19, and on Feb. 25 Berklee showcases faculty member Lisa Thorson at 7:30 p.m. in its David Friend Recital Hall.
And back at the Regattabar the next evening at 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. the fascinating pianist Robert Glasper, who has achieved the most nuanced fusion I’ve ever heard of jazz (he’s played with Terence Blanchard, Roy Hargrove, Nicholas Payton, and others) and hip-hop (he’s Mos Def’s music director and has played with the Roots, Talib Kweli, Jay-Z, and many more), provides a perfect bookend to the month.