Coming Attractions in Jazz: Spring Preview

Pianist Fred Hersch

Pianist Fred HerschPhoto by Michael Jackson

A reprise of Fred Hersch’s Leaves of Grass highlights the key role of Boston’s educational institutions; plus, an abundance of performances celebrating CD releases.

By J. R. Carroll.

[Note: The event schedule for Jazz Week 2012 is still coming together, so we’ll leap over April 27 through May 6 and cover that period in a separate article as we get closer to the end of April.]

The spring is a time when educational institutions demonstrate why they are such a vital, if somewhat low-key, part of the jazz scene. One of their great strengths is the ability to pull together large ensembles comprising many of their most accomplished students and put them at the service of visiting artists.

The first of these actually bridges two of these institutions. On Tuesday, April 3, at 8 p.m., bassist John Patitucci will premiere his new Fantasy on a River Theme in a free concert with the Berklee Contemporary Symphony Orchestra. Interestingly, this will take place in the New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall rather than at the Berklee Performance Center (for reasons of acoustics, I’m guessing).

Saxophonists Joe Lovano and Greg Osby have traded Friendly Fire before. This time, they’ll get to do it with the support of the Harvard Jazz Bands in Sanders Theatre at 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 14. (For those interested in jazz on film, in connection with the Lovano-Osby residency, there’ll be screenings at Harvard Square’s Brattle Theatre of Julian Benedikt’s 1997 documentary Blue Note: A Story of Modern Jazz on Wednesday, April 11, at 6:30 p.m., followed the next evening at 7 p.m. by Bertrand Tavernier’s celebrated 1986 film ‘Round Midnight.)

The same evening, at the same time (sigh), composer/pianist/scholar Lewis Porter will perform with the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra in a free concert at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium.

The following week, Porter moves up the street to Harvard as part of a residency—the first at Dudley House—by saxophonist Dave Liebman. Their visit culminates on Thursday, April 19, at 8 p.m. in Harvard’s Paine Hall (over on Oxford Street) with the premiere of Porter’s “The Liebman Concerto” with the Dudley House Symphony Orchestra. (For more on jazz concerti, see Arts Fuse jazz critic Steve Elman’s three recent articles.)

And (sigh redux), at the same time in NEC’s Jordan Hall, Ken Schaphorst and the NEC Jazz Orchestra are joined by drummer Rakalam Bob Moses for a free concert of his original compositions.

Pianist Fred Hersch’s suite based on Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass received numerous accolades when it was first performed and recorded in 2005. Vocalists Dominique Eade and Tommy Boynton join Hersch and an instrumental ensemble at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 26, for a not-to-be-missed reprise of the Whitman suite at Jordan Hall (admission is free).

And finally, on May 10 at 8 p.m., Scullers (in cooperation with the Thelonious Monk Institute) hosts saxophonist Antonio Hart with a sextet from the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts.

Drummer Billy Hart has a busy couple of months ahead. Expect some sparks to fly when he comes to the Regattabar with saxophonist Mark Turner, pianist Ethan Iverson and bassist Ben Street on Wednesday, April 11 at 7:30 p.m. Two days later, he teams with fellow percussionists Warren Smith and Yoron Israel and the Makanda Project for a free 7 p.m. concert–appropriately entitled “Supercussion”–at the Boston Public Library’s Dudley Branch. And he’s back in town on Thursday, June 14, at 8 and 10 p.m. at Scullers, powering the good-as-it-gets hard bop of the Cookers (with trumpeters Eddie Henderson and David Weiss, saxophonists Billy Harper and Craig Handy, pianist George Cables, and bassist Cecil McBee) for the release of their third (and as yet untitled) CD.

Speaking of CDs, there are a slew of new or impending releases this spring and, of course, performances associated with them. So, here we go…

On Friday, April 6, at 8:30 and 10 p.m., Firehouse 12 in New Haven welcomes Trio M (pianist Myra Melford, bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Matt Wilson) presenting music from their recent CD, Guest House.

Meanwhile, at 7:30 and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, April 6-7, saxophonist Kenny Garrett arrives at the Regattabar in support of his new CD, Seeds From The Underground.

Friday the 13th turned out just fine for Thelonious Monk, so harmonica player Gregoire Maret should have no qualms about introducing Boston to his new, self-titled CD at 7:30 p.m. at the Regattabar.

The same goes for composer/saxophonist Steve Lehman, who’ll be at Firehouse 12 at 8:30 and 10 p.m. with his trio and their new CD, Dialect Fluorescent.

On a November afternoon in 2010, two pairs of musicians whose paths might have seemed unlikely to cross gathered in a Tel Aviv studio for a fascinating exchange of musical ideas that have now emerged as a new CD entitled, appropriately, The Tel Aviv Session. Now the Touré-Raichel Collective (teaming Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré and calabash player Souleymane Kane with Israeli pianist Idan Raichel and bassist Yossi Fine) has taken to the road to promote the CD, with a stop at the Somerville Theatre on Sunday, April 15, at 7 p.m.

No, vocalist Kate McGarry hasn’t gone all Mad Men on us with her new CD, Girl Talk. The girls she’s talking about are the great female jazz vocalists of the past and the present day; she’ll honor them with a performance on April 17 at 8 p.m. at Scullers.

Over the past couple of years, pianist Marc Rossi and his quartet have been performing with Indian vocalist Geetha Ramanathan Bennett. This cross-cultural collaboration has come to fruition with Rossi’s earlier CD, Hidden Mandala, and now with the release of Mantra Revealed at Ryles on April 18 at 9 p.m.

On the already overbooked Thursday, April 19, here’s another first-rate option: Israeli pianist Alon Yavnai brings his New York big band to Boston for the release of his new CD, Shir Ahava (A Love Poem) at 8 p.m. at Scullers.

At the Regattabar on Friday, April 20, at 7:30 and 10 p.m., vocalist Luciana Souza and guitarist Romero Lubambo anticipate the August release of Duos III, where she pairs up with Lubambo, Marco Pereira and–for the first time–Brazilian jazz giant Toninho Horta.

On Sunday, April 22, at 7:30 p.m., bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding returns to Boston with a 12-piece band to perform music from her recent CD, Radio Music Society, live at the Orpheum Theatre.

When Brooklyn-based guitarist Mary Halvorson was studying with Joe Morris, the latter always played bass during her lessons, never bringing his own guitar and insisting that she find her own voice on the instrument. It was good advice, and the evidence can be heard on her new CD, Bending Bridges, which will have release events on May 18, at 8 and 10 p.m., at New Haven’s Firehouse 12, and then in Cambridge at the Lily Pad on June 8 at 7 p.m.

Scion of a celebrated Cuban musical family collectively known as Los Terry, saxophonist Yosvany Terry and his Afro-Caribbean Sextet, celebrate the release of his recent CD, Today’s Opinion at Scullers on May 24 at 8 p.m.

Finally, a few interesting gigs that are a bit off the beaten path.

On April 12, at 8 p.m., Berklee’s student-run Cafe 939 teams up with WBGO’s The Checkout to broadcast a live performance by trumpeter Ingrid Jensen.

Cuban music gets intimate when the duo of Canadian saxophonist/flutist Jane Bunnett and Cuban-born pianist Hilario Duran bring their Cuban Rhapsody to Scullers on Wednesday, April 18, at 8 p.m.

Finally, on June 27 at 9 p.m. at the Lily Pad, check out the unique sound of the Composers Saxophone Quartet (Mark Zaleski, soprano and alto sax; Rick Stone, alto sax; Sean Berry, tenor sax; Kathy Olson, baritone sax) as they present an evening of compositions and arrangements crafted especially for this combination of instruments.

A final note: The summer festival season kicks off in early June, so watch for a special preview of those performances in late May.

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