Jukebox: Big names, fresh faces for Jazz Fest

And there's Old Songs and other festivals too
Cecile McLorin Salvant, singing at Jazz Fest in New Orleans, performs Saturday at SPAC.
Cecile McLorin Salvant, singing at Jazz Fest in New Orleans, performs Saturday at SPAC.

In this weekend’s fest-mess, Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival is the oldest (40 years), Old Songs (37) and the southern-rock heavy Harley Rendezvous (30) are close behind; Wilco’s Solid Sound at MASSMoCA (alternate years since 2010) is the new kid. Solid Sound (www.solidsoundfestival.com) stars Wilco, Television, Kurt Vile, Robert Glasper Experiment, the Shaggs, Kevin Morby, Dave & Phil Alvin, Deep Sea Diver, Dawn of Midi and more, including Wilco members’ side-bands. Old Songs (www.oldsongs.org) presents 21 folk acts from both sides of the Atlantic, notably Pat Donohue, Archie Fisher, Fiesta del Norte and the Jamcrackers.

The Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival schedule (www.spac.org/events/jazz-festival) lists big-draw faves headlining at Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC — routes 9 and 50, Saratoga Springs). Soul/R&B/everything singer Chaka Khan (rescheduled after last year’s cancellation) closes the show on Saturday, and the Gypsy Kings’ chiming guitars and hearty vocals wrap up Sunday. All-star tributes honor Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Mongo Santamaria and Thelonious Monk on Saturday. Now, that’s just one tribute, led by pianist Danilo Perez with saxophonist Joe Lovano, bassist Avishai Cohen, trombonist Josh Roseman and others — honoring some of the greatest luminaries of jazz. On Sunday, saxophonist Maceo Parker and stars of Ray Charles’s great bands pay tribute to their late leader.

Singers include the celestial Cecile McLorin Salvant, star/discovery of the first Bridge Jazz Festival; young Briton Jacob Collier and quintessential New Yorker Barbara Fasano Saturday; and always fluent powerhouse DeeDee Bridgewater and slide-guitarist Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton Sunday.

As unfamiliar names on the menu show, this festival famously features ear-opening new talent and fresh combinations of veterans. For example, Hudson (Sunday) is a new band of Hudson Valley giants: Jack DeJohnette, drums (a fave since I saw him with Charles Lloyd in 1968); Larry Grenadier, bass; John Medeski, keyboards; and John Scofield, guitar. At The Egg last December, DeJohnette’s trio made restless, ever-shifting music, often without chord centers or sustained beats. The music on their debut “Hudson” album mostly rocks, with songs by Bob Dylan, The Band and Joni Mitchell (“Woodstock,” natch) alongside outside, mystical or straight-ahead explorations. “If you don’t know the lyrics, you still hear the story in John’s [Scofield] playing,” DeJohnette told Rolling Stone in a recent interview where he praised The Band drummer Levon Helm (“soulful and in the pocket”) and keyboardist Garth Hudson, who used a dowsing stick to locate the well for DeJohnette’s Catskills home.

Less well-known artists include the Suffers, a Houston soul band starring singer Kim Franklin; trumpeter Adam O’Farrill (grandson of Chico, son of Arturo — both past stars of this fest); the Noah Preminger/Jason Palmer Quartet; and Cory Henry & the Funk Apostles from Brooklyn.

Two-set appearances each day ease this two-stage fest’s many hard choices — none are wrong! — between artists, known or not, playing at the same time. Saturday, guitarist Dave Stryker leads his quartet with sax-man Eric Alexander on both main and gazebo stages. Sunday, Canadian-born, Cuban-oriented saxophonist Jane Bunnett plays both stages with her band Maqueque. Noon Saturday and Sunday. $190-$25. 800-745-3000 www.spac.org

Tonight at the Cock N’ Bull (5342 Parkis Mills Road, Galway) clarinet ace Evan Christopher (he’s played SPAC’s jazz festival) and pianist Eli Yasmin show how jazz evolved from Jellyroll Morton to Bud Powell and beyond. 7:30 p.m. $50 with southern-style, three-course dinner; $20 show only. 882-6962 www.thecocknbull.com

On Friday, piano prodigy Joey Alexander, a star here since his talent exploded at Music Haven, brings his trio to Tanglewood (97 West St., Lenox, Mass.). 8 p.m. $56-$19. 413-637-5180 www.bso.org

More jazz Saturday at Tanglewood: trumpeter Chris Botti and the Boston Pops play whatever they want. 8 p.m. $124-$23

Tuesday, Terell Stafford, a straight-ahead trumpet master versus Botti’s pop- and rock-sampling virtuosity, brings his quintet to Skidmore’s Zankel Music Center (815 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs), part of Skidmore’s 30th summer Jazz Institute. 8 p.m. $8, seniors and Skidmore community $5, students and children free. 580-5447 www.skidmore.edu/zankel

Best jazz album lately: 20 tracks Riverside recorded in 1957 (10 tunes with alternate takes) now out on three vinyl discs as “Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane.” ’Trane called Monk “a musical architect of the highest order,” adding, “I learned from him in every way.” Beautifully balanced, vividly alive and faithfully recorded, the music suggests the learning went both ways; listening, creating together.

The outstanding supporting cast includes Art Blakey, Wilbur Ware, Coleman Hawkins, Shadow Wilson, Ray Copeland, Gigi Bryce and more. A celebration of ingenuity and skill, fresh and free, it’s no museum piece. It’ll make you dip and drop, rock and bop. Ace packaging wraps up this masterpiece neatly.

NRBQ pianist Terry Adams’s “Talk Thelonious” (2015) was the best Monk record before this one, and he’s played Monk tunes with the ’Q for decades. Friday, Adams brings NRBQ (Scott Ligon, guitar; Casey McDonough, bass; Jon Perrin, drums) to the Hangar (675 River St., Troy). Not resting on great praise for the 105-song “High Noon: A 50-Year Retrospective,” NRBQ always surprises, making music with fresh ingredients. 8 p.m., doors 7. $25. 272-9740 www.alehousetroy.com

A one-band jazz fest, Trombone Shorty hard-boiled The Egg last Wednesday in typically stunning style, from a heavy-metal rush to a joyous parade on an imaginatively mutated “When the Saints Go Marching In” two hours of feel-good funk later.

Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews showed off supernatural skill on his horns and at the mic. He plays trumpet as well as trombone, in both senses: amazing double- and triple-tongued phrases rode deep grooves, rotary breathing stretched notes for days. But his best instrument was the crowd: Three songs in, we were all up. Master of mood and feel, he served up dance-floor uproars; free-jazz flights, fancy and funky; and a soothing blues. Some songs sampled several spicy flavors at once.

Standouts: “Here Come the Girls” grew singalong wings and made fans gasp at astounding trumpet fire; the jaunty “Where It At” demanded “Give me my heart back”; “Long Weekend” partied; and the often-dancing/always-in-the-pocket band welded a James Brown blitz inside “Lose My Mind.” We all did.

Peter Asher and Albert Lee played only 14 songs at the Van Dyck last Saturday, but just their stories of long, creative music-biz lives among the stars would have charmed the mostly full club with no songs at all.

OK — The songs were terrific, too, spanning heroes the Everly Brothers, Elvis, Jimmy Webb/Glen Campbell and Carole King; also British Invasion and country-rock classics, even Green Day. Both played acoustic guitars, mostly. Lee precision-picked fleet, immaculate solos in “Good Riddance,” “Crying in the Rain” and “Sweet Little Lisa” (from his self-titled 1982 debut album, which he signed for me in the bar before the two-hour show). Asher played bass or banjolele some, and Lee’s best moment may have been at the keyboard in Webb’s “Highwayman,” a vocal compelling as his guitar work was, all night.

Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected]

Categories: Entertainment

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