Every month is Jazz Appreciation Month for many; officially, April is it.
Pianist Brad Mehldau is the biggest jazz name here this week, maker of elegant albums and eloquent shows. Mehldau brings his trio (Larry Grenadier, bass; Jeff Ballard, drums) to The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany) Sunday after three nights at Scullers in Boston.
Mehldau’s cerebral “After Bach” album pairs classics from J.S. Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier” with comments: Mehldau originals. Next month, Mehldau releases a new trio album, “Seymour Reads the Constitution!” with originals and covers of pop tunes old (Frederick Loewe’s “Almost Like Being in Love”) and newer (Paul McCartney’s “Great Day,” Brian Wilson’s “Friends”), and jazz numbers. 7:30 p.m. $34.50. 518-473-1845 www.theegg.org
Tonight, drummer Tani Tabbal, bassoonist/bassist David Katz, keyboardist Bob Gluck and singer Kyra Gaunt play the UAlbany Performing Arts Center (uptown campus, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany). Gluck and Gaunt teach there; all are longtime collaborators and prolific artists. Tabbal has played on more than 70 albums, for example, and Gluck has written two books and recorded 10 albums. 7 p.m. $8, students $4. 518-442-3997 www.albany.edu/pac
Albany-born world-class vibraphonist Stefon Harris guests Friday in the seventh annual Gospel Jubilee at Proctors (432 State St., Schenectady) starring Dorothy Norwood. In the Jubilee tradition of tributes to elders, Harris will honor Albany jazz DJ “Pee Wee” Harris, his late grandfather. Norwood sang with Mahalia Jackson and the Rev. James Cleveland in the ’50s before launching her 50-albums-deep solo career. Also performing: the Gospel Jubilee Mass Choir (including the Union College Heavenly Voices Gospel Choir) and the Jubilee Praise Dancers. 7 p.m. $25. 518-346-6204 www.proctors.org
Cliff Brucker’s Full Circle Sextet continues its hyperactive ways since releasing “Cliff Brucker’s Full Circle, Vol. 2,” playing Tuesday at the Arts Center of the Capital Region (265 River St., Troy), featuring tenor sax giant Leo Russo. 7:30 p.m. $15 advance, $20 door. 518-273-0552 www.artscenteronline.org
Kim Richey, tonight at WAMC’s The Linda (339 Central Ave., Albany) and Darden Smith, unfortunately also tonight, at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs) ably represent country’s singer-songwriter wing. Richey has sung on Smith’s albums; both have sweet, gentle voices. Richie’s new (eighth) album “Edgeland” combines verbal smarts and the candid feeling her voice carries right to the heart. Australian singer-songwriter Jackie Bristow opens. 8 p.m. $20. 518-465-5233 www.thelinda.org
Smith’s new (15th) album “Everything” collects songs that Mary Gauthier (at The Linda on Wednesday, see Indiana Nash’s interview) calls “medicine for a world gone wrong”; all his music is about uplift and insight. 7 p.m. $20 advance, $22 door, $11 students and children
Super versatile songwriter/singer/guitarist/comedian Nancy Tucker performs Saturday at the Eighth Step at Proctors Fenimore Gallery (upstairs, 432 State St., Schenectady). Her boundless talent takes in elements of Carol Burnett, Paula Poundstone, Leo Kottke and Laurie Anderson. 7:30 p.m. $25 advance, $27, door, $40 front and center. 518-434-1703 www.8thstep.org
Africa Unplugged closed Proctors Passport Series (presented in proudly international fashion by Music Haven) last Friday at Proctors’ GE Theatre before a happy listening audience rather than the dancing throng of past shows in the series.
Cross-legged on a piano bench, South African Derek Gripper was a one-man miracle, echoing on his six-string the complexity of the 21-string kora, a Malian harp. Dazzling and droll, Gripper wove a brilliant thread from baroque genius J.S. Bach to Malian genius Toumani Diabate’s kora mastery, drawing awed gasps for his immaculate playing and surprised laughter for his unlikely explanations linking — leaping? — traditions and playing styles.
Trio Da Kali followed, a fuller sound with balafon (wooden marimba; Fode Lassana Diabate played two at once to breathtaking effect), bass ngoni (Mamadou Kouyate modernized this wood-and-skin bodied lute with guitar tuning machines and amped it) and singing (Hawa Diabate, a cello, a siren) aimed at African tunes but in sometimes western ways like a sizzling soul jazz combo. Kinobe joined at the end, playing silvery, speedy notes on kora. He’d earlier translated Trio Da Kali’s announcements from French to English, but the band’s melodic zip, restless rhythms and inventive solos needed no translation.
Last Saturday’s 12th annual Jazz Appreciation Month Concert brought Cliff Brucker’s Full Circle sextet and the Giroux Brothers quartet to Robb Alley at Proctors in a free show honoring bebop and straight-ahead jazz.
Nate (tenor, mostly) and Tyler (valve trombone) write tunes close to home, about locations and musical compadres; “Adam N’ Subtract ’Em” (for Adam Siegel) and “Pleasantville” stood out. They handled covers with gentle skill, especially Jobim’s “How Insensitive” and “Willow Weep For Me,” featuring Tyler’s wry plunger mute solo.
Both Giroux brothers played with Full Circle, Nate all the way (subbing for Leo Russo) and Tyler at the end. Hip and hot, they traced bop tunes “Fried Bananas” and “Along Came Betty” back to sources “It Could Happen to You” and “Killer Joe,” respectively. They played for fun, not as a lesson, lifting both band and fans in a — well, “Full Circle,” their next-to-last tune Saturday — before “Step Lightly” brought top solos from Dylan Canterbury, trumpet, and Wayne Hawkins, keyboards.
The music of popular artists living and departed still lives onstage here this week, in the skills and respect of tribute ensembles.
On Friday, BonJourneyNY plays the music of Bon Jovi and Journey at Jupiter Hall (1 Crossgates Mall Rd., Albany). 9 p.m. $10. 518-556-3350 www.jupiterhallalbany.com.
Then, Saturday at Jupiter Hall, Dean Ford & the Beautiful Ones celebrate Prince. $20 advance, $25 door.
Saturday at The Egg, Hammer of the Gods performs “Zeppelin Complete.” $44.50, $39.50, $29.50.
Saturday at the Cohoes Music Hall (58 Remsen St.), the Garcia Project plays music of the Jerry Garcia Band (not the Grateful Dead. 8 p.m. $25 advance, $27. 518-953-0630 www.thecohoesmusichall.com.
Two shows honor Frank Zappa. Sunday at the Cohoes Music Hall, Project/Object features Zappa alums Napoleon Murphy Brock (vocals, sax) and Denny Walley (guitar). 8 p.m. $22 advance, $27 door. Tuesday at The Egg, Zappa’s guitarist son Dweezil honors his dad’s music. 8 p.m. $69.50, $39.50.
Drummer Carl Palmer, sole surviving member of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, brings his ELP Legacy tour to Cohoes Music Hall Monday, using guitars rather than keyboards to replicate ELP’s grandeur. 8 p.m. $37, $32, $27.
Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected]