Even with Ludacris cancelled, too much cool music here Saturday forces hard choices. Top local jazz-bo’s play tribute to Joni Mitchell at Caffe Lena, the Philadelphia Orchestra scores “Star Wars” at SPAC, the Schenectady Symphony plays a triumphant return to Music Haven, the McWatters Brothers play Bruce Springsteen’s classic “Darkness at the Edge of Town” album at the Low Beat, and Super 400 rocks Putnam Place in a rock/comedy twin-bill.
Me, I’m punting, rolling out of town to Bethel Woods (200 Hurd Rd., Bethel) for Trombone Shorty’s Voodoo Threauxdown, closest thing I’ll get this year to Jazz Fest in New Orleans.
Trombone Shorty alone merits a two-hours-plus road trip to the hallowed site of 1969’s Woodstock Festival. (Born 17 years later, he started playing trombone right away!) Saturday he brings hometown buddies Galactic, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the New Breed Brass Band plus drop-ins. It’s elastic, ecstatic, Louisiana musical heat.
Playing since age four when he accompanied Bo Diddley at Jazz Fest, Trombone Shorty now owns the most honored last slot on the Fest’s Acura Stage. He can play things on trombone or trumpet I’ve never seen anyone else manage, but it doesn’t feel tricky: His flash always serves the song, the funk.
In the early 60s, Sousaphonist Ben Jaffe’s parents made Preservation Hall THE showcase for traditional jazz and formed the first version of its long-running band. Now Ben runs the band; reed-man Charlie Gabriel, 86, is its oldest member.
Galactic has put a New Orleans spin on jam rock since 1994. Omnivorous ambition and drummer Stanton Moore’s jazzy beats blend every sound heard in town into a rocking clatter.
Seeing the New Breed Brass Band on Trombone Shorty’s Voodoo Threauxdown will feel like an encore: They opened for Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers last Sunday at Music Haven. More on that in a minute. With trumpets, trombones, a sax, a Sousaphone and two drummers, they modernize the Treme marching band tradition.
As the top New Orleans music road show this summer, Trombone Shorty’s Voodoo Threauxdown attracts drop-in cameos by Cyril Neville, trumpeter Kermit Ruffins and guitarist Walter “Wolfman” Washington, frequent attraction at the Parish Public House. 7 p.m. 866-781-2922 www.bethelwoodscenter.org. $90.95, $49.95.
SATURDAY BACK HOME
“Shadows and Light” jazzes up Joni Mitchell songs Saturday at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs) as they did with Dylan tunes last year. A big all-star cast tackles Mitchell’s super songs. 8 p.m. $22 advance, $25 door, $12.50 students and children. 518-583-0022 www.caffelena.org
The Philadelphia Orchestra plays John Williams’ rousing score for “Star Wars: A New Hope” along with the film Saturday at Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC, Rts. 9 and 50, Saratoga Springs). 8 p.m. $103-$33 inside, lawn $29. www.spac.org
The Schenectady Symphony Orchestra returns to Music Haven (Central Park, Schenectady) Saturday in a pops concert (music of Duke Ellington, Richard Rodgers, John Philip Sousa, Pete Townshend, Andrew Lloyd Weber, Stevie Wonder and more) with guest conductor Brett Wery. 7 p.m. Free. www.musichavenstage.org
The McWatters Brothers (Matt and Tom McWatters, guitars; Scott Smith, drums; Tony Califano, keyboards; and Chris Neuhaus, bass) rock Bruce Springsteen’s entire “Darkness at the Edge of Town” album Saturday at the Low Beat (335 Central Ave., Albany). The Unbreakable Bonds open with themes of James Bond films. 9 p.m. $5. That’s $2.50 a band: a night of music for the price of a beer. 518-432-6572 www.thelowbeat.com
Pairing rock with comedy gives variety to audiences and easy stage-set changes to performers. Remember when (pre-TV show) Jerry Seinfeld opened for Carolyne Mas at J.B. Scott’s? Saturday at Putnam Place (63a Putnam St., Saratoga Springs), “Guitars & Guffaws” pairs the talents of host Greg Aidala and comics Mike Vecchione and Sarah Tollemache with the musical force of nature that is Super 400, one of our best, most durable bands. Formed in a Troy warehouse jam, guitarist Kenny Hohman, bassist Joe Daley and drummer Lori Friday cruised past early twin disappointments (their label shelved their first album, their management company folded) to play everywhere, record five albums and rock us for 20 years.9 p.m. $20. 518-886-9585 www.putnamplace.com
Sunday a buffet for Music Haven donors led to a New Orleans “second line” parade from the picnic pavilion (donated by LSU grad and Music Haven fan Tom Isabella) into Music Haven. We followed in the noisy wake of the New Breed Brass Band, dancing, waving hankies (Music Haven volunteers even supplied those) and bringing the party. The New Breed kids, all killers, most named Andrews (like Trombone Shorty), took the stage and blasted us with street-parade rockers. They were outrageous, funky fun: hyperactive super Sousaphone, high-heat horns, dazzling drums and stop-on-a-dime-and-dance-the-other-way precision.
Then Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers from Lafayette raised all kinds of hell including blues shuffles to launch their set, a rollicking Rolling Stones cover (“Beast of Burden,” longtime staple of Alejandro Escovedo shows, but I digress) and blazing bayou two-steps and a waltz or two.
If drums and Sousaphone are the irreducible core of brass bands, accordion and rub-board or frottoir form zydeco’s heart, soul, beat and melody. Dopsie (“DOOP-sie”) delivered Hendrix-like squeeze-box heroics, likely the most fiery acrobatic display of musical-luggage hijinks I’ve ever heard, while frottoir scraper Paul LaFleur set up a busy treble clatter.
Dopsie played the crowd as much as the music, leaving the stage to lead parades; once with accordion and LaFleur, once with a borrowed parasol. Everybody not in a wheelchair (and a woman who was) joined his dancing vortex. Onstage Dopsie led with the sheer force of his playing or fisted gestures; he also played flopped flat on his back; huge, heavily inked arms pumping as LaFleur crouched over him in a two-man frenzy. At the end, in “When the Saints Go Marching In,” Dopsie let the crowd take over, a fearless woman clambering onstage and leading the singalong, though she didn’t know the words any better than Dopsie pronounced “Schenectady.”
When he called a halt, wringing sweat from his shirt, a human waterfall; he’d wrung all the energy from the audience, too.