Jukebox: Unusual attractions last week before Labor Day

At 92, Doc Severinsen, right, former leader of The Tonight Show Band, is still touring.
At 92, Doc Severinsen, right, former leader of The Tonight Show Band, is still touring.

This weekend, Caffe Lena continues out-of-the-box bookings (that began last week with Judy Collins), presenting a big name but with a confusing brand. Trumpeter Doc Severinsen played jazz even before Johnny Carson hired him to lead the Tonight Show Band for 30 years, so he’s seen more as sidekick than player. Now 92, Severinsen is on the road again, leading his San Miguel 5 Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Caffe (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs): Gil Gutierrez, guitar; Charlie Bisharat, violin; Kevin Thomas, bass; and Tiki Pasillas, drums. He calls this crew the best band he’s ever had. 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. $70 advance (if purchased today and Friday), $80 door. 518-583-0022 www.caffelena.org

The Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore (615 Broadway, Saratoga Springs) wraps its 19th season tonight with bell’s roar, solo project of multi-minority creative force of nature Sean Desiree, who sings and plays keyboards and guitar. 7 p.m. Free. Rain site: inside the Tang. www.tang.skidmore.edu

Two hours north of Saratoga, The Eighth Step presents Songs at Sagamore, a residency music-and-more extravaganza at Great Camp Sagamore (1105 Sagamore Road, Raquette Lake, NY). In addition to shows by folk luminaries John McCutcheon, Tret Fure, Guy Davis, Dan Berggren and Sara Milonovich, this all-weekend getaway includes lodging, meals, music workshops and other gatherings.

The full weekend is sold out, but the event collects all its artists in Sunday night’s public concert — “SeegerSongs: Songs Pete Seeger Sang or Would Have Sung.” 7 p.m. $20 advance, $25 door, $18 members of The Eighth Step and the Sagamore. 518-434-1703 www.8thstep.org

The Egg presents jams Friday by Jazz is PHSH and the Hipster Assassins led by bassist Felix Pastorius, son of the late, great Jaco.

Inspired by the Jazz is Dead jam combo, leaders Adam (drums) and Matthew Chase (guitar) built this all-star band to jam on Phish tunes. The impressive cast is elastic: 58 players have played every instrument possible in it over time, including Pastorius and Jeff Coffin (Flecktones, Dave Matthews Band). Pastorius’ Hipster Assassins are Chris Ward, saxophone; John Bendy, guitar; Mike Bendy, bass; and Kenny Grohowski, drums. Two bassists? Sure! Even astounding Victor Wooten (another sometime Jazz is PHSH member) often features a second bassist in his shows. If this jam blast doesn’t wind up with all hands on deck in a free-for-all, you can have my cherished collection of Grateful Dead backstage passes. 7:30 p.m. $28. 518-473-1845 www.theegg.org

The 24th Albany LatinFest on Saturday at the Washington Park parade grounds celebrates music and food, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dominican singer Alex Matos headlines; his albums have hit the Top 10 of Billboard’s Tropical chart and he won the 2014 Lo Nuestro Tropical New Artist of the Year award. Also performing: Inti & the Moon from New York City make folkloric world-fusion music on traditional and modern instruments, while Mas Doble Filo plays a similar hybrid; also DJ Rolo, and Andres Prieto. The Fest includes the Capital District YMCA Healthy Kidzone and other activities, plus a domino tournament. Catering by Salsa Latina Restaurant. Free. 518-334-1105 www.AlbanyLatinFest.org

Friday, Santana returns to SPAC (Saratoga Performing Arts Center, routes 9 and 50, Saratoga Springs), with openers the Doobie Brothers. Both blues-fusion pioneers Santana and the biker-bar band Doobies formed in late-’60s northern California and just keep rolling. 7 p.m. $162.50, lawn $46.50. 800-745-3000 www.concerts1.livenation.com

Kiss kisses off touring Saturday at SPAC: makeup, TALL shoes, fake blood, blunt-force rock. 7:30 p.m. $1,000, $307, $250 inside, lawn $$39.50

GREAT birthday! The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra AND the Philadelphia Orchestra concert last Thursday at SPAC felt celebratory and personal. My birthday was that day, between those of Terry Adams and Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, and the same day and year as Jimmy Webb, but I digress.

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra played Duke Ellington tunes to start. Some I knew from my parents’ 78s, several came from the “Far East Suite” (1967). Modestly sitting back in the trumpet section, leader Wynton Marsalis introduced them, placing them in Ellington’s biography. Starting with “The Mooch” (1928), they played by Duke’s blueprint of full-band statements (some following trio or solo intros), solos, recap and coda.

Marsalis played as one of the guys — JLCO is all men — ceding the flashy trumpet solo in the climactic “Portrait of Louis Armstrong” (Duke’s 1970 tribute to Marsalis’s inspiration) to Marcus Printup. Solos followed Duke’s injunction to “feel your part,” not just play what’s on the page; especially reed man Victor Goines, pianist Dan Nimmer and bassist Carlos Henriquez. Sections and all-in statements swung beautifully.

The symphony-sized stage dwarfed the 15-piece JLCO. After 45 fast-moving minutes of vintage swing, they left the stage. 

After the break, the full Philadelphia Orchestra filled in around them, white garb contrasting with the black-clad JLCO cats, to beef up Marsalis’s own “Swing Symphony.”

Its seven movements are a capsule history of jazz, in regional and chronological development. A brilliant force-multiplier, the Philadelphians added mass and color to the JLCO without reducing its precision and clearly defined playing of its sections. From the seething street dance of “St. Louis to New Orleans” (loved its brisk Charleston interlude!) to the abstractions marching Monk-like in the closing “The Low Down Up on High” with its lurching polyrhythms, the pieces fit, both across styles and decades, in the melding of the two ensembles. The strings added melancholy at times, or whirled in silky bursts that reflected urban energy, parties and nightclubs in lively neighborhoods. The high-contrast “Manhattan to LA” sang with Whiteman and Goodman echoes. The brass brightened and blared; conductor William Eddins danced as he set tempi, cued solos and section entrances and adjusted dynamics.

The Philadelphians got to do things most orchestral pieces don’t demand or allow. Smiling a lot, they grooved, they swung, they hit cowbells and tambourines, they hand-clapped as if urging on a parade. Big fun, for everybody on the jam-packed stage and the big, big crowd. Happy birthday to me!

Different dance floor, same fine feel. When storms drove Jupiter & Okwess into the Niskayuna High School auditorium Sunday, fans followed, wrapping the 16-show Music Haven free series in jubilant Afro-pop imported from Kinshasa.

Nkumu Katalay & the Lifelong Project got dancers up by their second song, then built from there in a shrewdly paced opener. Katalay led with voice and feet early, firing up his guitar later in his 50-minute set or thumping a percussion-rocket drum. He taught dance steps and sang of home and identity in words we couldn’t parse, pumping musical meanings we couldn’t miss.

Headliners Jupiter (born Jean-Pierre Bokondji) & Okwess — a great guitar band with rocking beats — took things up MANY notches in longer-simmering hypnotic grooves than Katalay’s restless vamp-and-chants.

Fast but light, agile but authoritative, they were relentless in the sweetest, happiest way. Or ways. They rocked Caribbean in Latin or reggae beats, vamped American soul-funk and when everybody sang, they harmonized a booming vocal punch Ladysmith Black Mambazo might envy.

Lanky, loose-limbed Jupiter sang-led with a light touch and Marley-like power. Fervent and forceful vocally, the band played hot, crisp. Masked and shirtless drummer Montana Kinunu Ntunu sweated in earned profusion, hi-hat sizzling, snare blasting. Guitars of Richard Kabamga Kasonga and Eric Malu-Malu-Muginda circled riffs in muscular centrifugal force; 10 fingers, one complex idea, or two, per song. Bassist Yende Balamba Bongongo hit the same beat points as Ntunu’s kick-drum and sang some. Blaise Sewika Boyite led the dancing and chanting.

They slowed just once in a rumba-ballad of majestic vocals and deep feeling, then booming backbeat funk took over again. At times they sped up and sped up, without the wheels flying off, defying dangerous physics. They stopped on a dime, spun and gave millions in change. They brought dancers onstage in a song on protecting women, gradually nudging off all but the best, a long-skirted whirl of a certain age.

Like NRBQ, Afro-pop makes you feel young. It packs such upbeat energy there’s no wrong way to dance to it. So, many did Sunday, Music Haven’s mighty coda.

Categories: Entertainment, Life & Arts

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