NRBQ, the Moody Blues and Los Lobos have traveled so far making music that their tours would probably add up to the distance from here to the sun: 93 million miles.
All three travel through here tonight, more or less.
After repeatedly urging everybody to take rock ’n’ roll road trips, I’m off on one tonight: to FlynnSpace in Burlington, Vt., (153 Main St.) to see “Terry Plays Monk and . . .” tonight — a two-set show featuring NRBQ and a one-time-only ensemble, then I’ll see NRBQ on Friday at the Tupelo Music Hall in Londonderry, N.H., and NRBQ again on Saturday at another Tupelo Music Hall, this one in White River Junction, Vt.
“Terry Plays Monk and . . .” tonight is a one-time-only celebration of Thelonious Monk’s music, with a special ensemble playing the first half and NRBQ playing the second. This is the new NRBQ: Adams with guitarist-singer Scott Ligon, bassist-singer Pete Donnelly (also a member of the Figgs, he recently released his debut solo album) and drummer Conrad Choucroun. Adams’ hand-picked Monk-tribute team features multi-instrumentalist Jim Hoke playing sax and pedal steel, bassist Pete Toigo, saxophonist Klem Klimek and maybe others.
“We will present fresh, unique arrangements of Monk’s compositions — not necessarily played in a jazz vein,” says Adams of the first half. In the second half, “I will be demonstrating the practical application of Monk’s music for a rock ’n’ roll band,” Adams promises.
The greatest pianist in rock history, Adams has always played Monk tunes with NRBQ. Some of NRBQ’s most exhilarating jams have erupted from Monk tunes, with a wild but beautifully focused energy. Adams’ jazz credentials also stretch back decades. He toured with Carla Bley’s band in the early 1970s, he produced Monk’s 1979 live collection “Always Know,” and he played a featured role in the 1984 Monk tribute album “That’s How I Feel Now.”
He also led the onscreen jazz band behind singer Annie Ross in Robert Altman’s 1993 film “Short Cuts”; composed and produced everything on his 1995 jazz album “Terrible”; released “Ten by Two,” an album of live improvised duets with Sun Ra saxophonist Marshall Allen in 2005; and “Love Letter to Andromeda,” an album of improvisations on prepared piano just last year.
Adams is an exceptional interpreter of Monk’s music, elbowing his way through his asymmetrical meters, jagged chords and elliptical melodies.
“I’ve been thinking about doing this since I was 14,” Adams said last week on a brief meet-up near his Massachusetts home, speaking of his Monk project. “I guess now is the time.”
He likened Monk’s music to a cartoon of Einstein filling a vast blackboard with complex equations, noting: “Somewhere in there is the secret of the universe.” He pointed out how obscure that secret is: “Nobody hears it the same way. You play a piece of his music and ask 12 music professors about it and one might say, ‘There’s an e-chord in there somewhere,’ but the others would hear something totally different.”
Adams and his two bands perform “Terry Plays Monk and . . .” tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Flynnspace. Tickets are $25. Phone 802-863-5966 or visit www.flynncenter.org.
On Friday, NRBQ plays at 8 p.m. at Tupelo Music Hall in Londonderry, N.H. (2 Young St.). Tickets are $25. Phone 603-437-5100 or visit www.tupelohall.com.
Then, on Saturday, NRBQ plays at another Tupelo Music Hall, in White River Junction, Vt (188 S. Main St.). Tickets are $25. Phone 802-698-8341 or visit www.tupelohalllondonderry.com.
Moody Blues at Proctors
The Moody Blues released their ground-breaking “Days of Future Passed” album in 1967 — the same year NRBQ formed and hit the road.
More than two dozen other albums followed, combining melodic pop rock with classical grandeur, over decades of hit-making, touring, personnel changes, split-ups and reunions. They’ve sold more than 70 million albums, with 14 titles going gold or platinum. The Moody Blues who visit the Proctors Mainstage (432 State St., Schenectady) at 8 tonight includes three members of the 1967 lineup — guitarist and singer Justin Hayward, bassist and singer John Lodge and drummer and singer Graeme Edge — plus replacements.
They call this swing “The Moody Blues: The Voyage Continues — Highway 45,” honoring the 45th anniversary of their “Days of Future Passed” album. Through all those changes, the Moody Blues have remained remarkably consistent in the sound and feel of their live shows. Tickets for the Moody Blues tonight on the Proctors Mainstage are $85, $70, $60, $50 and $20. Phone 346-6204 or visit www.proctors.org.
Los Lobos at MASS MoCA
Los Lobos played the first-ever concert at MASS MoCA on Memorial Day weekend in 1999, masterfully christening a performance space that shouldn’t work half as well as it does. They played in a courtyard surrounded by brick and glass walls that I expected to echo the music in all directions, a cacophonous blur.
Of course, it sounded wonderful: How could it have been otherwise? It was Los Lobos, one of the world’s greatest bands.
Tonight, Los Lobos returns to MASS MoCA (1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, Mass.), this time to play the Hunter Center — a big black-box theater that sounds even better than the courtyard.
Los Lobos hasn’t logged as many road miles as NRBQ — probably no band has — but Los Lobos have probably traveled farther than the Moody Blues, since Los Lobos formed in 1973. (For reference, that’s the year after the Moody Blues released “Seventh Sojourn,” then went on hiatus, and when NRBQ released “Workshop.” By 1973, Thelonious Monk had retired from performing; his last album “Monk’s Blues” appeared in 1968. But I digress . . .)
At MASS MoCA tonight, Los Lobos will play an acoustic show, with the guys seated. Last summer, they released “Tin Can Trust,” their first studio album of original songs in four years. Show time for Los Lobos tonight at the MASSMoCA Hunter Center is 8. Tickets are $35 and member tickets are not available online. Phone 413-662-2111 or visit www.massmoca.org.
Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at firstname.lastname@example.org.