An exceptional, familiar wine in a new bottle: That’s the great Cassandra Wilson.
She returns to The Egg on Saturday in a new context but with her essential musical flavor totally intact.
Wilson sings with a distinctive sound and matchless musical mastery propelled by a fearless curiosity that has made her as restless in crafting new vessels for her art as the ever-chameleonic John Hiatt and Alejandro Escovedo. Like Wilson, both have played here many times, never twice with the same band.
Wilson usually leads bands customized to her deep voice and agile enough to follow as she samples every kind of American music.
Now she has teamed up with Harriet Tubman, an accomplished trio formed in 1998 of funk and jazz veterans drummer J.T. Lewis, bassist Melvin Gibbs and guitarist Brandon Ross.
Busy sidemen, they united behind the heroic name of heroic Underground Railroad liberationist Tubman. Now they’re united behind the heroic musical liberationist Cassandra Wilson, who unlocks songs from their original sounds to escape and soar in new directions.
In the year that Harriet Tubman formed, Wilson released “Rendezvous,” the 11th of her 18 albums, a collection of jazz duets with the melodic pianist Jackie Tarrason. Two of Wilson’s albums have won Grammy Awards, while Harriet Tubman has released four albums, developing a sound as individual and powerful as Wilson’s. They layer a treble-rich percussion clatter on the roof, beefy bass in the basement and extraterrestrial guitar noise in the parlor. Think Living Colour, maybe, jamming with a human cello.
Cassandra Wilson and Harriet Tubman call their collaboration “Black Sun,” and they will shine it on the audience and the entire history of African-American music on Saturday at 8 p.m. at The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany). Show time is 8 p.m. Admission is $34.50. 473-1845 www.theegg.org.
An even more unlikely combination: Singer-songwriter Amy Rigby met writer Karen Schoemer (New York Times, Rolling Stone and others) at the Hudson Amtrak station and agreed to form a band before their train came. They call it the Schoemer Foundation. Schoemer writes and sings the words with guitarist/keyboardist Rigby and Rigby’s husband, pub-rock British bassist Wreckless Eric. Tonight they introduce this new combo at the Low Beat (335 Central Ave., Albany) at 8 p.m. Admission is $7. 432-6572 www.thelowbeat.com.
Tributes this weekend shine nostalgic-musical bright lights on two top British bands — the Beatles and Dire Straits, a musical generation and several orders of magnitude apart. The Beatles never played here, but Dire Straits played the former Hullaballoo in Rensselaer (it was Capps in the Hollow before that), and its founder, Mark Knopfler, has played here on solo tours.
On Friday, an all-star local crew called the 5th Beatles plays songs of the Fab Four at the Van Dyck (237 Union St., Schenectady) — guitarist/singer/leader Graham Tichy, singer Johnny Rabb, guitarist Steven Clyde, bassist Dave Maswick and drummer Pete Vumbaco.
On the young edge of the boomer cohort, these first-class performers grew up on the Beatles and have built big area reputations over hundreds of gigs here. Admission is $12. Show time is 8:30 p.m., doors at 7. 348-7999 www.vandycklounge.com.
On Saturday, The Straits play the music of Dire Straits at the Palace Theatre (19 Clinton Ave., Albany). They are qualified. Three touring members of Dire Straits have united to play Dire Straits classics: keyboardist Alan Clarke, saxophonist Chris White and guitarist Phil Palmer. They recruited newcomers: singer Terence Reis, bassist Mickey Feat, keyboardist Jamie Squire and drummer Steve Ferrone, borrowed from Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. The Refrigerators, our own all-purpose tribute to almost all classic-rockers, open at 8 p.m. Admission is $36.50 and $27.50. 800-745-3000 www.palacealbany.com.
Tonight Lunasa, an Irish traditional band of towering eminence and renown, celebrates St. Patrick’s Day at Celtic Hall (430 New Karner Road, Albany). Their lineup changes from time to time, but without denting their reputation or their talents. Lunasa has released seven albums. Show time is 7 p.m. Admission is $20, advance; $25 at the door. 250-5890 www.celtichall.org.
On Sunday, the day before St. Patrick’s Day, Irish traditionalists Danú play the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. Originally formed as a one-off for a 1994 festival, Danú (a Celtic goddess) has changed members numerous times since, but maintained an impressive consistency and unity of sound over 20 years of world tours and seven albums. Show time is early: 4 p.m. Admission is $37, $32, $27 and $22. 273-0038 www.troymusichall.org.
Audio collage artist Tom Lopez holds a unique place in Saratoga Springs, crafting humorous radio-of-the-mind pieces including a 1980s NPR series “Saratoga Springs” that, with perfect irony, never aired here.
That’s just one of the many mixed media projects he’s sent out into the world from his ZBS imagination lab in Fort Edward. On Sunday, Lopez presents his picks from “Saratoga Springs” at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St.), including recordings and live appearances by notable characters.
A born collaborator — he’s worked with Allen Ginsberg, Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, Yoko Ono and others — Lopez knows how to engage the talents of others in his enterprises. Show time is 7 p.m. Admission is $12, advance; $14 at the door; children and students $7.50. 583-0022 www.caffelena.org.
Tuesday marks the next-to-last presentation in David Greenberger’s “One Upon” series of two-minute performances in a one-seat theater, a temporary black box on the mezzanine of Skidmore’s Tang Teaching Museum (815 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs).
It’s simple, but sophisticated: one monologist (Greenberger) and one small band, A Strong Dog (Kevin Maul and Mitch Throop), performing for audiences of one. For free. Shows begin at 2 p.m.
Meanwhile, Greenberger’s work comprises “one updown,” literally elevator music, specifically number 26 in the Tang’s series of curated elevator music. 580-8080 www.skidmore.edu/tang.
Reach Gazette Columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org.