Two concert series close this week, Troy Savings Bank Music Hall and the Eighth Step; but another, A Place for Jazz, offers a preview.
Holly Near wraps up the Eighth Step season on Saturday at Proctors GE Theatre (432 State St., Schenectady). A regular at the Step over the decades, Near is an iconic figure in women’s music, coming out as a lesbian back when that status carried more personal and professional risk than now.
Near defined women’s music as more than just women’s voices or ownership of record labels: It meant a courageous candor in facing issues long hidden in fear and marginalization. She is an artist to honor, and to listen closely to, for the truths she sings to us.
Emma’s Revolution (Pat Humphries and Sandy O) opens the 7:30 p.m. show and performs with Near and her pianist Adrienne Torf. They also performed on Near’s album “Peace Becomes You.”
Admission is $30, $50 front and center. 434-1703 or 346-6204 www.8thstep.org www.proctors.org.
On Friday, the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall (30 Second St., Troy) closes after the harmonizing, easy-swinging folk trio Red Molly plays at 8 p.m. Their singing is sweet and pretty but not overly delicate; their playing precise, accurate and spunky. Red Molly — how could a band go wrong naming itself for a character in a Richard Thompson song? — is guitarist Molly Ventner, bassist/banjo player Laurie MacAllister, and dobro/banjo player Abbie Gardner. Their new album is, of course, “The Red Album.” Admission is $22, student discount $5. 273-0038 www.troymusichall.org.
Here’s to veterans
Honoring my elders: Hat’s off to veteran performers Lou Donaldson and Al Kooper.
Bluesy alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson, 87, plays a special spring show at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at A Place for Jazz (Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady, 1221 Wendell Ave.). A North Carolina native and WWII vet, Donaldson developed his earthy, gruff style in bands led by Milt Jackson, Thelonious Monk, Blue Mitchell, Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Clifford Brown and other giants of the bop era.
He released his own first album in 1952 and has followed with some 50 since. His best known tracks: “Alligator Boogaloo” (1967) and “Everything I Play is Funky.”
Admission is $15 adults, $7 students. 393-4011. www.aplaceforjazz.org.
A New Yorker to his bones, though he’s spent long stints in Nashville and Boston, Al Kooper celebrates his birthday on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany).
A “he’s-everywhere!” Zelig figure since the mid-1960s, Kooper is all-purpose: songwriter, player, arranger, producer and most of all bandleader, a very under-rated skill. His brilliant memoir “Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards” recounts a vivid life and career, packed with too many high points to list here.
OK, here’s just one: Hanging in the studio during sessions for Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited,” Kooper planned to slip into the song “Like a Rolling Stone” and play guitar. But when he heard the (much better; in fact, matchless) guitarist Michael Bloomfield practicing, Kooper moved to Plan B, convincing producer Tom Wilson that he had a fine Hammond B3 organ part all ready to rock. Wilson took a phone call, Kooper charged into the studio, took over the organ and improvised his part. Dylan liked it and hired Kooper for his road band.
A regular visitor to The Egg, Kooper returns on Saturday with his Funky Faculty crew of fellow Berklee College of Music teachers (where Kooper no longer teaches), plus guest guitarist Jimmy Vivino and others. Admission is $35. 473-1845 www.theegg.org.
John Legend is exactly half Al Kooper’s age, but has followed a similar path of collaboration to build his talent and visibility including projects with Lauryn Hill, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige, the Black Eyed Peas and too many more to list here. His own albums have won nine Grammys, one for “Wake Up!,” his collaboration with the Roots. And he has lent his talents and time to numerous progressive causes and movements.
“All men should be feminists,” he has said. “If men care about women’s rights the world will be a better place.” He has performed at the pregame show before Super Bowl XL, at halftime of the 2006 NBA All-Star Game and on “Sesame Street.”
On Friday at 8 p.m., Legend plays Proctors (432 State St., Schenectady) on his “All of Me” tour, which he promises will be “intimate, raw, and unplugged.” Admission is $85, $70, $60, $45 and $25. 346-6204 www.proctors.org.
It won’t snow any more, so road trips look better and better. Let’s look south to Club Helsinki (405 Columbia St., Hudson).
Tonight, highly regarded Texas singer-songwriter Hayes Carl is in for an 8 p.m. show; Caroline Rose opens. Both are expert songcrafters and singers of uncommon conviction. Admission is $25. 828-4800 www.helsinkihudson.com.
On Friday, jazz drummer Alan Evans, taking a break from his main gig with Soulive, leads his trio Playonbrother (organist Beau Sasser and guitarist Danny Mayer) into the club. Show time is 9 p.m. Admission is $15, advance; $18 on Friday.
Next up is Steel Wheels on Sunday at 8 p.m. The Virginia quartet comprises fiddle, guitar, bass and mandolin — also three beards and four fine voices, aimed at just one mic, old school. Admission is $20, advance; $25 on Sunday.
On Monday, drummer-bandleader Bobby Previte leads his Voodoo Orchestra North in a tribute to Miles Davis’s 1970 “Bitches Brew” album, the fuse in the jazz-rock fusion explosion. Admission is $5, advance; $7 on Monday.
Let’s look north, too.
On Friday, South African singer-songwriter-guitarist Sharon Katz brings her band the Peace Train to Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs), a perfect stage for her deep-hearted protest/liberation music. On Friday, she performs with singer/dancer Wendy Quick, drummer Jeffrey Johnson and bassist Charles Beasley. Show time is 8 p.m. Admission is $18, advance; $20 at the door. 583-0022 www.caffelena.org.
On Saturday, Greenwich-based rockers Eastbound Jesus play the Caffe at 8 p.m. Poll winners in multiple categories, these six guys have come a long way since forming in 2011, releasing three albums (and recording a fourth coming up soon). Admission is $15, advance; $17 at the door.
Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at email@example.com.