James Taylor had been such a dependable presence at Saratoga Performing Arts Center, summer after summer, it’s startling to hear that Saturday’s return is his first in 11 years.
Visible periodically on WAMC fund drives or his “One Man Band” shows with keyboardist Larry Goldings near his Berkshires home, Taylor brings his All-Star Band on Saturday.
A major perk of durable Taylor-sized stardom must be hiring such high-caliber players. Today’s leading jazz organist, Goldings co-stars with drummer Jack DeJohnette and guitarist John Scofield in Trio Beyond, playing powerful tribute to Tony Williams’ influential band Lifetime (Larry Young and John McLaughlin). Taylor’s drummer Steve Gadd boasts big jazz credits, too, and he’s toured tons with Paul Simon. Saxophonist Lou Marini is an original Blues Brother, Saturday Night Live band member and player on hundreds of sessions.
Like Marini, trumpeter Walt Fowler has many credits including Frank Zappa. (Fowler, trombonist brother Bruce and Captain Beefheart played with Zappa at the Palace, a show I attended in a gorilla suit, but I digress.) Bassist Jimmy Johnson, guitarist Michael Landau and percussionist Luis Conte are longtime Taylor bandmates.
As usual, Taylor brings top singers: David Lasley, Arnold McCuller and Kate Markowitz; singer Andrea Zonn also plays fiddle.
Taylor is reportedly working on a new album, his 27th, counting compilations and live sets, after several covers albums and the 2010 Troubadour Reunion Tour with Carole King and his first band (bassist Lee Sklar, drummer Russ Kunkel and guitarist Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar; with keyboardist Craig Doerge, they also recorded, beautifully, as the Section.)
James Taylor and his All-Star Band play SPAC (Routes 9 and 50, Saratoga Springs) at 8 p.m. on Saturday. Lawn seats only: $40. 800-745-3000, www.livenation.com.
The late, great Charlie Haden, dead last Friday at 76, played bass with attitude and meaning. Fred Kaplan of Slate and Stereophile told NPR that Haden was “a romantic revolutionary:” Haden played ballads with exceptional tenderness and political messages with angry passion.
Ornette Coleman gave free-jazz wings to Haden’s Missouri country and folk roots, and Haden (and Charles Mingus) carved a new leading role for the bass. Haden led Quartet West, co-starred in Keith Jarrett’s quartet and co-led the Liberation Music Orchestra big band with Carla Bley.
He won his first Grammy for duets with fellow Missourian guitarist Pat Metheny, “Beyond the Missouri Sky” (1997), one of many duo projects. His last releases, “Jasmine” and “Last Dance,” are duets with Jarrett: steady, graceful, eloquently sparse classic ballads. The sprawlingly ambitious Liberation Music Orchestra albums and the back-to-the-country family project “Rambling Boy” perhaps best combine his roots and wings.
Colleague Steve Webb (then of the Knickerbocker News) FaceBooked a backstage conversation with Haden after a Troy Savings Bank Music Hall with Chick Corea and Roy Haynes. Webb asked Haden about the Liberation Music Orchestra, whose first two albums had protested the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention and Ronald Reagan’s 1980s Central American policies.
Haden said, smiling, “If I get pissed off enough again, I’m sure there will be a third!” He did and there was, in the Bush I years, and a fourth, protesting the Iraq War. Angry and bold, those albums are beautiful: romantic and revolutionary.
Not romantic at all but unarguably revolutionary, the Ramones deconstructed rock to its blunt-force basics. Their songs hit like jackhammers, but ended almost before they blasted into loud existence, leaving an exhilarating echo of fierce fun. The drummer who chanted “Hey, ho! Let’s go!” was Tommy Ramone, born Erdelyi Tamas in Budapest. Like Haden, Ramone died on Friday at 65, the last surviving original Ramone.
I saw them at JB Scott’s, SPAC and Lincoln Park, often laughing and plugging my ears. Aboard for only the first three Ramones’ albums, Tommy in his last years played bluegrass in Uncle Monk with Claudia Tienan. He was long gone by the Ramones’ last show here (Lincoln Park, April 1996), but I was so glad to take my 15-year-old son Zak to see them. I held my breath watching Zak run into the mosh pit and get knocked flat; then laughed with him as he sprang up, happy, sweaty and dusty. That’s how the Ramones made you feel.
In this most international Music Haven (25th anniversary!) series in Schenectady’s Central Park, Conjunto Chappottin y sus Estrellas headline on Sunday; flamenco guitarist Maria Zemantauski opens.
The Conjunto’s roots reach back to 1940s Havana and the band is led today by the trumpeter Jesus Angel Chappottin Coto, grandson of its co-founder. 7 p.m. Free. Rainsite: Proctors
The Baseball Project rocks all about baseball, broadening what seems a narrow niche with tremendous musical ingenuity and real reverence for the sport. Steve Wynn (the Dream Syndicate and many other bands) co-stars alongside Scott McCaughey (many bands, including touring versions of R.E.M.), and the Project also includes R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck and bassist Mike Mills, plus drummer Linda Pitmon. They were tremendous fun when I saw them at Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival at MASS MoCA years ago.
The Baseball Project plays on Wednesday at Club Helsinki (405 Columbia St., Hudson) at 8 p.m. $15, advance; $18 on Wednesday. 828-4800, www.helsinkihudson.com.
The Club is busy all weekend, with the FarmOn! Hoedown Friday benefitting young farmers and starring Lukas Nelson (son of Willie) and his band, guests Tommy Stinson (the Replacements and Guns & Roses), daughter Ruby Stinson and Liana Gabel. 7 p.m. doors 5 p.m. $50 general admission, $75 front
On Saturday, Linda Lavin plays an 8 p.m. cabaret show, part of the Club’s Broadway series ($60)
On Sunday the Omi Improvisers Orchestra led by Karl Berger and Sertso play world-music/big band jazz. 7 p.m. Free.
Reach Gazette Columnist Michael Hochanadel at email@example.com.