We’ve got some es-plaining to do, about both first-class world-beat artists playing here Friday.
I mean: What mixed-ancestry Canadian troubadour gets a banjo scholarship in West Virginia?
Kaia Kater, that’s uniquely who; a story-teller in song who makes a musical weave distinctive and complex as her hairstyle. Born in Montreal of Canadian and Grenadian parents and raised in the Anglophone folkie mecca Toronto, Kater studied banjo in West Virginia, turning for inspiration to the Appalachians and the Caribbean rather than the Maritimes-Celtic orientation of many north-of-the-border troubadours. Boldly titling her first debut “Old Soul” – released right out of high school, in 2013 – she makes a more contained, soft-spoken art than fellow banjo-powered artist Rhiannon Giddens, aiming to entrance quietly more than incite hallelujah. Kater has refined and widened her approach on three subsequent albums – “Grenades” is her latest and a delicious pun – reaching both back to the pop-jazz message music of Nina Simone and forward toward the hip-hop soul of Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill, mostly linking her claw-hammer banjo to a fleet jazzy bass but also to modernist beats.
Kater sings Friday at the Massry Center of the College of St. Rose (1002 Western Ave., Albany), co-presented with the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. 8 p.m. $30, $10 for Saint Rose students. 518-274-7804 www.massrycenter.org or www.troymusichall.org
Things don’t quite add up in Colombian jazz harp virtuoso Edmar Castaneda’s trio: I mean, where’s the bass player we hear? That’s Castaneda; playing low notes with his left hand, melodies with his right.
Casteneda first amazed us here in the Spa Little Theater in SPAC’s chamber jazz series, then in the gazebo at SPAC’s jazz festival. Friday at Proctors GE Theater, a Music Haven presentation, he’ll show how he’s expanded the harp’s reach and role in jazz. In a new math where talent multiplies ambition rather than simply adding to it, Castaneda has invented a new calculation altogether.
The son of harpist Pavelid Castaneda, he started playing at 13 but took up trumpet on arriving in New York in 1994, protégé of Cuban saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera.
Returning to the harp, he’s crafted a new language for it, reaching far past Alice Coltrane’s 1960s impressionistic swirls to a restless staccato attack. His 35-string harp has a mic inside the soundboard and levers that can raise the pitch of individual strings by a half step. His unorthodox trio is a quartet, really, with drummer David Silliman and trombonist Marshall Gilkes. Besides leading his own bands, Castaneda often partners with fellow explorers. His latest release “Live in Montreal” collects duets with thrilling pianist Hiromi Uehara. The Edmar Castaneda Trio plays Friday at Proctors GE Theater (432 State St., Schenectady). 7:30 p.m. $25 518-346-6204 www.proctors.org
BIG shows hit here all week.
The big-guitars revue Generation Axe tonight at the Palace (19 Clinton Ave. at N. Pearl St., Albany) stars top rock-fusion guitarists Steve Vai, Zakk Wylde, Yngwie Malmsteen, Nuno Bettencourt, and Tosin Abasi in a six-string shoot-out over the rhythm section of Pete Griffin, bass; Nick Marinovich, keyboards; and JP Bouvet, drums. 8 p.m. $79.95, $59.75, $49.75, $39.75, $34.75. If they charged by the note, tickets would cost way more. 800-745-3000 www.palacealbany.org
Sadly for fans of fretwork fire, re-constituted British rock-jazz instrumental giants Brand X play the Cohoes Music Hall (58 Remsen St.) at the same time. Founders John Goodsall (guitar) and Percy Jones (bass) recruited young guns to fill out the prog-rock crew Phil Collins once led: Kenny Grohowski, drums; Chris Clark, keyboards; and Scott Weinberger, percussion. 8 p.m. $39 advance, $50 door. 518-953-0630 www.thecohoesmusichall.org
Another collision: On Saturday, both Albany jazzman Stefon Harris and folk-rock veteran David Crosby play the two theaters at The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany).
Harris leads Blackout Saturday, the most electric of his several bands, with Casey Benjamin, saxophones and vocoder; Marc Cary, piano; Terreon Gully, drums; and Luques Curtis, drums. Thematically and sonically ambitious, the band’s new “Sonic Creed” album examines family and community in reflections of African American life here and now; often in tributes to revered musical heroes. Harris plays vibraphone and electronic variants, and leads with a light touch. In bands big and small here, Harris has always delivered stellar results. 8 p.m. $34
Also Saturday at The Egg, David Crosby sings folk-rock classics and newer fare with his new Lighthouse band: guitarists Becca Stevens and Michael League and keyboardist Michelle Willis. A double Rock And Roll Hall of Famer (the Byrds, Crosby Stills and Nash) Crosby has built this new crew as a band for real. His songbook boasts classics deep and strong, but he also sings new tunes by band members on this album and onstage. 8 p.m. $84.75, $59.75, $49.75
BRUBECKS IN COHOES
Brubeck brothers Chris (bass) and Dan (drums) have long grappled with the imposing musical legacy of their late, great father Dave. Pioneering their own pathways, they have also at times followed where he led. Chris, for example, collaborated with Dave in “Ansel Adams: America,” an audio-visual Grammy nominee.
The Brubeck Brothers Quartet embraces that legacy Saturday at the Cohoes Music Hall, with Mike DeMicco, guitar; and Chuck Lamb, piano; in “Celebrate Dave Brubeck’s Centennial.” 8 p.m. $39.50, $29.50
Remember those “You Don’t Have to Be Jewish” subway ads showing Inuits, Native Americans and others enjoying Lender’s Bagels? Hyper-prolific Dust Bowl singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie’s prodigious output included numerous tunes on Jewish themes, and the skilled combo Klezmatics have assembled some into “Woody Guthrie’s Happy Joyous Hanukkah” Saturday at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall (30 Second St.). The NYC combo knows how: their “Wonderwheel” album (2006) frames Woody lyrics into lively, lovely songs; that same year, they released “Woody Guthrie’s Happy Joyous Hanukkah”. 7:30. $34, $29