Check the calendar: full of holiday shows, right? But there are other shows, too.
Adirondack bluegrass superstars the Gibson Brothers’ North Country Christmas shows are holiday favorites; music warm as a woodstove or the mittens your grandma knitted, zippy as a ski run. Friday night, the Gibsons’ celebration lights up the GE Theatre at Proctors (432 State St., Schenectady). Not just local heroes, they’re International Bluegrass Music Association Entertainers of the Year. Their new album “In the Ground” is their first of all original songs. 7:30 p.m. General admission $40, VIP $75. 518-346-6204 www.proctors.org
Saturday in the same space, the Eighth Step presents “Turning of the Year Celtic Celebration.” See the item on page 2, and stay tuned for more holiday shows.
Tonight, the Soweto Gospel Choir brings a nonseasonal celebration to the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall (30 Second St.) — “Songs of the Free; In honor of Nelson Mandela’s 100th Birthday.” As many as 46 singers and dancers directed by Shimmy Jiyane, they’re full of liberation spirit, vocal punch, colorful dress and exciting dance steps. 7:30 p.m. $55, $45, $37, $25. 518-273-0038 www.troymusichall.org
Caffe Lena’s weekend winds up with folk veteran Josh White Jr.’s “Christmas Spirit” on Sunday. A ’60s “folk scare” survivor, White sang with greats Lead Belly, Paul Robeson, Woody Guthrie and others. Eleanor Roosevelt was his godmother, and he remains a godfather of topical folk. 7 p.m. $22 advance, $24 door, $12 students and children. 519-583-0022 www.caffelena.org
Before White’s show Sunday, fellow veteran troubadour David Mallet sings Friday, sharing White’s veteran assured idealism and backed by acoustic bass. His easygoing voice tells deep truths with disarming simplicity. 8 p.m. $22, $25 door, $12.50
The Caffe features fresh faces Saturday in its “Bright Series” of new discoveries: chamber-pop stars-in-the-making the Western Den from Boston and Golden Oak from Maine, led by siblings Zak and Lena Kendall and deservedly compared to the Lumineers. 8 p.m. $14, $16, $8
After White’s show Sunday, the Caffe presents the Chuck Lamb Trio on Tuesday with guest Ken Peplowsky, recently hailed in the New Yorker as “arguably the greatest living jazz clarinetist.” 8 p.m. $18, $20, $10
COOL, ANY SEASON
Project/Object celebrates the vast musical legacy of the late, great Frank Zappa on Friday at Cohoes Music Hall (58 Remsen St.). Longest-running Zappa tribute, this crew features Zappa alums Napoleon Murphy Brock, vocals and sax; and Denny Walley, guitar. 8 p.m. $22 advance, $27 door. 518-953-0630 www.thecohoesmusichall.org
Jazz guitarist John Scofield leads his new band Combo 66 Friday at The Egg: Gerald Clayton, piano; Vicente Archer, bass; and Bill Stewart, drums. Scofield and valley supergroup Hudson played one of the SPAC Jazz Festival’s top sets in June, and his most recent albums “Past Present” and “Country for Old Men” won three Grammys. $36. 518-473-1845 www.theegg.org
NOLA IN TOWN
The Rebirth Brass Band brings New Orleans funk tonight to Putnam Place (63a Putman St., Saratoga Springs). They play a second-line street parade in the first episode of HBO’s post-Katrina New Orleans series “Treme,” they’re the first brass band to win a Grammy (for “Rebirth of New Orleans,” one of 17 albums) and they’re celebrating 35 years together; so they know how to get this party started. Alumni include Kermit Ruffins and Glen David Andrews. The NOLA Brewing Company makes Rebirth Pale Ale in tribute. Trombonist Bryan Brundige & His Piggly Wigglies open, reaching back even deeper than Rebirth into traditional jazz. 8:30 p.m. doors 7:30 $28. 518-886-9585 www.putnamplace.org
Music teachers of Schenectady schools play holiday favorites, pop and jazz tunes with their students tonight at Proctors Robb Alley (432 State St.) — a free holiday showcase. Keith Pray, Robert Aronstein, Mike Lawrence and Andy Hearn lead the Oneida Middle School Jazz Band, the Oneida Middle School Strings, singers and players from Central Park Middle School, Mont Pleasant Middle School and Schenectady High School. 4:30 p.m.
REARVIEW: JAZZ X 2
Unprecedented, even in jazz where innovation reigns, Edmar Castaneda played bass lines and melody at once at Proctors Passport Series last Friday in a virtual quartet with just drums and sax.
Plucking single notes high or low, damping the strings for fast decay or letting them sing, bending notes by twisting his Columbian 34-string harp, percussively tapping it or swirling lush arpeggios, he told tales in a new language for the familiar-looking instrument: music of Latin roots and far frontiers of boundless possibility. Some was serene: devotional “Jesu de Nazaret” and “Acts.” Some romped restlessly, especially a propulsive tribute to Jaco Pastorius on the late bass innovator’s birthday.
It was all breathtaking; technique perfectly matched imagination. At times, Castaneda echoed piano, guitar, koto or kora, always sounding solely like himself.
Soprano saxophonist Schlomi Cohen and drummer Henry Cole held their own even when Castaneda cast off for far shores; Cole muted his kick drum to make sonic space for Castaneda’s bass lines. Three active players steering the same vehicle, they leapt on their solos. “Take it!” Castaneda urged Cohen in their closer, “Autumn Leaves,” a chestnut the trio formed from disparate parts, wandering in shared creation.
Albany vibes and marimba virtuoso Stefon Harris urged empathy Saturday in The Egg’s (smaller) Swyer Theater, then played it with his band Blackout. His big arm swings were more for drama than cues: The band moved together by listening, empathy.
Tunes from “Sonic Creed” flowed on sections-and-solos structures, the early “Dat Dere” leaping from resolute Art Blakey tribute right off the page via mighty marimbaphone musings from Harris, Casey Benjamin’s beefy alto sax blurred by a harmonizer. “Chasing Kendall” (for his young sons, sitting with Harris’s wife and numerous relatives, friends and teachers) cruised on a sunny backyard BBQ groove spiced with quotes of other songs.
Benjamin’s vocoder’ed vocals spaced out the romantic “Let’s Take a Trip to the Sky” and Harris mentor Bobby Hutcherson’s “Now,” while Horace Silver’s “Cape Verdean Blues” slowed from a fast, jagged launch to a slower A/B dialogue. Taking risks from their smooth flow, Harris asked fans to challenge them by calling out notes — F-sharp, C-flat, C and D — that the band stirred, spiced and simmered, wildly at first, then with growing coherence, into “Bye Bye Blackbird.” Drummer Terreon Gully and bassist Luques Curtis locked it all night in superbly steady time and a shared subtle sense of swing, while pianist Marc Cary was all about the blues, in the best way.
Afterward, I bonused myself into the end of David Crosby’s set in The Egg’s (bigger) Hart Theater, easing from the exuberant mood of Harris’s homecoming into one of rapt reverence.
Crosby has formed three younger musicians into his Lighthouse Band to write songs: Michael League (Snarky Puppy), guitar and bass; Becca Stevens, guitar; and Michelle Willis, keyboards. Their new pop-jazz art-songs felt complex and change-y; their vocal blend powerful and interesting, as the women’s voices made a different feel from CS&N. Announcing “a song you’ve actually heard before,” Crosby led them into “Guinevere,” then “Déjà vu” a few tunes later in confident, slow tempos with right-on harmonies. You could see Crosby surfing on the sound, the mood. Almost all the voice is still there, and he knows how to skate/transpose past tones he can’t muscle anymore.