The more geographically specific music gets, the more universal it feels. Los Lobos expresses East LA’s distinctive Mexican-American culture so poignantly and powerfully, they’ve become one of America’s greatest bands. No wonder their 1983 breakthrough (proceeds financed their first tour van) EP is titled “ … And a Time to Dance”! Ambition widened by radio and compassion, they encompass all of rock. Tonight they rock the Skyloft (1 Crossgates Mall Road, Suite 200, Albany).
Durable, soulfully versatile, they played MASS MoCA’s first-ever show, a Second Wind Washington Park dance party and the Palace with Robert Cray in past decades; more recently at SPAC on the 2016 Wheels of Soul tour, then the Cohoes Music Hall. They play strong songs, originals or wide-ranging covers, all dazzling in range, punch and evocative underdog poetry. 8 p.m. $40. 518-869-5638 www.skyloftny.com
The next night, Skyloft presents Loverboy, Vancouver pop-rockers back after a hiatus. Apart from the powerfully beating Heart, west-Canada bands make fleet rock that flows on melody. Like Heart, who played SPAC this summer, Loverboy played SPAC in their radio-active ’80s peak. Charlie Farren opens. 8 p.m. $68.50 advance, $75 door
Guitarist Frank Gambale plays the Van Dyck (237 Union St., Schenectady) Friday with Dennis Chambers, drums; Mike Pope, bass; and Sean Wayland, keyboards. An Australian-born, California-raised jazz-fusion giant, Gambale played the Van Dyck with Vital Information in 2006 and at The Egg with Chick Corea’s Elektric Band in 2017, amazing fans with innovative sweep picking. Wiki defines this as playing “single notes on consecutive strings with a ‘sweeping’ motion of the pick, while using the fretting hand to produce a specific series of notes that are fast and fluid in sound.” 7 (doors and dinner seatings 5:30) and 9 p.m. $30. 518-348-7999 www.vandycklounge.com
Also Friday, across downtown Schenectady, folksinger David Roth opens a new season at The Eighth Step (Proctors The Addy, third floor, 432 State St.) — a double-CD release event presenting both “Last Day on Earth” and an untitled new project. 7:30 p.m. $24 advance, $27 door, $40 front and center. 518-474-1703 www.8thstep.org
The Troy Savings Bank Music Hall (30 Second St.) also opens a new season this week, presenting poetic songwriter and plaintive/powerful singer Lucinda Williams on Wednesday. She brings her band Buick 6: Butch Norton, drums; David Sutton, bass; and Stuart Mathis. They played on her 2014 album “Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone,” an accurate description of her music. This show celebrates the 20th anniversary of Williams’ “Car Wheels On A Gravel Road” album; it topped the Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll, won a Grammy and hit No. 304 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list. Williams will play the whole album in her first set, then a second set of career highlights. 8 p.m. $65.50, $55.50, $45.50, $39.50. 518-273-0038 www.troymusichall.org
Also Wednesday, Albany’s Empire State Plaza closes its season with the Hops and Harvest Festival. David Grisman’s Dawg Trio (Sam Grisman, bass; Danny Barnes, banjo and guitar) headlines at 7:45 p.m.; Sierra Hull plays at 5:30 p.m., Kitchen Dwellers follow at 6:45 p.m. Mandolin master and frequent Jerry Garcia sidekick, the elder Grisman blends bluegrass, swing-jazz, klezmer and more into a distinctive personal virtuoso blur. Free. www.empirestateplaza.ny.gov
REARVIEW: Jazzed UP!
Keith Pray bookended last week’s jazz blast; with his Big Soul Ensemble Tuesday at the Van Dyck, then with a trio Sunday at the Schenectady GreenMarket. I hit the latter late, as vendors bartered busily: milk and half-and-half for root vegetables, take-home dinners for jars of honey.
Pray’s big band similarly swapped songs around at the Van Dyck on Tuesday: no “Free Bird”; yes, “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” for example, checking off all the current big-band boxes from a big song book. “That Old Devil Moon” filled the standards spot while three guest saxophonists took over from the regulars in Monk’s bop classic “Straight No Chaser” to close. Musician and sometime LA-based concert pal Ricardo hadn’t caught the band for months; he admired their crisp attack and how soloists improved in his absence.
Steve Turre played seashells (half a dozen, each in a different key) with the same precise intonation and on-fire imagination as trombone, kicking off the A Place for Jazz season Friday in a survey of jazz, blues, ballads and bust-outs as varied as Pray’s crew. At 71, Turre delivered undiminished force, inspiration and depth; as did Saturday Night Live Band-mate Ron Blake, 54, saxes and flute. Well-schooled younger colleagues — Turre’s son Orion, drums, 28; Isaiah Thompson, piano, 22; Corcoran Holt, bass, 37 — tuned tight to the leader’s energy in explosive romps through “Freedom Park, South Africa” and “Yardbird Suite.” They also matched his lyrical sweetness in “The Very Thought of You,” Duke Ellington’s “In a Mellow Tone” and “Carolyn in the Morning.” At they end, they blitzed “Blackfoot,” borrowing changes from “Cherokee.”
A near-perfect Saturday afternoon brought five bands to the Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival. Opener Charlie Apicella applied brisk, suave guitar skills to hard-bop classics, sometimes aided by Amy Bateman’s violin, as in the melodic “Song of the Soul”; but more often supported by just drums and keyboard.
Sentimental favorite, Albany clarinetist Skip Parsons earned a surprise proclamation from Mayor (and fan) Kathy Sheehan, swinging nostalgic blues and shuffles in relaxed ease or livelier tempos. Focused on New Orleans tradition, the veteran crew laid down the right-now fun of “Fidgety Feet” to close.
Black Tie Brass also evoked New Orleans, most clearly in the Meters’ “Cissy Strut” early in an exuberant, horn-powered funk-fest, but maybe best in Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” that grooved high.
Next, boisterous bebop reigned in the skilled hands of the Dizzy Gillespie All-Stars; also jaunty Afro-Cuban dance numbers and a wonderfully eloquent “My Funny Valentine,” the latter showcasing pianist Cyrus Chestnut at his most lyrical. Apart from this ballad oasis, they swung hard, from the explosive opener “Toccata,” an irresistible launching pad. Trumpeter Freddy Hendrix and saxophonist Andres Boiarsky soloed in unified force and swagger up front; bassist/leader John Lee, drummer Evan Sherman and Chestnut locked and unlocked hot grooves.
Since pianist Orrin Evans replaced Ethan Iverson in The Bad Plus, the trio has busily cooked up fresh tunes that closed the festival; mostly in terse, restless rips rather than the song-stretching improvisations of earlier acts. “Hurricane Birds,” “1983 Regional All-Star” and “The Veil” revved from vamps through simple changes; “Red Door” surged in more complex, Monk-like exploration. Then fireworks lit the darkening sky.
Lively trio jazz from Keith Pray (playing organ rather than sax), drummer Chad Ploss and guitarist Mike Novakowski claimed more attention at the Schenectady Greenmarket on Sunday than the folk acts that usually play the market’s free stage. Their dancy funk stopped shoppers in their tracks, deservedly so.
The Lake George Jazz Weekend brings seven bands to Shepard Park this weekend, starting at 1 p.m. both days. Saturday (in this order): Camila Meza & the Nectar Orchestra; Wayne Escoffery Quartet; Chano Dominguez — Piano Iberico; Nate Smith + Kinfolk. Sunday: John Ellis & Double-Wide; Nicole, Zuraitis; and Dafnis Preito Sextet. Free. 518-668-2616 www.lakegeorge.com