Saxophonist-composer-arranger Keith Pray leads his Big Soul Ensemble monthly at the Van Dyck — and a mighty sound that is. Tonight he brings his agile quartet — Dave Payette, piano; Lou Smaldone, bass (and a stalwart of the Big Soul Ensemble); and Jeff “Siege” Siegel, drums — to the Cock ’n Bull (5342 Parkis Mills Road, Galway) with guest saxophonist Jerry Weldon.
Weldon first stepped into the spotlight in the Lionel Hampton Orchestra, then worked in bands of organists Lonnie Smith, Jack McDuff, Jimmy McGriff and Joey DeFrancesco; trombonist Al Grey; pianists George Cables and Cedar Walton; drummers Roy Haynes and Jimmy Cobb; and guitarist-singer George Benson. More recently, Weldon has played in Harry Connick Jr.’s big band and on “Harry,” Connick’s daily TV show. 7 p.m. $10. 518-882-6962. www.thecockandbull.com
Patty Griffin plays Tuesday at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall (30 Second St.). On Austin City Limits last Saturday, she sang of strength in the face of troubles — romantic breakup from Robert Plant, health problems — with ace accompanists Conrad Choucroun (ex-NRBQ; drums, bass, guitar and piano) and David Pulkingham (ex-Alejandro Escovedo; guitar and piano). Rose Cousins opens. 7:30 p.m. $45.50, $39.50. 518-272-0038 www.troymusichall.org
Friday, the Hall presents the SteelDrivers, a versatile acoustic combo of Nashville cats Tammy Rogers, fiddle; Mike Fleming, bass; Kelvin Damrell, guitar; Brent Truitt, mandolin; and Richard Bailey, banjo. Chris Stapleton sang with them before going solo-superstar, and the band echoes classic 1950s bluegrass of Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs while incorporating Newgrass innovations. In 2015, they won the Best Bluegrass Album Grammy for “The Muscle Shoals Recordings,” their fourth. 8 p.m. $34.50, $29.50
Veteran country-rock troubadour Jonathan Edwards sings Sunday at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs). On his 16th album, “Tomorrow’s Child,” he sketches a hopeful future, echoing the sunny hippie era when “Sunshine (Go Away Today)” made him a star. 7 p.m. $22 advance, $25 door, $12.50 students and children
Edwards’ show caps a busy Caffe weekend. Tonight, the Oshima Brothers (Sean and Jamie) and the trio The End of America team up in a 7 p.m. show and 6 p.m. interview by Kelly McCartney for the Hangin’ & Sangin’ series. $18, $20, $10; $25 show and interview
Haitian roots band Chouk Bwa plays Friday (8 p.m.), with a pre-show dinner (6 p.m.) benefiting Bill Cole’s generous Horns for Haiti program. $22, $25, $12,50; $50 dinner and show
Saturday, Texas tornado Kinky Friedman brings his Merry Kinksters band, a new album and a new book to the Caffe in a compelling-crazy showcase (8 p.m. concert, 7 p.m. talk) of hijinks and low humor: “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore,” “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed.” Friedman won 13 percent of the vote for Texas governor in 2006 behind a slogan of “Why the Hell Not?” — later an album title. But he also pens seriously tender ballads. $40, $45, $22.50, $50 show and talk
Soul-blues singer Marc Cohn plays the Cohoes Music Hall (58 Remsen St.) Friday, reaching past solo stardom as “Walking in Memphis” Grammy-winning hit-maker in style-stretching directions. “Listening Booth: 1970” recalled that epic year while “Careful What You Dream” mined his own pre-stardom songs. Cohn also toured with Michael McDonald, wrote most of soul veteran William Bell’s (first!) Grammy-winning album and recorded with the Blind Boys of Alabama and David Crosby. $62 floor, $52 parquet, $42 balcony. 518-953-0630 www.thecohoesmusichall.org
Jazz drummer-composer Kendrick Scott leads Oracle Friday at Skidmore’s Zankel Music Center (815 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs). His fourth album, “A Wall Becomes a Bridge,” adds DJ/turntable artist Jahi Sundance to Oracle’s longstanding lineup: Mike Moreno, guitar (leader of his own band in a prior Zankel show); Taylor Eigsti, piano; reeds player John Ellis; and bassist Joe Sanders. A modernist crew of honed chops and impressive unity, Oracle swings and rocks strong. 7 p.m. $8 adults, $5 seniors and Skidmore community. 518-580-5321 www.skidmore.edu/zankel
Wrong choice last Friday? It’s never a mistake to catch Phil Allen’s Concert Jazz Band, but that meant missing Vernon Reid’s Band of Gypsies Revisited at The Egg. The Egg’s impresario Peter Lesser is a tough crowd: He’s seen EVERYBODY! But when I met up with him before Ranky Tanky played The Egg’s Swyer Theatre on Saturday, Lesser shook his head in awe at Reid’s re-creation of Jimi Hendrix’s music the night before.
Ranky Tanky showed impressive growth at The Egg on Saturday, moving fast since their 2017 debut here in Proctors’ Passport series — between a stirring opening call for “Freedom,” assuring us “That’s Alright” and making a choir of the crowd in “Green Sally” at the end.
At Proctors after their self-named debut album first hit, Ranky Tanky had modernized and jazzed up the folkloric sound of their Gullah (South Carolina coast) heritage.
Saturday, armed with fresh tunes from “Good Time,” they made original music in the indomitable Gullah spirit with gospel uplift, soothing children’s fare, stirring blues, jazzy zip and rocking joy.
Like Lake Street Dive, Ranky Tanky positions a dynamic singer, powerful Quiana Parler, alongside jazzy trumpet and guitar over a funk-jazz undertow. When Parler, trumpeter Charlton Singleton and guitarist Clay Ross harmonized, they hit like a church choir distilled to strong soloists. They proved Gullah folklore to be as deeply nourishing a wellspring as black string-band music is to the Carolina Chocolate Drops. “You Gotta Move” swaggered New Orleans second-line style. “Turtle Dove” charmed, childlike, but with sophisticated post-bop trumpet and soft-chime guitar. Songs gave gospel lift, even the ironically titled “Beat ’Em Down.” In their cure-the-pain theme-song declaration “Ranky Tanky,” chicken-scratch guitar and pulsing plunger-mute trumpet brought a big sing-along.
Rainbow in race and age, the crowd surged to the music, chanting shout-outs, jumping up to testify, singing along even when stuff got complex and cheering as Ranky Tanky parade-danced off the stage.
Allen’s Concert Jazz Band swung down the curtain at A Place for Jazz on Friday in fine style. In two confident sets, the 14 players honored Allen’s heroes Bill Homan, Terry Gibbs, Lee Morgan and Gary McFarland, but also celebrated Allen’s tunes and evoked the easy grace of Count Basie in an encore the near-capacity crowd earned.
Allen went out front to conduct at times and cued soloists to rise and shine: trumpeter Dylan Canterbury in “Prelude and Blues in A-Flat”; valve trombonist Tyler Giroux and tenor saxmen Lee Russo in “Why Are You Blue”; tenor-man Kevin Barcomb in “Killer Joe”; Dave Fisk on alto and Jeff Nania on baritone in “Lusaka”; pianist John Esposito in “Barbara”; and all the horns — by section and all sub-combos — in “Sidewinder.” When the arrangements distilled tunes down to the rhythm section — Esposito, drummer Cliff Brucker, bassist Lou Smaldone, guitarist Joe Finn and vibes player Mike Benedict — they swung sweet, and played maybe the most confident solos of the night.
“A writer is only as good as the guys who play the charts,” Allen proclaimed, sharing the credit, adding, “These guys play better than the band in my head.”
Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected]