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Tag: jazz

Epic, Vivid Spanish-Tinged Big Band Jazz and a Joe’s Pub Show From Emilio Solla

Pianist Emilio Solla writes picturesque, symphonic, state-of-the-art big band jazz that draws on both tango and Spanish Caribbean traditions but transcends both. For those who might be interested in how this chorizo is made, Solla and flamenco-jazz saxophonist/singer Antonio Lizana are launching their upcoming tour with their new quartet at Joe’s Pub on March 25 at 9. Cover is on the steep side, $30 for a bill which four years ago might have been better staged at the late and badly missed Jazz Standard. Good luck dodging the waitstaff, who may or may not be enforcing a minimum at tables.

Solla’s most recent album with his Tango Jazz Orchestra is Puertas: Music from International Waters, streaming at Bandcamp. He dedicates each track to a different city around the world; the result is as cosmopolitan and majestic as you could possibly want. The loose connecting thread is patterns of global immigration and its challenges. Beyond inspired solos, Solla’s compositions have a dynamism and element of surprise beyond most of the other composers in his demimonde.

The opening number, Sol La, Al Sol has subtle tango allusions in the big splashes of color from the orchestra, setting up a bright, assertive Tim Armacost tenor sax solo. The bustle grows to a blaze before trombonist Mike Fahie takes a judicious, spacious solo of his own. The band have fun with Solla’s punchy countermelodies on the way out. Lots going on here.

Guest Arturo O’Farrill takes over on piano as the epic second track, Llegara, Llegara, Llegara begins. The orchestra answers him and then rises with an early-morning suspense as he cascades. Julien Labro’s accordion weaves in and out, over a determined charge down the runway fueled by bassist Pablo Aslan and drummer Ferenc Nemeth. Tenor saxophonist John Ellis takes charge of the lull that follows, choosing his spots over a long, increasingly lush crescendo. The twin piano coda with O’Farrill and Solla trading off is decadently delicious.

In Chacafrik, dedicated to the Angolan city of Benguela, the orchestra shift from a cheery, retro brassiness to a rumble and then sleekness before hitting a circling qawalli groove, Todd Bashore’s alto sax at the center.

Terry Goss’ wistful baritone sax adds a wistful undercurrent as La Novena, a dedication to Solla’s hometown Buenos Aires, gets underway; it’s an otoño porteño, Labro’s bandoneon solo signaling a sober, steady rise at the end. The trumpets – Alex Norris, Jim Seeley, Brad Mason and Jonathan Powell – figure lyrically and sparely in Four for Miles, a pulsing tango-jazz mini-epic with a tantalizingly brief lattice by the first and last on that list at the end.

Edmar Castañeda’s harp introduces Allegron in tandem with Solla’s piano over tricky, punchy Venezuelan rhythms. Once again, Solla brings in towering grandeur in between the moments where Castañeda isn’t threatening to break several strings, Ellis adding a triumphantly balletesque solo on soprano.

Solla draws his inspiration for Andan Luces from Cadiz, a baroque-tinged counterpoint from the high reeds ceding to a pensively incisive solo from Aslan and cheerier flights from the bandleader’s piano. Stormy low brass anchors contrasting highs to kick off the final number, Buenos Aires Blues. Trombonist Noah Bless bobs and weaves over Solla’s kinetic syncopation, with Norris, Goss and Labro riding the waves in turn.

The album also benefits from the collective talents of soprano saxophonist Alejandro Aviles, trombonist Eric Miller and bass trombonist James Rodgers.


Nick Demopoulos Brings His Surreal, Starry, Deviously Entertaining Sonic Universe to Chinatown

Guitarist Nick Demopoulos has a formidable jazz background and was a member of paradigm-shifting drummer Chico Hamilton’s band for several years. As you might expect, Demopoulos is also a pioneer – as an instrument builder. In one of his more colorful solo projects, he plays his touch-sensitive SMOMID, which stands for String Modeling Midi Device. With its twinkling lights, it looks like the instrument James T. Kirk would play to seduce an alien babe after a long trip into the future. The sounds he gets out of it are just as entertaining.

The first time this blog caught him playing it was in the spring of 2017 at Troost in Greenpoint alongside Moist Paula Henderson – who was playing EWI instead of her usual baritone sax – and Dorothea Tachler on vocals, keys and mixer. His solo set there just over seven months later was just as trippy, and surreal, and immersive. There’s literally hours of material on his Soundcloud page which will give you a good idea of what he sounded like that night.

Parenthetically speaking, that we would be talking about something that happened over five years ago like it was yesterday, or if it was news, is more than a little problematic, right?

The good news is that Demopoulos has picked up like he was never interrupted. His next gig with his space-age instrument is on March 11 at 8 PM at Downtown Music Gallery.

The way the SMOMID works is that when Demopoulos strikes a key, it sends a signal to his computer, triggering a vast available number of samples, from bagpipes to birdsong. The first Soundcloud track is the closest thing to EDM there, and a red herring: don’t let it turn you off. Things get fun in a hurry after that: imagine R2D2 playing a carillon.

Organlike textures underpin squiggly, twinkling loops and every little springy, mechanical texture you can think of. Animal noises and flitting human vocal samples also pop up occasionally. And despite the wild panoply of sounds, Demopoulos’ tunes are straightforward and catchy.

The last number in the long WKCR broadcast up at Soundcloud is a rare example of Demopoulos in full-on goofy mode. There’s a loopmusic aspect to this, but most of what he does is live. He typically uses a steady rhythm and likes a trip-hop beat. And while most of what he’s playing is in the upper registers, he can work woozy, synthy P-Funk bass sounds, or a pretty fair digital approximation of a digeridoo. At those 2017 Brooklyn shows, he built soundscapes to get lost in and could send you off to similarly unexpected places at the Chinatown gig.

Subtle Poignancy and Sophistication on Jazz Chanteuse Simone Kopmajer’s Latest Album

Singer Simone Kopmajer‘s latest album With Love – streaming at Spotify – is often lush, and symphonic, and sweepingly beautiful. Imbued with equal parts jazz and classic torch song, it’s akin to a vintage June Christy record with less of a mentholated cool and more breaks in the clouds. Kopmajer’s a little bit Jenifer Jackson, a little bit Paula Carino, another brilliantly nuanced singer from a completely different idiom.

Kopmajer, her band and string section waste no time in setting a mood, going full steam on the mist in the opening number, The Look of Love, rising from stark to lush over the spare piano accents from pianist John Di Martino and the tiptoe groove from bassist Boris Kozlov and drummer Reinhardt Winkler. The orchestral sweep of violinists Sara Caswell and Tomoko Akaboshi, violist Benni von Gutzeit and cellist Mairi Dorman-Phaneuf elevate the song to new levels of expectant suspense, no disrespect to the Dionne Warwick original.

Kopmajer and tenor saxophonist Harry Allen float suavely over pianist John Di Martino’s spacious, sagacious chords in How Wonderful You Are. Next, they reinvent Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Until It´s Time For You to Go as a wistful nocturne for voice and restrained, gospel-tinged piano

I Can´t Make You Love Me is a subtle blend of trip-hop and jazz, with a low-key, soul-inspired sultriness. The first of the originals here, Opposites Attract, is a fond throwback to peak swing-era Ella Fitzgerald. The album’s piece de resistance is the alternately stark and lavish version of the BeeGees’ How Can You Mend a Broken Heart: Kopmajer’s restrained cadences unleash the song’s innermost angst.

Gottfried Gfrerer propels Hank Williams’ Cold, Cold Heart with low-key acoustic and National steel guitar behind Kopmajer’s purist countrypolitan interpretation. Then she reaches toward Blossom Dearie territory as Allen wafts in and out in a low-key, swinging take of I´m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter.

Stevie Wonder’s For Once in My Life gets reinvented as elegant chamber pop, with swelling, baroque-tinged violins. Kopmajer’s second original is Take It All In, with Di Martino on both organ and piano: it could be a more retro take on a Steely Dan ballad.

She duets with Sheila Jordan on a playful swing through Everything Happens to Me: the nonagenarian jazz legend is indomitable and has updated the song for the digital age! The take of the Aaron Neville hit Tell It Like It Is turns out to be an unexpectedly undulating jazz waltz with a dynamically shifting Allen solo at the center.

Kopmajer and Di Martino then turn in an intimate jazz ballad version of Nashville pop pioneer Cindy Walker’s You Don´t Know Me. There’s another song here, but its expiration date was up a long time ago. Kopmajer’s next gig is on March 10 at 8:30 PM at the Oval in Salzburg in her native Austria; cover is €32. And Allen is leading a trio with Andy Brown on guitar and Mike Karn on bass at Mezzrow on March 10-11, with sets at 7:30 and 9 PM; cover is $25 cash at the door.

Fun fact: Kopmajer says she has sold thirty thousand cd’s in Thailand. If she did that here, she’d have a #1 album.

Starry, Cinematic Magic and Quasar Pulses on Vibraphonist Chris Dingman’s Latest Solo Album

Where so many artists were locked out and creatively dispossessed during the 2020 plandemic, vibraphonist Chris Dingman got busy. He put out one of the most epic and immersively beautiful albums of that year, Peace, his first-ever solo release, which he played and recorded for his dying father. His latest album Journeys Vol. 2 – streaming at Bandcamp – is also a solo record. As with the first volume, it’s all about transcendence. The loss of his dad – who, for the record, was not killed by the Covid shot – is a factor. The enduring horror of the 2020 lockdowns is also something he tackles with compassion and depth here. Dingman’s next gig is on March 9 at 9 PM at Bar Lunatico, where he’s leading a trio with Keith Witty on bass and the reliably brilliant Allan Mednard on drums.

The first track on the album is Ride, a gently cantering song without words that Dingman rescues from practically indie rock territory to a more warmly consonant framework. And that’s where Dingman finds the magic, a reflecting pool and then a smartly constructed series of variations that will leave you nodding, “yessssss” and validating his choice of starting point.

Track two is Dream, Ever Dream, a practically seventeen-minute odyssey where he builds uneasy, spare melody over circling lower-register riffage. As this soundscape unwinds, Dingman works minute rhythmic shifts, raising the hypnotic factor many times over: the steadiness and articulacy of his slowly expanding cell-like figures is impressive to say the least. Maybe to be fair to the listener, Dingman finds a way to resolve the tension and then works it up again from there. But he can’t resist the lure of setting up another delicate polyrhythmic ice sculpture, which he again warms into a long, triumphant coda.

He builds a slow, cinematic theme in Transit, distant rumbling curlicues of a train underneath the slowly passing frames: the soundscapes of noir Americana band Suss are a good comparison. There’s an even more hypnotic rhythmic triangulation in Enter, coalescing and then expanding outward, frames coming rewardingly into focus before being obscured again.

Dingman winds up the record with Return, building from the most mesmerizing loops here to a long, lush series of waves and then a more kinetic series of variations on the opening theme. Whether you call this ambient music or jazz, you can get lost in it. Dingman will probably pick up the pace a lot at the Bed-Stuy gig.

A word about the liner notes: without a doubt, it’s historically important to remember the Lenape people, a sophisticated civilization who were genocided by the Dutch invaders in the 1600s in what is now New York. But almost four centuries later, this isn’t Lenape land. It’s ours. The messaging about how the turf beneath our feet belongs to a dead civilization and not to us is a UN Agenda 2030 scam to eliminate private property, to get us to live in 10X10 cubicles in Trump cities and eating zee bugs. The Lenape did not eat zee bugs.

Live Music Calendar for New York City and Brooklyn For March 2023

All these concerts are free of restrictions on entry. Weekly events first followed by the daily calendar. If a venue is unfamiliar, look for it on the old guide to NYC music venues here, which is more of a worksheet now, but it has links to most of the places on this calendar.

Tuesdays in March, Inspired, latin-influenced postbop trombonist Conrad Herwig and his septet at the Django, $25.

Thursdays in March, 5 PM poignantly lyrical, eclectic pianist Marta Sanchez at Bar Bayeux. 2/28 at 7:30 PM she leads a trio at Mezzrow, $25

Sundays at around 8 PM trumpeter Jon Kellso and (frequently) guitarist Matt Munisteri lead the Ear-Regulars in NYC’s only remaining weekly hot jazz jam session at the Ear Inn

3/1, noon, not a music event but important, say no to Kathy Hochul’s persistent attempt to build concentration camps on New York soil at the rally at the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Office Building. 163 W. 125 St. at 7th Ave. in Harlem

3/1, 8 PM Middle Eastern-flavored surf band twinbill: the Zolephants and slinky Pontic surf crew the Byzan-tones at Sundownstairs, 68-38 Forest Ave (at Catalpa) Ridgewood, Queens $10, J to Seneca Ave.

3/2, 8 PM singer Lea Kalisch‘s irreverent Shtetl Cabaret revisits Yiddish theatre music classics and not-so-classics at Drom, $20 adv tix rec

3/2, 8 PM 8 PM deviously theatrical oldschool C&W/rockabilly parodists Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co. at Otto’s

3/3, 8 PM new-music group Black Box Enxemble play works by Ari Sussman, Cole Reyes. Eliza Brown. Jimena Maldonado and Inti Figgis-Vizueta at Culture Lab, $20

3/3, 8 PM  the raucously oldtimey Buck and a Quarter Quartet at Sunny’s

3/3, 9 PM jangly, clangy, surf-inspired retro psych band Spirit Ghost play the album release show for their new one at Alphaville, $15

3/3, 9 PM Afrobeat all-star crew Armo – feat. members of Antibalas – at Bar Lunatico

3/3, 10:30 PM prolific postbop composer and tenor saxophonist Ken Fowser leads a quintet at Smalls, $25

3/3, 10:30 PM lyrical Mingus band pianist David Kikoski leads a trio at Mezzrow, $25

3/4, 7:30 PM lyrically provocative mashups of Ethiopiques, parlor pop, hard funk and psychedelia with Meklit at the Lincoln Center Atrium, free, early arrival advised

3/4, 8 PM brooding folk-rocker Peter Is Dead a.k.a Peter Carlovich, female-fronted dreampop band Heat Death and sprawling,. jangly athemic newschool psychedelic band Bard’s Flying Vessel at Alphaville, $14

3/4, 9 PM Pangari & the Socialites play classic ska and rocksteady– most of it from the 60s Skatalites catalog – at Bar Lunatico

3/4, 9ish deviously fun, female-fronted ska band Across the Aisle at Lucky 13 Saloon, $tba

3/4, 9ish guitar goddess Barbara Endes’ exhilarating psychedelic janglerock band Girls on Grass and Renee LoBue’s darkly catchy veteran powerpop/art-rock band Elk City at the Windjammer, $tba

3/5, 4 PM the Orchestra of St. Luke’s play works by Tania Leon, Keyla Orozc and others at the Dreck Center at the Brooklyn Public Library, free, no under-sixes.

3/5, 5 PM Siwoo Kim, violin; Melissa Reardon, viola and Raman Ramakrishnan, cello reinvent Bach’s Goldberg Variations for string trio at Our Saviour’s Atonement Lutheran Church, 178 Bennett Ave at 189th, Washington Heights, $25, A to 186th St.

3/5, 8 PM improvisational, immersive bassist Kato Hideki leads a quintet with Doug Wieselman: clarinet; Masahiko Kono: trombone. Gordon Beeferman: piano; Ryan Sawyer: drums & percussion at Roulette, $25 adv tix rec

3/5, 7 PM Miqayel Voskanyan’s hauntingly driving Armenian jazz MVF Band at Drom, $25 adv tix rec

3/6, 8:30 PM edgy oldschool and newer soul styles with singer Maya Sharpe at the downstairs room at the Rockwood, $10

3/6, 9 PM  boisterously funny oldschool 60s C&W and brooding southwestern gothic with Jack Grace at Skinny Dennis

3/6, 10:30 PM  smartly impressionistic postbop pianist Miki Yamanaka leads a trio at Smalls, $25. She’s back on 3/13

3/7, 6:30 PM Louise D. E. Jensen on sax with cellist TJ Borden followed by drummer Dave Miller with multi-reedman Ras Moshe and then drummer Anders Griffen with violin scorcher Sana Nagano at Downtown Music Gallery

3/7, 7 PM  noir guitar legend Jim Campilongo leads his trio at the big room at the Rockwood, $20

3/7, 8 PM funk-jazz crew the Silver Arrow Band at Drom, free. They’re back on 3/21

3/7 the Sun Ra Arkestra show at TV Eye is sold out. Good for them.

3/8, 7 PM the Brooklyn Raga Massive – a rotating cast of A-list Indian, jazz and rock musicians who love to jam out classic Indian themes from over the centuries to the present day – at Branded Saloon

3/8, 8/9:30 PM lyrical pianist Aaron Parks leads a trio at Bar Bayeux

3/8, 8 PM Palestinian singer Nibal Malshi performs vintage classics from Syria, Lebanon and Egypt at Roulette, $30 adv tix rec

3/9, 7:30 PM Rolling Stones tenor saxophonist Tim Ries and his quartet at the Django, $25. He’s back on 3/30

3/9, 7:30 PM conversational pianist Jeffrey Siegel plays works by Chopin, Schubert and Sibelius at Scandinavia House, $25

3/9, 7:30 PM eclectic. edgy violinist Zach Brock with pianist Aaron Goldberg and bassist Matt Penman at Mezzrow, $25

3/9, 8 PM ferocious powerpop/psychedelic guitarslinger Pete Galub opens a triple bill with edgy King Crimson-influenced Woodhead and noisy stoner boogie band Mustafina at Main Drag Music, 50 S 1st St, Williamsburg

3/9, 8 PM smartly crafted, new and recent Dan Joseph chamber works for marimba and saxophone, violin, cello, saxophone and clarinet, and  piano, with pianist Marija Ilic and ensemble; composer Michael Byron premieres new works for two pianos and small orchestra featuring pianists Joseph Kubera and Steve Beck with Petr Kotik conducting members of the S.E.M. Ensemble, as well as a performance by violin duo String Noise (Conrad Harris and Pauline Kim Harris). at Roulette, $20 gen adm

3/9, 8:30 PM  Certain General guitarslinger Phil Gammage plays his dark Americana and blues at 11th St. Bar

3/9, 9 PM slinky psychedelic reggae-tinged jamband Ace Bandage – who are a lead singer away from brilliance – at Bar Freda, $10

3/9. 9 PM cinematic, ethereal vibraphonist Chris Dingman leads his trio at Bar Lunatico

3/10, 7:30 up-and-coming saxophonist Erena Terakubo leads her group followed at 10:30 by clever, purist B3 jazz organist Akiko Tsuruga at the Django, $25

3/10-11, 7:30 PM suave, smoky tenor saxophonist Harry Allen leads a trio with Mike Karn on bass and Andy Brown on guitar at Mezzrow, $25

3/10, 8 PM violist Joanna Mattrey leads an intriguing improvisational ensemble with Patrick Shiroishi, Chris Williams, and Gabby Fluke-Mogul at Roulette, $25 adv tix rec

3/10, 8 PM Bint plays Arabic occult-inspired dark electronic soundscapes at MITU580, 580 Sackett St Unit A (off Union), Gowanus, F to Carroll St, $10

3/10, 8ish gutter blues band Daddy Long Legs play the album release show for their new one at the Sultan Room, $21

3/10, 8/9:30 PM riveting Japanese shamisen player/singer/improviser Emi Makabe leads a trio with Thomas Morgan on bass at Bar Bayeux

3/10, 10 PM ferociously dynamic, tuneful, female-fronted art-rock power trio Castle Black at Bar Freda, $10

3/11,6 PM pianist Jed Distler and cellist Juliana Soltis play works by Amy Beach, Leo Ornstein, Helen C. Crane , Florence B. Price and Margaret Bonds at Bargemusic, $35

3/11, 7:30 PM Nagash Armenian Ensemble play songs on themes of exile at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, $34 tix avail

3/11, 7:30 PM Indian singer Pratima Doobay and drummer Roshni Samlal exploring the global diaspora of Hindi folk songs, the poetry of Shivanee Ramlochan, bass riffs by Liany Mateo, and the visual art of Renluka Maharaj at the Lincoln Center Atrium, free, early arrival advised

3/11, 7:30 PM  tuneful oldschool soul/jazz trombonist Dave Gibson leads his quartet at the Django, $25

3/11, 8 PM guitarist Nick Demopoulos’ twinkling, psychedelic Smomid spacescape project at Downtown Music Gallery

3/11, 9 PM tuneful, first-class Kenyan reggae crooner Nixon Omollo at Shrine.

3/12, 3:30 PM potentially mind-blowing improvisation with violinist Ladonna Smith, Taylor Rouss on sax and “game calls,” and Andrew Drury on drums plus the Home of Easy Credit witih Louise D.E. Jensen on sax and Tom Blancarte on bass at Soup & Sound

3/12, 4 PM early music ensemble Alkemie play medieval works by Guillaume du Fay  at the Dreck Center at the Brooklyn Public Library, free, no under-sixes.

3/12, 4 PM Yael Weiss, piano; Mark Kaplan, violin; Peter Stumpf, cello play trios by Haydn and Schubert at Bargemusic, $35

3/12, 7:30 PM imaginative, purist baritone saxophonist Claire Daly leads her quintet at Smalls

3/12, 8 PM ghoulabilly band the Gunsmoke Sinners at Otto’s

3/12, 8 PM the Trinity Youth Chorus and Trinity Baroque Orchestra perform Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater at St. Paul’s Chapel, free

3/12, 9 PM mysterious organ-driven 60s Canterbury-style psychedelic band the Lucifer Sams at Gold Sounds, $12

3/12, 9 PM singer Veronica Davila’s twangy, Bakersfield-flavored hard honkytonk band Low Roller at Skinny Dennis

3/13, 7 PM guy/girl harmonies and eclectic folk-rock/new wave songwriting with the Oracle Sisters at Baby’s All Right, $18

3/13. 7:30 PM NY Phil principal clarinetist Anthony McGill and the Pacifica Quartet play works by Prokofiev, Brahms and James Lee at Music Mondays, Advent Church, northwest corner of 93rd and Broadway, free

3/13-14, 7:30/9 PM tenor sax legend  George Coleman leads a quartet at Smalls, $25

3/13, 9 PM slinky, impressionistic postbop jazz with saxophonist Alison Shearer and her quartet at Bar Lunatico

3/13, 10:30 PM crooner Kevin Harris with jazz organ paradigm-shifter Brian Charette at the Ear Inn

3/13, 10:30 PM  classy, cinematic, purist NZ jazz pianist Alan Broadbent  leads a trio at Mezzrow

3/14, 1 PM organist Amelie Held plays a program TBA at St. Paul’s Chapel downtown

3/14, 6:30 PM improvisational alchemy: guitarist Aron Namenwirth, trombonist Steve Swell and guitarist Rodney Chapman followed at 7:30 by Dr. Paul Austerlitz & the Spirit Cabinet at Downtown Music Gallery

3/15, 7 PM in reverse order: surreal, amusingly bombastic heavy psych band Howling Giant, the noisier Restless Spirit and Stoogoid stoner boogie band Sun Voyager at TV Eye, $15

3/15, 8 PM socially aware 2nd gen nueva cancion songwriter Juana Luna plays the album release show for her new one at El Puente, 211 S 4th St. Williamsburg, J/M to Marcy Ave, sug don

3/15, 8 PM cinematic rock band Fuck You Tammy play amazingly spot-on recreations of themes and songs from Twin Peaks and David Lynch films at Alphaville, $14

3/15, 8 PM extrovert drummer Johnathan Blake’s Trio with Ravi Coltrane and Dezron Douglas. wow, at Bar Bayeux

3/15,  8:30 PM Dark Streets play Celtic classics by the Pogues, Flogging Molly, the Dubliners and others at 11th St. Bar. 3/17, 8 PM they’re at Mama Tried

3/15, 9 PM smart, purposeful Americana guitarslingers Jason Loughlin and band at Skinny Dennis

3/16, 1 PM NOVUS NY plays works by Brad Balliett, Valerie Coleman, Joan Tower and Louise Farrenc at St. Paul’s Chapel downtown, free. They’re back on 3/23 playing works by Tania Leon, Christopher Cerrone, Kevin Puts and Paola Prestini and on 3/30 with works by Missy Mazzoli and Jessica Meyer, plus Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht

3/16, 7:30 PM  eclectic violinist Dana Lyn’s protean, psychedelic, ecologically aware jazz project Baby Octopus plus one of New York’s most eclectic, interesting oudists, Brian Prunka  with a string section, wow, at the Owl

3/16, 7:30 PM tabla virtuoso Sandeep Das and his instrumental HUM Ensemble blend Indian and Turkish sounds at the Lincoln Center Atrium, free, early arrival advised

3/16, 8 PM a rare Brooklyn gig by multi-reedman Scott Robinson and his group at Bar Bayeux

3/16, 8 PM wildly virtuosic jazz improv trumpeter Peter Evans with vibraphonist Joel Ross, bassist Nick Jozwiak and drummer Michael Od at Roulette, $25 adv tix rec

3/16, 8 PM the perennially intense, tuneful godfather of edgy, lyrical, anthemic downtown NYC rock, Willie Nile plays his album Streets of NYC at City Winery, $28 standing room avail

3/16, 8 PM Max Lifchitz conducts the North/South Chamber Orchestra playing his own works plus pieces by Frank Corcoran, Robert Lemay, Rob Smith and Hsuh-Yung Shen at Christ & Saint Stephen’s Church, 120 W 69th Street (between Broadway & Amsterdam), free

3/16, 8 PM pianist Joseph Kubera plays Daniel Rothman’s Queens Plaza, and Dry County by Conrad Winslow at the Old Stone House in Park Slope, $15

3/16, 9 PM hypnotic percussive Moroccan trance band Innov Gnawa collaborate with steel wizard Daniel Freedman and guitarist Gilad Hekselman at Bar Lunatico

3/17 starting at noon live music all day with Jameson’s Revenge, Shilelagh Law at 4,  the Narrowbacks at 8 and Prodigals at 10:30 at Connolly’s, free

3/17, 8 PM intense, ecstatic oldschool soul band Empire Beats at Silvana

3/17, 9 PM cult favorite gonzo pianist Dred Scott‘s Cali Mambo band with Tom Beckham on vibes at Bar Lunatico

3/17, 9ish psychedelic cumbia band Los Aliens play the album release show for their new one at C’Mon Everybody, $13

3/17, 10:30 PM  noir-inspired alto saxophonist/composer Nick Hempton with his quartet at the Django, $25

3/18, 4 PM Sarah Durning plays twangy oldschool-style original honkytonk at Skinny Dennis

3/18. 6 PM cellist Andrew Gonzalez plays Bach’s Cello Suites #4-6 at Bargemusic, $35

3/18, 7 PM in reverse order at St. Vitus, damn, what a great doom/stoner metal lineup: ferocious female-fronted art-rock/stoner metal band Ruby the Hatchet ,  classic 70s style doom band (some would say Sabbath ripoff) High Reeper, and the death metal Leather Lung, $20

3/18, 7 PM ish dark psychedelic acoustic blues/klezmer/reggae/soca jamband Hazmat Modine at Terra Blues.

3/18, 8 PM maybe the best quadruplebill of the year: guitar goddess Barbara Endes’ exhilarating psychedelic janglerock band Girls on Grass, psychedelic supergroup the Elgin Marbles feat. members of Love Camp 7, Dervisi and Peter Stampfel’s jug band, Canadian C&W purists the Pickups and acerbic, surrealistically jangly early zeros favorites Cementhead playing the album release show for their new one at Gold Sounds, $12

3/18, 8 PM a rare US performance by flamenco guitar wizard Rafael Riqueni at Roulette, $30 adv tix rec

3/18, 8:30 PM moodily lyrical, politically savvy Irish folk-rocker Niall Connolly  at the downstairs room at the Rockwood, $15

3/18, 9 PM fiery electric bluegrass and C&W with Demolition String Band at Skinny Dennis

3/19, 11 AM, not a music event but family friendly and brilliantly conceived: Libs of Tik Tok Story hour with Chaya Raichik reading from her empowering new kids’ book No More Secrets and Trent Talbot reading from his Fight For Freedom Island at the Women’s Republican Club, 3 W 51st St #2, free

3/19, 3 PM Jessica Bowers, mezzo-soprano and Oren Fader, guitar play works by Brahms, Mozart, Tim Mukherjee, Randall Woolf and others at Concerts on the Slope, St. John’s Episcopal Church, 139 St. John’s Place downhill from 7th Ave,, $25

3/19, 3 PM baroque orchestra Apollo’s Fire play melancholy themes by baroque Jewish composers at the Rogers Auditorium at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, $35 tix avail

3/19, 3:15 PM German organist Stefan Madrzak at St. Patrick’s Cathedral

3/19, 5 PM brilliantly adventurous harpist Bridget Kibbey  at the lounge at Hudson View Gardens, 116 Pinehurst Ave, Washington Heights, A to 181st St., $15

3/19, 7/9 PM lyrical pianist Geoffrey Keezer leads his trio at the Django, $25

3/19, 7:30 PM dark, sardonic, brilliantly tuneful jazz pianist Danny Fox and his Trio at Mezzrow, $25

3/19, 9 PM pianist Cat Toren‘s magical Ocelot trio followed by the similarly lustrous Ochion Jewell Quartet  at the Owl

3/19, 9 PM trumpeter Wayne Tucker leads his sunny soul-infused jazz quartet at Bar Lunatico

3/20, 1 PM vibraphonist Nikara Warren’s soulful Black Wall Street project at St. Paul’s Chapel downtown, free

3/20, 9 PM jazz tuba legend Bob Stewart with his son, violinist Curtis Stewart and Kelvynator guitarist Kelvyn Bell at Bar Lunatico

3/21, 1 PM organist Thomas Gaynor at St. Paul’s Chapel downtown, free

3/21, 7 PM ragas and kathak dance with surbahar virtuoso Radhika Samson, dancer Barkha Patel, Lasya & Ensemble on bansuri flute at Joe’s Pub, $30

3/21, 8 PM Marwa Morgan sings compositions by iconic Egyptian tunesmith Sayed Mekkawy with her quartet at Sisters Brooklyn, 900 Fulton off Washington, $20, C to Clinton-Washington

3/21, 8 PM electroacoustic composer Lucie Vítková’s creepy, dystopic portrait of a cyborg, Earth Eater at Roulette, $25 adv tix rec

3/22, 1 PM purist oldschool jazz guitarist Bill Wurtzel with bassist Jay Leonhart at the American Folk Art Museum

3/22, 8 PM energetic ragtime/Romany swing guitarist Felix Slim at St. Mazie’s. 3/27 at 9 he’s at Skinny Dennis

3/22, 8 PM the String Orchestra of Brooklyn collaborates with composer-performers Zach Layton and Nyokabi Kariũki at Roulette, $25 adv tix rec. They return on 3/23, joined by cellist Andrew Yee

3/22, 9ish Red Baraat trumpeter Sonny Singh plays funky bhangra psychedelia at C’Mon Everybody, $19

3/23, 7 PM acerbic classical and tango pianist Polly Ferman plays perform a program of Piazzolla, Joplin, Villalobos, Albeniz, Chabrier, Mortet, Cimaglia, Gottschalk, and Binelli, at Christ & Saint Stephen’s Church, 120 W 69th St (between Broadway & Amsterdam), $20

3/23, 7:30 PM stark, haunting Tunisian artrock/soul songwriter/guitarist Nour Harkati at Drom, $25 adv tix rec

3/23, 7:30 PM western swing and 20s hot jazz chanteuse Tamar Korn with soul/gospel belter (and Lenny Molotov collaborator) Queen Esther,at the Lincoln Center Atrium, free, early arrival advised

3/23, 7:30 PM  the Harlem Quartet perform music by Fanny Mendelssohn, Aldo López-Gavilán and more at Merkin Concert Hall, $25

3/23, 8 PM jangly, gritty dark country band Midnight Confessions (not to be confused with Lisa Lost’s legendary 90s reggae band), stomping late 90s style indie/punk band Wild Powwers and and post-Syd Barrett-ish Obits spinoff Savak at Gold Sounds $14

3/23, 8 PM pianist Per Tengstrand and cellist Robin Park play works by Beethoven and Rachmaninoff at Scandinavia House, $30

3/24, 7 PM Rob Schwimmer plays new music for Theremin, Haken Continuum and piano, also possibly works by John Barry, Bernard Herrmann and the Beach Boys at Bargemusic, $35

3/24, 7 PM pianist Mariel Mayz plays the album release show for her new one featuring music by Cuban composer Leo Brouwer at the Americas Society, 680 Park Ave., free, res rec.

3/24-25, 7:30 PM adventurous trumpeter John Bailey leads his quartet at Smalls, $25. 3/24 at 10:30 energetic, inventive, gospel-inspired pianist Pete Malinverni leads his trio

3/24, 8 PM excellent oldschool soul-influenced psychedelic band One Way Out, legendary garage-psych guitarslinger Palmyra Delran and enigmatic folk noir chanteuse Soraia at Berlin, expensive, $19 but a good lineup

3/24, 8 PM the Dallas Symphony Orchestra play Tschaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 plus Rachaminoiff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with Garrick Ohlsson on piano at Stern Auditorium at at Carnegie Hall, $34 tix avail

3/24-25 at 8 PM and 3/26 at 3, in solidarity with the freedom fighters in Iran, Hamid Rahmanian’s Song of the North, a shadow puppet performance of the ancient Persian epic the Shahnameh with Nashaz’s Azam Ali on vocals at Symphony Space, $25 tix avail

3/24, 8 PM the Eris Quartet – named for an astrologically vengeful asteroid – play a program TBA at the Owl

3/24, 9 PM brassy, psychedelic Afrobeat band Holy Hand Grenade at Aphaville, $14

3/24, 9ish a rare reunion show by late 90s/early zeros janglerock/powerpop legends the Star Spangles at the Sultan Room, $16

3/24, 9:30 PM fearless, insurgent, amazingly spot-on comedienne/vocal impersonator Tammy Faye Starlite does her hilarious, spot-on Nico “tribute” at Joe’s Pub, $20

3/24, 10:30 PM  purist oldschool tenor sax player Craig Handy leads his New Orleans-flavored band at the Django, $25

3/25, 7:30 PM carnatic violin powerhouse Arun Ramamurthy and his group at the Chhandayan Center for Indian Music  $25

3/25, 7:30 PM  the New York Virtuoso Singers perform Bach cantatas at Merkin Concert Hall, $30

3/25, 8 PM, repeating 3/26 at 3 the 8 PM, the NJ Symphony Orchestra  play WIlliam Grant Still’s gorgeous Symphony No. 1 and Tschaikovsky’s haunting Symphony No. 4 plus works by Arvo Part at NJPAC in Newark, $25 tix avail

3/25, 8 PM the fiery, string-driven Sedi Donka Balkan Band at St. Mazie’s

3/25, 9 PM deviously entertaining hot 20s jazz chanteuse Sweet Megg Farrell puts on her western swing hat at Skinny Dennis

3/25, 9 PM brilliant pianist  Emilio Solla’ and Antonio Lizana team up for tango-jazz and flamenco-jazz at Joe’s Pub, $30 adv tix rec

3/25, 10:30 PM wildly erudite tenor saxophonist Eric Wyatt and band at Smalls for a set and then the jam session, $25

3/26, 3 PM luminous latin-inspired jazz chanteuse Marianne Solivan leads her quartet at a house concert in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, sug don, email for deets/location

3/26, 4 PM fiery, force-of-nature klezmer/classical violinist Lara St. John  plays a program tba  at the Dreck Center at the Brooklyn Public Library, free, no under-sixes.

3/26, 5 PM one of New York’ most acerbic, distinctive voices in front-porch folk, Jo Williamson at the small room at the Rockwood,

3/26, 9 PM Pastoral gothic accordion art-rock band Sam Reider & the Human Hands at Bar Lunatico

3/27. 7 PM the New York Composers Circle premieres intriguing new small-ensemble works by Hubert Howe, Mark Belodubrovsky, Linda Marcel, Sergey Oskolkov, Madelyn Byrne, Nataliya Medvedovskaya and Robert S. Cohen at the National Opera Center, 330 7th Ave, $20

3/27, 10:30 PM electrifying vibraphonist Simon Moullier and band at Smalls, $25

3/27, 10:30 PM playfully intense pianist Liya Grigoryan leads her quartet at the Django, $25

3/28, 1 PM organist Alexander Straus-Fausto at St. Paul’s Chapel downtown, free

3/28, 8 PM hypnotic electroacoustic composer Caterina Barbieri, and low-register avant noise maven Eli Keszler at Pioneer Works, $25 adv tix rec

3/29, 7:30 PM drummer Dan Pugach’s Nonet with firebrand chanteuse Nicole Zuraitis out front at Smalls, $25

3/30, 1;30 PM, repeating 3/31 at 8 the 8 PM, repeating 12/8 at 3 the NJ Symphony Orchestra play the Faure Requiem plus works by George Walker and Ravel at NJPAC in Newark, $25 tix avail

3/30, 7 PM 20-string koto player Yumi Kurosawa leads her quintet playing the album release show for her new one at Joe’s Pub, $25

3/30, 7:30 PM drony, pounding psychedelic stadium rock with King Buffalo at the Lincoln Center Atrium, free, early arrival advised

3/30, 7:30 PM pianist Eliza Garth leads a string ensemble playing works by Gillien Weir, Mario Davidovsky and others at Merkin Concert Hall, $25

3/30, 8 PM brilliant swing jazz/oldtime Americana chanteuse Samoa Wilson at St. Mazie’s

3/30, 9 PM  iconic Afro-Cuban percussionist/bandleader Pedrito Martinez at Drom, $25.

3/31, 8 PM hauntingly cinematic Lynchian/southwestern gothic instrumentalists Suss at Culture Lab, $24

3/31, 8 PM  catchy, slinky psychedelic funk/punk band Eliza & the Organix  at Bar Freda,$10

3/31, 8 PM Korean oboeist/flutist Gamin and ensemble at Roulette, $30 adv tix rec

3/31, 9 PM  powerpop band Giftshop– the missing link between Blondie and the Distillers – at the small room at the Rockwood

4/2, 7 PM iconic, hilariously charismatic Americana songstress Amy Allison at Pangea, $25

A Compelling, Translucent New Album and a Smalls Gig From Simon Moullier

Vibraphonist Simon Moullier burst on the New York jazz scene with an individualistic and sometimes breathtakingly articulate sound. He’s made a name for himself with his distinctive interpretations of standards but is now staking out fertile new terrain as a composer on his latest album Isla, streaming at Bandcamp. And he’s leading his quartet at Smalls on March 5, with sets at 7:30 and 9ish; cover is $25 at the door.

On the opening number, Empress of the Sea, bassist Alexander Claffy and drummer Jongkuk Kim lay down a lithe 12/8 groove beneath a distantly eerie modal vamp and similar harmonies between Moullier and pianist Lex Korten. The piano warms the atmosphere after the bandleader’s enigmatic solo, but the unease remains. It’s a strong opener.

The second cut is the title track, which could be vintage Bobby Hutcherson in an especially gritty but also slinky mood: the band really swing this hard as they move along. Kim’s hushed clave gives extra suppleness and mystery to You Go to My Head, Moullier’s tight clustering approach in contrast to Korten’s legato, with an electrifying vibraphone solo out.

The band reach for a more relaxed, syncopated shuffle rhythm in Enchantment, Korten’s loose-limbed solo at the center: Moullier’s incisive upper register riffs come across as guitar voicings, a cool touch. He builds the aptly titled Moon Mist around a spring-loaded, hypnotic vamp, Claffy stepping out for a stroll as Korten collects a dream nebula overhead which the bandleader then gives an extra jolt of voltage.

The band go back to early 60s Prestige Records terrain for This Dream, Kim loping along with a spring-loaded syncopation as Moullier riffs at high velocity over Korten’s steady insistence. Phoenix Eye is the album’s punchiest, most biting and allusively bluesy track, Korten scrambling, Moullier choosing his spots. They bring the record full circle with the simply titled Heart, a wary ballad: it’s the most allusively Lynchian and defiantly enigmatic track here. Moullier has really been on a creative roll lately: let’s hope that continues.

Another Gorgeously Cinematic New Mix of Accordion and Piano Jazz From Ben Rosenblum

Ben Rosenblum is one of the most electrifyingly eclectic voices in jazz. He’s as adrenalizing an accordionist as he is a pianist, but his strongest suit ultimately is his compositions. His earlier ones can be hard to find, but one place you can find him is at Smalls on March 2 where he’s playing the album release show for his new one A Thousand Pebbles – streaming at Spotify – with his brilliant Nebula Project septet. Sets are at 7:30 and around 9; cover is $25 cash at the door.

The opening tune, Catamaran, takes awhile to get going, but when it does, it’s breathtaking. Trumpeter Wayne Tucker hits a tantalizingly fleeting chromatic passage, with the bandleader, bassist Marty Jaffe and drummer Ben Zweig build a bustling high-seas tableau. Rosenblum switches to accordion for a spiritedly goofy Irish jig of an outro.

He sticks with that instrument over guitarist Rafael Rosa’s pulse in Bulgares while the band build an increasingly complex web of gorgeous Balkan tonalities, the wicked spirals of the accordion in contrast with the blistering conversation between Rosa and Tucker. It’s one of the best track released in 2023 so far.

The album’s title suite begins with a sentimental chorale between Tucker and saxophonists Jasper Dutz and Xavier Del Castillo. The second movement, Road to Recollection, is a genial, brassy swing tune where the ensemble sounds twice as large as they are behind Rosenblum’s piano rivulets, punches and pointillisms. Backward masked patches signal the segue to The Gathering, a spacious, increasingly acidic, moody accordion jazz tune that strongly evokes the Claudia Quintet, a calmly biting sax solo at the center and another electrifying Tucker solo on the way out.

Rosenblum opens the conclusion, Living Streams, with spare, wary gospel piano, Rosa and the horns enhancing the hymnal ambience as they bring the suite full circle.

Bookended with Jaffe’s somber, bowed bass, The Bell from Europe – a post WWII reflection on the legacy of violence – couldn’t be more relevant. Tucker’s solemn solo rises in tandem with the horns over a funereal pulse as the music brightens, Rosa channeling a sobering angst along with melancholy, chugging bass to remind that too little has changed since 1945.

The band pick up the pace with The Village Steps, Rosenblum’s pensive, pastoral accordion sailing over a churning, altered samba groove. The turn into shadowy noir with Lilian, a portrait of a femme fatale, is deliciously, understatedly lurid, with eerie reverb guitar, smoky horns, suspiciously genial bass clarinet from Dutz, a slithery bass solo, and enigmatically circling piano worthy of a classic Johnny Mandel theme from the 50s.

They reinvent Jobim’s Song of the Sabia as jaunty forro jazz with Rosenblum’s accordion at the center over the horns’ lustre: imagine Forro in the Dark at their most lithe and animated. Rosenblum closes with Implicit Attitude, a supple swing tune that looks back to Gil Evans-era Miles with simmering solos from Del Castillo’s tenor sax, Tucker’s muted trumpet and Dutz’s dynamically leaping bass clarinet. This rich and vastly diverse album deserves consideration for best jazz record of 2023.

A Colorful, Entertaining Solo Bass Album and a Chinatown Gig From Kyle Motl

At the risk of esotericizing this blog out of existence, there’s an especially intriguing free jazz lineup on the 28th at Downtown Music Gallery. At 6:30 PM Gutbucket’s sometimes acerbic, sometimes way-out-there klezmer-influenced guitarist Ty Citerman teams up with Jen Baker on trombone and Shayna Dunkelman on bass. At 7:30 bassist Kyle Motl plays solo and then at 8:30 the Harmolodics with Ben Green on trumpet, Ben Wood on bass and David Ward on drums. It’s a pass-the-bucket situation.

Motl is one of the real draws on this bill (well, on a night that might pull two or three dozen people if the weather holds up). Not only does he play solo, he records solo. His latest solo album Hydra Nightingale – streaming at his music page – is a lot of fun if you’re open to strange and frequently amusing sounds, and pushes the envelope as far as solo bass can go. It’s a very diverse mix of solo compositions by a similarly eclectic lineup of composers.

First up is the title track, a Caroline Louise Miller composition that won the 2018 International Society of Bassists David Walter Solo Composition Competition. Motl opens it a shriek and a little coy bow-bouncing before setting up a conversation which in places is ridiculously funny. Using one extended-technique device after another, Motl gets his cartoon characters to scowl and flit around and peek out from around corners, and more. Yet, it’s more of a vintage New Yorker cartoon than Sunday morning Nickelodeon rerun.

Anqi Liu‘s Light Beams Through Dusts, Through a Mist of Moistures is the big epic here and could be described as more vigorous than the title would imply. These shafts of light filter down steadily on the wings of Motl’s gritty harmonics, a march of drones into the shadows lightened with dust-devil flickers until the truck engine turns over and then rumbles away. It’s a treat for fans of low-register sounds.

Motl’s one composition here is Phosphene (the phosphorus illumination one sees with eyes closed after looking at a very bright object). At first it’s wispy and whispery but then Motl goes on a jagged tear with his bow, building a roman candle of harmonics and then coming up with a tastily haphazard arrangement for them.

Nachklang, by Jessie Cox, is the album’s most evocative, poltergeist-ish piece, with the creaking doors and pregnant pauses you would expect from the title. The final work is Asher Tobin Chodos‘ Trickle Town, referencing to the dubious Reagan-era back-of-the-napkin economic theory via samples of that decade’s senile chief executive, plus shivers, slides and more fingerwork than on the rest of the record. It’s an irresistibly funny way to bring everything full circle.

Claudia Acuña Sings a Spellbinding, Spiritual Set at Lincoln Center

Chilean-born singer Claudia Acuña‘s distinctive sound spans the world of nueva cancion, American and latin jazz. Much as she’s known for the disarming clarity of her vocals – even non Spanish speakers find her easy to understand – she’s also a first-class songwriter. Last night at Lincoln Center, she led her quartet through a frequently gorgeous set that underscored their mutual strengths.

She opened the show solo on a standup drum with a brief, mystical under-the-moonlight tableau, singing in English and Spanish. Then the rest of the band – pianist Pablo Vergara, bassist Carlos Henderson and drummer Yayo Serka – joined her for a slow, achingly spiritual ballad: the impulse to hope for a messiah may be universal these days, but this one’s on us. Vergara’s long, pouncing solo set the stage for an optimism that would prevade the rest of the show despite an undercurrent of disquiet.

The future was a recurrent theme. As Acuña, explained, the night’s second song, Historia, was a shout-out to a yet-unborn godson, an undulating triplet groove beneath her picturesque, naturalistic lyric. The high point of the evening was a haunting take of the anthem Aguita de Corazon. which she dedicated to the people of the south of Chile. After a chillingly starry, modal piano solo, Acuña reached for the stratosphere with her vocalese. It was a vivid salute to a population under fire.

Then she took her time with a requiem for Chick Corea, singing in English at the bottom of her formidable range: “I let him slip away from the game he might have played.” Make of that what you will: Vergara’s piano rose emphatically but spaciously over a syncopated, chugging bassline, to an outro where he flicked chords off the inside of the piano like an autoharp

Acuña and the band did Victor Jara’s El Cigarrito as a brisk clave tune, with a crystalline, articulate cascading piano solo over Henderson’s elastic pulse. They took it out with a wry conversation between bass and vocalese, shamanic polyrhythms from the drums and then a goofy pop song quote appropriate for a thinly disguised ode about smoking a blunt.

Acuña explained that she’d written Futuro when she was pregnant, imagining a toddler amid the pleasing scents of onion, garlic and ocean air. This was definitely a theme for a healthy kid, in fact a heroic one, bouncing along on a tricky, shapeshifting beat, rising to a darkly triumphant chorus, a fanged neoromantic piano solo and finally another spine-tingling wordless vocal coda.

Serka kicked off the Grady Tate tune Sack Full of Dreams with a woody, jungly cajon solo, then the quartet worked a slinky, vampy nocturnal groove that they very subtly took doublespeed after a cheery bit of salsa. Acuña delivered it with the utmost seriousness, an apt echo of the song’s Vietnam War-era hope in the midst of trouble and turmoil.

She closed the show with Hey, her brisk clave-fueled anthem for female empowerment, a no-nonsense entreaty to reconnect with the earth below and the moon above. A gospel-infused interlude was an unexpected treat, followed by a bit of You Are My Sunshine and an unexpectedly successful, tongue-in-cheek dive into audience participation.

The next free concert at the Lincoln Center Atrium is Feb 17 at 7:30 PM with all-purpose Dominican dance band Afro Dominicano. You might want to get there by 7 because the space sells out fast, especially for the dance parties here.

Predictive Programming For the Future of Big Band Jazz From the MSM Jazz Orchestra

Last night at Manhattan School of Music, the MSM Jazz Orchestra and a slightly smaller ten-piece unit played an all-Jim McNeely program worthy of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, the group the composer pretty much singlehandedly vaulted into the uppermost echelon of big band jazz. When they’re playing for a grade (or for their peers), student orchestras can be spectacular. This performance was often poignant, aptly sleek and symphonic, in keeping with McNeely’s sensibility. To what extent these musicians will grace the stage beyond academia is not a function of talent but of more pressing current unknowns.

Introducing the show, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen said this would be a “Michelin star sampling” of McNeely’s compositions. He began at the podium for the night’s first number, Thad, a plushly swinging, characteristically shapeshifting Thad Jones tribute from the VJO’s first album under that name. McNeely wove innumerable Jones riffs into the piece, resulting in a comfortable trad familiarity. It was clear that this crew were out for honors credit: perfectly synchronous brass, seamless execution of unexpected syncopation and bursting accents, a long, genial Bruno Tzinas trombone solo, a jubilantly articulated alto sax solo from Erena Terakubo and an expansive, expressive Kellin Hanas trumpet solo that dipped to a striking flicker of unease. Special guest trumpeter Scott Wendholt took it from there steadily, choosing his spots to punch in or flurry upward.

McNeely moved to the piano and Mike Holober took over conducting for The Tightrope Walker, which imagines Paul Klee’s solitary highwire artist getting some company out there. A momentary, pensively looping intro brightened with the brass, dipping for a pointillistic, bubbling Jonah Grant bass solo in contrast to the persistent, airy gloom. McNeely then brought the sunshine in with his own solo, mirroring what the bass had done before bringing the song full circle. Such is this guy’s conceptual artistry: if Del Bigtree wants a more ambitious theme, this would work.

McNeely then switched the big band out for a tentet, beginning with Lost, a catchy, steadily syncopated tune fueled by cheery call-and-response, a piano solo pulling against the center before breaking loose with a gritty insistence. A balmy Maxwell Bessesen alto sax solo rose from balmy to brightly articulate, the brass joining with drummer Christian McGhee’s vaudevillian theatrics.

Group Therapy, true to its title, was full of brief individual features, taking a turn from sweeping majesty to modal moodiness and wryly chattering exchanges. The full orchestra returned with a mighty string section for In This Moment (a world premiere of this symphonic arrangement), McNeely establishing a hauntingly wintry mood with his opening solo, Jensen moving unexpectedly from sheer devastation to a unassailable triumph. McNeely led the orchestra out with a distantly contented quasar pulse.

Big Red Thing made a good segue with its brisker, punchier pulse and a brassy vigor punctuated by moments of starriness and stark string accents. Trumpeter Grace Fox racewalked and rippled; guitarist Ryan Hernandez added bite and more spacious accents over the lush symphonics. The bordering-on-frantic parade out was irresistibly fun.

Amanda Addleman sang The Lost and Found, a Dayna Stephens/Gretchen Parlato tune, with nuance and calm disquiet echoed with understated impact from alto saxophonist Mackenzie McCarthy.

McNeely explained to the sold-out crowd that he’d written Threnody as a requiem for victims of the plandemic. Woundedly if methodically, the group moved from an airy, stately, baroque-tinged theme to a somber pedalpoint with tense, troubled riffage throughout the ensemble as a Messiaenic chill drifted into clearer focus. Notwithstanding general somberness and a viscerally plaintive Bryan Cowan alto sax solo, Team Humanity seemed to win.

They closed with Extra Credit, a gusty number with equal hints of New Orleans and latin jazz, a suave tenor sax solo and a lithely tumbling piano break. Fox, Wendholt and Jensen took it out in a jauntily triangulated blaze.

The next public concert at Manhattan School of Music is this Friday night, Feb 10 at 7:30 PM at Neidorff-Karpati Hall, 130 Claremont Ave, with special guest conductor Leonard Slatkin leading the MSM Symphony Orchestra in George Walker’s Lyric for Strings and Shostakovich’s venomously sarcastic Symphony No. 5. Admission is free; early arrival is a good idea. Take the 1 train to 125th and then walk back uphill (Claremont runs parallel to Broadway, one block to the west).