Chances Are

Martial Solal Sets the Standard

The brilliant 75-year-old French pianist Martial Solal can't quite make an American resurgence because he never really made a dent here, except among critics and musicians when he appeared at the Hickory House in 1963. At that time, he was probably best known for his film scores (Breathless) and a liberated session with Sidney Bechet that crossed boundaries long before it was fashionable to do so. During the next 40 years, he played festivals in Chicago and Monterey, but wasn't booked at another New York club until the Village Vanguard brought him over in September 2001. Osama beat him by a few days. Solal flew the Atlantic anyway, but New Yorkers were avoiding downtown. Nearly two years later, he and we get another chance: If you've never heard him, you've never heard anyone like him.

His records, when you can find them, are delightful, but you have to see him live to get the full mesmeric effect. Solal's infallible fingers do the bidding of a Pentium-processor brain that deconstructs familiar tunes, then recasts them, frequently with humor, always with wit. Arguably the most impressive European jazz artist since Django (see below, twice), he has been saddled with the epithet musician's musician—not unlike Lee Konitz, one of his most reliable associates. Yet his music brims with an inviting ingenuity. All you need to do is listen as he begins a tune you know so well you'll be humming it in the grave, then breaks its surface like Alice going through the looking glass. This is your second chance, New York; you may not get another.

Martial Solal performs June 3 through 8 at Iridium, 1650 Broadway, 212-582-2121.

The original piano man
photo: Courtesy of Dreyfus Records
The original piano man


LOUIS SCLAVIS
March 8
Tonic, 107 Norfolk Street, 212-358-7501

You can never tell with his records, which may be improvised or through-composed, but in any context the French clarinetist is a superb musician and this is a rare opportunity to see him and his new quintet on stage. He has a fat, saturated tone and employs diverse voicings drawn from violin, cello, accordion, and marimba.


JAMES CARTER
March 11-16
Iridium, 1650 Broadway, 212-582-2121

A rambunctious virtuoso who brings rare audacity and excitement to his playing on tenor, baritone, soprano, and alto saxophones, Carter is also a romantic at heart, and a disciplinarian whose charged forays into ballads are finessed with a scrupulous care. One never expected to hear him at the helm of an organ band, but that's what he's been up to lately, collaborating with Dr. Lonnie Smith in a group that also includes the dynamic trombonist Steve Turre and drummer Eli Fountain.


ROY HAYNES
March 11-16
Blue Note, 131 West 3rd Street, 212-475-8592

One of the handful of surviving bop masters, Haynes will celebrate his 78th birthday this week, which ought to interest medical science—a drummer who continues to drive with the same energy and invention that made his initial reputation, when he worked with a succession of performers, from Charlie Parker to Sarah Vaughan to John Coltrane. Among the guests, Joshua Redman will be at his side all week, keeping up to keep up.


DAVE DOUGLAS
March 25-30
Jazz Standard, 116 East 27th Street, 212-576-2232

The trumpet player and composer who seems to have a new band for every season is turning 40 and throwing himself a party with no fewer than 10 of those bands, including whole evenings by the Sextet, New Quintet, Septet, and Charms of the Night Sky. Opening night combines the Tiny Bell Trio, which put him on the map, and Four In One, for which Davis joins the Misha Mengelberg Quartet.


BIRELI LAGRENE
March 25-30
Iridium, 1650 Broadway, 212-582-2121

An erstwhile child prodigy who descends from the same tribe as Django Reinhardt and perfected most of the master's fingerings by age 14, Lagrene has tried various contexts over the past decade, but keeps coming back to Django. No one plays more daringly on acoustic guitar. This is an uncommon appearance by Gypsy Project, which includes the dazzling violinist Florin Niculesco and packs a wallop that can take you through the roof.


THE HEATH BROTHERS
April 1-6
Village Vanguard, 178 Seventh Avenue South, 212-255-4037

Originally a band that worked when the MJQ vacationed, this quartet (there's a rotating chair for guitar) is one of the most seasoned units in jazz. Youngest brother Albert, is a superb drummer known for his swing and taste; saxophonist-composer Jimmy and bassist Percy have achieved a living-legend status, maintaining their improvisational rigor and melodic warmth.


WADADA LEO SMITH
April 4 and 5
Tonic, 107 Norfolk Street, 212-358-7501

A trumpet player who made his mark during the '70s as an introspective improviser and theorist, creating stabiles of sound that toy with space, texture, and silence, he has in recent years become a more aggressive, surprising musician, accessing a Miles Davis influence and attempting diverse collaborations and rhythmic settings. For these duets, he encounters percussionist and drum-machinist Ikue Mori the first night, and Anthony Braxton the second.


CLARK TERRY
April 10-12
Birdland, 315 West 44th Street, 212-581-3080

A luminous and unmistakable stylist, one of the real giants, Terry lights up a room. At 82, he continues to make the trumpet soar, whimper, or chortle, as the occasion demands, and leads one of the classiest quintets around. You expect to be royally entertained, but it's when he burrows into a solo, skipping through the changes with wily pluck, that you shake your head in wonder and remember how deep laughter can cut.

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