The 10 Best Jazz Shows in NYC This Month (Jazz Appreciation Month Edition)

Anthony Braxton
Anthony Braxton
Photo: Carolyn Wachnicki

These are the best jazz shows in NYC in April, otherwise known as Jazz Appreciation Month! Read more about JAM and the JazzApril campaign.

Anthony Braxton "Hooray, hooray for composite existence and the cosmic forces," said Anthony Braxton as he accepted the distinction of NEA Jazz Master back in January. Speaking of the "sequential logics," "propositional logics," "image logics," "sound mass logics" and other aspects of his "Tri-centric thought unit construct," the multi-reedist and composer also singled out Frankie Lymon, Bill Haley, John Philip Sousa, Ahmad Jamal and Dave Brubeck as pivotal influences. At just 68, Braxton has a great deal more "transidiomatic" work ahead, some of which you can hear at Roulette during Jazz Appreciation Month. From April 10-12 he leads various ensembles and showcases the work of James Fei, Nate Wooley and Fay Victor as well. From April 17-19 he'll present his four-act opera Trillium J (The Non-Unconfessionables).

Jacques Schwarz-Bart Since his debut in 1999, tenor saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart has explored his complex Caribbean-Jewish heritage on vivid releases including Soné Ka-La (EmArcy), Abyss (ObliqSound) and The Art of Dreaming (Aztec Musique). He's also lent his impassioned sound to the music of Meshell Ndegeocello, Erykah Badu, D'Angelo, Ari Hoenig, Etienne Charles and Jacky Terrasson, among others. At SubCulture (Apr. 3) to celebrate the new Jazz Racine Haïti (Motéma), Schwarz-Bart shifts his focus to Haitian voodoo traditions, enlisting fiery vocalists and top-shelf jazz players in a project full of melody, momentum and improvisational grit.

The Jeremy Pelt Show Having led a formidable acoustic quintet on his HighNote releases Men of Honor, The Talented Mr. Pelt and Soul, 37-year-old trumpeter Jeremy Pelt changed direction in 2013 with Water and Earth, adding electric piano, percussion and vocals and finding a new frontline partner in gifted tenor/soprano saxophonist Roxy Coss. Following up in short order with Face Forward, Jeremy, the band now known as the Jeremy Pelt Show is even more effective: the sonics more ambitious, the quasi-electric concept more coherent. At the Jazz Standard on April 8-9, Pelt will explore the matter further in the presence of Coss, David Bryant on Fender Rhodes, Chris Smith on acoustic and electric bass and Dana Hawkins on drums.

Dan Weiss A scintillating performer with a wealth of experience in bands led by David Binney, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Ryan Truesdell and many others, drummer Dan Weiss is also a devoted student of tabla master Samir Chatterjee. His immersion in Indian percussion has led him to a startling and distinctive vocabulary on the drum set, apparent not only on his Tintal Drumset Solo and Jhaptal Drumset Solo (Chhandayan) but also on his trio releases Now Yes When (Tone of a Pitch) and Timshel (Sunnyside). For his weekend at the Jazz Gallery (Apr. 11-12), Weiss pivots to the larger group concept of his Pi debut Fourteen, with rhythm section plus unruly guitar, reeds and low brass, harp, glockenspiel and three wordless vocalists.

PRISM Quartet Along with two new Innova releases this season (The Singing Gobi Desert and People's Emergency Center, the PRISM Quartet has three evenings of world premieres up its sleeve in an enticing Symphony Space program called Heritage/Evolution: New Music for Saxophones. On April 12, altoists Steve Lehman and Rudresh Mahanthappa unveil new works with backing from with PRISM's saxophone regulars Timothy McAllister (soprano), Zachary Shemon (alto), Matthew Levy (tenor) and Taimur Sullivan (baritone). Return on May 9 and you'll hear Tim Ries and Miguel Zenón add their perspectives. Enigmatic altoist Greg Osby and NEA Jazz Master Dave Liebman -- Miles Davis alum from On the Corner -- complete the series on June 12.  

Jim Hall
Jim Hall
Bernhard Ley

Playing for Jim Hall When master guitarist Jim Hall died in December 2013 at age 83, he had April 18-20 at the Blue Note on his gig itinerary. Only one thing made sense: have Hall's protégés and admirers, great artists in their own right, fill the slot with endless combinations and sounds in honor of the man. Hall's round and burnished tone, his sense of imagination and risk, not least his ability to lock in and swing, made him perfect for the small groups of Sonny Rollins, Art Farmer, Jimmy Giuffre, Paul Desmond and more. He was also the ultimate duo partner, as Ron Carter, Bill Evans, Pat Metheny, Geoffrey Keezer, Bill Frisell, Joey Baron and others can attest. At the Blue Note he'll have his legacy represented by the wizardly Julian Lage and Bill Frisell on guitar, Chris Potter on saxophone and Larry Goldings on piano/organ, plus longtime rhythm section colleagues.

Scott Feiner's Pandeiro Jazz Scott Feiner cut his teeth as a bop-oriented guitarist on the New York scene before changing course entirely: he fell in love with Brazilian music, moved to Rio in 2001 and took up the pandeiro, a tambourine-like drum with uncanny low frequency response and a rainbow of timbres. In a sparse lineup with saxophone, guitar and bass, Feiner went to work on this Pandeiro Jazz idea, releasing three fine albums since 2006. His fourth, A View from Below, features a trio with a more electric sound. Set against Rafael Vernet's Fender Rhodes and Guilherme Monteiro's guitar, the pandeiro takes on new hues and rhythmic shapes, while Feiner's compositions tend toward a dreamier but still insistent groove. The trio meets up for the CD release at Cornelia Street Café (Apr. 20). Sam Yahel subs for Vernet.

Todd Sickafoose's Tiny Resistors Tiny Resistors has proved durable since its eponymous debut in 2008, giving bassist Todd Sickafoose a forum for his grooving and sonorous compositions. Amid his work with Ani DiFranco, Andrew Bird, Jenny Scheinman, Allison Miller, Jessica Lurie and others, Sickafoose has been writing away. His newly commissioned hour-long piece "Bear Proof: Booms and Busts," inspired by the history and enduring appeal of California since the Gold Rush, premieres in Berkeley and Los Angeles before coming to ShapeShifter Lab on April 24. The lineup is different on the two coasts, and in Brooklyn no less impressive: guitarist Steve Cardenas, saxophone/bass clarinet wonder John Ellis, trumpeter Shane Endsley, keyboardist Erik Deutsch, drummer Joe Russo and likely more.

Bernie Worrell & Bill Laswell Bassist/producer/visionary Bill Laswell has a lot planned for his residency at the Stone (Apr. 22-27), including duos with Milford Graves and Wadada Leo Smith; bands with the likes of Tunde Adebimpe (TV on the Radio) and Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson); a night with Method of Defiance; and varied encounters with keyboard demon and P-Funk stalwart Bernie Worrell. Elevation: The Upper Air (M.O.D.), Worrell's new solo piano disc, finds him in a spacious frame of mind, playing music by Coltrane, Mingus, Joe Zawinul and others. He'll start off that way April 26 before joining Laswell in a duo and a DJ-oriented quartet.

Scott Wendholt/Adam Kolker Quartet Trumpeter Scott Wendholt is one of the top soloists in the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, the Village Vanguard's Monday band-in-residence (originally the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra). There and in other large ensembles, Wendholt has dealt with some of the most sophisticated jazz writing of our time. He's also a dazzling small group player, as the new collaborative quartet date Andthem (Fresh Sound) clearly shows. His co-leader, Adam Kolker, is a versatile saxophonist whose recent CDs on Sunnyside have featured guitar great John Abercrombie. At the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music (Apr. 26), the latest in the Brooklyn Jazz Wide Open series, Wendholt and Kolker join bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Billy Drummond as they extend their conversational hard-swinging approach. Bassist Carlo De Rosa and Cross-Fade share the bill.

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