Freestyle Avant Jazz

March 13

CBGB Lounge, 315 Bowery, 212-677-0455. Drummer Dee Pop’s ongoing Sunday-night series at the punk rock palace continues to build impressive three-ensemble programs each week. It’s a haven for outcats and experimentalists working the indie circuit, and it gives as much room to ad hoc groups as it does long-standing bands. The most enticing part of this evening’s bill is seeing how guitarist Joe Morris will fare in a trio with reed player Daniel Carter and Pop himself. A quartet featuring Jason Kao Hwang and Taylor Ho Bynum begins the affair, and the group Birdbrain closes it.


March 18 & 19

Jazz Gallery, 290 Hudson, 212-242-1063. This newish sax-bass-drums trio is one of the scene’s most engaging. Last time I caught ’em at the Vanguard, they kept their listeners on the edge of their seats with hairpin turns, dramatic spikes, and sensual textures. Closer in collective spirit to Air than they are to, say, Joe Henderson’s threesomes, Mark Turner, Larry Grenadier, and Jeff Ballard forsake the personal triumph of solos for the shared victories of teamwork.

San Francisco Jazz Collective

March 25 & 26

Jazz at Lincoln Center, Rose Theater, Time Warner Center, 60th & Bway, 212-258-9800. The West Coast didn’t want to be left behind in the sanctioned jazz ensemble realm, so Joshua Redman headed back to his old stomping grounds to build a multiculti octet that would honor the music’s canon while investing in the writing of its own members. It’s a varied and impressive bunch that includes Bobby Hutcherson, Renee Rosnes, Miguel Zenon, Nicholas Payton, and Eric Harland. Should be fun to see what kind of personality they’ve built for themselves.

Dave Liebman Group

April 8 & 9

55 Bar, 55 Christopher, 212-929-9883. The tenor saxophonist is around a lot these days, and it’s been great to hear his wise and volatile horn negotiate its way between a lyrical sense of freedom and an expansive post-Coltrane rumination. With guitarist Vic Juris as a foil, he lets his quartet music spill into all sorts of unexpected places.

Arthur Blythe All-Stars

April 19-24

Blue Note, 131 W 3rd, 212-475-8592. There was once a time when the great alto saxophonist and his fellow travelers in the WSQ, Air, and the David Murray Octet were the sound of the day—their hard-driving approach accommodating both squawk and swing. This week of dates—scheduled to be recorded—reunites a few of them. Blood Ulmer and Dewey Redman hook up with the B-3 maestro Dr. Lonnie Smith and other hard-hitting guests from a generation that had a way of connecting the dots between r&b and jazz. Jeff Watts is the band’s youthful furnace.

Mat & Joe Maneri

April 20-22

Barbès, 376 9th St, Bklyn, 718-965-9177. After years of sharing the stage (and the living room) the string-playing son and reed-playing dad have a profound rapport. The elder Maneri’s idiosyncratic approach involves the use of microtones, but lay listeners should just keep their ears open for the lush abstractions that his groups invariably generate. This three-day mini-fest involves a revolving door of guests and is being filmed for an upcoming DVD.

Dafnis Prieto

April 22 & 23

Jazz Gallery, 290 Hudson, 212-242-1063. The Cuban drummer is a firecracker instrumentalist with limber-hyper maneuvers that nonetheless forward a bulldozer sensibility. With saxophonist Yosvany Terry and pianist Luis Perdomo contributing significantly, Prieto’s recent About the Monks is a high-water mark of the new pan-Caribbean jazz that’s made its mark on New York during the last three years. Be on the lookout for fluid rhythmic changeups, elaborate rhythmic architecture, and exhilarating rhythmic conduct.

Donald Harrison

April 26-May 1

Blue Note, 131 W 3rd, 212-475-8592. Twenty years ago he was a Blakey alum and a button-down young lion; the Sea of Marsalis rose, and it lifted Harrison’s boat. Then he invested in N’awlins Indian culture, Tchoupitoulin’ around with swampy groove tunes. These days he’s simply a jazz saxophonist testing that toughest of configurations: horn-bass-drums. Heroes proved that he had the chops and the imagination to rule that turf, though special credit should be placed on the shoulders of Ron Carter and Billy Cobham—his rhythm section for this gig—for sensitivity above the call of duty.

Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra Plays Thad Jones

May 19-21

Jazz at Lincoln Center, Rose Theater, Time Warner Center, 60th & Bway, 212-258-9800. Wynton’s big band has performed so much Duke over the years that it now naturally exudes an Ellington flava. Romping through the elaborate, decidedly un-Dukish charts of Jones (whose large ensemble co-led by drummer Mel Lewis dominated the NYC Monday-night scene during the ’70s) should give listeners a fresh perspective on both the hero and his honorees. Which is as it should be: Jones’s revered compositional skills are due for some feisty illumination.

Wycliffe Gordon

May 24-29

Village Vanguard, 178 Seventh Ave S, 212-255-4037. The trombonist has a vision that attempts to bridge the deep swing of trad jazz with the probing designs found left of center. What he brings to the party is a jaw-dropping set of chops (his recent gigs with fellow slider Ray Anderson have earned him plenty of house) and a palpable spirit of adventure.

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