These are the 10 best jazz shows in NYC this month.
Becca Stevens Band
Becca Stevens is not really a jazz singer, but she sings with jazz musicians and makes music that sounds improvised at points. On her latest album, Weightless, she draws from Appalachian music, folk and whatever else suits her taste, which is good and capacious. The Becca Stevens Band plays Shapeshifter Lab — a venue name befitting Stevens’s sensibility — on January 5, 10, 24 and 31.
David S. Ware Memorial Service
About 10 years ago in The Voice Gary Giddins wrote that the David S. Ware Quartet — with Matthew Shipp, William Parker and Guillermo E. Brown — was “the best small band in jazz today.” Ware, a saxophonist who worked in the free jazz idiom, died last fall at age 62. The surviving members of his quartet, along with other musicians, play a memorial service at Saint Peter’s Church on January 7.
Kurt Elling’s got a big, powerful baritone voice that is best heard within the intimate confines of a jazz or supper club. He’ll be at Birdland January 8-12, singing songs from his Grammy-nominated new album, 1619 Broadway: The Brill Building Project, which pays homage to a slew of great American songwriters: from Carole King to Burt Bacharach to Duke Ellington.
Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio
The organist Dr. Lonnie Smith turned 70 last year, and he’s still playing soul jazz with the same power and sensitivity he brought to the genre when he cut his teeth in George Benson’s quartet in the mid-’60s. Find him at Jazz Standard on January 10 and 11 with his trio — including guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg and drummer Allison Miller — and from January 12-13, with his “In the Beginning” Octet.
If you want to know what jazz, in all its permutations, sounds like today, the Winter Jazzfest, which takes place in six clubs throughout the West Village on January 11 and 12, is probably the best place to start looking. It’s in its ninth year now and going strong. There’ll be a lot to take in — more than 70 acts — but if you can tolerate the crowds, you’ll get a year’s worth of jazz education in two nights.
Barry Harris Trio
Performances by the pianist Barry Harris, 83, are as pedagogical as they are enjoyable. Harris likes to bear witness to the bebop of Bud Powell, but his style, in late age at least, is slower and looser and altogether more lovely than what Powell played in his heyday. Joined by the bassist Ray Drummond and the drummer Leroy Williams, Harris takes to the Village Vanguard on January 15 for a week-long engagement.
Anat Cohen and Bruce Barth
Anat Cohen, who plays clarinet and saxophone, and Bruce Barth, a pianist, have similar musical sensibilities. They’re lyrical and sensitive soloists, and they know how to use blues language without sounding glib. They can pack a lot of power into a seemingly modest phrase. See them in action at the Players Club on January 16.
Benny Goodman Reinvented
In the winter of 1938, the clarinetist Benny Goodman — otherwise known as the King of Swing — led his orchestra through the first jazz concert ever performed at Carnegie Hall. At the Blue Note this month, a group of musicians — including the clarinetist Ken Peplowski, a Benny Goodman acolyte himself; the tenor saxophonist Lew Tabackin; and the pianist Ehud Ashaire — look back at the concert on its 75th anniversary.
Hot Club of Detroit
On Junction, the latest album from the gypsy-jazz band Hot Club of Detroit, you’ll hear a lot of references: to John Zorn, Trey Anastasio, Ornette Coleman, Peter Gabriel and, unsurprisingly, Django Reinhardt. It’s a good record, made better by the excellent singer Cyrille Aimée, who joins in on a few tracks. She’ll also join the band on January 23 and 24 at the Iridium.
Cyrus Chestnut 50th Birthday Celebration
The pianist Cyrus Chestnut takes the helm this month at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, January 22-27, joined by the musicians Wess Anderson, Dezron Douglas and Neal Smith. Chestnut is a dexterous improviser with a lot of gospel in him. You could see him as a kind of latter-day Oscar Peterson, but he’s really too good for analogies.