The Best Jazz Shows in NYC This Month, May 2013


These are the best jazz shows in NYC this month.

Wadada Leo Smith’s Ten Freedom Summers
What better sound than Wadada Leo Smith’s lacerating trumpet to depict the civil rights movement in music? Smith’s 2012 release Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform) spans four CDs and brings his Golden Quartet/Quintet together with Southwest Chamber Music, a nine-piece ensemble of strings, winds and percussion. For three nights at Roulette (May 3-5), the 71-year-old ponders America’s soul and bares his own.

Undead Music Festival
It’s no longer a “jazz” festival in name, and yet they’ll have Joe Lovano on the same rostrum as Kim Gordon, Questlove and 17 more to play round-robin duets at Brooklyn Masonic Temple (May 1). Guitarist Marc Ribot and Ceramic Dog bring the curtain down on May 5 at Le Poisson Rouge. And starting May 2, multi-instrumentalist mindfucker Dosh fills three nights at ShapeShifter Lab, with jazz pianist Aaron Parks and others.

Tim Berne
The warhorse alto saxophonist takes over The Stone (May 7-12) with his quartet from the 2012 opus Snakeoil (ECM). Berne, pianist Matt Mitchell, clarinetist Oscar Noriega and drummer Ches Smith play the first three nights. Then come other collaborations, with musicians on the order of Craig Taborn and Michael Formanek. Watch for other Stone residencies in May, including Uri Gurvich and Wayne Horvitz.

Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom
Appearing in a double bill with Sexmob at 92Y Tribeca (May 8), drummer Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom is celebrating No Morphine No Lilies (Royal Potato Family), featuring pianist Myra Melford, violinist Jenny Scheinman, bassist Todd Sickafoose and guests. Celebrate they should: the rhythms are infectious but the piano-violin frontline has a mournful mystery that sets the album apart.

Ben Wendel & Dan Tepfer Duo
It’s the same week as Fred Hersch’s must-see duos project at Jazz Standard, but break away to Smalls (May 13) to hear pianist Dan Tepfer and saxophonist Ben Wendel do their remarkable thing. On Small Constructions (Sunnyside) they deal with Monk, Tristano and Handel along with intricate original work, bringing unearthly technical mastery but also a sense of pacing and sonic invention (bassoon, Rhodes, multi-tracking).

Miguel Zenón Quartet
With a MacArthur Award and a string of ambitious CDs to his name, alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón marks 10 years as leader of a scary quartet featuring pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer Henry Cole. His debut at the Village Vanguard (May 14-19) will be stormy, with music steeped in jazz modernism but also the rural and urban traditions of his native Puerto Rico.

Mike Reed’s People, Places & Things
As a drummer, bandleader, curator, activist and lay historian of sorts, Mike Reed has done much to define the current Chicago improvising scene. His quartet People, Places & Things visits Cornelia Street Café on May 24. With altoist Greg Ward, tenorist Tim Haldeman and bassist Jason Roebke, Reed translates the mid-’50s Chicago hard bop legacy into a vernacular of today, swinging hard while courting abstraction and chaos.

Kurt Rosenwinkel Solo
One of the most emulated guitarists of the last 15 years, Rosenwinkel has left his emulators behind, coloring his sound with effects, his singing voice and other personal oddities. He’s been focused on his Star of Jupiter quartet, which played the Vanguard last month, but on May 25 at Le Poisson Rouge he’ll give a solo concert, turning his imagination and tonal palette loose.

Matt Davis & Aerial Photograph
In 2008 guitarist Matt Davis recorded a suite of original music every month, all inspired by a different population in Philadelphia (kids, elderly, veterans, addicts and so forth). This year he’s doing it again in New York, and part of the package is a monthly gig with his inviting chamber-jazz ensemble Aerial Photograph. At Lenox Hill House on May 26, they’ll turn their attention toward religious believers.

Brooklyn Jazz Underground Festival
Hear six groups in two nights at Smalls (May 29-30) as this coalition of bandleaders furthers its mission of mutual support and idea-sharing. Owen Howard’s Drum Lore, devoted to music written by drummers, leads off night one; Howard returns to drum for saxophonist Adam Kolker on night two. Pianist David Cook, trumpeter David Smith, drummer Rob Garcia and vocalist Tammy Scheffer lead projects as well.

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