These are the best jazz shows in NYC in February.
Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra
That he’s a great pianist and bandleader is without question, but Arturo O’Farrill is also a critical thinker, a wit, a virtuoso modernist who knows how to have fun onstage. His late father, the pioneer Cuban bandleader Chico O’Farrill, left a daunting legacy. But O’Farrill honors that by seeking new possibilities, like this month’s Symphony Space program “Jazz Across the Americas: Colombia & Peru” (Feb. 14-15). There’ll be brand new music by guest composers Pablo Mayor, Gregorio Uribe, Gabriel Alegria, Laura Andrea Leguía and Ivonne Paredes. Can’t make that? The orchestra also holds court at Birdland every Sunday.
Mimi Jones, Camille Thurman, Shirazette Tinnin
Produced by the forward-looking Revive Music organization, this triple bill at Le Poisson Rouge (Feb. 4) showcases three multitalented women with new releases on the Hot Tone label, run by bassist and vocalist Mimi Jones. On Jones’s Balance, saxophonist/flutist/vocalist Camille Thurman‘s Origins and drummer Shirazette Tinnin’s Humility: Purity of My Soul there’s a focus on original music and a passion for soul and groove, though deep and unshakable swing plays as big a role. The three appear in each other’s bands or as guests, so that’ll likely be the vibe onstage: polished to a gleam but also free-flowing, collaborative in spirit.
The eerily voice-like klezmer clarinet: it couldn’t be a better fit for the movie themes that David Krakauer interprets on his new disc The Big Picture (Table Pounding). To mark the release he’ll front a sextet at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, in a residency running Wednesdays and Sundays through February 23. Against a striking backdrop of original films and graphics for the occasion, Krakauer will lovingly render, or unapologetically mess with, music from such films as Cabaret, Lenny, Avalon, Love and Death, The Producers and Funny Girl. The moods range from pure balladic elegance to ballsy rocking out. (Mark Helias, the band’s bassist, leads his quartet at Cornelia Street Café on February 7.)
Joshua Redman Quartet
Tenor/soprano saxophonist Joshua Redman has traveled many roads since the ’90s recordings that brought him to fame. There’s much to admire in his recent Nonesuch efforts, from the exploratory spirit of Back East and Compass to the compositional thrust of the co-led James Farm quartet, or the stark beauty of last year’s ballads-with-strings album Walking Shadows, which dealt with everything from Billy Strayhorn to Blonde Redhead. In the gorgeous Allen Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center (Feb. 7-8), Redman revives yet another stellar lineup: the quartet that recorded Beyond and Passage of Time (Warner Bros.) in the early ’00s, featuring pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gregory Hutchinson.
Andy Bey Solo
Fresh from a Grammy nomination for his stunning solo piano/vocal disc The World According to Andy Bey (HighNote), the 74-year-old Newark native comes to Jazz Standard for one night only (Feb. 13). Nope, you won’t be able to resist his seasoned, vibrato-rich, deeply soulful baritone, his raw emotional commitment to every song (standards and originals) or his real-deal bebop chops and harmonic savvy on piano. Long ago a featured vocalist with Max Roach, Horace Silver and others, Bey made the funk-jazzy Experience and Judgment (Atlantic) in 1974 and faded from view. Since his mid-’90s comeback his albums are all plausibly viewed as vocal jazz landmarks. World has its intimate ballad side and a distinctly modern edge, but oh, what Bey can do on a ’30s favorite like “The Joint Is Jumpin’,” by fellow singing pianist Fats Waller.
The versatility and charm of this French-Dominican singer seems to know no bounds. She just co-starred alongside Bernadette Peters in Wynton Marsalis’s Sondheim project A Bed and a Chair. But she’s more in her element at a place like Birdland (Feb. 11-15), where she and her group can communicate, take risks and catch fire. Whether she’s leading her Surreal Band on last year’s Live at Birdland, or rendering duets with guitarist Diego Figueiredo on Smile and Just the Two of Us, or going toe-to-toe with Roy Hargrove on her Live at Smalls album from 2010, Aimée is imaginative and technically on-point with whatever she touches.
Barry Altschul’s 3Dom Factor
Veteran drummer Barry Altschul and rising saxophone beast Jon Irabagon, with 35 years age difference between them, are getting deeper into their fruitful partnership. It began in 2010 with Irabagon’s Foxy (Hot Cup) and continued in 2013 with Altschul’s The 3Dom Factor (TUM). The common thread is an open and fairly heated trio concept, heard once again on Irabagon’s newest, It Takes All Kinds (Irabbagast/Jazzwerkstatt). Coming off a three-night “Irabagon Fest” in January, Irabagon returns to Cornelia Street Café on February 12 under Altschul’s leadership, with Joe Fonda on bass.
A Cuban pianist of Haitian descent and a New Yorker since 2008, Aruán Ortiz has shown invigorating range, from the driving quartet of Orbiting (Fresh Sound) to the strings-and-percussion writing and Afro-Haitian references of Santiarican Blues Suite (Sunnyside). Valued as a sideman by Wallace Roney and others, Ortiz is showcasing three of his own projects in an Ibeam residency (Feb. 13-15) under the auspices of Composers Now. First is Analytical Symmetry with influential trumpeter Ralph Alessi; then Firm Roots, a quintet with Fay Victor on vocals; and last the Orbiting Quartet, with Rez Abbasi in for David Gilmore on guitar. (Ortiz also accompanies Nora McCarthy at Bar Next Door on February 10, and joins the great Don Byron in a duo at Brookfield Place, February 19.)
Saxophonist/bassoonist Ben Wendel has flourished for years in the electric quintet Kneebody while making sideman appearances with Taylor Eigsti, Todd Sickafoose and more. But since the release of Simple Song (Sunnyside) in 2010 Wendel has also drawn attention as a leader, following up with Frame in 2011 and Small Constructions, a unique duo effort with pianist Dan Tepfer, in 2013. On February 14-15 at the Jazz Gallery, Wendel shares the fruits of his Residency Commission, a program that allows select musicians to develop and rehearse new work on-site for an entire month. With pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Henry Cole on board it’s going to be no joke.
Max Johnson’s Silver Quartet
A bassist in his early 20s with cross-pollinating interest in bluegrass and free improvisation, New York-born Max Johnson does standout work with cornetist Kirk Knuffke and drummer Ziv Ravitz on his third and newest release The Invisible Trio (Fresh Sound). That trio plays JACK on February 10. At Greenwich House‘s Sound It Out series (Feb. 26) Johnson will have something different: a quartet with Baltimore’s Susan Alcorn on expansive and haunting pedal-steel guitar, joined by Kris Davis on piano and Mike Pride on drums. It could go many ways, but it’s likely to involve subtlety, power and beauty in an intuitive balance.