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These are the best jazz shows in NYC in March.
Chris Speed, Jim Black
From March 11-16 at the Stone, tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Chris Speed hits with six different projects, including his new trio with Bad Plus drummer Dave King (celebrating the Skirl release Really OK). Many of Speed’s sets will involve drummer Jim Black, who gets his own Stone residency too, March 25-30. Once young upstarts in Tim Berne’s Bloodcount, Speed and Black have built fascinating careers as collaborators and leaders, under names such as Human Feel, yeah NO, Pachora, Endangered Blood and more. Bloodcount’s lineup, billed as “Not Bloodcount,” will play March 25; guitarist Ben Monder reunites his classic 1997 trio (with Black) on March 26. If you want more Dave King — and who doesn’t? — he’s at ShapeShifter Lab for three sure-to-be-mindblowing nights (Mar. 7-9).
Ingrid Laubrock & Tom Rainey
German-born, New York-based tenor/soprano saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock has left an imprint with her own ensembles as well as the co-led trio Paradoxical Frog, featuring pianist Kris Davis and drummer Tyshawn Sorey. Some of her deepest playing is with esteemed drummer Tom Rainey, who heralds the release of Obbligato (Intakt) at Cornelia Street Café on March 14-15. Laubrock and Rainey have a duo release out as well, And Other Desert Towns (Relative Pitch), which they’ll touch upon during Laubrock’s residency at Clemente Soto Vélez, a segment in the Evolving Music Series (March 3, 10, 24). Also on the residency docket: Laubrock’s duets with bassist William Parker and guitarist Mary Halvorson.
Brandon Ross & Stomu Takeishi
From the fiercest electric shredding to the quietest meditations, guitarist Brandon Ross has honed his distinctive approach in the company of greats including Henry Threadgill and Wadada Leo Smith. His co-led power trio Harriet Tubman plays BRIC House on March 16, with vocalist and longtime associate Cassandra Wilson, in a project called Black Sun. But on March 8 as part of Sound It Out at Greenwich House, Ross will pare down to a duo with acoustic bass guitarist Stomu Takeishi, celebrating their new duo disc Revealing Essence (Sunnyside). The two met during a stint with Threadgill’s band Make a Move, and their Zen-like connection has brought about something headspinningly gorgeous. Ross plays all acoustic, as well as soprano guitar and banjo.
You won’t often see a young guitarist with a Stratocaster dealing with the music of Andrew Hill, Charles Moore, Herbie Hancock and others on a high and risk-taking level. But Nir Felder did just that as a member of trumpeter David Weiss’s Point of Departure Quintet on Venture Inward (Posi-Tone) as well as Snuck In and Snuck Out (Sunnyside). Appearances with Greg Osby, Terri Lyne Carrington, José James, Rudy Royston, Ben Wendel and others have built up Felder’s rep, paving the way for his spacious rock- and groove-oriented debut album Golden Age (Okeh). At (Le) Poisson Rouge on March 10 Felder takes the stage with pianist Aaron Parks and drummer Nate Smith, with the brilliant Orlando Le Fleming subbing for Matt Penman on bass.
Noah Baerman’s Jazz Samaritan Alliance
Pianist Noah Baerman is no stranger to aiming high: he made the trio record Patch Kit (Lemel) in 2002 with the legendary Ron Carter on bass and Ben Riley on drums. He’s explored fabulous solo piano, long-form composition for septet and other concepts in the years since, all while fighting Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a serious connective tissue disorder. He’s also taken on social missions: fundraising for EDS research, supporting foster care and adoption, advocating powerfully for gun control in the wake of Newtown (which took a child of his close friend). On his new disc Ripples (Lemel), Baerman brings it all together, showcasing three different ensembles, doubling on slide guitar and vocals, pushing boldly past his limits. His Jazz Samaritan Alliance plays the Jazz Gallery to celebrate the release on March 13.
Maria Schneider Orchestra
Multiple Grammy wins and worldwide acclaim are a part of life for composer Maria Schneider, who’ll bring her stunning 17-piece ensemble to the Allen Room on March 14-15. It’s her first Jazz at Lincoln Center appearance in just over 10 years, no doubt a major event in the run-up to the band’s next recording (they enter the studio late this summer). Since the early ’90s Schneider has honed a language of endless color and expanse, steeped in the lessons of her jazz mentors Gil Evans and Bob Brookmeyer while delving into classical and international influences as well. Now she’s inspired a new generation of large-ensemble composers herself. Her monster soloists are plenty; keep ears out for pianist Frank Kimbrough and guitarist Lage Lund.
George Cables Trio
At nearly 70, pianist George Cables is making great music in trio settings and as a member of the formidable all-star band The Cookers. Born in Brooklyn, he transplanted to the West Coast early on, racking up sideman credits over time with some of the greatest jazz figures one could name: Dexter Gordon, Art Blakey, Max Roach, Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Henderson, Sonny Rollins, Woody Shaw, Freddie Hubbard, Art Pepper. He’s been recording as a leader since the late ’70s, most recently for HighNote with My Muse and Icons and Influences. At the Kitano on March 14-15, he’ll take up with bassist Essiet Essiet and drummer Victor Lewis, the unfaltering lineup from My Muse.
Newish Jewish Music Festival
This multivenue affair is headquartered at Town Hall, where on March 19 John Zorn will premiere Masada Book Three: The Book Beriah with a cast of over 50 musicians. The Klezmatics take the stage March 23 in a program featuring Arturo O’Farrill called Havana Nagila, highlighting the crossroads of Latin and Jewish music in New York. Over at City Winery, Israeli-born singer-songwriter Keren Ann performs on March 20. And at Dizzy’s in the Jazz at Lincoln Center complex, a three-night stand starts March 21: first Israeli pianist Anat Fort, then gifted clarinetist and world-music investigator Oran Etkin, and finally trumpeter Steven Bernstein of Sex Mob renown with his boundary-breaking Diaspora Soul project on March 23.
Volcán, Fabian Almazan
Cuban piano wizard Gonzalo Rubalcaba, 50, is blazing new trails as head of the 5Passion label, which has a slew of promising releases coming in 2014. His new supergroup Volcán, with bassist Armando Gola, drummer Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez and percussionist Giovanni Hidalgo, brings its edgy electric sound to the Blue Note March 18-23 (the band’s U.S. premiere). A week later at the Jazz Standard (Mar. 27-30), Havana-born, Miami-raised pianist Fabian Almazan, who turns 30 next month, plays in support of his sophomore release Rhizome (Blue Note/ArtistShare). The noted Terence Blanchard sideman opts for a large canvas with string quartet, electronics and other sonic departures, building on the strengths of his 2011 debut Personalities (Palmetto).
Hal Galper Trio
At 75, pianist Hal Galper has a deep accumulated wisdom and a rare command of the art and science of swing, jazz’s most elusive yet necessary quality. Sideman to Chet Baker, Stan Getz, Sam Rivers, Cannonball and Nat Adderley, Phil Woods, more: Galper’s résumé is that good. He has stories. (Disclosure: I spent a year in his theory class.) His own albums from the early ’70s featured Michael and Randy Brecker, John Scofield and other soon-to-be icons, captured at a time of extraordinary energy and growth. Despite the fact that Galper’s recent trio discs for Origin, including Furious Rubato, Trip the Light Fantastic and Airegin Revisited, are consistently gripping and inventive, Galper remains underappreciated. His trio with bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer John Bishop, appearing at Smalls on March 21, is one of the best out there.