These are the best jazz shows in NYC in July.
When pianist Geri Allen takes up residence at the Stone (July 1-6), her list of varied collaborators (mostly duo partners) will speak to the span of her talent and artistic vision over the last 30 or so years. First she pairs off with hard-hitting drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, then Brazilian nylon-string guitarist Romero Lubambo, then Chicago avant-garde flutist Nicole Mitchell, then trumpet legend Marcus Belgrave in a “Geri Allen & Friends” night. (Belgrave’s quintet appears at Dizzy’s, July 22-23.) The series concludes with rising young alto saxophonist Tia Fuller and finally a unique performer who’s sure to bring out something in Allen yet unheard: Laurie Anderson, the one and only.
Frank Lacy & The Smalls Legacy Band
Trombonist Ku-umba Frank Lacy came up with everyone from Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers to the more experimental groups of Henry Threadgill, Julius Hemphill and others. Now a mainstay of the Mingus Big Band and co-leader of the compelling trio 1032K, Lacy remains uninhibited, a force of nature (this short documentary will remain in your brain). His latest, Live at Smalls, is with the Smalls Legacy Band, a sextet of young players who unleash titanic forces in a smoldering post-bop vein. Featuring trumpeter Josh Evans, tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard, pianist Theo Hill, bassist Ameen Saleem and drummer Kush Abadey, the band returns to Smalls on July 1 & 15. (Lacy appears there with the Josh Evans Big Band as well, July 22.)
Cameron Brown, Mario Pavone
Two veteran bassists come to Cornelia Street Café for three-night festivals celebrating their formidable musicianship and range of expression. Brown, from July 3-5, starts off in a duo with 85-year-old firecracker vocalist Sheila Jordan. But his third night, featuring Jordan in a quartet called The Hear & Now with clarinet/saxophone maverick Don Byron, could yield the most fascinating moments. The indefatigable Mario Pavone, appearing July 10-12 to mark his 50th year in music, celebrates his new Playscape CD Street Songs with an unusual octet featuring tuba, French horn, accordion and other participants. Also appearing: Pavone’s Quartet Arc and Pulse Quartet, both of which feature drummer Gerald Cleaver and tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin, master improvisers in every sense.
David Bryant Quartet
Pianist David Bryant, Brooklyn’s own, has proved one of the more intriguing figures to watch in recent years, turning up as a sideman with hard-swinging saxophonists Marcus Strickland and Myron Walden as well as multi-disciplinary avant-garde vocalist Jen Shyu. In 2010 Bryant began venturing forward as a leader with a quartet called D’BLAQUE — there’s an album in the works for Strickland’s Strick Muzick label. So grab the chance to hear him at Korzo’s Konceptions series (July 15), where he’ll display some jaw-dropping technique and a mature, wide-ranging aesthetic in the company of tenor saxophonist Mark Shim, bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Jonathan Barber.
In just a few years, Philadelphia’s Matt Mitchell has become pianist of choice for some of the most creative and demanding units on the scene, including Tim Berne’s Snakeoil, John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet, the Dave Douglas Quintet, Michaël Attias’ Spun Tree and more. He debuted in 2013 with the ultra-complex and tightly woven Fiction (Pi), a duo collaboration with Snakeoil drummer and vibraphonist Ches Smith. That’s one of the projects he’ll showcase during an Ibeam residency from July 18-20. The other is Normal Remarkable Persons, a sextet with Smith on drums/vibes/percussion, Tyshawn Sorey on drums/trombone/melodica, Tim Berne and Travis Laplante on saxophones and Shane Endsley on trumpet.
Pianist Art Lande (pronounced Lan-dee) was once a sideman to the likes of Joe Henderson and Woody Shaw, but he’s had his most lasting impact as a sought-after educator in Boulder, Colorado, his home since the late ’80s. He can float like a feather on a song like “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” (While She Sleeps: Piano Lullabies), paint abstractly outside the lines with multi-reedist Gebhard Ullmann (Die Blaue Nixe), add brilliant color and precision to the music of fusion guitarist Nguyên Lê (Miracles, Zanzibar, Walking on the Tiger’s Tail) — whatever the musical encounter calls for. Returning to the city of his birth to play at Kitano (July 30), Lande will whip up something beautiful with saxophonist Bruce Williamson, bassist Dean Johnson and drummer Tony Moreno.
Rudy Royston “303” Sextet
Having made vital contributions to the music of Ron Miles, JD Allen, Dave Douglas, Ben Allison, Bill Frisell and many others, drummer Rudy Royston debuted as a leader earlier this year with 303, on Douglas’s Greenleaf label. Topping that with a week at the Village Vanguard (July 22-27) couldn’t be a bigger boost. Raised in Denver, Royston came east in 2006 and started laying the groundwork for the deeply melodic, polished, complex, often rocking original music that leaps out of the speakers on 303. With the staggering talents of trumpeter Nadje Noordhuis, saxophonist Jon Irabagon, pianist Sam Harris, guitarist Nir Felder and bassists Mimi Jones and Yasushi Nakamura, it’s hard to go wrong.
Polymath drummer-percussionist-composer Doug Hammond was a formative influence for Steve Coleman, altoist and innovator-to-be, in the early ’80s. Coleman appeared on Hammond’s riveting 1982 sessions Spaces (DIW) and Perspicuity (L&R). And Hammond’s compositions proved significant to the sound of the groundbreaking Dave Holland Quintet, with Coleman, Kenny Wheeler and Marvin “Smitty” Smith among others (Seeds of Time, The Razor’s Edge). Hammond recently closed out a long teaching career in Austria, and his New York appearances remain rare. But there he’ll be at SEEDS (July 26-27), drawing on his vast experience in two afternoon workshops, as well as a Saturday night concert with Anthony Tidd on electric bass, Roman Filiu on alto saxophone and Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet. (Filiu leads his own sextet at the Jazz Gallery, July 18-19.)
Good move for veteran drummer Harvey Mason to enlist young Concord labelmates, including bassist Ben Williams, trumpeter Christian Scott and pianist Kris Bowers, for his new release Chameleon. The title harks back to Mason’s stint with the Head Hunters, Herbie Hancock’s classic ’70s funk-jazz outfit. But Mason’s output has tended more toward the lite-jazz side of things, stretching back to founding documents like George Benson’s Breezin’ (1976). The new disc has that kind of palatability, but also a hip, contemporary edge thanks to young-blood players like Matthew Stevens (guitar) and Corey King (trombone). It’ll be worth hearing Mason and friends stretch on this material at the Blue Note (July 28-30).
That pianist and singer-songwriter Karen Mantler, daughter of influential composers Michael Mantler and Carla Bley, titled her new record Business Is Bad (Xtra Watt) might explain why it’s her first release as a leader since 2000’s Pet Project (Virgin Classics). In any case, Mantler’s wry self-deprecating humor and intimate trio arrangements with guitarist/reedist Doug Wieselman and bassist Kato Hideki make her return a welcome one. Her subjects include expensive lawyers, homelessness, learning French, getting better at harmonica. The vibe is laid-back and sparse but angsty, with jazz-inflected harmony and subtle expert musicianship keeping every story afloat. SubCulture seems like a perfect fit, so catch Mantler there on July 31.