Take Five, Gig Alert Edition: Mary Halvorson, Dick Hyman, Preservation Hall and More

Jul 16, 2017

Whatever else you have going on, you should hear some live music this week.

If you're in the greater New York City area, try these suggestions: five tracks of recent vintage, any one of which could lead you to an excellent gig. (If you're out of range, settle in: there's enough here to keep you occupied for a minute.)

Mary Halvorson Octet, “Safety Orange (No. 59)”

I’m on the record as an admirer of guitarist and composer Mary Halvorson, and in particular her recent octet album, Away With You. Rich with intrigue, packed with incident, it’s a chamberesque stunner that makes brilliant use of Susan Alcorn’s pedal steel guitar, while creating plenty of opportunity for others in the group, like trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, to have their say. You hear all of these gears whirring on a track like “Safety Orange (No. 59)” — and you’ll have an opportunity to see them at the Village Vanguard this week, in what promises to be a smashing debut.

Dick Hyman, “Stella By Starlight”

Dick Hyman
Credit courtesy of the Artist

In New York City, Tuesday, July 18 is “Dick Hyman Day” — a fitting proclamation, and a fine way to kick of the 33rd season of Jazz in July at the 92nd Street Y. Hyman, who became an NEA Jazz Master this year, at 90, is a jazz pianist with an encyclopedic range, and he ran Jazz in July for two decades before passing the torch to Bill Charlap. Dick Hyman Forever! — a concert on Tuesday night, with Charlap, clarinetist Ken Peplowski and others — pays tribute to Hyman, who will perform live by satellite from his home in Florida. Meanwhile, I can think of no better example of Hyman’s stunning mastery than this solo performance of a songbook standard, recorded in 1983 and included on Solo at the Sacramento Jazz Festivals 1983-1988, a new release on Arbors Records.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band, “Santiago”

So It Is, the irresistible new album by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, finds its mojo in the dialogue between New Orleans and Cuba. The emblematic result is a tune called “Santiago,” which splits the difference between a second-line strut and an Afrobeat churn. When the band turned up on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert this spring, they joined forces with Jon Batiste and Stay Human, and had an eager interloper in the form of rock dude Dave Grohl. The clip is a blast, and gives some sense of what will go down at noon on Thursday, for the BAM R&B Festival at MetroTech.

Jakob Bro Trio, “Gefion”

Jakob Bro is a smartly introspective Danish guitarist (his first name is pronounced YAH-cub) who has worked with elders like drummer Paul Motian and trumpeter Tomasz Stanko. He released his ECM debut, Gefion, in 2015, and followed it up last year with an album called Streams. His current trio, featured on Streams, features two Americans, drummer Joey Baron and bassist Thomas Morgan.

The trio, which appears on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Jazz Standard, neatly balances the earthy and the ethereal. You can see and hear it in the clip above, from a performance at the Bimhius in Amsterdam last fall. If you’re seeking a familiar point of comparison, look to Bill Frisell, who has history with Baron going back decades, and recently released a duo album with Morgan. But there’s a particular strain of lyricism in Bro’s playing, and it’s worth getting to know on its own terms.

Bern Nix, “The Fire Within”

And finally, a mea culpa. A recent reunion of Prime Time, Ornette Coleman’s Harmolodic funk band, served among other things as a reminder of the shocking loss of guitarist Bern Nix. When he died suddenly, about six weeks ago, I wrote an obituary and appraisal of Nix’s career, with one unfortunate omission: I didn’t mention the quartet he led for the last five years or so, with multi-instrumentalist Matt Lavelle, drummer Reggie Sylvester and bassist François Grillot. This band released an album, Negative Capability, in 2013.

One track from the album, “Fire Within,” appeared in the acclaimed 2015 film Tangerine. Along with some probing guitar work by Nix, it features a pithy melody, an undulant pulse and a commanding trumpet solo by Lavelle. And what was I saying about gig recommendations? The surviving members of the quartet perform as Bern’s Band at 6 p.m. on Monday at the Brooklyn Commons, with subsequent tribute sets by musicians like guitarist Dom Minasi and saxophonist Ras Moshe.