It’s a week for celebrations with a birthday, an anniversary and a chicken or pasta dinner on the musical menu for your mid-October listening and dining pleasure. Add a penetrating talk by one of musicology’s preeminent thinkers and public intellectuals and watch your calendar fill up. It all starts here.
Oscar Peñas, Thursday, Oct. 12, 7:30 p.m., BOP STOP, 2920 Detroit Ave., Cleveland
A front line of guitar and violin might put you in mind of the Manouche jazz of Django Reinhart, a musician who shares a Romany heritage with the flamenco musicians of Spain. And to be sure, New York-based guitarist Oscar Peñas, a Catalan by birth, explored that heritage on his 2022 album Almadraba (Musikoz). That one tilted toward composition, but Peñas latest release, Chicken or Pasta (Musikoz, 2023), is a blowing session where, the guitarist said in his publicity materials, “the idea is, ‘Let’s just play and have some fun.’” Along for the ride are ace violinist Sara Caswell, whose new recording, The Way To You (Anzic Records, 2023) is a similar groove, and the rhythm team of Moto Fukushima on bass and dynamic drummer Richie Barshay.
You Can’t Tell It Like I Can: Mary Lou Williams and the Re-Visioning of Jazz’s History with Tammy Kernodle, Friday, Oct. 13, 4 p.m., Harkness Memorial Chapel, 11200 Bellflower Road, Cleveland
Tammy L. Kernodle has been at the vanguard of musicologists untangling the intersection of the politics that surround gender and racial identity, performance practice and genre. Smack in the middle of that intersection is pianist and composer Mary Lou Williams (1910-81), a crucial though largely unacknowledged figure in the development of the music. Dr. Kernodle, who is Miami University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Music, will shine a light on Williams’ genius in a free lecture as part of Case Western Reserve University’s Music Colloquium Series.
Birth, Sunday, Oct. 15, 7 p.m., Beachland Ballroom, 15711 Waterloo Road, Cleveland
In semantic terms, every day that saxophonist Joshua Smith, bassist Jeremy Bleich and drummer/yogi Joe Tomino gather to play is technically a Birth-day, but this Sunday is a special one for the trio–the 25th anniversary of the iconic improvising collective. This gala gig at the Beachland seems to be the trio’s first hometown engagement since a show at Happy Dog 18 months ago (I profiled that one here). Does that make this one an event? Most definitely, but anytime the far-flung Birth-ers come together onstage counts as an event. This is the rare birthday party when the guests will be getting the gift.
Rent Romus’ Actual/Actual, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 8 p.m., BOP STOP, 2920 Detroit Ave., Cleveland
With his no-holds-barred attack and fiery bandleading, saxophonist Rent Romus‘ contributions to the Bay Area creative music scene must be measured on the Richter scale. Yet the multi-instrumentalist, composer and Emmy-award-winner is a Midwesterner by birth, born in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. So perhaps it’s no surprise that Actual/Actual, the quartet whose appearance will kick off BOP STOP’s anniversary week celebration, has a strong heartland–and specifically Ohioan–character. Joining Romus and keyboard player Gerard Cox are Cincinnati-based vibraphonist Josh Strange and drummer Troy Kunkler, a graduate of Ohio University who has played with Cleveland guitar arsonist Mike Sopko. Expect the candles on BOP STOP’s birthday cake to burn hot for this one.
I couldn’t live without Jim Szabo’s essential, weekly Northeast Ohio jazz calendar , NEO’s most complete list of jazz and jazz-adjacent events. If you haven’t visited it lately, what are you waiting for?
NOTE: This article was written by a real human being. No artificial intelligence or generative language models were used in its creation.
Red beans and ricely yours,