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Countdown: Where To Go & What To Hear In NEO April 30 – May 8

Keigo Hirakawa

Friendly experiencers,

What’s this, a Countdown on Tuesday? Where’s the featured preview? To answer the second question first, a preview is coming, but the featured artist, Dan Weiss, wasn’t available to talk until Wednesday. So I’m flipping the script–or the cadence in this case–and giving you two extra days of events here. Good thing, too, because the week is loaded. As always, many thanks to Jim Szabo for publishing the Northeast Ohio Jazz Calendar, essentially the source document for this department. While I’m thinking of Jim, it seems his Down by the Cuyahoga radio program is now available as a stream that you can access here. This is great news for those of us olds in the In Bed By Nine club. That said, charter members should make an exception when it comes to live music. Why not start with one of the events below?

Infusion: Blending Jazz and Indian Classical Music, Thursday, May 2, 7 p.m., BOP STOP, 2920 Detroit Rd., Cleveland, tickets $20 available here

Bring two cultures together–on the plate, the canvas or the bandstand–and something interesting is bound to happen. That’s the inspo behind Infusion, Thursday’s encounter between players from the jazz and Indian traditions. The principals are Leo Coach on piano, tabla player Joe Culley, Vidwan Chitravina Ganesh on vocals and chitravina, vocalist Vidwan K. N. Shashikirian, Reed Simon on violin and Lalit Subramanium, vocals and mirdangam. When the chemistry is right, the combination of jazz and Carnatic music can reach an almost unbearable level of intensity. It’s ecstatic music in the best sense and lovers of the supergroup Shakti and more recent fusion efforts by players such as Rudresh Mahanthappa and Vijay Iyer, should make this appointment listening.

Keigo Hirakawa Trio wsg Joshua Smith, Friday, May 3, 8 p.m., BLU Jazz+, 47 E. Market St., Akron, tickets $20 available here

Anyone who has spent time in the increasingly harried halls of academe knows that the scent of freedom is in the air of early May. At the University of Dayton, where Keigo Hirakawa, Ph.D. is professor of electrical and computer engineering, the academic year is over, which means he can pursue his other full-time job: jazz pianist. Hirakawa has three recordings as a leader, including 2023’s Pixel on the respected Origin label from Seattle. He’s no amateur as he has proved on his frequent visits to Cleveland. He’s squarely in the postbop lane, but he can go out, as he did on the 2010 release Hessler-Cabrillo Run Down, which he co-led with longtime Cleveland mainstay Joshua Smith. The tenor saxophonist who birthed the influential trio Birth with bassist Jeremy Bleich and drummer Joe Tomino will join his old colleague Classes at UD might have concluded, but expect Dr. Hirakawa, with drummer Jeff Mellott and bassist Connor Smith, to offer a seminar in group dynamics, energy flow and high voltage improvisation in a seminar that should be well worth auditing.

Women in Jazz: A Tribute to the Great Sarah Vaughan, Saturday, May 4, 1 p.m., Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, 8712 Quincy Ave., Cleveland. free

When it comes to classic jazz vocalists, I’m an Ella and Carmen McRae guy. Still, I can’t escape the impression that the recent centenary of Sarah Vaughn passed with relatively little fanfare from the jazz establishment. That would sadly be par for the course, but closer to home, Tri-C knows what time it is and offers a Women in Jazz concert Saturday that should help to put things right. Or maybe that should be Wright. No one can fill the shoes of the great Sarah Vaughn, but Evelyn Wright, a singer of vast experience and enveloping warmth, comes as close as one might hope. She’s joined by a peerless backing trio of drummer Sherri Maricle, upright bassist Amy Shook and pianist Jackie Warren, collectively the 3D Jazz Trio and the rhythm section of the DIVA Big Band. The price, too can’t be beat. This is a free concert. Bravo Tri-C!

Daniel Meron, Sunday, May 5, 7 p.m., BOP STOP, 2920 Detroit Rd., Cleveland, tickets $20 available here

These days, it’s practically a requirement that jazz musicians have sources of income beyond what they might earn from playing and recording. So it’s not unusual to find teaching, arts administration, web design and any number of other side hustles on the CVs of even the most exalted players. Still, pianist Daniel Meron stands out for having one of the more unusual resume entries: Chief Military Arranger of the Israeli military. Meron is a civilian these days and living in New York where he’s recruited a sparkling trio for a gig in Cleveland: Chilean-born Pablo Menares, Melissa Aldana’s longtime bassist, and quick-twitch drummer Jimmy Macbride. Meron has a new recording, Pendulum, coming in June from Pinch Records. Fragrant with influences from Latin and Middle Eastern music (Meron’s ancestors are from Syria and Egypt), Pendulum also shows the pianist’s debt to the dancing solo touch and beguiling arranging voice of Chick Corea.

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,


JJA bug